Sunday 18 June 2017

Dame June

In amongst all the dreadful news we've had recently, one item cheered me up. Finally, finally, June Whitfield has been made a Dame. I first wrote about this over two years ago, stating that while many others in her line of work - the entertainment and acting profession - had been recognised with either knighthoods or damehoods, June appeared to have been overlooked.

I know June has received many other honours during her long life and her astonishingly prominent career in comedy, however while the likes of Maggie Smith and Judi Dench were made Dames long ago, June, in many ways a peer, was not. I wondered how much this had to do with her career being dominated by comedy, by making us laugh, not by so-called straight theatre and film. I've long believed that those actors who can do comedy well are also the best actors. I think it's easier to make us cry than to make us laugh. 

June has endured for seven decades. It's quite extraordinary. The vast majority of her peers are very sadly no longer with us however June continues to work. She has bucked every trend and taste in comedy and continues to do what she's always done. Styles of comedy have developed, come and gone but June has remained constant and solid in her support. She always says she has endured because she was never the star, always the support to so many of her (often male) comedy actors and comedians. She appears to have coped effortlessly with so many challenging yet gifted performers. June must have an awful lot of stories about some very famous people, yet she has always been dignified in her responses. 

June has worked with just about everyone in post-war British comedy. Bob Monkhouse, Arthur Askey, Wilfred Pickles, Terry Scott, Stanley Baxter, Dick Emery, Sid James, Tony Hancock, Kenneth Williams, Peter Jones, Frankie Howerd, Reg Varney, Tommy Cooper, Eric Morecambe, Bruce Forsyth, Leslie Phlllips, Kenneth Connor, Roy Hudd, Jennifer Saunders, Joanna Lumley and Julian Clary. Quite a line up. 

In recent years June has appeared in a wide range of television programmes, most eye-catchingly as a nun in EastEnders opposite the brilliant Jessie Wallace. Her 25 year connection to Absolutely Fabulous continued with an appearance in the big screen version of that wonderful series. She continues to be a massive presence in British comedy and many today quite rightly bow down to her in respect and admiration. I can sometimes be a bit skeptical about the honours system in this country but if anyone deserved this accolade, it's got to be June.

Dame June Whitfield just sounds right, doesn't it?

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