As June Brown approaches her 90th birthday, we celebrate a TV career that began a long time before she debuted as Dot Cotton in EastEnders in 1985...
It’s amazing to think that June Brown, AKA EastEnders’ Dot Branning, is turning 90! To celebrate her amazing milestone, a new BBC1 documentary features June talking about her life, career and her 32 years on the EastEnders set.
Here’s our special birthday tribute to June which celebrates the memorable roles she’s given us over her long career, starting with the inimitable Dot Cotton/Branning.
Dot Branning (formerly Cotton) in EastEnders (1985–present)
When June first set foot in Albert Square in 1985, Dot Cotton was only supposed to be in EastEnders for three months. More than 30 years have passed since that day, and Dot Branning is still going strong.
June is now a Walford legend, but she almost turned down the role because she didn’t like soaps! “I’d only seen one episode of EastEnders at the time,” said June. “There was an argument going on and I thought, ‘I don’t want to watch all that’, so I switched it off. I didn’t watch it again until I was asked to be in it!”
Madge in The Buried Man (1963)
Sporting a costume that wouldn’t look out of place in Walford’s old Bridge Street launderette, one of June’s early TV roles was alongside Leonard Rossiter in ITV’s Play of the Week, The Buried Man. She played Madge, a woman who walks out on her husband Robert (Rossiter) when she can no longer cope with his mood swings.
Mrs Parsons in Coronation Street (1970)
June’s soap career actually began in Weatherfield where she played a teacher, Mrs Parsons, who clashed with Ena Sharples over her son Tony. June only featured in three Coronation Street episodes in 1970 and 1971. Corrie creator Tony Warren had earlier met June outside a theatre and asked for her autograph.
She said:”‘You don’t want my autograph, I’m nobody famous,” to which Warren replied, “No, but you might be one day…”
The 14 (1973)
June had many viewers sobbing their hearts out in a film called The 14, in which she played a dying single mum of 14 kids. After she passed away, the siblings then had to battle to stay together. One of her orphaned kids, Reg, was played by Jack Wild, best known as The Artful Dodger in hit movie Oliver! Alun Armstrong also starred.
Alice Penny in Oranges and Lemons (1973)
June appeared as Alice Penny in one of the TV plays about London known collectively as Oranges and Lemons. Her one-off hour-long drama Brenda had Cheryl Hall in the lead role and also starred Leslie Dwyer, best known as the grumpy Punch & Judy entertainer in BBC1’s hit 1980s comedy Hi-de-hi!
Mrs Martin in The Sweeney (1975)
“You’re nicked!” Smoking a cigarette – good training for playing chain-smoker, Dot – here’s June with Dennis Waterman, AKA Detective George Carter, in The Sweeney. June played a character called Mrs Martin in the very first episode of the classic cop show, titled Ringer, which saw Carter’s detective colleague Jack Regan (John Thaw) forced to come up with a plan when his car, containing surveillance photos from a stakeout, is stolen.
Aunt Sadie in Now and Then (1983)
This ITV comedy about the wartime memories of a child was by The Good Life writing partnership of Bob Larbey and John Esmonde. It saw June playing eccentric Aunt Sadie alongside Vicious star Marcia Warren, The Royle Family’s Liz Smith, ‘Allo’ Allo’s Sam Kelly and Grange Hill’s John Alford.
Gladys in Margery and Gladys (2003)
June took a break from EastEnders to film this one-off TV drama for ITV, in which she played Gladys Gladwell, the cleaner of recently widowed housewife, Margery Heywood (Penelope Keith). A parody of the Hollywood blockbuster Thelma and Louise, it saw the two pensioners flee from their suburban town and embark on a road trip in Gladys’swrecked motor, after believing they had killed a burglar.
Nannie Slagg, in Gormenghast (2000)
June played Nannie Slagg, opposite Jonathan Rhys Meyers, in BBC2’s fantasy series, Gormenghast. But she didn’t take the part without some persuading on the part of producer Estelle Daniel. ‘The description of Nanny Slagg was ‘ancient, frail, and wizened,'” sais June. “I said: ‘I’m wrong for this part’ and even gave her the names of other actresses I thought would be better suited.”
Sozzie in Heading Out, BBC2 (2013)
June got to play a drunken grandmother known to all as ‘Sozzie’ in recent BBC1 comedy Heading Out, which also starred Joanna Scanlan and Sue Perkins as a vet who hadn’t told her parents she was gay.
June Brown at 90: A Walford Legend will be shown on Thursday, February 16, BBC1, at 8.30pm