Angie Watts

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Angie Watts
Angie Watts.jpg
EastEnders character
Portrayed by Anita Dobson
Duration 1985–88
First appearance 19 February 1985
Last appearance 19 May 1988
Created by Tony Holland and Julia Smith
Introduced by Julia Smith
Book appearances Swings and Roundabouts
Classification Former; regular
Profile
Occupation Pub landlady

Angela "Angie" Watts is a fictional character from the BBC soap opera EastEnders, played by Anita Dobson from the first episode of the show until 1988 when the actress decided to quit and the character was written out.

Angie is well known for her cheeky banter, her huge shaggy perm and turning to alcohol during her stormy marriage to cheating Den (Leslie Grantham) which ends when he hands her divorce papers on Christmas Day, in an episode watched by a record-breaking 30.1 million viewers. Despite being the loud and feisty lady of Walford, and having a close relationship with her beloved adopted daughter Sharon, she doesn't have much real happiness during her time in Albert Square and alcoholism finally claims her life in 2002 when she dies of cirrhosis of the liver.

Storylines[edit]

Alcoholic Angie shares a love/hate marriage to her womanising husband, Den Watts (Leslie Grantham), and refuses to let him go even during their rockiest times. They had been married since 18 February 1968, 17 years before the series begins - and together they run and live in The Queen Victoria public house on Albert Square. Angie and Den dote on their spoilt, teenage, adopted daughter, Sharon (Letitia Dean), who carries on loving them despite her resentment of Den's affairs and Angie's binge drinking. Angie is good at putting on a front for the customers, dressing to kill, screeching outrageously with the girls, but inside she is a mess. Despite all her bravado, all she really wants is a happy marriage with Den, who she never stops loving, despite the fact that he treats her terribly.

Den and Angie start 1985 by celebrating their seventeenth wedding anniversary, but it soon becomes clear that their marriage is a sham. Behind the scenes of their great business partnership, there is not much of a relationship going on. Den has been having an affair with his posh mistress Jan Hammond (Jane How) for a while, a fact that Angie is all too aware of. Early in the year, Den even manages to wrangle a holiday to Spain with Jan, under the pretext that he is checking out a possible time-share holiday home purchase. With Den gone, Angie does what she always does in times of trouble, and turns to alcohol to drown her sorrows. She also sets about trying to seduce the men of Walford in a bid to get back at her philandering husband. Lofty Holloway (Tom Watt), Simon Wicks (Nick Berry) and even Arthur Fowler (Bill Treacher) are all subject to Angie's not-so-subtle flirting, but her only successful conquest is local builder, Tony Carpenter (Oscar James). Tony falls for Angie, but she is only using him to get back at Den. The affair is conducted in secret, but they are caught in a passionate clinch in the middle of The Vic by Sharon. Angie has to bribe her daughter to ensure her silence, and even informs her about Den's infidelity. Sharon is disgusted that both her parents are guilty of adultery. Upon Den's return from his holiday, Angie calls off the affair, but it isn't long before Sharon givse Den the impression that her mother has been up to no good. Den confronts Angie, and she admits to the affair, but unfortunately for her, Den isn't concerned about her infidelity, more about his reputation, which upsets Angie even more.

Although Angie tries to stop drinking, her attempts always fail dismally and by the end of the year she is arrested for drink-driving when she crashes Den's car on the way home from a darts match. 1986 brings more trauma for Angie when Den's mistress, Jan, starts to frequent The Vic. The physical arrival of Jan sends Angie's marriage into further decline as she is unable to contain her jealousy and anger. Angie becomes so depressed that she takes a near lethal cocktail of booze and pills in an attempted suicide. By chance, Den returns home early following an argument with Jan, discovers Angie and rushes her to the hospital where she has her stomach pumped. Angie recovers, but is left shaken when she discovers how close to death she actually came. Upon recovering, Angie decides to play Den at his own game and so she begins another affair with Andy O'Brien (Ross Davidson). Den is furious when he discovers them in bed together, but his rage is short-lived as he has more pressing things on his mind, such as the birth of his illegitimate daughter, Vicki Fowler (Emma Herry). Angie's affair with Andy only lasts a month, ending when Andy reunites with his ex-girlfriend Debbie Wilkins (Shirley Cheriton). Andy dies in a road accident shortly afterwards.

