Tributes to a star of stage and screen

Date published: 24 July 2014

TRIBUTES have been flooding in for Oldham actress Dora Bryan who has died aged 91.

The star, a former student at Hathershaw Council School, had been living in a nursing home in Hove, near Brighton, in recent years as her health deteriorated. She was working well into her 80s.

Her friend and manager David Hill, who confirmed her death, said: “She was razor-sharp with an incredible brain.

“You were always aware when you were with her that she had been a big star. Dora was very quick-witted and very funny.”

Dora, who was awarded an OBE for services to drama in 1996 and scooped an honorary Master of Arts degree from Manchester University in 2012, was known to many TV viewers for the five years she spent playing Ros Utterthwaite in “Last Of The Summer Wine” in the twilight of her career, bowing out in 2005.

The actress, renowned for her comic abilities, also had a part in “Absolutely Fabulous” but during her half-century career she took on dozens of other roles appearing on radio in “Hancock’s Half Hour”, on the silver screen — most notably for “A Taste of Honey” in 1961 — and on stage, even earning an Olivier award for best supporting actress in 1995 for her performance in “The Birthday Party”.

Dora honed her skills as a performer during the Second World War with Ensa, the armed forces entertainment group.

She was encouraged to change her original surname of Broadbent by Noel Coward while working in a production of “Private Lives”, which he wrote.

Other movie roles included a “Carry On” film, plus British classics such as “The Blue Lamp” and “The Great St Trinian’s Train Robbery”.

She also had guest roles in TV dramas “Casualty” and “Heartbeat”.

Her husband, the former cricketer Bill Lawton to whom she had been married for 54 years, died in 2008 as a result of Alzheimer’s.

Among those paying tribute was comedienne Jenny Eclair who said: “I met Dora Bryan backstage at the Theatre Royal, Brighton — she was hilarious within 10 seconds.”

Lionel Blair wrote online: “So very sad to hear of the passing of my good friend Dora Bryan. She was wonderful.”

A gala charity show was staged in her honour at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London in 2009 which featured Sir Cliff Richard with guests such as June Whitfield, Rita Tushingham — with whom she had appeared in “A Taste Of Honey” — and Joanna Lumley.