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EASTENDERS' ETHEL IS DEAD; Cast and crew mourn popular star.

Byline: By Anita Singh

FORMER EastEnders star Gretchen Franklin, known to millions as Ethel Skinner, has died.

The popular actress passed away peacefully at home on Monday, four days after her 94th birthday.

Although her career spanned more than 50 years, her role in EastEnders made her a household name.

Gretchen played Ethel from 1985 to 2000 and was a fixture in Albert Square along with her pug dog, Willy.

She left in a controversial euthanasia storyline, in which she begged best friend Dot to help her die.

Fifteen million viewers watched her tear-jerking final scenes.

Actress June Brown, who plays Dot, said: 'She seemed such an indomitable person, you felt she'd go on forever. I will miss her very much.'

Gretchen, one of the original EastEnders cast, died at her home in Barnes, south-west London.

A show spokesman said: 'Gretchen was an extremely talented actress. In her role as Ethel, she created one of soap's best-loved characters. The news of her death has brought great sadness to the cast and crew of EastEnders.'

Other former Albert Square colleagues also paid tribute to Gretchen.

Adam Woodyatt, who plays Ian Beale, said: 'She was a lovely lady and will be greatly missed.'

And Pam St Clements, alias Pat Evans, added: 'I was very fond of her. Some of the scenes between Gretchen and June Brown are landmarks in the long history of EastEnders.'

Michael Cashman, who played the soap's first gay character, Colin Russell, said: 'Gretchen was a dear friend and one of the first to welcome me when I joined EastEnders.

'She had a wonderful life. Her friendship enriched those she met and her talent enriched every production she touched. She was unique.'

Londoner Gretchen, a cousin of Dad's Army star Clive Dunn, started in the 1930s as a West End chorus girl.

She moved on to TV and film - her first appearance coming in the 1954 British film, Before I Wake.

In the 1960s, she had roles in Dixon of Dock Green and Z Cars, and played the original 'silly moo' - Alf Garnett's wife - in the pilot episode of Till Death Us Do Part in 1965.

Gretchen also appeared in Rising Damp, Sykes, George and Mildred, Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em and Victoria Wood: As Seen OnTV


MUCH LOVED: Ethel and Willy
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jul 13, 2005
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