Leslie Duxbury

The Stage

Leslie Duxbury was one of Coronation Street’s major writers and his scripts were noted for their high degree of social realism, laced with brilliant off-beat humour. He joined the series in 1966 when the show regularly topped the ratings and audience figures were in their millions. By the time he had retired in 1991 he had written more than 415 scripts and had had two spells as a producer in 1974 and 1977.

During Duxbury’s tenure the series featured many of the show’s most famous characters – landlady and mistress of the withering look Annie Walker (Doris Speed), popular scarlet woman Elsie Tanner (Pat Phoenix), battle-axe Ena Sharples (Violet Carson) and the unluckiest couple on television, the shy boozer and tittle-tattling skivvy Stan and Hilda Ogden (Bernard Youens and Jean Alexander).

In Duxbury’s memorable first script, written in April 1966, Minnie Caldwell (Margot Bryant) reluctantly offers her bed to Ena Sharples after the hair-netted harridan is evicted from her home at the Mission Hall.

Duxbury’s scripts were often based on real life. A former journalist and football reporter, he was born in Clayton-le-Moors, Lancashire on June 13, 1926, and got his first job as a junior reporter on the Accrington Observer. During the war he served in the Royal Navy as a radar petty officer in the Far East and on being demobbed returned to journalism, working on several regional papers before joining the Daily Express.

He began writing television scripts in the early sixties and eventually joined Coronation Street as a storyline writer in 1966, five years after its initial launch. The show had grown out of the so called ‘kitchen sink’ drama style popularised in the late fifties and by 1967 was an established part of everyday life, especially in the north. It had developed a huge cult following and future prime minister James Callaghan, a devoted follower, publicly called Pat Phoenix “the sexiest woman on TV”.

Duxbury’s consistently good writing soon made him one of the most respected and successful writers with the series. He was responsible for introducing new characters such as the brassy barmaid Bet Lynch (Julie Goodyear), as well as coping with the later exits of stars such as Jack Howarth and Pat Phoenix. In one of his most famous scripts, recorded in January 1971, a then record audience of 22 million viewers saw Valerie Barlow (Anne Reid) die after being electrocuted by a faulty hairdryer plug.

Duxbury wrote many other television series. With Peter Eckersley he created a precursor to Porridge, Her Majesty’s Pleasure (1968-69). He also contributed scripts for Z Cars (1969-74), the afternoon drama serial Crown Court (1972) and the David Jason sitcom A Sharp Intake of Breath (1978).

As well as Coronation Street, he wrote several other soap operas, including Marked Personal (1973-74), which starred Stephanie Beacham, Rooms (1977) and the BBC medical drama Angels (1976), which starred Fiona Fullerton and Julie Dawn Cole.

He married Ruth Whittaker in 1952 and they have three sons. Duxbury died on October 17, aged 79.

Patrick Newley

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