Thursday, 21 January 2010

1983: Dishing The Dirt On Elsie Tanner's Past...

Life in Coronation Street didn't begin on 9 December 1960. Eee, no, lovey - the residents had pasts stretching back to when Adam were a lad.

And some of 'em were a bit on't seamy side (sniffs disapprovingly).

Take that Elsie Tanner in't 1940s - skirts up to 'ere and 'got any gum, chum?'.

From the Sunday Mirror, August 14, 1983:

Your Coronation Street favourites have secret pasts - going back long before the start 22 years ago of Britain's most popular TV series. They are documented in Granada TV's confidential files on the Street stars. The dossiers are updated after each week's episodes so that writers can avoid factual errors in future scripts.

But it is the past "lives" of the Coronation Street regulars - built up to give them believable backgrounds - that makes the most fascinating reading. These Secret Lives have never before been made public. Now you can read all about them in this intriguing Sunday Mirror series.

It is 1942 - We'll Meet Again time - and the Yanks are overpaid, over-sexed and over at Elsie Tanner's.

Ena Sharples watches, clucking disapprovingly, as a procession of servicemen bearing everything from nylons to chocolates, comes and goes at No. 11 Coronation Street.

Flame-haired Elsie is well and truly launched on her career as the Street's scarlet woman.

Hair-netted Ena had seen it all coming. That little minx, Elsie Grimshaw as was, had never been able to resist anything in trousers.

By the time Elsie was 16, the inevitable had happened. She was pregnant by a tearaway called Arnold Tanner. He did the decent thing and married her on October 4, 1939.

The couple moved into No. 11 where, on January 8, 1940, their daughter, Linda, was born. Soon afterwards Arnold went off to join the Merchant Navy.

From then onwards, he sent Elsie money regularly but was rarely seen again. She wasn't one to sit and pine. Or to be lonely.

As often as Elsie could recruit a babysitter, she went out on the town.

In 1941, though, Elsie had to stay at home for two whole months when Arnold put in one of his rare appearances. Their son, Dennis, was born the following year.

That year, 1942, was when the Yanks "invaded". Soon word was out at the bases that there was a warm-hearted girl in Coronation Street running a one-woman "hands-across-the-sea" crusade.

Among the Yanks beating a path to Elsie's ever-open door was a handsome Master Sergeant called, coincidentally, Steve Tanner. He and Elsie made beautiful music together... and they weren't talking about Glenn Miller.

The end of the war brought little rejoicing for Elsie and Arnold. When he came home, they fought like cat and dog. And it wasn't long before Arnold found a new love and went once more a-roving.

The only time Elsie saw him again was in 1961, when he turned up to ask her for a divorce. Elsie agreed and settled joyfully into her new role as a fancy free bachelor girl.

Viewers will recall how she turned down two proposals from a besotted Len Fairclough.

Then with all the shock of a bomb going off, Master Sergeant Steve Tanner exploded back into Elsie's life and swept her into matrimony.

Elsie thought it wouldn't last. As usual, she was right. The marriage was never a going concern and it ended in tragedy when the American was murdered.

Elsie tried marriage once more - to Alan Howard. They were divorced in March 1978, and Coronation Street's scarlet woman, now 60, is alone again.

Judging by a few novels I have read recently, based on the Street in wartime, I think that some of these details have been revised since the 1980s. But these were the facts regarding Elsie's past as they stood during Pat Phoenix's reign in The Street, and the facts I was familiar with through watching the show (Elsie's past was often referred to!) and through reading the HV Kershaw Coronation Street novels.

Read about Eric Rosser, the original Corrie archivist, here.

More from this fascinating newspaper series soon.

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