Born In: Shoreditch, London, England
One of the most popular stars of the British entertainment industry, Barbara Windsor mesmerized her audience for sixty long years. Born as Barbara Ann Deeks into a working-class family, she had to work hard to get rid of her cockney accent and won millions of hearts with her performances in numerous films, television and stage productions. A brilliant student, who scored the highest mark in the whole of north London in her 11-plus examination, she dropped out of school at fourteen because her school would not allow her time off to perform. At fifteen, she debuted on stage and inspired by the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II adopted Windsor as her stage name in the following year, gaining national recognition with her performance in Carry on series. She continued to work almost till the end in spite of a progressive Alzheimer's disease.
Also Known As: Barbara Ann Deeks
Spouse/Ex-: Scott Mitchell (m. 2000), Ronnie Knight (m. 1964–1985), Stephen Hollings (m. 1986–1995)
father: John Deeks
mother: Rose Deeks
Born Country: England
Height: 4'10" (147 cm)
Diseases & Disabilities: Alzheimer's
Barbara Windsor was born on 6 August 1937 in London, England. Her father, John Deeks, was a street vender of English descent, while her mother, Rose (née Ellis), was a dressmaker of Irish ancestry. Barbara, their only child, lived with her parents in Shoreditch area of East London.
In 1939, while her father was called in for his war duties, Barbara and her mother moved in with her maternal grandparents in Stoke Newington. There she began her education at St Mary's Infants' School; but was soon evacuated to Blackpool, Lancashire, because of incessant bombing by the Germans.
Sexually abused in her foster home, her life at Blackpool was not initially happy. Her ordeal came to an end only after her scream was heard by one of her friends and the authorities were alerted. Subsequently, she was moved to her friend’s house.
It was while living with her friend that she was first admitted to a dancing school. Little is known about this period except that when she returned home in 1944 she was carrying a letter of praise from her dance teacher. It stated, “Barbara is a born show-off who loves to perform.”
Back in London, she entered William Patten School for her formal education. Concurrently, she was also enrolled at Madame Behenna and Her Juvenile Jollities, a dance school in Stoke Newington.
A meritorious student, she passed her 11-plus examination with flying colours, securing a place at Our Lady’s Convent. Concurrently, she continued with her lessons at Madame Behenna, entering several singing and dancing competitions and winning most of them.
At thirteen, her performances caught the attention of a talent scout, who got her a part in a panto at Wimbledon theatre. However, her school refused to give her time off and when she tried to argue, she was expelled. Not at all sorry, she entered Aida Foster Theatre School.
In 1952, Barbara Windsor debuted on stage, playing an orphan in the musical, Love from Judy. Opening in Coventry, the show moved to the West End, running for two long years. Meanwhile in 1953, she adopted her stage name Windsor.
In 1954, she debuted in films and television shows, as a schoolgirl in the comedy film, The Belles of St. Trinian's and in an unidentified role in two episodes of Dreamer's Highway. Also in 1954, she began appearing in the BBC television show Variety Parade with Johnny Brandon.
In spite of early start and initial success, her career failed to take off immediately and for a time she was forced to work as a shop assistant. However, she continued to appear in small roles both in films and television production, concurrently singing with bands and appearing in various revues.
In 1960, she finally had her breakthrough with her role of Ponytail in the movie Too Hot To Handle. However, it was not until she appeared as secret agent Daphne Honeybutt in Carry on Spying (1964) that she could actually establish herself; she eventually appeared in nine more Carry On films.
Among her other important films are Sparrows Can’t Sing (1963), A Study in Terror (1965), Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) etc. Equally active on stage, she was especially praised for her work in Oh, What A Lovely War! (1964) and The Threepenny Opera (1972)
Throughout her long career, she had also appeared in more than fifty television productions including several telefilms of the Carry On series. However, among most significant works on this media was EastEnders—she joined the cast in 1994 and left the show only after her character was killed off in 2016.
Among the important works of her later period are Alice in Wonderland (2010) and Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016). Her last appearance was in the BBC Television's 2017 biopic Babs, in which she appeared in a cameo.
Barbara Windsor is best remembered for her Carry On films. Beginning the series with Carry on Spying, she ended it with That's Carry On! (1977), appearing in the last mentioned film as herself, meanwhile being especially noticed for her work in Carry on Campaign.
Barbara Windsor was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2000 New Year Honours and Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) for services to charity and entertainment in the 2016 New Year Honours.
Windsor got married three times. However, she chose not to have any children, scarred by her father’s rejection of her at the age of fifteen. She underwent at least five abortions, three of them in her twenties.
Her first husband was Ronnie Knight, a night club owner and later a convicted criminal. They tied the knot in March 1964. The union ended in a divorce in January 1985.
In 1986, she married chef-cum-restaurateur Stephen Hollings. This marriage too ended in a divorce in 1995.
Her third husband was Scott Mitchell, former actor and recruitment consultant, whom she married on 8 April 2000, remaining with him until her death on 10 December 2020. She was then 83 years old and was suffering from Alzheimer's disease since 2014.
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