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Maggie Jones 1934-2009

Greatly saddened here at TV Today by yesterday’s news of the passing away of Coronation Street actress Maggie Jones, who played the legendary Blanche Hunt on and off from 1974.

Jones, who was 75 at her death, had an extensive career on British television, playing supporting roles in a variety of British dramas and comedies, including The Forsyte Saga, Z Cars and Dalziel and Pascoe, with a first appearance on television in Coronation Street as a police officer in 1964. But it was as Deirdre Barlow’s acid-tongued mother, Blanche, that would assure her place in the soap Hall of Fame.

Jones took on the role of Blanche at short notice in 1974 following the suicide of actress Patricia Cutts who had played the role for just two episodes. She would have stints in the show at various points throughout the late 1970s, making a reappearance in 1996. In 1999 the actress would take permanent residence on the Street, becoming a cause of constant frustration for Deirdre, and a thorn in Ken’s side.

Blanche epitomised the perfect* Coronation Street* character, and Jones the perfect soap actress. She inhabited the role with relish, playing the lines she was given with obvious relish. In the last few years one gets the impression the character was a favourite with writers as her dialogue just got better and better. There was nothing like a Blanche one-liner, lobbed like a grenade into a conversation in the Rovers to liven up a visit to the Street.

Blanche was the character that said the things we wish we could all say. That wicked side we all have, given voice. But she was a fine example of why, even in fallow periods, Coronation Street often has the edge over its rivals. A senior character given excellent material on a regular basis - an avenue where EastEnders has limited scope these days.

Maggie Jones will be a much-missed presence amongst the cast of Coronation Street. Who will we have now to give Ken a dressing down when his intellectually smug outlook becomes too much to bear? Jones’s final recorded scenes, already broadcast, were vintage Blanche, giving the Barlow family a fine tongue-lashing after a couple of sherries too many. “Naughty Blanche!”

And here, as a fine tribute to a great actress and great character is a typically delightful scene, seeing Corrie’s elder generation giving some sage advice to Weatherfield’s youngest.

Maggie Jones, TV Today salutes your memory. You will be missed.

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