As the year moves on, Den decides that he wants to leave Angie so he can marry Jan. He finally gets round to telling Angie his intentions in October, after which Angie becomes distraught. Desperate to hold on to her husband, she announces that she is terminally ill and only has six months to live. Upon hearing this, Den becomes wracked with guilt, and so decides to revise his plans and stay with Angie. He sets about organising a second honeymoon for them in Venice. However their holiday is ruined, when Jan arrives, and upon seeing her and Den together Angie goes straight back on the gin that she'd not long given up. On the way home from Venice on the Orient Express, a drunk Angie tells the barman all about her big lie. Unfortunately for Angie, Den overhears every word, and from that moment on he reverts to his original plan to leave her, although he decides to wait a while before letting Angie know that he knows about her lie. On Christmas Day that year, Den decides to get his revenge. Thinking that her marriage is safe, Angie is happier than ever, that is until Den informs her that he'd heard her conversation with the barman on the Orient Express, and he then serves her divorce papers as a Christmas present (this episode had the highest amount of viewers the show has ever seen since its 1985 arrival - 30 million). In response, Angie and Sharon pack their bags and walk out of the pub, choosing to take the route through the public area to cause Den the most embarrassment possible.

Angie and Den have dinner together on the Orient Express (1986).

Angie begins 1987 by securing herself a job as the manageress of The Vic's rival drinking establishment, The Dagmar. Owner, James Willmott-Brown (William Boyde), is only too happy to have Angie's expertise on board for his new, suave wine bar. Angie and Den continue to row constantly and in a bid for revenge, Angie vows to take Den 'to the cleaners' for her divorce settlement. In retaliation, Den installs his mistress, Jan, as the new landlady of The Vic, which only infuriates Angie even more. However, Den and Jan's cohabitation eventually leads to the end of their relationship, when Den decides that Jan is too posh for him, and so by the summer of that year orders her to leave.

The Vic is floundering without Angie, a fact that she seems to delight over, and the sheer pleasure of watching Den suffer is all she needs to make her 'grin and bear' The Dagmar's yuppie clientele. However, behind her front, Angie is a wreck, drinking more heavily than ever and going on 'over the top' shopping sprees. By May of that year the divorce papers finally come through, but it seems that neither Den nor Angie are coping without each other, and although they both profess to be pleased about the divorce, it is obvious to everyone else that they are far from happy. Seeing her parents' misery, Sharon decides to intervene by setting up a dinner date between them, which ends with them having sex. Angie and Den decide to keep their reconciliation quiet for a while, but by the end of the year, Angie finally loses her patience with The Dagmar clientele, and after slapping one of the customers in the face, she marches over to The Vic and offers to come back to work, but only as a business partner this time and not a wife.

Angie begins 1988 with a health scare when she is rushed to hospital with kidney-failure; brought on by her excessive alcohol abuse. Upon her recovery Angie decides to take a well-earned holiday to Spain with her friends, Sonny and Ree. This leads to Angie and Sonny falling in love and embarking on an affair. Sonny makes arrangements for them to start a new life together, running a bar in Spain.

Angie returns to Walford (with her plans still secret) and tries to show interest in Den's plan to move the location of The Vic, but it is plain to see that her mind is elsewhere. Den soon realises that she is seeing someone else, and although he doesn't care that she is with another man, he is concerned for the state of his business. Den visits a solicitor and returns with papers protecting himself and his business should Angie decide to leave him again. Angie decides to leave in May of that year, still under a cloak of secrecy and only divulging her plan to leave on the night of her departure. Unfortunately for Angie, Den cruelly informs her that he has arranged things so that she wont be able to get a penny out of him. After their final showdown Angie gets into her taxicab and leaves Walford.

