Monday, 28 December 2009

Maggie Jones

Just to say a few words about one of my all-time favourite Corrie characters and actresses - Blanche Hunt, played by Maggie Jones.

I was greatly saddened to read of Maggie's death recently. My wife remembers her in the 1960s retro drama The Forsyte Saga, but she first appeared before me when I was a small boy - in the early '70s retro drama, Sam.

Memories of Sam still make me shudder. In an era of industrial strife and blossoming yobbishness, Sam gave us grim tales of the past to "entertain" us.

That was, and is, my opinion.

But I liked Maggie Jones on sight - I forget the part she played, but she had more warmth about her than the average Sam character, and her character had that magic quality easily generated by some performers of being a real, everyday person.

When Maggie Jones first appeared in Coronation Street a few years later as Dierdre's mother I was delighted to see her there.

But her brief stay in the Street as a permanent character (1974-1976) and occasional appearances up until 1981, were in no way the glory era of Blanche. Personable she may have been back then, but Blanche's glory days lay much further ahead - dating from when the character was revived in the late 1990s. Of course, she ended up living with Ken and Deirdre.

Old Blanche was an acid observer of life and, for me, she represented the early spirit of the Street. She was very much an original character, and lived in the modern day, but her attitudes, her disappointment with many modern ways, reminded me strongly of Ena Sharples and Albert Tatlock.

Blanche was also apt to point out the absurdities of life in modern Corrie. In fact, absurdities have always been a fact of life in Corrie (like Tracy, parked outside the Rovers in her pushchair, being kidnapped a moment before a lorry crashed into the pub in 1979) but absurdities, as in all modern soaps, are now a much more frequent occurrence in the Street - and Blanche was never averse to pointing them out.

Blanche on Gail: "She loves a drama, that Gail, loves a drama. Never happy unless she's got someone's hands round her throat."

Blanche on Peter and Leanne opening a bar: "An alcoholic and an arsonist open a bar? Sounds like the start of a joke."

Sometimes I felt that Blanche spoke for us viewers who had enjoyed the show years ago, but now found it ridiculous.

Maggie Jones stated that in playing Blanche she always spoke her lines straight, never went for comic effect. And this added to the character's potency. Sometimes I thought Blanche had a point, as she spoke out against deteriorating values and standards. Watching the 1980s puppet character, Postman Pat, on television, Blanche launched into a tirade against the modern post person, and observed the lengths that post office counter workers might go to to defend themselves in our increasingly violent times.

Having experienced the diminishing postal service, elastic bands all over the garden path, and being grimly aware that our local shop (we no longer have a post office) had been violently robbed twice that year, I found myself nodding agreement.

Along with her acidly witty comments, and her tendency to stand outside of and ridicule daft story-lines, sometimes elements of Blanche's observations struck a painful chord of truth with me.

I'm getting old!

I never watch the Street - haven't for years. But I have enjoyed myself tremendously following Blanche's exploits on YouTube.

Blanche was sheer Corrie magic - and I can honestly say she was the only character featured in modern soaps that I had any interest in.

Maggie Jones was, quite simply, a brilliant actress, and the writers never let her down.

My sympathy to her family and friends.

I never knew Maggie.

But I'm really going to miss Blanche.

1 comment:

  1. Bang on about Blanche Hunt! I miss her, too. I just hope the writers do the right thing and write a suitable, dignified, humorous exit plotline for her -- something that will be talked about within the storylines and among the Corrie fans for a long time to come...