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Barbara Windsor

Barbara Ann Deeks, MBE (born 6 August 1937), known professionally as Barbara Windsor, is an English actress, best known for her appearances in the Carry On films and for playing Peggy Mitchell in the BBC One soap opera EastEnders.

Windsor began her career on stage at the age of 13 and made her West End debut in 1952. Her first film was The Belles of St Trinian's in 1954. She received a BAFTA Award nomination as Best British Actress for the 1963 film Sparrers Can't Sing and a Tony Award nomination as Best Featured Actress in a Musical for the 1964 Broadway production of Oh, What A Lovely War!. Other stage roles include starring opposite Vanessa Redgrave in the 1972 West End production of The Threepenny Opera. Between 1964 and 1974, she appeared in nine Carry On films, including Carry on Spying (1964), Carry on Doctor (1967), Carry on Camping (1969) Carry on Henry (1971) and Carry on Abroad (1972). She also co-presented the 1977 Carry On compilation That's Carry On!, along with Kenneth Williams. Other film roles include A Study in Terror (1965) Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) and as the voice of Dormouse in Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland (2010).

She joined the cast of EastEnders in 1994 and won the 1999 British Soap Award for Best Actress. She left the show in 2010, before returning for one episode in 2013 and one episode in 2014. She was made an MBE in the 2000 New Year Honours.

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Background

Born in Shoreditch, London in 1937, the only child of John Deeks, a costermonger, and his wife, formerly Rose Ellis, a dressmaker, Windsor is of English and Irish ancestry. She passed her 11-plus exams gaining a place at Our Lady's Convent in Stamford Hill. Her mother paid for her to have elocution lessons, and she trained at the Aida Foster School in Golders Green, making her stage debut at 13 and her West End debut in 1952 in the chorus of the musical Love From Judy.

Her first film role was in The Belles of St Trinian's in 1954. She joined Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East, coming to prominence in their stage production Fings Ain't Wot They Used to Be and Littlewood's film Sparrers Can't Sing in 1963, achieving a BAFTA nomination for Best British Film Actress. She also appeared in the 1964 film comedy Crooks in Cloisters, the 1968 film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and in the sitcoms The Rag Trade and Wild, Wild Women. In 1980, Windsor appeared as "Saucy Nancy" in the second series of the ITV children's show Worzel Gummidge, based on the best-selling books by Barbara Euphan Todd.

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Carry On films

Windsor came to real prominence with her portrayals of a 'good time girl' in nine Carry On films. Her first was Carry on Spying in 1964 and her final Carry On... film acting role was in Carry on Dick in 1974. She also appeared in several Carry On... television and compilation specials between 1964 and 1977.

One of her most iconic scenes was in Carry on Camping in 1969, where her bikini top flew off during outdoor aerobic exercises. In classic Carry On style, exposure is implied but little is in fact seen.

From 1973 to 1975 she appeared with several of the Carry On team in the West End revue Carry On London! During this time she had a well-publicised affair with her co-star, Sid James.

She was strongly identified with the Carry On films for many years, which restricted the variety of roles she was chosen to play later.

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Theatre career

She also starred on Broadway in the Theatre Workshop's Oh, What a Lovely War! and received a 1965 Tony Award nomination for Best Featured Actress in a Musical. She also appeared in Lionel Bart's musical flop Twang! (directed by Joan Littlewood) and in the musical Come Spy with Me with Danny La Rue.

In 1970 she landed the role of music hall legend Marie Lloyd in the musical-biopic Sing A Rude Song. In 1972 she appeared in the West End in Tony Richardson's The Threepenny Opera with his then wife, Vanessa Redgrave. In 1975, she toured the UK, New Zealand and South Africa in her own show, Carry On Barbara!, and followed this with the role of Maria in Twelfth Night at the Chichester Festival Theatre.

In 1981 she played sex-mad landlady Kath in Joe Orton's black comedy Entertaining Mr Sloane at the Lyric Hammersmith, directed by her friend Kenneth Williams. She reprised the role for a national tour in 1993.

