Don’t miss out on the biggest soaps gossip! Get a daily email direct to your inbox with our newsletter
Dame Barbara Windsor once spoke out about how landing the role of Peggy Mitchell in EastEnders had ‘saved her’ and was the ‘answer to all her prayers’.
In the week that the soap and Carry On film legend sadly passed away from Alzheimer’s, aged 83, the story of where she was personally when she got the nod from the BBC soap bosses that they would be extending her contract.
Dame Barbara was only given four months on the soap to begin with but she made such an impact that her character was instilled as landlady of the Queen Vic.
Writing in her book, All of Me: My Extraordinary Life, Dame Barbara described how a disastrous financial investment had left her on the brink of losing everything.
She wrote: “As Peggy Mitchell I was in charge of a fictional boozer but it was a real pub that would almost be my downfall.
“With my estranged second husband Stephen Hollings, I still owned The Plough in Amersham, Bucks, and it was losing money so fast that I discovered I was responsible for debts of £1million.”
Dame Barbara was in a deep worry as she had no way of paying the debt and admitted: “I hadn’t earned that kind of money in all the years I’d been in showbusiness put together.”
She said that it was her propping up the business financially that was “keeping the bailiffs at bay” but her ex-husband was refusing to sell business as it wouldn’t cover the debts.
It came to a point where Dame Barbara faced the realistic possibility that she might lose her London home.
Her off-screen life was becoming increasingly more difficult as her then boyfriend, Scott Mitchell, who she went on to marry, was struggling with addiction.
She recalled: “As I became more famous, my new boyfriend Scott Mitchell, who lived with me in Marylebone, was becoming an alcoholic and walked out.”
Scott was at a low ebb and she said that at the time “he felt that life was just not worth living and that he was worried about being a burden to me.”
He had got to the point where he “believed it would be better all round if he were dead.”
At this point, Dame Barbara said that this was the first time she had taken her personal life into work and that her screen son Ross Kemp, who played Grant Mitchell, was her rock.
Dame Barbara wrote: “The second I opened my mouth to speak, the tears started to trickle down my cheeks. Ross frowned: ‘Are you OK?’ I lied: ‘Yeah, yeah, I’m fine.'”
She broke down again and after they eventually got through the scene, Ross sat in her dressing room as Dame Barbara poured her heart out.
It was the beginning of her comeback and it got better as “Scott sorted out his drink problem, got a job in recruiting and we married in 2000.”
*All Of Me: My Extraordinary Life by Barbara Windsor published by Headline £10.99, is out now .