Dora Bryan, the well-loved British actress known for her extensive career in television, film and radio, has died at the age of 91. Her family announced that she passed away peacefully with her two sons, William and Daniel Lawton, at her bedside at the Sussex county Hospital in Brighton. Bryan had been residing in the Springfields nursing home in Hove.
The actress is predominantly known for her role as Ros Utterthwaite in BBC sitcom Last of the Summer Wine, as well as her portrayal of Dolly and Millie in Absolutely Fabulous! She is also remembered for her performance in A Taste of Honey (1962), for which she won a Bafta for best actress. The latter feature was adapted from Shelagh Delany’s own groundbreaking drama for the stage.
Bryan’s adopted son Daniel told The Argus said of his mother’s death. “It was heartbreaking but it was peaceful. She just left us. She was a tiny woman but her constitution was incredible.”
“She loved being on stage, that’s what she wanted. Not only did she do it, but she was good at it.”
Bryan’s prolific career in entertainment knew no limits. Her versatile presence allowed her to work across multiple genres, from classic Shakespeare to musicals.
In 1923, Dora May Broadbent was born in Southport, Lancashire. Her passion for theatre began at a young age, making her stage debut aged 12 in a Manchester pantomime. During the Second World War she worked on behalf of the Entertainments National Service Association (ENSA), which supplied entertainment for the British army throughout the war years.
Bryan made her West End debut in the 1950s and continued to take the stage in numberous productions throughout the 1960s, including the title role of Hello, Dolly and later in She Stoops to Conquer at the National Theatre.
But the actress did not shy from the screen. Her film debut was in The Fallen Idol in 1948. After which she went on to appear in 40 subsequent movies and numerous TV series from the 1950s to the mid 2000s.
In 1995, Bryan was awarded the Laurence Olivier Theatre Award for her role in The Birthday Party. A year later, she was made an OBE for services to drama.
Bryan had lived in Hove with her late husband Bill Lawton, with whom she owned the Clarges Hotel in Marine Parade, Brighton. Bryan had to use a wheelchair in her later years but was able to attend an exhibition at Rottingdean Museum that celebrated her admirable career.