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‘EastEnders’ star Gretchen Franklin dies

Actress, 94, played dotty, dog-loving Ethel Skinner on British soap
/ Source: The Associated Press

Actress Gretchen Franklin, known to millions as the dotty, dog-loving Ethel Skinner in the long-running BBC-TV soap opera "EastEnders," has died at the age of 94, her agent said Tuesday.

Franklin died at home in London on Monday, Barry Burnett said. The cause of death was not given.

Although her acting career spanned more than 50 years, it was her role in "EastEnders" that made Franklin a household name.

Clutching her pug dog, Willy, Ethel was a fixture in the show's fictional Albert Square — and its Queen Vic pub — from 1985 to 2000.

She was written out in a controversial storyline in which Ethel, suffering from cancer, begged a friend to help her die.

Born in London, Franklin worked as a chorus girl in London's West End theater district in the 1930s, appearing in such shows as "Sweet and Low."

Her first film appearance came in the 1954 British film, "Before I Wake."

In the 1960s, she had a number of television roles, including parts in the popular police dramas "Dixon of Dock Green" and "Z Cars" and played the wife of the irascible bigot Alf Garnett in the pilot episode of the comic sitcom "Till Death Us Do Part" in 1965.

An early marriage did not last long and Franklin had no children. Funeral arrangements were not announced.