Tonight BBC1 celebrates the 90th birthday of actress June Brown, who has played EastEnders icon Dot Branning since 1985. In a special programme June Brown at 90: a Walford Legend showing at 8.30pm, colleagues pay tribute to the star and the inimitable June shares her memories of her incredible life and career.
Although she’s done a lot more than just playing Dot, Mrs Branning is her greatest and most recognised role. The fags, the hair, the voice, the dramatic plots, and – perhaps most famously of all – the catchphrases have all penetrated the public consciousness in a way only special soap characters do.
To mark Brown’s milestone birthday, here we recall the greatest words of wisdom from Mrs B, and what they represent about one of the UK’s most beloved television creations…
“Ooh I say!”
Usually said in horrified reaction to the latest scandal in the Square, of which she’s seen a fair few. As the self-appointed moral guardian of Walford, Dorothy Branning (formerly Cotton, nee Colwell) has been the beating heart of E20 for 32 years. Always opinionated and not afraid to judge others (possibly reveling in it), Dot has also moved with the times and been a friend to those in a fix, managing to pout her beliefs aside and offer advice and comfort. “Ooh I say,” can also be translated as “I’m not entirely sure how to process this information.”
“I ain’t one to gossip”
Followed by a juicy morsel she’s overheard and can’t keep to herself – the personification of the British busybody, Dot has dished more dirt than anyone else in the Square, and turned curtain twitching into an art form. But doesn’t every soap need a Greek chorus to keep everyone up to speed and spread the goss?
“Just a sherry at Christmas”
Straight-laced and God-fearing she may be (tomato juice is her usual tipple in The Vic, unless it’s the festive season), but deep down there’s a daring side to dear old Dot. Her more outrageous antics over the last three decades have included getting stoned on cannabis (she thought it was herbal tea) and her inner minx being released during the cute courtship between her and late husband Jim (such a tease).
“Like the good lord says…”
Dot’s staunch religious beliefs are one of her defining characteristics, and she’s got a Bible quote for every occasion. June Brown must have memorised the good book by now.
“I’ve known you since you was a boy!”
She said these very words to Ian Beale just recently – even though he’s pushing 50. Walford born and bred, Dot is the last matriarch standing and a mother figure to the likes of Ian and Sharon Mitchell, having known them since birth and seen them grow up. Wonder if she recognises Michelle Fowler these days?
“Not my Nick…”
She may be a surrogate mum to many of the locals, but sadly her own experience of parenthood brought Dot nothing but pain. Mother to EastEnders original bad boy nasty Nick Cotton (his best – actually only – catchphrase being “’Ello Ma!”), he betrayed her, fleeced her, and on more than one occasion even tried to kill her. Despite everything Dot always loved her awful offspring and ferociously defended him time and time again. In 2015 she was at his side when he took a fatal drugs overdose – deciding not to call an ambulance to help him, she went to prison for manslaughter…
“I’ll have to ask Mr ‘Opadopalous”
Until recently the launderette was Dot’s domain – it’s almost impossible to think of her without her blue tabard and groans greeted with the latest request for a service wash by lunchtime. But last year EastEnders realised it was the 21st century and everybody had their own washing machine, so much-discussed-but-never-seen launderette boss Mr ‘Opadopalous shut the place down and Dot was forced into retirement. But it was more than just where you took your smalls – the launderette was the location for some of Dot’s most famous scenes, a place for people to escape and have a cuppa and a chat out the back, and was even where Dot and Dirty Den had their famous two-hander episode in 2004. She probably said to him “I’ve known you since you was a boy…”
You can watch a 60-second rundown of next week’s episodes of EastEnders below.
And visit our dedicated EastEnders page for all the latest news, interviews and spoilers.
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