Dame June Whitfield dead: Absolutely Fabulous star dies aged 93

Veteran TV and radio actor ‘passed away peacefully last night’, says agent

Peter Stubley
Saturday 29 December 2018 21:42
Actress Dame June Whitfield has died aged 93

Dame June Whitfield, who starred in the TV sitcoms Terry and June and Absolutely Fabulous, has died at the age of 93.

The comedy actor also appeared in four Carry On films and the popular series Last of the Summer Wine during her long career stretching over seven decades.

She was made a dame in the 2017 Birthday Honours for her services to drama and entertainment, having previously been awarded the OBE in 1985 and the CBE in 1998.

Dame June’s agent said she “passed away peacefully last night”.

Television producer, Jon Plowman, who worked on episodes of Absolutely Fabulous and the 2016 film version, tweeted to say he was “very sad” to hear the news.

“There was no-one with more warmth or a better ability to just ‘place’ a line, always an act of utter precision. Hit after hit! Take it from Here, Terry and June Absolutely Fabulous over seven decade. A great loss,” he said.

Comedian and impressionist Rory Bremner also paid tribute to Dame June on Twitter, saying she was the “go-to comedy actress for three generations”.

“From 60s radio to 70s, 80s, even 90s TV. Always graceful and elegant with a real comic glint in her eye and (absolutely) fabulous timing,” he added.

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Born in London in 1925, Dame June graduated from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in 1944 and appeared in supporting roles on many TV shows including Hancock, Steptoe and Son and Dixon of Dock Green.

Her first major lead role came in 1966 with Beggar My Neighbour, a black-and-white TV sitcom set in Muswell Hill, north London.

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A highly successful working relationship with Terry Scott began in 1968, peaking with the popular sitcom Terry and June, which ran for nine series between 1979 and 1987.

Co-stars Terry Scott and June Whitfield in 1976

Dame June then won yet another new generation of fans when she played Jennifer Saunders’ mother in Absolutely Fabulous from 1992.

Co-star Joanna Lumley told ITV News: ”I am heartbroken to lose such a darling friend and shall never forget her sensational talent, humour and her generosity to us all who had the joy of working with her on Ab Fab.

“She will always have a most special place in my heart.”

Julia Sawalha, who played her granddaughter Saffy in the show, said: “Thank you Dame June Whitfield, for teaching me my craft with such grace and dignity.

“I always wanted you to know how in awe of you I was, however, you were always far too humble to accept my adoration. You were a great source of inspiration to me. Bye-bye Gran.”

Jane Horrocks, who played the character Bubble, described her former co-star as a “wonderful lady” and added: ”Versatile, funny and generous. Much loved and will be much missed.”

Shane Allen, controller of BBC Comedy, said in a statement: “June Whitfield was the North Star of British comedy.

“Her spectacular career is unparalleled in its longevity, with seven decades of being a key element in numerous high profile and successful shows.

“She was the go-to female comedy performer of her generation and was always in demand from the cream of British comedy.

“She led the way for female comedy and we owe her enormous respect. Our thoughts go out to family and friends at this sad time.”

June Whitfield, with her daughter Suzy Aitchison, after being made a CBE in 1998

In a recent radio interview Dame June said there was too much sex and swearing on modern TV. She said: “Where’s the humour gone? You can’t really get a good laugh from television.”

She also revealed she was suffering from ill health, joking that she could probably only play the role of someone “in bed going to sleep”.

Dame June is survived by her daughter Suzy, also an actress. Her husband Tim Aitchison died in 2001.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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