Do you remember South-African Anna Karen? You know! Olive from ‘On The Buses’. She is here to tell us all about her life and career!
Critics did not give the best review for ‘On The Buses’ but millions of viewers fell in love with the seven series show that ran from 1969-1973. In fact, it did so well that 3 films came out from it as well as a stage production. Anna is now 78-years-old and has some things to say about her life.
“I’d always wanted to act. Born in Durban, I came to England at 17 to attend LAMDA. After graduating, I earned a living in variety for a time, including spells as a stripper and fire-eater in clubs around London, before my first TV job in Dixon Of Dock Green.
“But playing Olive for over four years was my big break. I was appearing as a character called Maude in the comedy Wild, Wild Women when I got the part in On The Buses.
“Both shows were written by Ronald Chesney and Ronald Wolfe, who happened to be at rehearsals for Wild, Wild Women when I arrived one morning suffering from flu. I felt and looked dreadful but they said I was ideal for Olive.
“Olive was a slovenly, desperate woman. But I sympathised with her because if you look like that you’re going to be desperate. She was fun to play.
The writers wanted her to look a mess so I didn’t wear make-up, wore a wig that made my head look flat and had padding around my stomach to look plump. I based her on someone I knew in South Africa who was always desperate for men. She was terribly insecure which applied to Olive, too.
“Everyone was fabulous to work with, especially Michael Robbins, who played Olive’s husband, Arthur. I learned so much from him about acting. Everyone got on well and we became a fantastic team. Sadly, most of the original cast are no longer with us. Only Stephen Lewis – who played Blakey – and me are left. I haven’t seen Stephen for years.
“We went on to make three films, the first in 1971, which became that year’s top British box-office picture, beating the Bond movie, Diamonds Are Forever.
“On The Buses may be dated now but whenever I see it on TV – it’s currently showing on ITV3 – I realise how fabulous Olive was. Amazingly, a university ran a course based around her, showing how women shouldn’t behave in a relationship.
“After On The Buses, I reappeared as Olive in The Rag Trade, the first time a character has moved from one sitcom to another. Other work has included Troubles And Strife, Goodnight Sweetheart, The Bill, The Second Quest and films like Beautiful Thing.
“I also make occasional appearances in EastEnders, playing Peggy Mitchell’s sister, Sal. Recently, I’ve appeared in an episode of Doctors and the film No Reasons, which hasn’t been released yet. I also teach drama part-time, visiting schools to do workshops.
“When I’m not working, I enjoy reading and gardening. I used to enjoy having a go at carpentry. Trouble was, anything I made was always hidden away because my late husband, actor Terry Duggan, wasn’t appreciative of my talents in that direction!
“I married Terry in 1967 and we had been together over 40 years when he died in 2008.
“I still enjoy acting, even after all these years, and feel so lucky to be doing something I love.”