Saturday, 15 October 2016

Jean Alexander, Corrie's Finest


I don't blog much about Coronation Street these days and I thought long and hard about whether to add my words to the many, many tributes to the late actress Jean Alexander. I find writing tributes to well known figures really challenging. We feel like we have known people like Jean, Anne Kirkbride and Tony Warren for much of our lives because they've always been there. What we do know well are their characters, their personas,what we've read about them in books and magazines or heard from them in interviews.

The lines are so blurred, especially these days. I don't know a great deal about Jean Alexander the lady and I reckon that's probably how she would have liked it. She was interviewed on television, she did write an autobiography and she did make her views known on what she thought of the modern Coronation Street. She was no Eileen Derbyshire, no latter day Greta Garbo. However Jean Alexander quite obviously did not court celebrity and chose to live a quiet, normal life in her local community, despite the fact she'd spent decades in the public eye on the television screens of millions of viewers playing one of the most iconic characters of all time.


Jean's contribution cannot be underestimated. As Hilda Ogden, she gained millions of loyal fans and enlivened Coronation Street for 23 years. She was the true heart of what Corrie is all about and what it hopes to represent, even today. Her performances as Hilda were multi-dimensional, fully formed and completely believable. Yes she was funny, a naturally gifted comic actor blessed with brilliant comedy timing. Yes she tugged at the heart strings, always losing out on the finer things, downtrodden and dowdy, cliinging on as life proved unrelentingly harsh. And yes she was feisty, calling out the likes of Annie Walker, Ena Sharples and most of all, Elsie Tanner. The audience could root for her and that's what made Hilda a classic character and Jean a fantastic actress.

Yet Hilda wasn't always likeable. She could be mean spirited, harsh, gossipy. Jean had the most marvellous facial expression when Hilda had stumbled on a juicy titbit of gossip and it was almost vicious. Hilda couldn't wait to capitalise on someone else's misfortune, probably to forget about her own. Jean gave us the full character when it would have been so easy to drift into cliche.


I loved the muriel; I loved the set up with Stan and Eddie Yeats; I loved the high pitched singing as she bottomed out the Rovers Select. I've almost ruined the DVD which contains the episode from 1977 when Hilda holds a seance with Elsie, Bet, Gail and Suzie. Jean reigned at Corrie in the days when almost an entire episode could revolve around Stan's chickens and that was because the characterisations were just so strong. Like so many fans, my two favourite Hilda moments will come as no surprise whatsoever. 

I really do believe the episode which sees Stan and Hilda embark on their second honeymoon is the finest half hour of Coronation Street ever produced. Other characters featured fleetingly but it was pretty much a two hander between Jean and Bernard Youens. It was the pinnacle of their on-screen partnership and encapsulated all that was and is great about Corrie. It was laugh out loud funny, it was quietly humorous in ways we all recognise and know ourselves, it was sad, gentle, touching and dotted with moments of real pathos. It also had one of the finest, most quoted lines of all time...woman, Stanley, woman...


For me though, the most memorable scene Jean Alexander filmed and Coronation Street ever broadcast saw Hilda left alone at the end of the day after Stanley's funeral. She'd been stoic throughout, keeping it together and looking after all at the funeral tea. She only allowed her grief to show when it came time to unwrap the hospital package of Stan's personal effects. It was such a quiet, understated scene - no hysteria. As Hilda opened up Stan's spectacle case, the grief came bubbling to the surface and the viewers are left with the sound of Hilda's sobbing as the credits rolled in silence. It was a rare moment for an actress and a character who many saw mainly as light relief or great comedy value. For me, Coronation Street has never bettered that scene or that performance.


Rest in peace Jean. 

You can follow me on Twitter @GraemeN82

Like us on Facebook | Follow us on Twitter | Download our free App | Visit

Coronation Street: The Official Colouring Book
Available now!

Please read our advice for leaving comments on the Coronation Street Blog

All original work on the Coronation Street Blog is covered by a Creative Commons License


Tvor said...


Greg said...

Lovely tribute

Anonymous said...

Lovely tribute. She was a real lady and a wonderful actress - I feel in some ways that I have lost a neighbor.

Rapunzel said...


Ryan Oxley said...

Such a wonderful eulogy to our icon of the street. Subtle yet poignantly written. Well done Graeme!.
An actress that left the street in 1984!. I personally wasn't around then yet those scenes still resonate with such clarity, hilarity and the singing!. A fine actress from a bygone era..

Nadia said...

This is a very fitting tribute to a wonderful actor.

