Thursday, December 3, 2009

Coronation Street's Maggie Jones dies at 75

Maggie Jones, the British actress who played the sharp-tongued Blanche Hunt on Coronation Street, has died. She was 75.

Jones had been recovering from an operation she had in October, when she died in her sleep on Wednesday morning, according to a spokesman for ITV, maker of the long-running British soap.

Jones was a favourite among Coronation Street fans for her withering one-liners and meddlesome ways as the mother of Deirdre and mother-in-law of Ken Barlow, played by Anne Kirkbride and William Roache.

Roache recalled her Wednesday as a "brilliant actress."

"She was a tower of strength, physically frail but mentally strong as an ox and sharp as someone half her age," he told BBC.

"She had an amazing dry wit and was as funny, if not funnier, than Blanche. We were great crossword partners — we sat through Tracy's trial scenes doing the crossword together."

Scriptwriters had written her out of the show while she recovered from her operation. She was in full battleaxe form in her final scene, revealing some home truths after drinking at a family gathering.

Jones was born on June 21, 1934, in Yorkshire and studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.

She worked initially in theatre, with roles at the Bristol Old Vic and the Oxford and Salisbury Playhouses, and in London's West End stage in productions of Pride and Prejudice and The Women.

She played Smither in The Forsyte Saga, the BBC series created in the 1960s. More recently, she had TV roles on Dalziel and Pascoe, Goodnight Sweetheart, Heartbeat and Peak Practice.

Her first appearance in Coronation Street was a bit part in 1961, but she created the character of Blanche Hunt in 1974. She was a regular member of the cast until 1976, then returned again in 1999, remaining with the show until October. Coronation Street runs every weeknight on CBC-TV.

Jones received British Soap Awards for best comedy performance in 2005 and 2008. In 1971, she married John Oliver Stansfield, who predeceased her in 1999.

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