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Obituary: John Bardon, actor who starred in Eastenders

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June Brown and John Bardon in their roles as Dot and Jim Branning in Eastenders

June Brown and John Bardon in their roles as Dot and Jim Branning in Eastenders

PA

June Brown and John Bardon in their roles as Dot and Jim Branning in Eastenders

John Bardon, who has died aged 75, was a bit-part stage and film actor before being cast as the grumpy grandfather Jim Branning in the BBC soap EastEnders.

Until his late-flowering television career, he had been best known for starring as the smutty comedian Max Miller in a one-man West End show.

But it was playing the cloth-capped Jim Branning, the put-upon pot man at the EastEnders pub, the Queen Vic, that he found fame. The character made a fleeting appearance in the soap in 1996, when he caused a commotion at his screen daughter Carol's wedding.

One of three children, he was born John Michael Jones on August 25, 1939 in Brentford, Middlesex. His father ran a building business that failed, then worked as a shipping clerk; Bardon was the maiden name of John's grandmother.

When he was about seven, his father paid for John's ears to be surgically pinned back. The operation was carried by the plastic surgeon Sir Archie McIndoe, who treated wartime fighter pilots.

He started acting with an amateur company, The Taverners, which performed in pubs. He later appeared in productions by the civil service drama group, touring theatres in Germany and Austria.

Turning professional in 1970 when he was 30, Bardon joined a repertory company in Exeter. On television, he played bit parts throughout the 1970s and 1980s in sitcoms and straight dramas, before venturing into live stage work.

"I did lots of theatre," he said, "but more people watch me in one single episode of EastEnders than have seen me in a lifetime on the stage."

His one-man Max Miller show was the result of a lifelong interest in the comedian, one of the biggest stars of the 1930s and 1950s. Having appeared in a stage production of The Good Companions, playing the part Miller played in the 1937 film version, Bardon decided to research Miller's career.

He showed his notes to RW Shakespeare, a Fleet Street journalist, who produced a script for a one-man show called Here's A Funny Thing after Miller's catchphrase. It launched at the Liverpool Playhouse in 1980, and played at the Edinburgh Festival before transferring to the Fortune Theatre in the West End in 1982. Channel 4 broadcast a TV version.

By the late 90s, Bardon's acting work had dried up and he was working as a driver shuttling tourists from Heathrow Airport to their hotels in central London when he took the call from EastEnders.

Bardon became one of the soap's most popular characters. In 2002, his Valentine's Day wedding to Dot Cotton, played by June Brown, drew big audiences, and a scene in which he turned to Viagra on their honeymoon has since become something of a comedy classic.

Bardon's film credits included parts in One Of Our Dinosaurs Is Missing (1975), Clockwise (1986), Fierce Creatures (1997) and East Is East (1999).

After suffering a stroke in 2007, Bardon returned briefly to EastEnders a year later, but he continued to be dogged by ill-health. He made his final on-screen appearance in May 2011, when his character was admitted to a care home.

In June 2002, John Bardon married Enda Gates, whom he met in a London pub, where she worked behind the bar. He was enrolled into the Grand Order of Water Rats the following year. John Bardon died on September 12.

Sunday Independent