This is Angie's last appearance. Later that year, while Den is in prison, Sharon decides to join Angie in Spain and arrives unannounced, only to learn from Sonny that Angie has left him and moved to the United States. It is subsequently revealed that she moved to Miami where she remarries in February 1991. Sharon joins Angie in 1995 after the breakdown of her marriage to Grant Mitchell (Ross Kemp).

In 2001 Sharon returns to Walford, and in April 2002, news reaches London that years of heavy drinking have finally caught up with Angie and she has died from cirrhosis of the liver, at the age of 52. Despite having remarried, Angie had requested to be buried next to Den, which Sharon does for her when she returns her body to London in order to reunite her two 'dead' parents. Sharon's new club is renamed Angie's Den in her and Den's honour.

In fact, the body thought to be Den's is actually that of the mysterious Mr. Vinnicombe, the boss of The Firm - who ordered Den's assassination. 14 years after Den's disappearance, it turns out that he had not died after all, and had faked his own death in order to get away from the gangsters who had been employed to kill him. However, Den eventually meets his demise at the hands of second wife Chrissie (Tracy-Ann Oberman) in February 2005. A body found under the basement of the Queen Vic six months later is quickly identified as Den's, and he is buried in his 'original' grave next to Angie.

Character creation[edit]

Background[edit]

Angie Watts was one of the original twenty-three characters invented by the creators of EastEnders, Tony Holland and Julia Smith. The character of Angie was originally going to be named Pearl[1] and she, her husband and adopted daughter were to be the occupants of the soap's local pub, now famously known as The Queen Vic. Holland, who had worked as a barman in his youth, called upon his own personal experiences to invent the Watts family and the pub they lived in.[1] Holland and Smith had always been critical of the way pubs had been portrayed on television feeling they lacked vitality and life, so they were determined that their pub and occupants were going to be more 'real'. The Watts were seen by Holland as integral to the shows success, partly because he had already guessed that the pub was going to be a monstrous battleground where emotions would run high on a regular basis, and also because the occupants would be providing the majority of the drama.[1]

Angie's original character outline as written by Smith and Holland appeared in an abridged form in their book, EastEnders: The Inside Story. In this passage, Angie will be referred to as Pearl, her husband as Jack, her daughter as Tracey and her dog as Prince (known now as Den, Sharon and Roly respectively).

"Jack and Pearl are not criminals. They're not angels either. Villains perhaps? Well, he certainly is. They've been married for fifteen years, and haven't had sex with each other for thirteen of them. The marriage is a front for the sake of the pub's image. The daughter, Tracey is adopted - maybe for the same reason. They have a dog too - Prince - an Alsatian...Pearl met Jack at school, and they were sweethearts from the word go. Money and things are what interest her. Jack didn't give her these fast enough in the early stages of their marriage, which is partly why it turned sour. It also went wrong because of sex: he just didn't turn her on...or didn't turn her on enough. And she never stops reminding him of how much of a man he isn't. She is basically a scrubber, trying to reform herself. "Nobody turns me on like Jack" she says loudly in public, "I can't make it with another man." But she does, often...Class is what Pearl wants, and something she'll never pull off. Yes, she's attractive. She's also flash...Pearly the worker is no fool. She can keep two sets of books with the best of them, hire with skill and fire without mercy. Sexual innuendo is the key to her character. The wink. The tease..."Have you seen the Honda 750? Take me for a ride any time!"...Her pub is spotless. And the customer's always right. Except when he isn't. Then she can be so polite, he'll wish he'd gone to a wine-bar...Sometimes Pearl gets so legless that Jack has to throw her over his shoulder and fireman's lift her upstairs to their flat, where they have separate bedrooms...She's fun, she tries and she's trapped. She's also larger than life." (page 63)[1]

