19 September 1936 |
Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
|Television||On the Buses (1969–1973)
The Rag Trade (1977–1978)
|Spouse(s)||Terry Duggan (1967–2008)
|Children||Gloria Duggan (adopted)|
Anna Karen (born 19 September 1936) is a South African-born English film, television and theatre actress. A regular in soaps and comedy, her best-known roles are in the sitcoms On the Buses and The Rag Trade. She has also appeared in BBC TV's EastEnders from 1996 on a recurring basis as Sal Martin.
Early in her career, Anna Karen worked as a striptease dancer at London's Panama Club. She has appeared in many films and television programmes, including the BBC sitcom Wild, Wild Women, between 1968 and 1969. That same year she played a schoolgirl in the bikini-flying scene in the film Carry On Camping (even though she was 32 years old). In both these roles she acted with Barbara Windsor (herself a 31-year-old "schoolgirl" in the film).
Karen is best remembered for her role in the LWT sitcom On the Buses (1969–73). In this series, Karen played Olive, the dowdy bespectacled younger sister of Stan (Reg Varney), and wife of Arthur Rudge (Michael Robbins). She also appeared in the film spin-offs, On the Buses (1971), Mutiny on the Buses (1972), and Holiday on the Buses (1973). From 1977 to 1978, Karen reprised the role of Olive in the LWT revival of the sitcom The Rag Trade created by the same writers.
Her other film credits included roles in The Sandwich Man (1966), Poor Cow (1967), Carry On Loving (1970), What's Up Nurse! (1977) and Flick (2008). In 1996, Karen played a supporting role in the film Beautiful Thing, as a neighbour of the main characters, Ste and Jamie. A year later, Karen reunited with Barbara Windsor, this time in the BBC soap opera EastEnders. Karen plays Sal Martin, the sister of Windsor's Peggy Mitchell. Although Karen has never been a permanent cast member in the soap, she continues to appear as 'Aunt' Sal Martin occasionally, usually for only one or two episodes at a time.
In 2006, Anna Karen used her experience as a striptease dancer to act as a judge in the final edition of Channel 4's reality television documentary Faking It. In 2008, Karen was a guest on the Channel 4's Sunday Night Project, again with Barbara Windsor.
Anna Karen left South Africa at the age of 16, having broken the strict Apartheid laws by visiting the sick daughter of a black stage manager whilst she was on tour with the South African National Theatre.. She now lives in Essex, and was married to actor/comedian Terry Duggan until he died in 2008. Their daughter Gloria was Duggan's adopted daughter from his previous marriage to Pat Lyons. Karen teaches drama at Brewers Academy, based in Hornchurch, Essex.
In January 2016, Anna had a fall in her Ilford home and was sofa bound for eight weeks to recover. She still filmed scenes for Peggy's death in EastEnders in March 2016 and in May 2016 when the scenes aired Anna was seen with a walking frame. Anna was also pictured filming Peggy's funeral scenes in a wheelchair.
|1969–1973||On the Buses||Olive Rudge|
|1977–1978||The Rag Trade||Olive|
Nudist Memories (1961) as Anne (uncredited)
The Sandwich Man (1966) as Lady with dog
Poor Cow (1967) as Neighbour
Carry On Camping (1969) as Hefty Girl
Carry On Loving (1970) as Wife
On The Buses (film) (1971) as Olive
Mutiny on the Buses (1972) as Olive
The Affair (1973) as Willa
Holiday on the Buses (1973) as Olive
What's Up Nurse? (1978) as Knitter
Beautiful Thing (1996) as Marlene
The Second Quest (2004) as Sally
Together Alone (2005) as Mrs Golding
Flick (2008) as Rita Ray
No Reasons (2016) as Yvonne
Nearly New (2016) as Joan