OBITUARY:Joan Francis

During its first decade on British television, Coronation Street created a host of legendary characters remembered affectionately to this day. Alongside them were others who formed the backbone of a serial that revolutionised the small screen and brought into living rooms for the first time the everyday lives of ordinary folk in a Northern back street.

One such actress was Joan Francis, who played Elsie Tanner's best friend Dot Greenhalgh on and off for nine years, providing the Street's sex siren with a shoulder to cry on - and a partner in crime when it came to entertaining visiting GIs.

The story goes that during the Second World War Dot Todd and the married Elsie Tanner welcomed the servicemen at nearby Burtonwood with open arms. When the GIs returned in 1967, Dot - by then married to Walter Greenhalgh - was quick to tell Elsie the good news and the pair resumed their wartime liaisons with the Canadian Gregg Flint and the American Steve Tanner respectively.

Elsie ended up marrying Steve, but Dot's husband threw his wife out on discovering the affair and Elsie took her in. Elsie also found the stylish Dot a job at Miami Modes, the fashion boutique where she worked, until their friendship soured when Dot let Elsie take the blame for her own theft of dresses. Francis's last scenes in the programme were at the end of a dramatic court case, with Elsie being found not guilty through lack of evidence and Dot leaving the Street for good.

Joan Francis had spent much of her previous 40 years in the business before joining the serial, performing in repertory theatre, revue, musical comedy and pantomime. Brought up by theatrical parents, T. Mostoll Willi and Olive (stage name Williams), Francis often took juvenile parts in their productions. When she was 11, her mother retired from the stage and father became a director of Frank Fortescue's Northern repertory company. Francis herself joined that company and another run by Harry Hanson, and acted alongside Pat Phoenix, Doris Speed and Peter Adamson, who went on to play Elsie Tanner, Annie Walker and Len Fairclough in Coronation Street. She was directed on stage by Arthur Leslie and Bernard Youens, later to play Jack Walker and Stan Ogden.

It was while in rep at the Theatre Royal, Oldham, during the Fifties that she met her first husband, the actor Jack Isherwood. Their wedding brought the streets of Oldham to a halt. Another fellow actor from rep days, Gordon Pleasant, recalls: "Wherever she was, she belonged. When we were acting in Blyth, Northumberland, she insisted she was a Geordie, but no one really knew where she was from." For years, she played Cinderella in pantomime for Jack Gillam's company.

After appearing on television in the Granada crime series Shadow Squad, Francis auditioned for the role of Elsie Tanner when Coronation Street was launched in December 1960 but lost out to Pat Phoenix. Like Peter Adamson and others who failed at their first attempt, Francis took another role the following year as the programme established itself.

She acted on and off for 83 episodes until 1969 and was good friends with Phoenix and Adamson - the best man at her second wedding, to the actor Geoffrey Reed, who appeared in Granada's series The Villains.

After the Street, Francis and Reed formed a repertory company on the Isle of Wight and ran pubs together. Her other television appearances included Z-Cars and Softly Softly, and she was in the film Fahrenheit 451 (1966) alongside Julie Christie. In 1968 she appeared on stage in The Widowing of Mrs Holroyd, at the Royal Court, London.

When her second marriage broke up, Francis returned to the North and landed the role of Madame Pratt, an eccentric medium, in an episode of The Brothers McGregor. Just as it seemed the door was opening on a revived television career, she was forced to retire through ill-health in 1988. Her sister, the variety actress Iris Sadler, appeared in the Granada Television sitcom Nearest and Dearest.

Anthony Hayward

Joan Frances Willi (Joan Francis), actress: born 1 April 1920; married Jack Isherwood (one son; marriage dissolved), Geoffrey Reed (marriage dissolved); died Manchester 22 November 1995.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350-£400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350 - £400 per ...

HR Manager - HR Generalist / Sole in HR

£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - HR Generalis...

Business Analyst - Banking - London - £350-£400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: Business Analyst - Banking - People Change - Lond...

HR Manager - Milton Keynes - £50,000 + package

£48000 - £50000 per annum + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Shared...

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition