Home Entertainment On the Buses and EastEnders actress dies in fire at 85

On the Buses and EastEnders actress dies in fire at 85

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On the Buses and EastEnders actress Anna Karen has died at the age of 85.

Karen was best known for her role as Olive in sitcom On the Buses, which ran from 1969 to 1973, as well as that of Aunt Sal, the older sister of Peggy Mitchell, on BBC soap EastEnders.

“She was a great actress, a great comedian and a great soul,” her agent Shane Collins said.

The London Fire Brigade confirmed that a woman died in a house fire in Ilford, east London, on Tuesday night.

The Metropolitan Police said the circumstances of the fire on Windsor Road did not appear to be suspicious.

‘One of the best’

Singer and TV presenter Cheryl Baker led the tributes online, describing her as a “fabulous mate” and an “absolute treasure, both on and off the screen”.

Jake Wood, who played Max Branning in EastEnders, tweeted: “So sad to hear of the passing of Anna Karen. Loved working with her, so funny and full of character.”

Rita Simons, who played Roxy Mitchell in the soap, wrote: “I just heard the awful news about the wonderful Anna Karen. Horrific and awful and so so sad. She was one of the best. Sleep well lovely Anna.”

Daniella Westbrook, who starred as Sam Mitchell, said she was “devastated at the loss of lovely Anna”.

Born Ann McCall in Durban, South Africa, she moved to London at the age of 17.

The actress went on to become a household name playing the frustrated younger sister of Stan (Reg Varney) and wife of Arthur Rudge (Michael Robbins) in On the Buses.

She donned a wig, thick glasses and padding for the role of Olive, who she once described as the “ugliest woman on television”.

Karen reprised the role in The Rag Trade from 1977 to 78, and also appeared in two Carry On films – Carry On Camping in 1969, and Carry On Loving the following year.

It was there that she met her good friend Barbara Windsor, who she would later act alongside in EastEnders as Aunt Sal from 1996 to 2017.

An EastEnders spokesperson said: “We are deeply saddened to hear that Anna Karen has passed away.

“Anna created a sharp, quick-witted and extremely popular character in Aunt Sal that the audience will never forget, just as those who worked with her at EastEnders will never forget her warmth, kindness fun and good humour.

“Our love and thoughts are with Anna’s family and friends.”

Dame Barbara’s husband Scott Mitchell said: “Anna had seen Barbara go through every stage of her life and their late-night phone calls together before Barbara’s illness will always be a fond memory for me of hearing them put the world to rights.

“Anna and I had kept in regular contact since Barbara’s passing and she was a good friend and support to me when things were tough and we spoke a couple of weeks ago.

“It was a fun chat and I thought how upbeat she sounded. We always shared memories and jokes about Barbara.

“Anna was one of three I asked to speak at Barbara’s funeral. I will remember her straight talking, great humour and intelligence. May she rest in peace.”

The London Fire Brigade said they were called at 22:40 GMT on Tuesday and around 20 firefighters got the blaze under control by 23:38.

“Part of the ground floor of a mid-terrace house was damaged by fire,” a spokesperson said. “Sadly a woman was pronounced dead at the scene.”

Karen was married to actor and comedian Terry Duggan from 1967 until his death in 2008. She had been bed-bound for some years after breaking her back in a fall at home in 2016, but managed to film scenes for Peggy’s death that year.

 

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