Tag Archives: Vera Duckworth

Talking with our Vera

An interview, 1992

My name’s Liz Dawn. I play Vera Duckworth. I bet all your listeners will recognize this voice!

Daily Mirror front page 27 Sep 2017 Liz DawnWhat’s Vera like?

Well, actually, Jack and Vera, they’re the best – most happily married couple in Coronation Street. Really! Because every time they have an argument, well, it’s a form of endearment! It’s not really like it looks, it’s a caress!

Well, Vera, she’s quite happy. In this day and age, she’s got her job, her husband’s working. I go play bingo with Ivy. Great corner shop, great Rovers Return. I’ve got lots of friends. Really she hasn’t a bad life, don’t you think? Compared to some people. I don’t know what it’s like in Canada, but we’ve got so much unemployment, you know. I’m so happy that Jack’s got this job in the pub. and he don’t really do owt wrong.

He just has these pigeons he loves. I don’t know whether you’ve seen the pigeons. Oh, he loves them. We’ve got them in the yard and every morning he goes out and feeds them. and he listens for them cooing.

Do you know much about pigeons? Well, they’ve got a sound of their own. And they’re filthy! So he’s having to clean the cages out, you know.

She should have an affair

Apart from that, actually, not a lot happens for Vera. I think she Reg Holdsworth Corriepediashould have an affair. With Reg Holdsworth in Bettabuy. Because I worked at this supermarket. He’s a bit manic looking, Reg Holdsworth. But I think Vera could quite feel as if she’s come up in the world, you know, having an affair with a manager. Do you know what I mean – after Jack! She’d think she’d quite done well for herself.

What’s she like really: well, she’s down to earth. She likes a laugh. Some people think she’s nosy but she’s not really. It’s just her way, do you know what I mean?

I don’t think Vera will ever be able to afford to go to Canada. How much is it to go to Canada? [₤300, 400] Oh! I mean, our Jack can’t even get his glasses mended. You know our Jack, he wears Elastoplast around the edge. You see, that is about five pints to Jack, to get them repaired. That’s what he’s like, really, you see. He’d rather spend money for beer than have his glasses repaired.

Vera since 1974

Oh, do you want me to be Liz now? I get mixed up sometimes. I go into an identity crisis. Sometimes I’m Vera and sometimes I’m Liz. Right, well, my name’s Liz Dawn. I’m married, got 4 children. I’ve got 4 grandchildren.

Vera 1st episode 1974 CorriepediaI started off singing in working men’s clubs, you know, to earn a bit of money, extra money. Then I joined Equity to do ‘extra’ work. But when I joined, it was just around the time when we had a lot of Northern directors, and story writers that wanted the real thing. So anyway, I landed on my feet. It just happened the right time. And I had quite a few cameo parts in good plays.

So then I ended up in Coronation Street. And that were 1974 when it was Ken Barlow’s old factory. He managed the factory, and that’s where it all started really. And I’ve been in it ever since.

Next Ena Sharples

I’m hoping to be the next Ena Sharples, you know. I want to be in the snug, with an hairnet, drinking milk stout, with Ivy and a few other old cronies. Wearing big bloomers. Because I just love the programme.

Vera and Ivy 1974 wikipedia[Did you watch it before you were on the show?] Yeah, I thought it were brilliant: oh, look at this! It’s so different than the programmes that were around at that time. Everybody spoke ‘very nice’, ‘very posh’. Weren’t a bit like real life, not in the North anyway. And that’s how I started.

I think It’s more of an institution now. It’s not a soap really, is it. After thirty-two years, I think it’s part of people’s life. If it came off it’d be like taking the 9 o’clock news off. People have just grown up with it.

The Duckworth Doorknob

We have a tour – Granada Tours – here, and people come round, there’s thousands come round a day, from all over the world. And they keep pinching my stone cladding! I don’t know, it’s a bit of memorabilia or whatever it is.

And one week they took the doorknob. What they thought they were going to do with the Duckworth doorknob I don’t know! They sent us out to do a scene, it was in the old factory. I came out of the factory, walked over the road, and I said to the prop man where’s my 9 Coronation Street new stone claddingdoorknob? He said them bloody tours again! I said what do you mean? And he said somebody’s took your doorknob. I said the doorknob! Can you imagine, it’d be stuck on somebody’s mantlepiece. They’re having cups of tea and boiled ham sandwiches and say ‘oh look, did I tell you that’s the Duckworth doorknob?’ Oh dear!

