Saturday, July 26, 2014

Dora Bryan R.I.P.

Actress Dora Bryan died 23 July 2014 at the age of 91. She appeared in such films as Carry On Sergeant (1958), A Taste of Honey (1961), The Great St. Trinian's Train Robbery (1966), and Hands of the Ripper (1971), and starred in the TV show Last of the Summer Wine.

Dora Bryan was born Dora Broadbent on 7 February 1923 in Southport, Lancashire. She grew up in Oldham, Lancashire. As a little girl she performed in a pantomime in Manchester. As a teenager she joined the Oldham Repertory. During World War II she joined  the Entertainments National Service Association in Italy and entertained British troops. Miss Bryan made her film debut in 1947 in an uncredited part in Odd Man Out. In the late Forties she appeared in such films as The Fallen Idol (1948), No Room at the Inn (1948), Once Upon a Dream (1949), The Perfect Woman (1949), Now Barabbas (1949), The Interrupted Journey (1949), The Cure for Love (1949), Something in the City (1950), The Blue Lamp (1950), and Traveller's Joy (1950).

In 1955 she appeared on the West End in The Water Gipsies. During the Fifties she appeared in such films as Circle of Danger (1951),  High Treason (1951), 13 East Street (1952), Old Mother Riley Meets the Vampire (1952), Made in Heaven (1952), The Intruder (1953), Fast and Loose (1954), The Cockleshell Heroes (1955), The Green Man (1956), Carry on Sergeant (1958), Desert Mice (1959), and Follow That Horse (1960). She made her television debut on an episode of Lilli Palmer Theatre in 1955. She appeared on such TV programmes as My Wife's Sister, BBC Sunday-Night Theatre, After Hours, and Educating Archie.

It was in 1961 that Dora Bryan appeared in what may her best known film role, that of Jo's demanding, alcoholic mother Helen in A Taste of Honey. She won the BAFTA Award for Best British Actress for the film. In the Sixties she appeared in the films The Night We Got the Bird (1961), The Sandwich Man (1966), The Great St. Trinian's Train Robbery (1966), and Two a Penny (1970). She was a regular on the TV programmes Happily Ever After and Before the Fringe, and the star of According to Dora. She also appeared on the TV programmes The Dickie Henderson Show, Six of the Best, and ITV Saturday Night Theatre. She appeared on stage in as Gentleman Prefer Blondes; The Dora Bryan Show; Hello, Dolly; and An Evening with Dora Bryan and Friends. In 1963 she recorded the novelty single "All I want for Christmas is a Beatle".

In the Seventies Dora Bryan appeared in the films Hands of the Ripper (1971) and Up the Front (1972). She was a regular on the TV programme Both Ends Meet. She appeared on such TV shows as Shut That Door! and The Good Old Days. In the Eighties she appeared in the films Screamtime (1986) and Apartment Zero (1988). She appeared on the TV shows Triangle, Foxy Lady, Victoria Wood: As Seen on TV, and On the Up. On stage she appeared in The Merry Wives of Windsor and She Stoops to Conquer. She made her Broadway debut in a revival of Pygmalion in 1987.

In the Nineties Dora Bryan began her run on Last of the Summer Wine as Roz and starred in the TV show Mother's Ruin. . She also appeared the role of Dolly (originally called "Millie ") in a few episodes of Absolutely Fabulous. She guest starred on such shows as Casualty, Frank Stubbs Promotes, Heartbeat, Boon, Moving Story, Hippies, and Doctors. In the Naughts she continued to appear on Last of the Summer Wine, and guest starred on such shows as Bernard's Watch, Absolutely Fabulous, Holby City, and Catterick. She appeared in the films MirrorMask (2005) and Someone in Particular (2005).

Dora Bryan was a brilliant actress, capable of playing both drama and comedy well. She was impressive as the domineering, drunkard mother Helen in A Taste of Honey, which could well be her best known film role. That having been said, as good as she was in dramas there could be no doubt that it was comedy in which she excelled. Whether as Roz in Last of the Summer Wine or Nora in Carry On Sergeant (which was the very first "Carry On..." film, by the way), she was always impeccable at performing comedy. Her timing was simply incredible. Even when appearing alongside such talented performers as Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley on Absolutely Fabulous, Miss Bryan could easily steal scenes. Able to play drama or comedy, and excelling in the later, it is little wonder Dora Bryan's career spanned over six decades.

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