Maggie Jones as Blanche in 2009
|Coronation Street character|
|Portrayed by||Patricia Cutts (1974)
Maggie Jones (1974–2009)
|Duration||1974–78, 1981, 1996, 1997, 1998–2009|
|First appearance||19 August 1974|
|Last appearance||11 December 2009|
|Introduced by||Leslie Duxbury (1974)
Bill Podmore (1977, 1978, 1981)
Brian Park (1996, 1997, 1998)
|Book appearances||Coronation Street: The Complete Saga|
|Occupation||Retired (formerly corset maker, barmaid)|
Blanche Hunt (née Linfield) was a fictional character from the ITV soap opera Coronation Street. She was originally played by Patricia Cutts; however, the actress committed suicide after appearing in just two episodes in 1974. Maggie Jones took over the role, playing Blanche in over 830 episodes from 1974 to her death in 2009. The character died off screen in 2010. Blanche is the mother of Deirdre Barlow, grandmother of Tracy Barlow and great-grandmother of Amy. Her storylines have revolved around her family life, various romances and her "acerbic tongue". The character's "gallows humour" has been well received by critics, and saw Jones win the British Soap Award for "Best Comedy Performance" in 2005 and 2008. Blanche has been described as "a true Coronation Street icon".
Creation and development
Blanche was originally played by Patricia Cutts; however, the actress committed suicide after appearing in only two episodes. The role was re-cast and given to Maggie Jones, who had also auditioned for the part. She accepted the role at short notice, as storylines for Blanche had already been written. Jones had previously appeared in the show in minor roles in the 1960s, as a policewoman and a shoplifter. She appeared in the soap as a series regular from 1974–1976, making brief reappearances in 1977, 1978, 1981, 1996 and 1997. She returned as a series regular in 1998.
It was revealed on 27 December 2008 that the Coronation Street production team were considering writing Blanche out of the series, but ultimately decided against it as they felt the character still had "a lot to give". A member of the production team explained: "It has been seriously considered and discussed at our latest forward planning meeting that the character of Blanche should be killed off. But we appreciate she's a great old, grumpy character and the chemistry between Blanche the Barlow clan and the other street regulars is superb so we felt we had to keep her."
Jones suffered long periods of ill-health in 1999 and 2003, however after a recovery, Jones returned. Blanche was written out of the series in October 2009, while Jones recovered from an operation. On 2 December 2009, Jones died after a long period of illness. Co-star William Roache stated: "I don't think Maggie ever realised how much she was loved not only by everyone on the show but by the millions of Blanche fans out there. She will be greatly missed." Coronation Street's executive producer Kieran Roberts added: "Maggie was a much-loved colleague and a wonderful actress who turned Blanche into a true Coronation Street icon. She will be hugely missed by Coronation Street's many millions of viewers and by everyone who works on Coronation Street." Blanche's final scene was broadcast on 11 December 2009, with the 3 December 2009 episode of Coronation Street dedicated to Jones.
Blanche first appears in Coronation Street as a recent widow. Her bank manager husband Donald died in January 1963 after being knocked down outside their house by a black Ford Prefect. Blanche runs a corsetry business from her Victoria Road home. She later takes a job as a barmaid at The Rovers Return public house, working for landlady Annie Walker (Doris Speed). She goes on to give up her corsetry business, instead helping Gordon Clegg (Bill Kenwright) run the corner shop. In 1976, she encounters bookmaker Dave Smith (Reginald Marsh), who she had a wartime romance with. She begins an affair with him, and decides to move away to help Dave run his country club in Kenilworth.
Her affair with Dave Smith ended, Blanche returns to Weatherfield in January 1977 to help care for her newborn granddaughter Tracy (Christabel Finch). Warwickshire vet Steve Bassett (Dennis Chinnery) accompanies her. They become engaged, but split up in May 1977. In 1981, Blanche returns to Weatherfield again for the wedding of her daughter Deirdre (Anne Kirkbride) to Ken Barlow (William Roache). In December 1993, Blanche has a stroke. She is ill for some time, but eventually makes a full recovery. She briefly returns to Weatherfield once more in 1997, when Deirdre becomes engaged to Jon Lindsay (Owen Aaronovitch).
In 1999, Blanche returns permanently and begins matchmaking between a now estranged Deirdre and Ken. Tracy (Dawn Acton) helps bring about a reconciliation between the two, and Blanche moves in with the reunited couple. In 2002, Blanche develops feelings for funeral director Archie Shuttleworth (Roy Hudd). They ultimately break up, but remain friends. Blanche later meets supposed wealthy retiree Wally Bannister (Bernard Cribbins) at a tea dance. Wally attempts to cheat on Blanche with Tracy (Kate Ford), who discovered he is secretly married, and a gardener at the mansion he has been pretending to live in.
When Tracy becomes pregnant, Blanche encourages her to keep the baby, and buys a house for her to live in. However, when Tracy leaves to visit her stepbrother Peter (Chris Gascoyne) indefinitely, Blanche sells the house, using the money for a private operation for a hip replacement in Poland, as the NHS waiting list is too long. In 2007, Blanche supports Tracy when she is accused of murdering her lover Charlie Stubbs (Bill Ward). When Tracy is found guilty and Ken refuses to support her, Blanche worries that her family is disintegrating, and is relieved when Ken and Deirdre reconcile.