Duckworths visit Canada

I went over with Easter Seals, in Ottawa. Me and Bill. It were hard work. We were only there a week, 6, 5 days, something like that. But we raised a lot of money for charity and that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it.

[Why do you think people in Canada and other countries watch?] I think it’s memories isn’t it, well, people that’ve gone over. People who’ve gone over to live there. I think it’s a piece of home, don’t you?

So that’s how it started, yeah. Time flies, doesn’t it. People say to me, did you think you’d be in it so long. Well, it’s just part of my life now. It’s hard work, it’s a fast show, it’s a 3 half hour programme a week. So you haven’t really time to look around. In my head sometimes it’s 1982, you know.

Character believability

[Do you do any other work, other acting?] No, not acting, because our contract is very binding. You can’t do other things and quite rightly so. Because that’s what makes the characters believable. I mean, they’re a bit unbelievable aren’t they if you see them on other programmes.

Liz Dawn 1992 Rex-Shutterstock ITV Archives
Liz Dawn 1992, ITV Archives, Telegraph (UK) obits 26 Sept. 2017

And I think Granada has always had the right idea about how things should be. You know, the programme and how it should be run. I think it’s always been looked after, people kept their eye on things. ‘Hang on, you can’t do a pantomime and be in this.’ Well, you can’t anyway, it’s too – you couldn’t do a lot of things in this programme. It’s too time-consuming, you know.

Well, I’ve got to go. Because my husband’s waiting for me. But I’ve enjoyed talking to you and I’d like to wish your listeners all the best. When you go home, just say Liz Dawn, or say Vera says, look after yourselves.

In March 1992 I was lucky enough to meet actor Liz Dawn in her dressing room in the Granada Coronation Street studios. This is a slightly condensed transcript of our conversation. There is a lot of laughter in the actual tape. A lovely woman who made you feel right at home. Thank you, Liz – and Vera. (Meeting Jack Duckworth has more on my interviews with Liz and Bill Tarmey, our Jack.)

Coronation Street Scene of the Week (Sept. 4/11)

Goodnight, Jack Duckworth

Jack and Molly talk in RoversTuesday – can’t pick one scene.  First, at Jack’s birthday do at the Rovers, he and Molly discuss the situation with Kevin being her baby’s biological father.  I had chills going up my spine as Jack told Molly about real life, about mistakes, about love and behaviour.

Both Bill Tarmey and Vicky Binns were wonderful.  He was wisdom and experience and love, she was ‘whatever’ – a little bit flip, a little bit defensive, a lot guilty.  She knew the weight of Jack says I'm so angry to Mollyimportance in what he was saying.  She knew she had to listen, but she didn’t want to.   They personified a hard-earned sense of justice and the callowness, and shallowness, of untested youth.  Having been a callow and shallow youth myself, it was hard to watch, now older and able to see the stark truth of Jack’s words.  That’s the scene, I thought.

Ken and Audrey, as Ken toasts JackThen there was another.  Jack leaving his party early.  Looking around the bar as is for the first time, or last time.  Then Ken’s raising a glass in farewell to him.  Well, I lost it then.  The tears flowed for I knew what was going to come next.  Then outside, the Street at night, from Jack listening to record playerJack’s viewpoint, as he looks at every inch of it from end to end.  Then he went home.

He sits back in his chair and listens to “When autumn leaves start to fall” on the turntable Tyrone gave him for his birthday.

Then an amazing sight.  Vera.  Looking absolutely wonderful, the lamp giving her hair a slight halo effect.  Saying to Jack, there’s a bus at 12 minutes past, so come on, shift yourself.  He says let’s have a dance.  And Vera says come with me to Jackhe and Vera slow-dancing in their living room.  The song now “Softly as I leave you.”  I watched it over and over, wanting to spend time with her and barely able to see the screen for tears.

I have never seen a scene like this in Coronation Street, where we see something in the mind’s eye of a character.  And a spirit Jack and Vera slow dancingreturning.  Both are done in American soaps often.  I’m glad this time Coronation Street did it.  Then a photo montage of Jack and Vera right in the middle of the episode.  Unusual for Corrie and just lovely.  Thank you, writers.

And then back to Jack, still in his chair, but he had caught the bus Tyrone beside Jack saying Goodnight Dadwith Vera.  Tyrone, Molly and Connie return to the house, see him in his chair.  And Connie realizes he’s dead.  She bursts into sobs, then calls an ambulance.  Molly makes herself scarce.  Tyrone, beside Jack, takes his hand and says  “Goodnight Dad.”  Indeed, goodnight Jack.  You are missed.

