Wendy Richard, MBE (born Wendy Emerton, 20 July 1943 – 26 February 2009) was an English actress best known for playing Miss Brahms in Are You Being Served? and Pauline Fowler in EastEnders, a role she played for nearly twenty two years. Until her on screen death in December 2006, she was one of only two original cast members to appear continuously from the first episode in 1985, the other being Adam Woodyatt, who played her screen nephew Ian Beale. She was first educated at St George's Primary School in Mount Street, Mayfair, west London, before attending the Royal Masonic School for Girls in Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire, and then the Italia Conti Academy stage school in London.
She died on 26 February 2009 at the Harley Street clinic where she was being treated for a third bout of breast cancer.
Family and early lifeEdit
Richard, an only child, was born in Middlesbrough in 1943. Her parents, Henry William (died in 1954) and Beatrice Reay (1910–1972) (née Cutter) Emerton, were publicans and ran the Corporation Hotel in the town. Emerton and Cutter married in Paddington in 1939. While Richard was a baby, her family moved to Bournemouth. Later they moved to the Isle of Wight and then to London, where they ran the Shepherds Tavern in Shepherd Market, where Elizabeth Taylor and Antony Armstrong-Jones, 1st Earl of Snowdon were said to be customers. Richard attended the local primary school, St George's, but her education was interrupted when her family moved again, this time to the Valentine Hotel at Gants Hill, then in Essex, now in Greater London. Another move, to the Streatham Park Hotel in south London, followed a few months later. It was here, in December 1954, that Richard's father committed suicide. Wendy, then 11, found his body. Her mother Beatrice never remarried, and died of liver cancer in May 1972.
Richard was enrolled at the Royal Masonic School for Girls at Rickmansworth after her father's death, as Henry had been a Freemason, and help with fees was provided by the organisation. But she found the school rather "strict," and her art mistress called her paintings and drawings "affected, rather like herself." Richard dreamed of becoming a TV continuity girl or film star from a young age and, after leaving school at 15, helped to pay her way though the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts in London by working in the fashion department of Fortnum and Mason. It was at this time she decided to change her surname to Richard, because "it was short and neat."While at the Italia Conti, Richard appeared on television with Sammy Davis Jrin the ATV programme Sammy Meets the Girls, and also in No Hiding Place.
Richard was married four times. Her first marriage was to a music publisher, Len Blach, in 1972, which lasted just five months. For six years she lived with an advertising director, Will Thorpe; although her co-stars on Are You Being Served were aware that he physically beat her, she married Thorpe in 1980, finally leaving him after 18 months of marriage. Her third marriage to Paul Glorney, a carpet fitter, took place in Westminster, London. That marriage ended in divorce four years later. Richard later lived with John Burns, a painter and decorator 20 years her junior, in the Marylebone area of London. They lived together from 1996, and married on 10 October 2008 at a hotel in London's Mayfair. She had no children.
She was a supporter of the Conservative Party. During the premiership of Margaret Thatcher, Richard was a frequent and conspicuous supporter of Thatcher's policies and accomplishments. At one point the EastEnders script writers gave Richard a script in which Pauline Fowler launched into a tirade against Thatcher; Richard refused to perform this sequence.
Richard was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1996; she had an operation and apparently recovered. She had a recurrence of the disease in 2002. Her cancer went into remission after years of treatment. She was given a clean bill of health in 2005. Articles about her departure from EastEnders suggest her health challenges did not play any role in her decision to leave the series and that it was because her character in the soap remarried, something she disagreed with.
Richard later said she left because of stress and that she had been stress-free since leaving the show. She kept in touch with co-stars Natalie Cassidy, Todd Carty, and James Alexandrou after leaving.
It was reported in the Sunday Express on 5 October 2008 that Wendy Richard had been diagnosed with breast cancer again. After seeing her oncologist in January 2008, cancer cells were found in her left armpit. Further investigation showed that this had metastasised to her left kidney and bones, including her spine and left ribs.
She made a half-hour programme called Wendy Richard: To Tell You the Truth, documenting the last three months of her life; it was broadcast on BBC1 on 19 March 2009.
Wendy Richard's agent Kevin Francis reported she had died on 26 February 2009 of breast cancer, age 65, at a clinic, Harley Street, London. Her husband John Burns was at her bedside. Mr Francis said: "She was incredibly brave and retained her sense of humour right to the end." On the day of her death, that evening's episode of EastEnders and a memorial programme, both dedicated to Richard, were broadcast on BBC One. Actor Bill Treacher, Richard's on-screen husband Arthur Fowler in EastEnders, said the actress was a "true professional". Richard's funeral, on 9 March 2009 at St Marylebone Parish Church, was attended by many in the media industry, and many fans. She was later cremated at a private service at Golders Green Crematorium. It was reported the actress had already planned her funeral and written her will.
In July 2009, David Croft, the creator of Are You Being Served?, unveiled a Heritage Foundation commemorative plaque at The Shepherds Tavern in London, which Richard's parents had run. A number of entertainers were there to pay their respects on this occasion.