Anonymous said...

she left the street on Christmas day 1987 - 27 million viwers certainly remember that :)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Our Top 10 Blog Posts in last 7 days (automatically updated)

Click on a name to find out more about your Corrie favourites!

adam barlow aidan connor alan halsall alex bain alexander bain alison king alison sinclair all about soap awards alma baldwin amy barlow amy kelly andrea beckett andy whyment anna windass antony cotton audrey roberts awards baby Oliver barbara knox barlows battleaxes becky mcdonald behind the scenes ben price ben tagoe bet gilroy bet lynch beth tinker bethany platt betty driver betty turpin betty williams betty's hotpot bev callard beverley callard bill roache billy mayhew billy the vicar blanche hunt brian packham brooke vincent bruno langley can i visit the coronation street set Canada canadian coronation street fans carla connor Cath Tyldesley catherine tyldesley cathy matthews celebrities on coronation street characters joining coronation street characters leaving coronation street cherylee houston chesney brown chris gascoyne chris harper claire king classic corrie clothes worn on coronation street colson smith competition connor mcintyre conversation street coronation street coronation street art coronation street babies Coronation Street Blog - the book coronation street cartoons coronation street fan events coronation street fan of the week coronation street fans coronation street funerals coronation street history coronation street in canada coronation street look-a-like coronation street map coronation street men coronation street merchandise coronation street news coronation street preview coronation street spoilers coronation street weekly update coronation street weekly updates coronation street writers craig tinker damon alexis-rochefort damon rochefort daniel brocklebank daran little david neilson david platt debbie oates debbie rush debbie webster deirdre barlow deirdre hunt denise osbourne derek griffiths dev alahan eileen derbyshire eileen grimshaw Elle Mulvaney ellie leach ellie-louise leach elsie tanner emily bishop emily nugent ena sharples erica stewart exclusive interview exercise dvds famous people who have been in corrie fat brenda favourite females favourite males faye windass feckless fellas in coronation street filming locations filming mistakes fiz brown fiz stape florizel street flying ducks gail rodwell gary windass gary's army diaries gay and lesbians gay men in coronation street gay men in soaps gay women in soaps granada manchester coronation street set granada studios gurn of the week helen flanagan helen worth hilda ogden hilda ogden's curlers Hope Stape hot pot how to contact coronation street inside soap inside soap magazine izzy armstrong jack p shepherd Jack P. Shepherd jane danson jean alexander jennie mcalpine jigsaw jimmi harkishin job vacancies at coronation street joe duttine johnny connor jonathan harvey julie goodyear julie hesmondhalgh kabin kate fitzgerald kate ford katherine kelly kathy jones katie mcglynn ken barlow kev webster kevin webster kieran roberts kirk sutherland kylie platt kylie turner kym marsh leanne barlow leanne battersby leanne tilsley liam bairstow lily platt lisa george liz mcdonald lloyd mullaney Lucy Fallon luke britton maggie jones malcolm hebden manchester tart marc baylis maria connor mark llewellin martin sterling mary taylor matriachs maxine's bench michael le vell michelle connor mikey north mikey north miley windass minnie caldwell mothers on the cobbles music in the rovers nathan curtis new set new zealand newton and ridley nick tilsley nick's bistro nigel pivaro no.1 Coronation Street no.11 coronation street no.13 coronation street no.3 coronation street no.5 coronation street no.6 coronation street no.7 coronation street no.9 coronation street norris cole norris cole's brother nuttalls brewery odd side of the street official coronation street website oldham coliseum oliver battersby on location opening titles original cast our blog is the best blog in the world outside broadcast paper boys paper girls pat phelan pat phoenix patti claire patti clare paula lane peter barlow peter gunn pets on coronation street pictures of the coronation street set pigeons pillars of the community platt family plot holes props qasim akhtar quay street returning characters rita fairclough rita littlewood rita sullivan rita tanner road to coronation street rob donovan rob mallard romanian holiday rosamund street rosie webster rovers bosses rovers fire rovers return rovers return barmaids rovers return fire rovers return landlady roy and hayley roy cropper roy's rolls roys rolls ryan thomas sair khan sally webster sally and tim sally dynevor sally dyvenor Sally Metcalfe sally webster sally whittaker sam aston samia ghadie samia longchambon sarah platt Sarah-Louise Platt schmeichel sean tully shayne ward shelley king simon barlow simon crowther simon gregson sinead tinker six episodes per week sophie webster special effects speculation spin-off spoilers state of the street steve mcdonald storyline speculation storylines streetcars sue cleaver sue johnston sue nicholls susan barlow susan oudot sylvia cropper sylvia goodwin terry duckworth the corrie years the kabin the Nazirs the newspaper boy the road to coronation street through the years tim metcalfe tina o'bren tina o'brien Tina O’Brien tiricia hopkins todd grimshaw tony warren Tony Warren inspiration tours of coronation street toyah battersby tracy barlow trafford set tram crash tricia hopkins tyrone dobbs underworld underworld sign unofficial book unofficial merchandise unseen characters viaduct street victoria court fire vip bloggers walking tours watch coronation street online weatherfield weatherfield arms weatherfield council weatherfield county weatherfield county football club weatherfield fire station weatherfield gazette weatherfield haulage Weatherfield high Weatherfield Open Days weatherfield style weatherfield wayfarer websters' autos wedding wedding dress weddings weekly awards weekly update where have you seen william roache William Roache Interview window cleaners writers for soaps Yasmeen nazir zeedan nazir