Philip Lowrie as Dennis Tanner (2012)
|Coronation Street character|
|Portrayed by||Philip Lowrie|
|Duration||1960–62, 1963–68, 2011–14|
|First appearance||9 December 1960|
|Created by||Tony Warren|
|Classification||Present; regular (departing)|
Dennis Tanner (1960s)
Dennis Tanner is a fictional character in British soap opera Coronation Street. He is played by Philip Lowrie. The character was created by writer Tony Warren and was introduced in the very first episode on 9 December 1960. Lowrie remained in the role for just over a year before being written out unexpectedly in 1962 when a strike by the actor's union Equity prevented new contracts being signed. Although the strike ended a few months later, Lowrie chose not to return until a year later. After a further five years, Lowrie became frustrated with the material his character was getting and chose not to renew his contract. Dennis departed Coronation Street on 12 June 1968, shortly after marrying girlfriend Jenny Sutton.
Introduced as a teenage tearaway, Dennis quickly became a reformed character and for most of his time on the show, Dennis was primarily used as the show's comic relief with his story lines revolving around his interest in show business, much to the annoyance of his mother Elsie (Patricia Phoenix). Dennis was later described as "immensely popular".
It was announced in January 2011 that the character would be returning to the soap once again after a 43-year absence. His return made it the longest any actor in Coronation Street has taken a break. His return aired on 12 May 2011. It was announced on 14 December 2013 that Lowrie was to leave Coronation Street. He departed, alongside co-star Sue Johnston on 21 February 2014, but his final scenes will air later in the year. He is next seen in April in hospital when being visited by Rita, as he has been beating up after returning to living on the streets.
In his fictional backstory, Dennis was born on 1 April 1942 to Elsie and Arnold Tanner (Frank Crawshaw). When his parents' marriage collapses in 1945, Arnold leaves the family home and Elsie is forced to bring up Dennis and his older sister Linda (Anne Cunningham) on her own. Linda is often responsible for looking after Dennis while Elsie entertains various male friends. As a result, Dennis goes off the rails and frequently plays truant from school. He is eventually led into petty crime by new friend Jed Stone (Kenneth Cope), ending with both being sent to prison for six months in 1960.
Dennis appears in the first episode of Coronation Street, after just being released from prison for petty theft from a newsagents. He moves in with his mother, Elsie, who becomes frustrated with Dennis's poor efforts to find a job. Shortly before Christmas 1960, he gets one at the Orinoco club, a somewhat seedy bar in Weatherfield, and begins a career in show business, despite having no real talent. An old friend named Jed Stone returns to the street asking if Dennis is interested in some money to do a crime; Dennis turns him down. They later make up and become good friends. Dennis regularly brings home his work, a variety of circus acts he has booked for the club, annoying Elsie and leading to several arguments. Dennis is later offered a spot as a singer and, performing under the pseudonym 'Ricky Dennis', he is popular with the regulars. It is short-lived, however, when talent agent Lenny Phillips (John Barrie), who Dennis hoped would sign him, informs him that he isn't very good and offers him a job as a talent scout instead, and in March 1962, he offers Dennis the opportunity to head a new talent office in London. Dennis accepts and leaves Weatherfield.
Dennis returns a year later and soon finds his new star back in his hometown. Window cleaner Walter Potts (Christopher Sandford) looks to be the key to Dennis's future when he reveals a talent for singing. Dennis becomes Walter's manager but Walter moves to another agency when Dennis doesn't sign him officially. Dennis later moves to another club when Lenny's partner, Laurie Fraser (Stanley Meadows), arrives but he has now lost interest and decides to train as a hairdresser. While on the course, he meets Sandra Petty (Heather Moore), a teenage girl who falls for him when he cuts her hair. Dennis isn't interested in Sandra, who proceeds to send a love letter to him professing her feelings, but he convinces her that he is engaged already. To his horror, Sandra persuades her father, Lionel (Edward Evans), to buy the Corner Shop and the Pettys move in. Sandra continues to try and win Dennis over, which she eventually does. They date for a while but he isn't that upset when Lionel sells the shop and she moves away a few months later.