Casting[edit]

The actress Jean Fennell was recommended for the part by the writer, Mathew Robinson. Fennell was born in the East End of London and both Holland and Smith considered her to have unique qualities to her personality, which combined "vitality and vulnerability, and an almost desperate nervous energy" - all of which were perfect for Angie. Fennell was given the role, however during rehearsals Holland and Smith began to realise that Fennell was wrong for the part. Julia Smith made the decision to re-cast the role of Angie, a decision which did not sit well with Fennell. With only four days to the first studio recording of EastEnders, Smith set about finding a suitable actress. Smith had taught the actress Anita Dobson many years earlier and remembered her as "sharp, brittle, very theatrical, with a vitality that was almost intense and a range of emotions that were alarming considering her youth", but was worried she was too young for the part. However, when Dobson was brought in for an audition it was noted she was "exactly the right age" aftr all. After a very successful reading Dobson was cast as Angie.[1]

Character development[edit]

The Watts were the surprise hit characters of the show. Angie and Den were a live-wire couple whose on/off relationship made the Queen Vic pub exciting and unpredictable and millions of viewers tuned in to watch the destruction of their relationship on-screen. Den's clashes with Angie brought EastEnders to a peak of popularity and toppled rival soap Coronation Street from the top of the ratings chart.[2]

During 1986 the series became dominated by Angie and Den's storylines and the focus of the programme was very much concentrated on their combustible relationship. The emphasis began early in 1986 with the arrival of Den's mistress Jan Hammond. Jan had been a powerful off-screen presence for the first year. Her menacing voice at the end of the telephone severely affected the mood of both Den and Angie and kept the audience on edge every time the phone rang. Jan's physical arrival at the Vic in January 1986 was one of the show's dramatic highlights. Her invasion of Angie's territory was a springboard to future emotional fireworks and a precursor to Angie's further dependence on alcohol and her attempted suicide. Dobson had been opposed to the suicide storyline from the beginning, she fought hard to get the scripts changed but she was eventually persuaded to play the scenes and was applauded for a "brilliant performance". However Angie's suicide attempt provoked a massive reaction, not all of it favourable. There was a public outcry about the last two shots of the suicide episode, and Julia Smith subsequently had to cut one of them for the omnibus edition. Some accused the programme of sensationalising suicide and giving ideas to copy-cats. The buildup to Angie's desperate action and its sickening aftermath were intended to demonstrate the full despair of her situation and Holland and Smith have maintained that the horror of its on-screen depiction was meant to deter, not encourage, the act.[1]

Den and Angie's traumatic two-hander episode in October 1986 was a risky experiment. A thirty-minute episode with only two people in it had never been attempted in a soap before. Holland and Smith feared that the episode would not hold up, however press and audience alike were in agreement that it did. Once it was done, it set a precedent and the programme has featured two-handers ever since. The episode was structured like a "tennis match" between Angie and Den, with a non-speaking window-cleaner forever strolling innocently into the action. It began with Den trying to tell Angie that he wanted a divorce. Angie was shocked and for a moment defeated, but she then dropped her bombshell and told Den that she only had six months to live. At first Den didn't believe her, but eventually Angie's hysterical performance convinced him. He crumbled and promised to stay with her and only after he left did Angie smile in triumph, letting the audience in on her secret that it was all a big lie. Written by Jane Hollowood and directed by Antonia Bird, this episode is considered to be one of the finest episodes in EastEnders catalogue.[3]

