EastEnders Jim Branning star’s life – bus driver, Hollywood pals and health woes

EastEnders icon John Bardon first arrived in Walford as Jim Branning back in 1996. Known for his gambling and passion for drinking in The Queen Vic, Jim found love with Dot Cotton and the pair married in 2002.

It's been some time since fans bid farewell to the unforgettable character, a true icon of Albert Square's cobbled streets.

His last appearance in the soap dates back to 2011 when he made the decision to move into a care home after a 15-year run on the BBC soap.

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But before his soap opera fame, John had already carved out an impressive career, with a diverse range of television and stage roles, setting sail in the acting world back in 1970, at the age of 30.

From his humble beginnings, major health struggles Hollywood c0-star’s let’s take a look at the star’s life as we mark nine years since his death.

Humble beginnings

During a career lull in the 1990s, John Bardon, known for his role in EastEnders, had to take up a job as a shuttle bus driver, transporting tourists between Heathrow Airport and hotels in London.

It was a way to make ends meet as he tried to navigate the competitive world of acting and searched for a TV role that would support him and his family.

This period of financial struggle would soon give way to a defining moment in his late 50s when he landed the role of Jim Branning on EastEnders, ultimately becoming one of the show's most memorable actors.

Reflecting on his career, he once stated, "I don't regard myself as a soap star – there is no such bleedin' thing.

"I'm an actor who is appearing in a soap."

Hollywood co-stars

John Bardon's versatile acting career saw him appearing alongside Hollywood stars and in rival soap operas before becoming an iconic figure in EastEnders.

In 1982, he shared the screen with Kate Winslet in the recession comedy, Get Black, as Bernie Sweet.

Bardon's talents extended to the realm of films, where he featured in notable titles like One of Our Dinosaurs Is Missing 1975, Clockwise, 84 Charing Cross Road, Fierce Creatures and East Is East.

Prior to his EastEnders tenure, Bardon faced intermittent roles on various UK television shows, including appearances in renowned programs such as Coronation Street, Casualty, The Bill, Hi-de-Hi, and Dad's Army.

Fans of Only Fools and Horses may even remember him as security officer Tom Clark in the 1986 episode The Longest Night.

John Bardon's diverse acting journey culminated in his unforgettable portrayal of John Branning in EastEnders, where he left an indelible mark on the show's history.

Health Struggle

John faced significant health struggles during his life. Happily married to his beloved wife, Edna Gates, Bardon suddenly suffered a major stroke at home, leading to his hospitalisation in 2007.

Bardon achieved a remarkable milestone by walking again, six months after the stroke and even inaugurated the new stroke ward at the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital in Welwyn Garden City.

Unfortunately, his health took another turn a year later when he was rushed to the hospital with a suspected second stroke.

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Thankfully, he returned home even teased a return to EastEnders. He made a brief on-screen appearance that year, with a full-time return to the show in June 2009, much to fans delight.

Bardon's last appearance on EastEnders aired in 2011, as his character Jim moved into a care home.

Tragically, on 12 September 2014, John Bardon passed away due to a stroke at the Romford Grange Care Home in Collier Row, Romford.

His death was announced later that day, and an episode of EastEnders broadcast that evening was dedicated to his memory, honouring his contributions to the show and his enduring legacy.

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