Former EastEnders star Wendy Richard has died at the age of 65.
The actress revealed in an interview with The Sunday Express in October that she was battling breast cancer for a third time, noting that the reoccurrence was terminal, and had metastasized to her kidney and bones.
The sitcom favourite previously battled the disease in 1996 and 2002, but said drugs she was prescribed this time around had hastened her decline.
“If anything, they did more damage than good so my health has really deteriorated. Now I have a cancerous growth on my right kidney and the cancer has spread to my bones. It’s more aggressive this time, unfortunately, and has spread to the top of my spine and left ribs.” – Wendy Richard speaking in October.
Wendy passed away in the Harley Street Clinic earlier today with her husband John Burns by her side. Her agent Kevin Francis said: “She was incredibly brave and retained her sense of humour right to the end.”
“Wendy was a true professional. We worked together for over 11 years and we never once had an argument.” – EastEnders co-star Bill Treacher
One of Wendy’s earliest television roles was on the short-lived Anglia soap, Weavers Green. The serial, a precursor to YTV’s Emmerdale Farm, was set in the fictional village of Weavers Green in East Anglia.
Playing the role of Joyce Harker in The Newcomers began an association with the BBC that spanned well over 40 years.
The innovative serial was set in a ‘new-town’ akin to the likes of Milton Keynes or Washington Tyneside, which saw families moving into the modern complex of the 1960s concrete vision of the future.
In the late 60s and early 70s she guest-starred in many popular television shows of the time such as The Likely Lads, On The Buses, Up Pompeii, Bless This House, Please Sir, Fenn Street Gang, Dixon of Dock Green, Z-Cars and Dad’s Army.
The actress also appeared in small roles in several Carry On films during the early 1970s.
In 1972, she first played her most famous comic role, Miss Shirley Brahms in BBC department store sitcom, Are You Being Served? which ran for 13-years. She also reprised the role in Grace and Favour, the early 90s spin-off set in a country house.
“How can I express my grief on hearing of the loss of Wendy. She has been part of my life for so long, almost like one of the family. Many happy memories. Although she had no children of her own, she instinctively knew about little boys and my two idolised her. She was the daughter I never had and I shall never stop missing her. She lives on in the hearts of so many people who were entertained by her talent and warmed by her charm.” – Are You Being Served? co-star Mollie Sugden
But arguably, her most famous part – which reached her biggest audience – was that of Pauline Fowler in the BBC soap opera EastEnders. Having persuaded the show’s creator Julia Smith to relent on her stance of casting only unknowns, Wendy played Pauline for more than 21 years between 1985-2006.
The character’s storylines primarily revolved around family crises: financial hardship, a late-in-life pregnancy, her husband Arthur’s breakdown, her daughter Michelle’s teenage pregnancy and her son Mark’s HIV+ status. Wendy opted to leave the show after disapproving of Pauline’s remarriage to Joe Macer.
Pauline was noted for her sour demeanour and love of cardigans. Wendy took exception with the latter, insisting her character wore the garments sparingly. Pauline also saw, contrary to popular opinion, many lighter moments. In 2000, Wendy was awarded an MBE and, referring to the honour in 2006, she said that ‘wearing Pauline’s blue launderette overall for two decades had paid off’.
“I loved working with her. We were good partners, we really enjoyed our scenes and that’s why I missed her so much when she left. She was a very kind woman, particularly if anybody was ill. She would rush round finding doctors, and she was always giving you unexpected presents. – EastEnders co-star June Brown
Since bowing out of Walford the actress has had roles in Benidorm and Agatha Christie’s Marple.