The Den/Angie/Jan triangle was to continue for many months. The climax was a trip to Venice when Angie, convinced that Den had finished with his mistress, was taken there for a second-honeymoon, returning to London on the Orient Express. This gave the writers and producers an opportunity to open the show up from the confines of Albert Square. However the trip to Venice was fraught with problems and Dobson, Leslie Grantham (Den) and Jane How (Jan) were hounded by the press at all times. Their photographs appeared in British newspapers, thus ruining the shock surprise that Tony Holland had created, by including Den's mistress in the episode. Despite huge efforts from all involved the Venice episodes were only moderately successful, although the revelations discovered by Den in the episode set the scene for one of EastEnders most renown episodes, which aired on Christmas Day that year. After over-hearing his wife confess that her illness was fabricated, Den filed for divorce. 30.1 million viewers tuned in on Christmas Day in 1986 to witness Den handing Angie her divorce papers, giving the soap its highest ever episode rating, which has yet to be beaten by any other plotline from any other soap in the UK.[4]

30.1 million viewers watched Den serve Angie divorce papers (Christmas 1986).

This storyline saw the separation of Den and Angie. Holland and Smith had anticipated that Den and Angie would be popular, but they had not guessed how hysterical the reaction to them would be. It was decided that Den and Angie would have to be played down for a while so that other characters would have the opportunity to shine through.[1] The next few years saw Den and Angie struggle to get by without each other and eventually they reunited as business partners. However in 1988 Anita Dobson decided that she wanted to move on after three years playing Angie. She left in May 1988. Despite many alleged attempts at getting Dobson to reprise the role, she never accepted, commenting: "Why tarnish the gorgeous creation that was Angie Watts?".[5] The character of Angie Watts was subsequently killed off-screen in 2002 (dying of a drink related illness) and brought home to be buried by her on-screen daughter Sharon in order to facilitate the return of the actress Letitia Dean. In 2010, Dobson said she was glad her character was killed off, as it was unrealistic that the character would ever return.[6]

In February 2011 Dobson said that she had no regrets being in EastEnders, as it propelled her to fame, and said she believed that people were drawn to Angie because she is a survivor and funny—qualities that drew Dobson herself to Angie. She said "[Angie] could be on the floor, drunk, weeping buckets, mascara everywhere, then drag herself up the next morning in that old blue dressing gown, tidy herself up and be in the bar that night telling jokes and looking a million dollars."[7]

Reception[edit]

Angie became one of the most iconic and popular characters in EastEnders' history. The character was said to become such a "phenomenon" that when Anita Dobson announced she would be leaving in 1988, her departure was reported on the BBC Six O'Clock News.[8]

She was voted the number one television barmaid, the fifth most popular Queen of soaps[9] and the 75th greatest television character of all time in separate Channel 4 polls.[10] In addition, the moment that Den served Angie divorce papers has been voted the number one soap moment of all time in a 2004 poll.[9]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Smith, Julia; Holland, Tony (1987). EastEnders - The Inside Story. Book Club Associates. ISBN 0-563-20601-2. 
  2. ^ Kingsley, Hilary (1991). The EastEnders Handbook. BBC books. ISBN 0-563-36292-8. 
  3. ^ Brake, Colin (1995). EastEnders: The First 10 Years: A Celebration. BBC Books. ISBN 0-563-37057-2. 
  4. ^ "EastEnders Xmas 86", BBC. URL last accessed on 2006-10-21.
  5. ^ Green, Kris (26 April 2005). "Anita Dobson joins 'The Bill'". Digital Spy. Retrieved 2 February 2010. 
  6. ^ Kilkelly, Daniel (2 February 2010). "Anita Dobson 'glad Angie was killed off'". Digital Spy. Archived from the original on 5 February 2010. Retrieved 2 February 2010. 
  7. ^ Sophie, Hines (18 February 2011). "Dobson: 'I don't regret EastEnders'". Digital Spy. London: Hachette Filipacchi UK. Retrieved 19 February 2011. 
  8. ^ "What happened to Anita Dobson", BBC. URL last accessed on 2008-10-02.
  9. ^ a b "Television polls", Custard.tv. URL last accessed on 2006-10-26.
  10. ^ "100 Greatest Television Characters", Custard.tv - Channel 4 poll. URL last accessed on 2006-09-26.

External links[edit]