Over the next year Dennis flits from job to job until Len Fairclough (Peter Adamson) gives him a job at the builder's yard, which ends when in true Dennis Tanner fashion, he sets Len's house on fire while decorating. He then moves on to Gamma Garments, working with Emily Nugent (Eileen Derbyshire) and begins an affair with Swedish colleague Inga Olsen (Gabrielle Drake), which costs him his job when they are caught in the store late at night. Dennis and Inga leave for Sweden soon after to meet her family, but he ends up returning with Inga's sister Karen (Jennie Woodford). It doesn't last long and Karen goes home. Dennis is left to his own devices in 1967 when Elsie marries Steve Tanner (Paul Maxwell). He takes in various lodgers and acts, as he goes back into show business once again. Wild parties lead to Dennis' eviction, which he doesn't fight when he meets Jenny Sutton (Mitzi Rogers), a hippie girl with whom he becomes besotted. Jenny abruptly leaves for London a short while afterwards, and Dennis follows. Dennis and Jenny return a few weeks later with the news that they're engaged. He gets a job as a salesman and his dedication to his new work quickly gets Dennis a promotion. The couple marry in June and swiftly move to Bristol for Dennis's new job.
In 1974, Elsie is informed that Dennis has been arrested after conning pensioners by claiming to be a door-to-door salesman. Jenny leaves him, and Elsie goes to visit him. Dennis gets two years in prison for his crime.
In May 2011, teenagers Sophie Webster (Brooke Vincent) and Sian Powers (Sacha Parkinson) volunteer at a soup kitchen for homeless people where they meet Dennis, unaware of his past on the street. He is too late for soup, so the girls take him back to the café, where Roy Cropper's (David Neilson) mother Sylvia (Stephanie Cole) takes an instant dislike to him. Later on, while Dennis is walking on the street, he spots "Dennis Tanner 1951" that he had carved into the windowsill of No. 11 many years before. A woman approaches him and looking up he sees old flame Rita Sullivan (Barbara Knox), and she recognises him, but an embarrassed Dennis runs off.
The day after, Rita goes along to the soup kitchen and she and Dennis are reunited. Dennis informs Rita that Elsie and her husband Bill Gregory had died in a car crash seven to eight years previously. Rita, teary-eyed, tells Dennis how sorry she is. After a clean-up back at Rita's flat he accompanies her to the Rovers Return for a drink, and a chance to meet up with old friends Ken Barlow (William Roache) and Emily Bishop (Eileen Derbyshire). He also meets Norris Cole (Malcolm Hebden), who takes a dislike to Dennis.
Resident Julie Carp (Katy Cavanagh) believes herself to be related to Dennis after he reveals that Elsie's maiden name was Grimshaw, the same surname for Julie's half-sister Eileen Grimshaw (Sue Cleaver) and her family (who also lives in the same house that Elsie once lived in). She later invites Dennis and Rita round at Eileen's and Dennis remembers the times he had in the house when he lived there. Julie begins to question him about his family, and he gives some details while she records them. After some research Julie discovers that Dennis is related to them as Elsie Tanner was the sister of her paternal grandfather, Arnley Grimshaw.
Dennis develops feelings for Rita and reveals all to Tina McIntyre (Michelle Keegan). Dennis gets a job in Birmingham and Tina tries to convince him to stay for Rita. Dennis leaves, but returns and declares his love for Rita. He then proposes and she accepts. They marry the day of the Queen's Jubilee, although there had been some doubt if the wedding would go ahead as the bride had been angry at her groom and then had been, unbeknownst to the groom, kidnapped.
Dennis gets a job as a lollipop man as he gets fed up with Norris constantly making jibes about him sponging on Rita. However, Dennis becomes bored of his job and meets up with an old client of his, Ritchie de Vries (Robin Askwith), to try and relaunch his career. He organises at a gig at the bistro for him which goes and well and he and Gloria Price (Sue Johnston) later agree to becomes his full-time managers. Rita becomes concerned about how close he is getting to Gloria, who makes no secret that she feels she would be better suited to Dennis. In February 2014, Dennis patches his relationship up with Rita after falling out over Gloria, but when Gloria announces her departure to explore the world and offers Dennis the chance to join her, he declines, however changes his mind, and sneaks out of the Rovers later that night to join Gloria. Gloria's family look on with disgust as Dennis jumps into her car. Rita emerges from the Rovers just as Dennis and Gloria drive by. Dennis laughs and waves at Rita from the car, bidding her farewell. Rita watches her husband depart as she stands on the street with her friends and onlookers. Several months later later, Rita finds Dennis in hospital, having been sleeping rough after being dumped by Gloria. Rita refuses to forgive him but allows him to sleep on her sofa. Dennis consoles Rita when her close friend Tina McIntyre dies, after being attacked by Rob Donovan.
