Anna Karen Biography, Wiki, Age, Career, Death, Cause of Death | Who was Anna Karen? Bio, Wiki

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Who was Anna Karen?

Anna Karen (born Ann McCall; 19 September 1936 – 22 February 2022) was a British-South African actress and model best known for playing Olive in the sitcom On the Buses (1969–1973) and Aunt Sal in EastEnders on a recurring basis from 1996 to 2017.

She also reprised the role of Olive in The Rag Trade (1977–1978) and had roles in two Carry On films, those being Carry On Camping (1969) and Carry On Loving (1970).

Anna Karen: On the Buses and EastEnders actress dies aged 85 in house fire in east London

Anna Karen has died in a house fire in east London.

The actress was best known for her role as Olive in the 70s comedy On The Buses, and gained attention for her role as Aunt Sal, the sister of Peggy Mitchell (Barbara Windsor) in EastEnders.

Firefighters rushed to the scene at Windsor Road, Ilford shortly after 10.30pm on Tuesday.

Her family friend told Mail Online: “We are absolutely horrified at the news about Anna.”

A London Fire Brigade spokesperson confirmed: “Sadly, a woman has died following a house fire on Windsor Road in Ilford.

“Part of the ground floor of a mid-terrace house was damaged by fire. Sadly a woman was pronounced dead at the scene.

“The Brigade was called at 11.40pm and the fire was under control by 11.38pm. Three fire engines and around 20 firefighters from Ilford and Barking fire stations attended the incident. The cause of the fire is under investigation.”

Anna Karen Biography, Wiki

Karen was born in Durban, South Africa, on 19 September 1936. Her Irish father was an accountant while her mother was English. Having developed an interest in acting at a young age, Karen joined the South African National Theatre at the age of fifteen.

She starred in several touring productions over the next two years until she fell afoul of the apartheid laws as she visited the ill daughter of the black stage manager.

Advised to move away, Karen moved to London, Middlesex, England, at age 17. Karen shared a room with two other girls in a girls’ hostel in Paddington and enrolled at the London School of Dramatic Art. 

She began working as a kitchen porter, washing up at a local restaurant in the evenings to help pay for her rent and drama school fees, however she learnt that she could earn twice as much money if she worked as a striptease dancer at London’s Panama Club which she did.

Anna Karen Biography Wikipedia
Anna Karen
BornAnn McCall
19 September 1936
Durban, South Africa
Died22 February 2022 (aged 85)
Ilford, London, England
Alma materLondon School of Dramatic Art
OccupationActress
Years active1959–2021
TelevisionOn the BusesThe Rag TradeEastEnders
Spouse(s)Terry Duggan​​(m. 1967; died 2008)

Anna Karen Career

Making her debut in the naturist film Nudist Memories (1961), Karen began her career as an extra in the comedy film The Sandwich Man (1966) and had a small role as Carol White’s neighbour in Ken Loach’s kitchen sink drama film Poor Cow (1967). 

She then had a role as a schoolgirl in Carry On Camping (1969) in which she has a fight with Barbara Windsor at the start of the film, although she can be clearly seen in later scenes including the famous “bikini-flying” sequence; Karen and Windsor became good friends. 

Windsor’s next acting job was in the BBC sitcom Wild, Wild Women; Windsor encouraged Karen to audition for a role as the show’s producers, Ronald Wolfe and Ronald Chesney, were looking for actresses to cast in the series. Karen successfully auditioned and played the part of Maude in all six episodes of the series.

During the production of Wild, Wild Women, Karen was approached by Wolfe and Chesney. Impressed with her performance, they offered Karen the role of Olive, the dowdy, overweight, bespectacled, sexually frustrated younger sister of Stan (Reg Varney), and wife of Arthur Rudge (Michael Robbins) in their forthcoming sitcom On the Buses

Karen played the part of Olive, the role for which she is best remembered, in all seventy-four episodes of the series. Karen, who was a model in her spare time, donned an unstylish wig, an unflattering pair of thick glasses and large amounts of padding to become Olive, whom Karen described as the “ugliest woman on television”.

