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Jean Alexander

Jean Alexander English actress

English actress
Jean Alexander
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro English actress
A.K.A. Jean Hodgkinson, Jean Mavis Hodgkinson
Was Actor Autobiographer Film actor
From United Kingdom
Type Film, Television, Stage and Radio Literature
Gender female
Birth 24 February 1926, Toxteth
Death 14 October 2016 (aged 90 years)
The details

Biography

Jean Mavis Hodgkinson (11 October 1926 – 14 October 2016), known by the stage name Jean Alexander, was a British television actress. She was best known to British television viewers as Hilda Ogden in the soap opera Coronation Street, a role she played from 1964 until 1987, and also as Auntie Wainwright in the long-running sitcom Last of the Summer Wine from 1988 to 2010. For her role in Coronation Street she received a 1987 BAFTA TV Award nomination for Best Actress.

Early life

Alexander was born in Toxteth, Liverpool, in 1926, to Nell and Archie Hodgkinson; her father worked as an electrician and the family lived in a terraced house with no indoor lavatory. Alexander had an elder brother, Kenneth. She aspired to become an actress from an early age, and later said that she was inspired by variety acts she saw at the Pavilion theatre in her home city. She attended St Edmund's College for Girls in Princes Park, Toxteth and as a teenager, she joined an amateur theatre group and took elocution lessons.

Career

Alexander spent five years as a library assistant in Liverpool before she began her acting career in 1949 at the Adelphi Guild Theatre in Macclesfield. She first appeared as Florrie in Sheppey by Somerset Maugham. She later worked in rep in Oldham, Stockport and York. Most of her parts were minor, and she also worked as a wardrobe mistress and stage manager. Her television debut is variously given as in the police series Z-Cars or in Deadline Midnight.

Coronation Street

Alexander first appeared in Coronation Street in 1962 in a minor role as a landlady. Two years later, she returned to the programme as Hilda Ogden. She started playing the role on 8 July 1964, finally leaving on 25 December 1987. Ogden became highly popular with viewers and Alexander was often identified with her character. In the 40 Years on Coronation Street special, she recounted an incident that had happened years previously: while she was shopping, a fan asked if she was Hilda. She responded in her normal accent, "I beg your pardon?" Taken aback, the fan said, "Oh, don't you talk funny!"

The British League for Hilda Ogden was established in 1979 by Sir John Betjeman, Willis Hall, Russell Harty, Laurence Olivier and Michael Parkinson, among others. In 1984, hundreds of fans sent her condolence cards after the death of her on-screen husband Stan Ogden, played by Bernard Youens, who had died a few months before his character was killed off. In 1985 she received the Royal Television Society Award for her performance on Coronation Street. When she decided to leave the show in 1987, fans started "Save Hilda!" campaigns; however, many did not realise that she had made her own decision to depart. Her final scenes in the programme were aired on 25 December 1987, attracting nearly 27 million viewers, the highest number in the show's history.

In 2005 the UK TV Times poll voted her as the "Greatest Soap Opera Star of All Time". On 6 December 2010, Alexander spoke by telephone to ITV's This Morning to discuss her time on Coronation Street on the day of the drama's 50th anniversary episode.

Other roles

In 1988, Alexander made a guest appearance in the long-running BBC comedy series Last of the Summer Wine as Auntie Wainwright, the money-grabbing local junk shop owner. She returned for a second guest appearance in 1989, and finally became a series regular in 1992, remaining until the end of the series in 2010.

Her film credits include Scandal (1989) and Willie's War (1994). Alexander voiced Mrs Santa in the Robbie the Reindeer film Hooves of Fire (1999), and also appeared in Boon and as Lily in the children's series The Phoenix and the Carpet. She starred with Patricia Hodge and Lionel Jeffries in the comedy series Rich Tea and Sympathy, and appeared in the quiz show Cluedo. Later, she appeared in Barbara, Heartbeat, Where the Heart Is and The Afternoon Play.

Television roles

Drama

Year Title Role
1962 Coronation Street Mrs. Webb
1961 Deadline Midnight Mrs. Gibson
1964–1987 Coronation Street Hilda Ogden
1993–1995 Harry Irene Paterson

Comedy

Year Title Role
1988, 1989,
1992–2010
Last of the Summer Wine Auntie Wainwright
1991 Rich Tea and Sympathy Granny Trellis
1993 I, Lovett Elsie Mittens
2002 Barbara Queenie Liversidge

Other

Year Title Role
1993 Cluedo Marjory Hunt
2000–2002 Where the Heart Is Kathleen Beresford/ Joan Cotter
2001, 2003 Heartbeat Lily Barton

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Work Result
1985 RTS Award Best Actress Coronation Street Won
1987 BAFTA Award Best Actress in a Leading Role Coronation Street Nominated

Personal life

Alexander never married, stating that she put her acting career first. She was a close friend of her Coronation Street husband, Bernard Youens. Her autobiography, The Other Side of the Street: The Autobiography of Jean Alexander, was published in 1989. She lived for many years in Southport, Merseyside, and was a regular visitor to the Southport Flower Show. In 2009 she joined with others to campaign successfully for a temporary library in the town while the central library was being refurbished.

Alexander announced her retirement in 2012, two years after her last television appearance. Her acting career lasted for more than 60 years. She celebrated her 90th birthday on 11 October 2016, but was taken ill and died, at Southport Hospital, just three days later.

The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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