Eastenders Legend June Brown Has Died Aged 95


June Brown, who died at the age of 95, was best known for her role as Dot Cotton, the chain-smoking washerwoman in EastEnders.

It was a role she would play for more than 30 years, and still well after she turned 90.
Brown was a hoot in person, she oozed charism, charm and warmth. “Kenneth Williams stuck in the body of Cilla Black,” wrote one Guardian writer. Her private life, like her on-screen presence, was marked by extremes of emotion, including enormous happiness, romantic love affairs, horrible heartbreak, and familial sorrow.

Brown excelled in the classroom in her school days. She was awarded a scholarship to Ipswich High School and desired to pursue a career as a scientist, but her father objected. He claimed it was a waste of money because she “would only go and get married.”
At the end of the war, she joined the Women’s Royal Naval Service. She was stationed in Scotland and found the joys of acting while serving in the WRNS.
She took a work as a movie operator in Argyll when the war ended.
She was accepted into the Old Vic Theatre School in London, where she met and married actor John Garley. He suffered from depression, and in 1957 he committed suicide.

She was a huge success in the world of stage and screen. She worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company for many years, sharing the stage alongside actors such as Alec Guinness, John Gielgud, and Peggy Ashcroft.
She performed Hedda Gabler and Lady Macbeth, but never got the chance to play Cleopatra, which she regrets to this day.
She married Robert Arnold, a British actor who starred in the BBC series Dixon Of Dock Green, in 1958. Before Arnold died of pneumonia in 2003, the pair had been married for 45 years.
They had six children in just seven years, her second daughter Chloe sadly died after only 16 days after being born prematurely at 28 weeks.

Acting work dried off after becoming a mother. Brown thought about finishing her studies and even started A’ level biology. But, in her forties, with so many children, she found it too much to handle and never finished the course.
In the 1970s, she tried acting again, with a series of tiny roles in film and television. Coronation Street and Doctor Who both featured him.
Then Leslie Grantham, who played Dirty Den in EastEnders, recommended her for the role that would make her a British icon.

June Brown was in her late fifties when Dot Cotton came in Albert Square in 1985. She was only supposed to be there for three months, but she ended up staying for more than a quarter of a century.
Dot’s life has been primarily unhappy. She was a hypochondriac, tragicomic character who was always directed by the scriptures, gossiping and chain smoking.
Dot’s Story – Tallulah Pitt-Brown played her character’s life history through flashbacks in a special episode in 2003.
June Brown made history in 2008 when she became the first performer in a British soap opera to carry a full episode by herself. She gave an emotive speech on her character’s years of loss and suffering, which she dictated to a tape for her on-screen husband Jim, who was in the hospital after a stroke.
She was nominated for a Bafta for Best Actress for that performance. She was the first actress from a soap opera to be nominated for an Emmy since Jean Alexander’s depiction of Hilda Ogden 20 years prior.

Despite her failing eyesight, Brown continued to appear in the series on a occasional basis. She finally revealed in February 2020 that she would be leaving the show.

She once told The Times that she was “never going to be made a Dame doing Dot” – but she was awarded the MBE for services to drama and charity. 

And she claimed to have planned her funeral carefully.

“I want to be buried at sea,” she told one interviewer. “The Britannia Shipping Company drops you off round the Isle of Wight. I’ll be in a nice white nightie and they wrap you in a balsa wood coffin and weight it.”

It’s probably not quitewhat Albert Square’s scriptwriters would have in mind for Dot Cotton. But – for June Brown – it would be a fitting send-off for such a “one of a kind”.

‘You’ve always got to have something to say…’ – June Brown 16th February 1927 – 3rd April 2022.