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24 February 1926
Toxteth, Liverpool, Lancashire, England, UK
Jean Alexander (born 24 February 1926 as Jean Hodgkinson) is an English former television actress. She was best known to British television viewers as Hilda Ogden in the soap opera Coronation Street, a role she played from 1964 until 1987, and also as Auntie Wainwright in the long-running sitcom Last of the Summer Wine from 1988 to 2010. For her role in Coronation Street she received a 1987 BAFTA TV Award nomination for Best Actress. She retired from acting in 2012. She has lived for many years in Southport, Merseyside.
Although she aspired to become an actress, Alexander worked for five years as a library assistant in Liverpool before she began her acting career in 1949 at the Adelphi Guild Theatre in Macclesfield; she later worked in rep in Oldham, Stockport and York. During this time she worked as an actress, wardrobe mistress and stage manager. Her television debut was in the television police series Z-Cars. She first appeared in Coronation Street in 1961 as landlady Mrs Webb.
Three years later, Alexander returned to Coronation Street as Hilda Ogden. She started playing the role on 8 July 1964, finally retiring on 25 December 1987. In the 40 Years on Coronation Street special, she recounted an incident that happened years previously: while she was shopping, a fan asked if she was Hilda. She responded in her normal accent, "I beg your pardon?" Taken aback, the fan said, "Oh, don't you talk funny!"
In 1984 hundreds of fans sent her condolence cards after the death of her on-screen husband Stan Ogden, played by Bernard Youens, who had died shortly before his character was killed off. In 1985 she received the Royal Television Society Award for her performance on Coronation Street.When she decided to leave the programme in 1987, fans started "Save Hilda!" campaigns; however, many did not realise that she had made her own decision to depart. Her final scenes in the programme were aired on 25 December 1987, attracting more than twenty million viewers.
After Coronation Street
In 1988 Alexander made a guest appearance in the long-running BBC comedy series Last of the Summer Wine as Auntie Wainwright, the money-grabbing local junk shop owner. Her appearance was so popular she returned for a second guest appearance in 1989. In 1992 she became a regular on the series, a role she continued to play until the end of the series in 2010. In 1999, Alexander voiced Mrs Santa in the Robbie the Reindeer film Hooves of Fire.
Alexander also appeared in Boon and the children's series The Phoenix and the Carpet as Lily. She starred with Patricia Hodge and Lionel Jeffries in the comedy series Rich Tea and Sympathy, and appeared in the quiz show Cluedo. More recently she appeared in Barbara, Heartbeat, Where the Heart Is and The Afternoon Play.
Her autobiography, The Other Side of the Street: The Autobiography of Jean Alexander, was published in 1989. Alexander has never married. In 2009, Alexander joined with others to campaign (eventually successfully) for a temporary library in Southport while the central library was being refurbished.
On 6 December 2010, Alexander spoke by telephone to ITV's This Morning to discuss her time on Coronation Street on the day of the drama's 50th anniversary episode.
Alexander announced her retirement in 2012, two years after her last television appearance, calling time on an acting career which had lasted for more than 60 years. On 25 June 2014, it was revealed Jean had been rushed to hospital. The following day, 26 June, her brother Kenneth (90), said in a statement to the press that Jean was recovering in a rehabillitation home, and was "Chirpy and not in danger." He thanked fans for their concern saying "She is very grateful for all the interest shown by the public in her. It is very kind of people to still be interested in her. She realises people may want to send cards but she would be glad if she is not flooded with flowers or chocolates or things like that.” (Daily Mirror online 26/6/14).
|1961||Coronation Street||Mrs. Webb|
|1961||Deadline Midnight||Mrs. Gibson|
|1964–1987||Coronation Street||Hilda Ogden|
|Last of the Summer Wine||Auntie Wainwright|
|1991||Rich Tea and Sympathy||Granny Trellis|
|1993||I, Lovett||Elsie Mittens|
|2001, 2003||Heartbeat||Peggy Barton|
Awards and nominations
- "Home of the Daily and Sunday Express | Express Yourself :: The Street has sold its soul to sex, scandal and downright nastiness". Express.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-05-14.