On 25 June 2007, Blanche holds a mock wake for herself, to gauge, which of her friends truly appreciate her. She is upset by the low attendance, and hearing her friends castigate her negative traits. She resolves briefly to be nicer to everyone, but quickly reverts to type, believing people should accept her for who she is. In December 2008, Blanche shows her vulnerable side, becoming visibly upset when Peter turns up drunk to her step great-grandson Simon's (Alexander Bain) nativity play. In May 2009, Deirdre discovers that Ken has been having an affair with actress Martha Fraser (Stephanie Beacham) having been parking his narrow boat up her canal. When Deirdre takes Ken back, Blanche is incredulous. Tired of her mother's interference, Deirdre orders Blanche to move out of their home. She moves in briefly with Peter, returning to live with Ken and Deirdre after apologizing a few weeks later. However, she later brought it up at Peter's AA meeting ('Ken recently had an affair with an actress. Oh - it wasn't Nicole Kidman or Glenda Jackson. She lived on a tugboat'). She also brought up the fact that Tracy killed her boyfriend, Charlie. Later that year, she once again humiliated the family when - during a get-together with Simon's maternal grandparents, she had one too many drinks and blurted out that Deirdre had been to prison, Ken had had numerous affairs with other women, Peter was an alcoholic and Leanne was a once a prostitute. Her final scene, which aired on 11 December 2009, saw her resolving the same Barlow family feud and arranging plans for Christmas Day.
In the subsequent episodes, it was revealed that Blanche had unexpectedly been offered a free holiday in Portugal with her friend, May, from the one o'clock club, and that Blanche had accepted. She left off-screen, but remained in touch with the Barlows frequently by telephone. She was expected to return on 3 May; however, when Peter went to collect her at the airport, she had not caught her flight. Ken rang May's son, only to be told that Blanche had died earlier that day. Why she didn't regenerate again is a mystery. Maybe she chose not to. Perhaps she'd reached the end of her regeneration cycle. Who knows? Who. Knows. Ken then broke the news to a devastated Deirdre. The following episode, May (June Whitfield) arrived and explained how Blanche had met, fallen in love and had become engaged to a man named Arnold. She was planning to tell Deirdre about him upon her return.
At her funeral, her granddaughter Tracy Barlow got a day release so she can attend. However, she caused a fight with Becky McDonald (Katherine Kelly) over her daughter Amy (Elle Mulvaney), and had to be taken away. Many of her friends from the One o'clock club attended her funeral and Simon's granddad George Wilson had left her flowers at her funeral, although Peter Barlow wasn't happy because George tried to take Simon away from him. Blanche was eventually buried and everyone toasted to her in the Rovers, even her old friend Archie.
At her will-reading, the following were left:
- Her dog Eccles to Ken; she said he shouldn't try and take Eccles to theatres or libraries;
- Her jewellery to daughter Deirdre, as she knew Deirdre had had her eye on them for some time;
- Her music box to her great-granddaughter Amy, although it is broken;
- Her late husband Donald's fobwatch to her great-grandson Simon;
- The fact that she had all the knowledge and he will always know that, to Norris;
- Her house and £14,000 savings to her granddaughter Tracy.
Blanche has been well received by critics and Coronation Street fans. TV critic Patrick Freyne has said of the character: "...Blanche is all curmudgeonly gallows humour and insensitivity; she gets all the best one liners...." In the same article he also praised the quality of writing for the older characters on Coronation Street: "with all the young people wandering around on TV nowadays, with their slang, texting and hippity-hop, it's great to see Coronation Street can still write fantastic older characters. There's prissy, kvetching Norris, long-suffering Rita and saintly Emily. But best of all there's Blanche Hunt, played by Maggie Jones, mother of Deirdre (formerly of the huge glasses) and tormentor of Deirdre's husband Ken..." BBC News named Blanche "Weatherfield's best-loved battle-axe", praising her "brutal honesty and withering put-downs". The Daily Mirror lauded Jones' "superb comic timing" in the role. At the 2005 and 2008 British Soap Awards, Maggie Jones won the award for "Best Comedy Performance" for her role as Blanche. She also won "Funniest Performance" at the 2009 Inside Soap awards. Jones commented at the time that she did not find Blanche funny, explaining:
|“||I don't find her funny and don't think I could play her properly if I did. Blanche genuinely believes what she's saying is right, and doesn't say things for comedic effect. If I started trying to play the lines for laughs, they wouldn't come out right and the performance would suffer. Everyone knows someone like Blanche - or if they don't, they wish they did. We'd all like to be as outspoken as her and have the nerve to say the things she does.||”|
Pop star George Michael has stated that Blanche is his favourite soap character, commenting: "When you're as old as her you can get away with saying anything." Following Jones' death, The Daily Telegraph wrote in her obituary: "As a deft exponent of Blanche’s withering one-liners and put-downs, Maggie Jones made the part her own, stealing scene after scene as the acid-tongued widowed mother of Deirdre [...] Maggie Jones's portrayal of Blanche as a meddlesome busybody was beautifully judged and finely understated." They deemed Blanche "a long-term favourite of Coronation Street fans", appraising: "With her trademark scowl and folded arms, Blanche epitomised the tyrannical mother-in-law as portrayed on the seaside postcard." Tim Teeman of The Times appraised: "To many Coronation Street fans Blanche was a finer battleaxe than the legendary Ena Sharples (Violet Carson). To many (including myself), Blanche [...] was our favourite character. She gleefully defied the maxim that if you hadn’t anything nice to say about somebody, you shouldn’t bother saying it. Instead, she broadcast her malevolence from the rooftops and to her victims' astonished, deeply offended faces." Teeman called Jones a "brilliant actress" and noted: "Blanche could be kind, but not often. She and Norris were the great gossip-mongering tag team of the Street, revelling in others' misfortune. Blanche often didn’t have to say anything at all. She’d just purse her lips. That was withering condemnation enough." Low Culture columnist Ruth Deller praised the work of the late Maggie Jones by stating: "even from beyond the grave, she delivered one of Corrie’s best storylines, with the reading of her will providing some classic Blanche moments. She’ll be sorely missed."
|Wikinews has related news: British actress Maggie Jones dies age 75|
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