Amanda Barrie

Amanda Barrie
was born Shirley Anne Broadbent on 14th September 1935 in Ashton-under-Lyne to accountant father Hubert Howath Broadbent and his wife Connie Pyke. Her family had a theatrical background as her grandfather owned a theatre. She was named after the film star Shirley Temple and she made her debut aged three playing a Christmas tree fairy at her family theatre.

She took ballet and singing lessons as a child but was expelled from her St. Annes college for skipping lessons for further ballet tuition. Her drama coaching took place at the Cone-Ripman School. At the age of thirteen she appeared in pantomime and in one performance danced off the stage and into the orchestra pit.

Her parents divorced when she was thirteen and, as soon as she was able to, she moved to London working mostly as a chorus girl and dancer. She changed her name to Amanda Barrie in 1958 and made her TV debut in a Morecambe and Wise show. She had further drama training at the Bristol Old Vic but focused primarily on musical reviews although her range of stage performances included Cabaret (as Sally Bowles), Private Lives, Hobson's Choice, Any Wednesday and A Public Mischief.

She also started to make name for herself in comedy films, appearing in A Pair of Briefs. Doctor in Distress and Carry on Cabby and it was this latter role that led to possibly her most famous and well-known performance (pre-Coronation Street) when she was cast in the title role in the 1964 film Carry on Cleo. By the standards of the Carry on… series this film in the run was expensive and highly successful and Amanda's performance as the ditzy femme fatale won rave reviews.

Her eclectic career continued to span stage, film and television work, the latter including dramas such as The Wednesday Play, ITV Playhouse, Danger Man and an appearance as Hermia in a 1971 BBC Play of the Month production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, but she also appeared in plenty of comedies including The Many Wives of Patrick, Miss Jones and Son and Are You Being Served?, as well as, most notably, Whose Baby Are You?, a second season episode of Coronation Street spin-off Pardon the Expression in 1966.

Continuing to work solidly through the 1970s, her next brush with Weatherfield came in June 1981 when she appeared in four episodes of Coronation Street as Alma Sedgewick, the workshy wife of café owner Jim Sedgewick who employed and then rowed with Elsie Tanner. Amanda has confessed on several occasions that she found acting opposite Patricia Phoenix to be a "terrifying ordeal" but she returned for a further eight episodes between April and June 1982.

Amanda was then absent from the Street for six years before returning as a regular in November 1988 when her character was involved in a series of storylines with Ken Barlow and Mike Baldwin, the latter of whom Alma eventually married, enduring a tempestuous relationship. She continued in the high-profile part until June 2001 when she left the programme, complaining that she found the "tragic" storylines in which she was involved to be not to her taste, much preferring the comic, gutsy version of Alma that she had first played. She was also vocal in condemning her character's exit as a victim of cervical cancer, stating that such cancers take a far longer time to spread than happened in the somewhat-concatenated timeline shown in the programme.

Amanda went on to appear in several episodes of Doctors but also made forty-one episodes of the Brian Park-produced series Bad Girls (2003-2006) in which she played the somewhat-camp inmate Beverley Tull. She was also a guest panelist on Loose Women, appeared in Holby City and had an infamous altercation with chef Gordon Ramsay on reality cooking show Hell's Kitchen. In 2015, she reunited with former Street colleague Sherrie Hewson in the hit ITV comedy Benidorm, thirty years after they first worked together in the original West End stage production of Stepping Out.

Amanda was married to actor and director Robin Hunter in 1967 although they separated in the 1980s. An optic illness which built up in the late 1990s led to the loss of the sight in her left eye and in 2003 she published her autobiography It's Not a Rehearsal in which she revealed her bisexuality. She married her long-term partner - the crime writer Hilary Bonner - in September 2014.

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