Karen maintained a successful acting career alongside On the Buses. Shortly after the series began, she had a role in another Carry On film, Carry On Loving (1970) in the final “food fight” scene, and appeared in an episode of Dixon of Dock Green. By this time, On the Buses, produced by LWT, had become a huge success leading Karen to reprise her role in a spin-off film, On the Buses (1971).

This also was hugely popular and was the highest grossing film of 1971, beating the James Bond film Diamonds Are Forever which was released the same year. Two further spin-off films were made, Mutiny on the Buses (1972), and Holiday on the Buses (1973), the latter of which garnered a cult following in itself, and details Stan working as a bus driver at a holiday camp in Prestatyn, Wales. 

By the time the third film was made, On the Buses had come to an end, having just broadcast its seventh series. Karen and co-stars Bob Grant and Stephen Lewis were the only members of the cast to appear in all seventy-four episodes of the series, as well as the three films.

After On the Buses ended, Karen returned to theatre in 1974 and toured as Minnie in Who Goes Bare? and in Not Now, Darling as Miss Tipdale with Ian Lavender. In 1975 however, Karen starred alongside her On the Buses co-star Bob Grant in a comedy pilot called “Milk-O” released under the Comedy Premiere series. Revolving around a milkman (played by Grant) trying to fend off amorous housewives, Karen played Rita Wilkins, the wife of Grant’s character Jim. 

The pilot was also written by Grant in an aim to reinvigorate his declining career due to the typecasting he received from On the Buses, however it was not commissioned for a series. After this, Karen had roles in the sitcom …And Mother Makes Five and in comedy sketch shows such as The Kenneth Williams Show and The Dick Emery Show.

From 1977 to 1978, Karen reprised the role of Olive in the LWT revival of the sitcom The Rag Trade created by the same writers as On the Buses. The series depicted a group of female workers in a clothes factory; Karen appeared in all twenty two episodes She also made a cameo appearance in the sex-comedy film What’s Up Nurse! (1977). 

In 1981, Karen had a main role in the sci-fi children’s film Stainless Steel and the Star Spies about a group of robots intending to invade Earth to claim a crystal ball with extra-terrestrial qualities.

In 1996, she played a supporting role in the film Beautiful Thing, as a neighbour of the main characters, Ste and Jamie. That same year, she reunited with Barbara Windsor, this time in the BBC soap opera EastEnders.

Karen played Aunt Sal, the sister of Windsor’s Peggy Mitchell. Although she was never a permanent cast member in the soap, she appeared as Aunt Sal occasionally, usually for only one or two episodes at a time.

In 2006, Karen used her experience as a striptease dancer to act as a judge in the final edition of Channel 4’s reality television documentary Faking It. In 2008, she was a guest on the Channel 4’s Sunday Night Project, again with Barbara Windsor.

Karen was also a regular in pantomimes over the years, and played the Wicked Stepmother in Cinderella at the Millfield Theatre, in Edmonton, London, at Christmas 2008.

Anna Karen Husband

Anna Karen lives in Essex, and was married to actor/comedian Terry Duggan from 1967 until he died in 2008. Their daughter, Gloria, was Duggan’s adopted daughter from his previous marriage to Pat Lyons. Karen teaches drama at Brewers Academy, based in Hornchurch, Essex.

Anna Karen FAQ’s

Who was Anna Karen?

Anna Karen (born Ann McCall; 19 September 1936 – 22 February 2022) was a British-South African actress and model best known for playing Olive in the sitcom On the Buses (1969–1973) and Aunt Sal in EastEnders on a recurring basis from 1996 to 2017.

How did Anna Karen die?

Anna Karen has died in a house fire in east London.

How old was Anna Karen?

Anna Karen died at 86.

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