ACTRESS Dora Bryan, who was a regular visitor to Dorset for decades, has died at the age of 91.
She was still performing in her 80s but had been living in a nursing home in Hove, East Sussex, in recent years as her health deteriorated.
Her friend and manager David Hill, who confirmed her death, said: "She was razor-sharp with an incredible brain. You were always aware when you were with her that she had been a big star. Dora was very quick-witted and very funny."
Dora Bryan appeared in a succession of shows in Bournemouth over the years, from pantomimes such as Babes in the Wood in 1970 to A Murder Is Announced at the Pier Theatre in 1979 and the musical 70 Girls 70 in 1991. She starred with Wendy Richard in Let’s Go Camping, in summer season at Weymouth in 1983.
She opened Christchurch’s Regent Centre in its present form in 1983 and was president of Theatre 2000 in Christchurch.
In 2006, she put on her one-woman show at St Aldhelm’s Parish Centre, Branksome, to raise money for the church roof. During the same visit, she attended a charity event at Meyrick Park Bowls Club Academy, with her dog Georgie.
The late Tony Hardman, who managed publicity for Bournemouth’s theatres, was a close friend and organised a fundraising show for her in 2009, when she was 85 and in failing health. The event at Her Majesty’s theatre in London featured Sir Cliff Richard, June Whitfield, Rita Tushingham and Joanna Lumley.
At the time, Mr Hardman told how the actress had enjoyed her visits to Dorset and especially to Chez Fred fish and chip in Westbourne.
Born in Southport, Dora Bryan appeared in a succession of films including Carry On Sergeant, The Blue Lamp and The Great St Trinian’s Train Robbery. But she won a Bafta award for her seirous role in A Taste of Honey in 1961, as well as an Olivier award in 1995 for her role in Harold Pinter’s The Birthday Party.
She was known to millions for the five years she spent playing Ros Utterthwaite in BBC1 sitcom Last Of The Summer Wine, bowing out in 2005.
Her husband, the former cricketer Bill Lawton to whom she had been married for 54 years, died in 2008.
Among those paying tribute to her was comedian Jenny Eclair who said: "I met Dora Bryan backstage at Theatre, Royal Brighton - she was hilarious within 10 seconds."
Lionel Blair wrote online: "So very sad to hear of the passing of my good friend Dora Bryan. She was wonderful."