Coronation Street Scene of the Week (Nov. 14/10)

Vera

The 2nd anniversary of Vera’s death. Tyrone is sad. But that morning, he doesn’t know what’s about to hit him. All he knows is Molly is being very difficult to live with. At the Rovers, Jack gives him advice about how to handle women. Betty tells Jack that in her almost 90 years, she’d never heard “such a load of codswallop”.

Betty gives Jack a free pint and a kiss on the headThen, in a week of great scenes, comes the one. It’s a two-parter, maybe a minute. First part: Jack sits alone in a booth, finishing his pint. He’s pulled something out of a paper napkin and is holding it. Betty brings another pint over to him. “I didn’t order that,” he says. Betty puts it in front of him, kisses the top of his head and walks back to the bar.

Jack looks at Vera's wedding ringSecond part: Jack looks at the object in his hand. It’s Vera’s wedding ring. He looks down at it and up at the heavens. “My little swamp duck.” Oh my, I could hardly clip the scene from CBC’s online episode for tears blurring my eyes. Whatever will we do when Jack and Betty leave the street? It doesn’t bear thinking about.

Then, at the end of the episode, Molly begins the “we have to talk” speech with Tyrone. It continued Tuesday. She was leaving him, didn’t love him anymore etc. etc. Why, how can you, etc. etc., poor Tyrone asked. Lines from several hurtin’ songs were used by both of them. “You’re better off without me” and “any girl would be lucky to have you” came from Molly.

Molly telling Tyrone she is leaving himIt was like watching a train wreck. Well, more like being in the train wreck if you’ve ever had a serious relationship end, whether you were the ‘dumpee’ or ‘dumper’. Even though I’ve known what Molly’s been doing the past few months, it still blindsided me. Poor, poor Tyrone.

Next scene, Tyrone twigged in about as long as it takes in these situations: “Who is it?” “There must be someone else.” He’s absolutely right in guessing this, even just from his vantage point as a participant rather than anTyrone in tears, can't believe it observer as we are. There’s always someone else. Speaking from a long history as both dumper and dumpee, there’s always a third person somewhere in the mix. Of course, the dumper always says there’s no one else, “it’s just me”. And, technically, right now Molly is not lying about this. She and Kevin have ended it so, in this tiny frame of time, she is leaving Tyrone because it’s just about her.

Of course, as it always does (and must for soaps to continue with storylines), it will all come out. And if the breakup of Molly and Tyrone was bad, I think the breakup of Kevin and Tyrone will be much, much worse.

Daran Little writing

Both Monday and Tuesday were Daran Little episodes! So happy. I didn’t know there were any more to come of the group of episodes he’d penned after a brief return last year.

Jack telling Tyrone "Vera didn't us to be me and Vera"The loveliest touch of historical analysis he gave us was Tyrone and Molly discussing their relationship in terms of Jack and Vera’s. Like all of us, Tyrone had hoped that he and Molly would be the next Jack and Vera. Horrors, Molly said, that’s exactly what I don’t want to be! Tyrone sees happily married for over fifty years; Molly sees decades of constant rowing and Jack skulking off to get away from her. Both views are correct.

But Molly is using revisionist history to justify what she’s doing, and she must know it. She got to know Jack and Vera well enough to see behind the surface complaining and skulking. She saw Jack when Vera died. So she knows better. But to give her the benefit of the doubt, she’s young and probably still believes in the fairy tales where the thrill of romance remains young and alive forever just as you do yourself. Where settling into a routine of going about your business seems a fate worse than death. On the other hand, she knows better. Disparaging the 50 years of Jack and Vera is a way to justify, to herself at least, what she is doing.

The train wreck spreads the rest of the week. Kev is cast in the role of comforter to Tyrone. And in another beautifully wrought scene, Jack gives his take on the “being Jack and Vera” issue. He says to Tyrone, “Vera didn’t want us to be like me and Vera.” Molly says to Dev, “don’t say anything nice to me”. I say to the screen, “no danger of that, dearie!” Auntie Pam is the only one who seems to share my feelings. In a plea for sympathy, Molly whines, “ Everyone’s already looking at me like I’ve just stamped on a kitten.” Pam’s response?  “Oh, happens you just have.” Thank you, Auntie Pam.