Barbara Windsor’s life story to be told in BBC1 drama ‘Babs’

Corporation gives green light to single drama about the eventful life of the Carry On and EastEnders actress written by her friend Tony Jordan

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Dame Barbara Windsor’s eventful life is being made into a BBC1 film penned by EastEnders writer Tony Jordan.

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The 90-minute drama, Babs, will be set in the 1990s and will tell the “heart-warming” story of the actress described by the BBC as the “Cockney kid with a dazzling smile and talent to match.”  It will air next year as the star approaches her 80th Birthday and she is expected to make a cameo appearance, according to sources.

The film opens with Windsor preparing to perform in the theatre that evening and revisits the people and events that have shaped her career.

According to a statement from the BBC these include her “lonely childhood and complicated relationship with her father, her doomed marriage to Ronnie Knight, capturing the attention of Joan Littlewood and becoming the blonde bombshell in the Carry On films”. 

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The statement added: “Babs, ever the consummate professional never lets her fans down whatever her personal anguish and steps on the stage to rapturous applause. The story is full of heart and heartbreak – with a touch of sauciness thrown in.”

The drama has not yet been cast, although Windsor is said to have suggested that she thinks Sheridan Smith would be good for the role. However this is unlikely because Smith has already played another grande dame of British entertainment – Cilla Black – in an ITV drama.

Dame Barbara Windsor said of Babs: “Although it’s been spoken about in the past to do my life story, it wasn’t until two years ago I was approached by the brilliant writer Tony Jordan and the BBC that I knew this was the right time and undoubtedly the only person I felt knew me well enough to tell my story.

“Tony knows the real me and what makes me tick and I was particularly taken by the way he wants to tell my tale which is not in the way people will expect it to be. Tony certainly has captured the moments of my life that have made me who I am today. I am honoured and excited that Tony and the BBC have commissioned this.”

Jordan said: “The opportunity to tell the story of the amazing Dame Barbara Windsor was too good an opportunity to miss, I think people will be surprised that there’s a lot more to her than just the Carry On Films and EastEnders.  She was starring in movies and was a huge star of the theatre long before any of those things came along.  

“In the sixties, she was nominated for a BAFTA for her work in the film “Sparrows Can’t Sing” and a Tony award after appearing on Broadway in the US.   

“There’s a reason that, as a nation, we’ve all taken Barbara to our hearts, I think it is because she’s always been one of us, never forgetting where she came from. That unbelievably rare combination of someone in the business with the highest level of professionalism, but without any of the airs and graces to go with it.   

“She’s a national treasure and one of the most remarkable women I’ve met. I only hope this film will do her justice.”

The announcement was part of a raft of drama commissions announced by the BBC today [Thursday].

BBC1 will bring to life the David Nicholls’ novel Us about Douglas and Connie Peterson, a couple whose marriage is in crisis.

The multi-episode story sees them go on a family grand tour of European cities as Douglas seeks to win back the love of his wife and repair his troubled relationship with his son.

BBC2 has commissioned a 90-minute single drama adaptation of Times journalist Sathnam Sanghera’s memoir The Boy with the Topknot.

Set in Wolverhampton, the drama will tell Sanghera’s story of a second-generation Indian growing up in Britain and his struggle to juggle his family, love life and career.

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Charlotte Moore, Acting Director of BBC Television, said of the new commissions: “Following BBC Drama’s tremendous start to the year, it is clear audiences are looking for even greater ambition and high quality.  So I want to continue to expand our range even further and reaffirm my commitment to commission the very best drama in the UK.”