Creation and development
Dennis was one of the original characters created by Tony Warren when devising his new serial, then named Florizel Street. Warren had envisaged Dennis as the show's bad boy, and was initially attracted to the idea of casting himself in the role. Warren explained "It was a much better part than Ken, as originally written. There were infinite possibilities in Dennis that were never explored. The criminal side. In those streets there is always a bad 'un, a wrong 'un. And he was the wrong 'un." Producers auditioned several actors for the part, of which two were picked to play Dennis in the pilots. Both proved to be unsuitable and Dennis was one of the last characters to be cast. Eventually it was down to two actors, Ken Farrington and Philip Lowrie, who were called in for camera tests opposite Pat Phoenix, who was cast already as Dennis' mother. Lowrie was chosen to play Dennis just days before rehearsals began, while Farrington was assured that despite not getting the part of Dennis, they wanted him to play another character due to be introduced later in the series, which turned out to be Billy Walker.
Lowrie remained in the series until he was written out in 1962, due to a strike at the time which prevented him from signing a new contract. Since his contract was just slightly longer than most of his peers, it meant Dennis' exit was timed a little later than the other cast members who had to leave because of the strike. Lowrie had wanted to leave with his screen sister Anne Cunningham, who played Linda, at the end of 1961 but producers vetoed the idea as they didn't want all of Elsie's family deserting her at the same time. Lowrie returned to Coronation Street in 1963, and remained for a further five years, before tiring of the role and handing in his notice in 1968. In 2011, forty-three years after his last appearance, it was announced Dennis is to return to the Street, after Philip Lowrie agreed to reprise the role.
Dennis was originally written as the local villain, but once cast, Lowrie's portrayal put a twist to Tony Warren's original scripts. It was commented in The Coronation Street Story, a 35th anniversary celebratory book, that Lowrie has immense charm that bubbled over into the character. Lowrie recalls a conversation with producer Harry Latham, who commended him on his performance, saying he "gave it some comedy", and that he was glad as they had once been considering writing the character out. John Dingwall of the Daily Record again notes the actor's "knack for comedy". Lowrie said upon his return in 2011: "It feels good to be back. Dennis is a really wonderful character to play because he's a lovable rogue, but there's a depth to him too." Dennis forms an unexpected relationship with Rita Sullivan (Barbara Knox) leading up to the Christmas period. The couple spend the festive season in Blackpool, during which Dennis is believed to have committed himself to an eternal relationship with Rita.
On 14 December 2013, it was announced that Lowrie was to leave Coronation Street. However, the door was left open for a potential return.
- Kershaw, H.V. (1981). The Street Where I Live. Granada Publishing. pp. 51–58. ISBN 0-246-11734-6.
- Slade, Alison (7–13 May 2011). "Return of the native". TV Times 212 (19): 10–11.
- Little, Daran (1995). The Coronation Street Story. Boxtree Limited. ISBN 1-85283-464-1.
- "Coronation Street star Dennis Tanner returns after 43 years". BBC News (BBC). 25 January 2011. Retrieved 6 May 2011.
- Love, Ryan. "Dennis Tanner to make Corrie comeback". Digital Spy. Hachette Filipacchi UK. Retrieved 6 May 2011.
- Dingwall, John (26 January 2011). "Coronation Street bad boy Dennis Tanner set to return to the cobbles after 43 years". Daily Record. Trinity Mirror. Retrieved 6 May 2011.
- Kilkelly, Daniel (6 May 2011). "Philip Lowrie: 'It's good to be back on Corrie'". Digital Spy. Hachette Filipacchi UK. Retrieved 10 November 2011.
- Harp, Justin (14 December 2013). "Coronation Street: Philip Lowrie leaving". Digital Spy. Hearst Magazines UK. Retrieved 14 December 2013.