Page last updated at 15:27 GMT, Sunday, 14 December 2008

Summer Wine star Staff dies at 80

Kathy Staff as Nora Batty in 1983
Nora Batty was Kathy Staff's most enduring TV role

Actress Kathy Staff, who played Nora Batty in long-running BBC One sitcom Last Of The Summer Wine, has died.

The 80-year-old, who was born in Dukinfield, Greater Manchester, also played cleaner Doris Luke in long-running ITV soap Crossroads.

And she appeared in Emmerdale Farm, Coronation Street, and with David Jason and Ronnie Barker in Open All Hours.

Last of the Summer Wine producer Alan Bell told BBC News the actress had been ill for some time.

"We're distraught, but we have very fond memories of her," he said.

Battleaxe Nora Batty proved to be her most enduring character.

Actor Peter Sallis, who played Norman Clegg, remembered his colleague fondly

She appeared in 243 episodes of the Yorkshire-based comedy, beginning in the first episode in January 1973.

She made her last appearance in August, at the end of the show's 29th series.

Co-star Peter Sallis said he was "terribly upset" by the loss of an "irreplaceable" colleague.

"She dominated anything that she was in. You could stop acting when Kathy was there because she was going to do it all for you," he said.

"We don't know quite for sure whether we're going to do any more episodes, but if we do she's going to be terribly missed."

Kathy Staff as Nora Batty in 1983
Staff starred alongside Ronnie Barker in Open All Hours
Sallis, who plays Cleggy in the series, joked: "Years and years ago David Frost interviewed her on television and all they seemed to talk about was her wrinkled stockings.

"I got hotter and hotter under the collar and thought, why can't they have something about how marvellous it is to work with Peter Sallis? But all we got was wrinkled stockings instead."

Mike Grady, who played Barry in the series, said: "She was blessed with a wonderful, quite formidable face, which I hope isn't disrespectful, but she knew it.

"What was good about her was that she was well aware of her work and what she could bring to a role.

"And she had that wonderful resonant voice, which was quite intimidating. She was actually a very sweet woman."

Mr Bell said she often yearned for her character to be more gentle.

"She would play a scene quite gently, and I'd say, 'But Kathy, you've got to harden up, because that's who we all love, the hard, tough Nora Batty.'

"And she said, 'Why can't I be just soft and gentle at times?' And I said, 'Maybe some time we will.'

"She was such a good lady, she was religious, she would never do anyone any harm.

"But above all that, she was thoroughly professional."

Peter Sallis said it had not yet been decided if Last of the Summer Wine would return for a 30th series.

"The BBC have been terribly loyal to us - with good reason because we're so popular," he said.

"I shouldn't say this, but I would be a bit surprised if we've done our last one."

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