Date of Birth: 25 August 1939, Brentford, Middlesex, UK
Birth Name: John Michael Jones
Nicknames: John Bardon
When the actor John Bardon, who has died aged 75, took on the role of EastEnders' grumpy grandad Jim Branning, he succeeded in turning the figure of a lazy, selfish and bigoted Londoner into one of the BBC soap's most lovable characters. Jim was a regular in the Queen Vic pub, who had a weakness for gambling but married the fictional Albert Square's gossip and minder of morals, Dot Cotton, until ill-health saw her dispatch him to a care home.
The balding, crumple-faced actor, often seen wearing a cloth cap, first appeared in the serial in 1996, when Jim arrived in Walford for his daughter April's wedding. When she was jilted at the altar, his other daughter, Carol, and her boyfriend, Alan Jackson, got married in their place, but Jim stormed out because he disapproved of her marrying a black man.
Three years later, Bardon returned in the role as a regular. Jim worked in the Queen Vic as a potman and mellowed after meeting the Bible-thumping Dot. He proposed to her on the London Eye and the couple married on Valentine's Day 2002. He nursed Dot when she had kidney cancer, but himself became the patient after suffering a stroke in 2007. The storyline was written into the soap after Bardon himself had a stroke. The actor was unable to walk for six months, but returned to EastEnders for a short run in 2008 and permanently the following year. However, he was written out in 2011 as his health deteriorated.
Bardon was born John Michael Jones in Brentford, Middlesex, a week before the outbreak of the second world war, and brought up in Chelsea. His father became a shipping clerk for an insurance company after his building business went bust. On leaving school, Bardon had various jobs, including working at Austin Reed in Regent Street, London, before becoming an industrial designer. However, his ambition was to act and, after performing in pubs with an amateur group, The Taverners, and touring Germany and Austria with a civil service drama company, he turned professional at the age of 30. He adopted his grandmother's maiden name, Bardon, and his first work was with a repertory company in Exeter.
He progressed to small roles in Coriolanus, Julius Caesar and Titus Andronicus with the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon (1972) before playing Demetrius in its production of Antony and Cleopatra (Stratford, 1972, and Aldwych theatre, 1973). He also acted the spiv Private Walker in the stage version of Dad's Army (1975-76).
After appearing as Sgt Comrie Milbrau in the musical The Good Companions (1974), based on JB Priestley's novel a role played by the music-hall comedian Max Miller in an earlier film version Bardon had the idea of playing the Cheeky Chappie himself in a one-man show. The result was his tour de force, Here's a Funny Thing, written by RW Shakespeare, which Bardon performed at the Liverpool Playhouse and Edinburgh festival, then in the West End of London (1982). The stage show was also broadcast by Channel 4.
Further recognition came when he jointly won (with his fellow cast member Emil Wolk) the Olivier Award for outstanding performance by an actor in a musical for his role as the gangster Max O'Hagan in an RSC production of Kiss Me Kate (1987).
After making his television debut in the play A Man Against His Age (1970), Bardon took one-off character roles in dozens of dramas and comedies. He was a regular as the comedian Jim Davidson's father in the sitcom Up the Elephant and Round the Castle (1983-85) and Bernie Sweet Ray Winstone and Larry Lamb's father in the first series (1992) of Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran's recession comedy Get Back. He also appeared four times (1987-92) as the villain Fred Timson in Rumpole of the Bailey.
Bardon's films included One of Our Dinosaurs Is Missing (1975), Clockwise (1986), 84 Charing Cross Road (1987), Fierce Creatures (1997) and East Is East (1999).
Following decades of battling to keep in work before joining EastEnders, the actor was modest about his achievements. "I don't regard myself as a soap star there is no such bleedin' thing," he said in 2003. "I'm an actor who is appearing in a soap. They all think they are bleedin' stars, but they ain't when they leave here. More often than not they disappear."