The actress best remembered for her long-running role in ATV soap opera Crossroads died earlier this month aged 81.
“People love villains, they do love colourful technicolour villains, and I was that. I was awfully naughty.” – Janet Hargreaves on Rosemary Hunter
As the deluded Rosemary Hunter actress Janet Hargreaves became a soap icon. She first appeared in teatime serial Crossroads not long after the on-screen arrival of husband David, played by Ronald Allen. At first, Rosemary was reclusive hiding away from the villagers of Kings Oak. Even David’s co-workers had no idea he was married.
David had arrived in Kings Oak from a holiday in Spain to buy shares in the Crossroads Motel, and not long after this entrance to the soap he was a director and manager at the establishment which pulled in up to 18 million viewers, per episode, during the 1970s. Meg (Noele Gordon) was suspicious of David at first – fearing he was friends with her former husband Malcolm Ryder (David Davenport) who had attempted to kill her. It however turned out Meg didn’t need to take to hiding around the motel to avoid him as he was friends with fellow motel part-owner and director Louise Borelli (Claire Owen) of whom he was buying the shares from. Meg and David there after became the best of friends and business partners.
Rosemary and David had returned to the UK following a spell of the couple running a hotel abroad in Bermuda. It, however, turned sour when she had an affair with David’s business partner. They moved to Kings Oak to give their relationship one last try, mainly for their son Chris. (Freddie Foote)
Ronald Allen as David and Janet as Rosemary Hunter in Crossroads, ATV.
Crossroads’ 25th-anniversary celebrations in 1989: Janet is joined by Peter Hill, Peggy Aitchison, Stan Stennett and Charles Stapley.
Three stills from 1980, as Rosemary plays out her final scenes following a breakdown, in a mental institution, ATV
Over the years Rosemary featured in many key storylines including suffering a breast cancer scare, a spell of alcoholism and shoplifting for pleasure. Rosemary, once her marriage finally fell apart, would spend long occasions in Geneva returning to the motel regularly with several attempts to woo her ex-husband back into her arms.
In 1977 an offer of becoming a shareholder sent majority owner Meg Mortimer (Noele Gordon) into a fit of rage. However Rosemary’s most bitchy moments came in the late 1970s when son Chris (now played by Stephen Hoye) attempted to marry ‘common waitress’ Diane (Susan Hanson) in order to get hold of a legacy bestowed on him by his late maternal grandmother Stella Dane (Mary Barclay). He had to take a wedding vow to grab the cash as a clause stated the legacy would only be granted to him upon marriage, or reaching 30. They married, Rosemary went nuclear and did everything she could to expose the scam declairing at one point she was back to ’cause trouble’.
In 1980 David decided to marry his latest love Barbara Brady (Sue Lloyd). It tipped Rosemary over the edge.
She suffered an upper-class mental breakdown, eventually shooting him during the engagement party. Rosemary was sent to a psychiatric hospital to recover. Tapes from sessions with a psychiatrist would later return to haunt husband David when it was not only revealed she’d already been married and never divorced – making their marriage illegal – it also transpired Chris Hunter wasn’t his son.
Two promos from 1979: Left: Stephen Hoye as Chris, with Janet and Ronald Allen as Rosemary and David. Right: Rosemary and David, ATV
Crossroads’ 45th-anniversary event at the NEC Birmingham, with Tony Adams, Ed Clayton, Jane Rossington, Janet Hargreaves and writer David Garfield.
Janet as Rosemary Hunter in Crossroads in 1971, ATV
While Rosemary Hunter became Janet’s longest running, and most popular role, she also appeared in many television and stage productions before and after her nine-year stint with Crossroads. She graduated from RADA in 1956 and tread the boards in everything from Elgar and Alice, Habeas Corpus and a highly praised performance in The Mousetrap. (she appeared in all the major female roles in the stage play over a number of productions.)
There were also numerous television roles including a role as ‘mum’ a stone statue in the original Doctor Who, a posh-toff in Follyfoot, a nun in The Avengers, a lady of the manor in Poirot and a kidnapped spy in Danger Man. She had long running parts in BBC soap The Doctors as Dr. Cheryl Barnes and magazine office based serial Compact which was also devised by Crossroads creators Peter Ling and Hazel Adair. Despite being out of Crossroads for many years she continued to support the programme, and its official fan club, making appearances at the 25th and 45th anniversary events. She was also popular on the cult event scene thanks to her Doctor Who performances.
Janet died last weekend, Saturday, August 4th 2018, only a few days after Crossroads co-star and friend Carolyn Jones. Janet had lived in Wandsworth, London, for many years and continued to act, and teach performing, into her 80s. She was born in Surrey in 1937.
Below, in an interview with ATV Today in 2012, Janet reflects on her character of Rosemary Hunter in Crossroads.