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Tuesday, December 8, 1998 Published at 18:03 GMT


An Absolutely Fabulous award

Drinking on the job: June Whitfield and Joanna Lumley in Absolutely Fabulous

Comedy veteran June Whitfield has been presented with a lifetime achievement award by her Absolutely Fabulous co-star Jennifer Saunders at a ceremony in London.

She received the Channel 4 Lifetime Achievement Award at the Carlton Woman in Film and Television Awards lunch for a career spanning more than 40 years.

Ms Whitfield, 73, joins the ranks of previous winners Dame Maggie Smith, Dame Judi Dench and Katharine Hepburn.

Her career takes in movie roles in Jude The Obscure and Tom Jones as well as her 1970s BBC sitcom Terry And June.

[ image: That was then ... With Terry Scott in Terry and June]
That was then ... With Terry Scott in Terry and June
Her CV also includes appearances in the Carry On films, Hancock's Half Hour and, more recently, a guest part in US sitcom Friends.

Her career was revived in the 1990s when she joined the cast of Absolutely Fabulous, which grew from being a cult hit on BBC Two to become a worldwide success.

"I am absolutely delighted," she said. "It is marvellous. What can I say? I'm thrilled and delighted and thank them very much for chosing me this year.

"They say it is a lifetime achievement, but it is probably for old age."

She added:"I feel I have been very lucky in my career. A lot of it is being in the right place at the right time. It was probably easier when I started than it is now for girls starting. There are so many of them and they are so good.

[ image: This is now ... June Whitfield admits Ab Fab revitalised her career]
This is now ... June Whitfield admits Ab Fab revitalised her career
"It was unusual for a woman to be in comedy when I started in the early 50s."

She acknowledged her part as Jennifer Saunders' mother in Absolutely Fabulous had given a boost to her career, saying: "It was a definite reincarnation of my telly career. People think if you're not on TV you must be dead, and it was such a fun show to be in."

Woman In Film and Television director Kate Norrish said: "There is a breadth of talent in the industry which we are determined should not go unnoticed.

"These awards are about honouring those women in the industry, celebrating their achievements and, if past ceremonies are anything to go by, predicting future Oscar winners too."

The ceremony, hosted by Jenny Eclair, was held at the Dorchester Hotel. Other celebrities presenting the awards were actresses Samantha Janus, Helen Baxendale and Billie Whitelaw.

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