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EastEnders

When the soap began in 1985, the producers said they would only cast unknown actors. The Shoreditch-born Windsor said that she regretted this, as she'd liked to have taken part.

By 1994 this policy was relaxed, and Windsor was cast in the series. She took over the role of Peggy Mitchell (previously played by Jo Warne in 1991), for which she received the Best Actress award at the British Soap Awards in 1999 and a Lifetime Achievement award from the same source in 2009.

A debilitating case of the Epstein-Barr virus forced a two-year absence from the role between 2003 to 2005., although Windsor was able to make a two episode appearance in 2004. She rejoined the cast in mid-2005, initially on a one-year contract, though this was later extended.

The Doctor Who episode "Army of Ghosts" broadcast on 1 July 2006 included a specially recorded clip featuring her appearing in character. She was seen telling the ghost of Den Watts to "get outta my pub!" In November 2005, as part of the BBC's Children In Need charity night, a Catherine Tate Show/EastEnders mini episode was broadcast. It featured Windsor as Peggy in the Queen Victoria Public House, being tormented by Catherine Tate's schoolgirl character Lauren Cooper.

In October 2009 Windsor announced she was to quit her role as Peggy Mitchell, saying she wanted to spend more time with her husband. On 10 September 2010 her character left Albert Square after a fire at the Queen Victoria pub, of which she was the owner.

In July 2013, it was announced that Windsor was to return for one episode, which aired on 20 September 2013. There were later rumours that Windsor would return to EastEnders in 2014, but she later declared that Ladies of Song was enough of a career right now, as she is aged 76.

Windsor again returned for a single episode on 25 September, 2014.

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Recent years

Windsor provided the voice of the Dormouse in Walt Disney's 2010 live action adaptation of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, directed by Tim Burton. The cast of the film also included Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter and Anne Hathaway. Windsor appeared in the pantomime Dick Whittington at the Bristol Hippodrome over the Christmas/New Year period of 2010/2011. On 8 September 2010 it was announced that Windsor will be fronting a TV campaign for online bingo site Jackpotjoy as the Queen of Bingo. Since 2011 she has regularly stood in for Elaine Paige on her BBC Radio 2 show on Sunday afternoons between 1.00pm and 3.00pm but from 2014, Windsor was given her own series on the radio station called Ladies Of Song.

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Relationships and personal life

Windsor has married three times:

  1. Ronnie Knight, Krays associate (married 2 March 1964, divorced January 1985)
  2. Stephen Hollings, actor (married 12 April 1986 in Jamaica, divorced 1995)
  3. Scott Mitchell, former actor and recruitment consultant (married 8 April 2000)

Before her marriage to Ronnie Knight, she had a one night stand with Reggie Kray.

During the 1960s, she also had a brief relationship with footballer George Best.

She had a well publicised affair with Sid James.

In her autobiography, All of Me, Windsor talks about her five abortions, the first three of which took place before the age of 21, the last when she was 42. She has said that she never wanted children as a result of her father rejecting her.

Over the years Windsor has made her home in a variety of locations. Amongst them, Sunday Times photographer Michael Ward's autobiography records her as living in Grand Parade, Harringay, in the early 1960s.

In August 2010, Windsor was given the Freedom of the City of London, and in November 2010, she was honoured by the City of Westminster at a tree planting and plaque ceremony.

In 2012 Windsor became a patron of the Amy Winehouse Foundation.

She is a supporter of the Conservative Party, as stated in her autobiography, All of Me.

In November 2014 she was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of East London.

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EastEnders

Barbara Ann Deeks, MBE (born 6 August 1937), known professionally as Barbara Windsor, is an English actress, best known for her appearances in the Carry On films and for playing Peggy Mitchell in the BBC One soap opera EastEnders. .

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Carry on Girls

Barbara Ann Deeks, MBE (born 6 August 1937), known professionally as Barbara Windsor, is an English actress, best known for her appearances in the Carry On films and for playing Peggy Mitchell in the BBC One soap opera EastEnders. .

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