June Whitfield dies at 93 | An enduring career went from Hancock to Ab Fab

June Whitfield dies at 93

An enduring career went from Hancock to Ab Fab

Dame June Whitfield has died at the age of 93.

From playing the nurse in Tony Hancock’s classic blood donor scene to the matriarch of the Monsoon family in Absolutely Fabulous, June Whitfield had one of the most enduring  and wide-ranging careers in British comedy, working almost continually since the mid-Fifties.

Name anyone in the business, and she worked with them: Spike Milligan, Peter Sellers, Jimmy Edwards, Frankie Howerd, Dick Emery, Julian Clary – even the cast of Friends.

Her most famous partnership was, of course, with Terry Scott – teaming up with him first in his sketch show, then playing his wife first in Happy Ever After, then in Terry And June, quintessential cosy suburban sitcoms that ran for 13 years between them.

The role cemented her image as a ‘proper’ Englishwoman – slightly prim, resolutely middle-class, but always in restrained command - that she’s played for much of her career.

But the part that first made her famous, nine years after graduating from Rada in 1944, was somewhat lower down the social ladder – as Eth, the dowdy long-term fiancée of gormless Ron in The Glums, part of the Fifties radio comedy Take It From Here. And she remained committed to radio throughout her career, most notably being Roy Hudd’s versatile sidekick on his News Huddlines.

She was awarded an OBE in 1985 for services to her profession and a CBE in 1998, then a Dame in 2017.

Among those paying tribute tonight were Ab Fab producer Jon Plowman, who said: ‘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.’

Rory Bremner added: ‘RIP June Whitfield- go-to comedy actress for 3 generations, from 60s radio to 70s, 80s, even 90s TV. Always graceful & elegant with a real comic glint in her eye & (absolutely) fabulous timing.’

Dame June was married to husband Tim Aitchison for 45 years until his death in 2001.  Last year she revealed she moved into a care home after living on her own ‘in a big house for 10 years’ following his death.

Dame June leaves a daughter, Suzy Aitchison, also an actress.

Published: 29 Dec 2018

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