The Coronation Street actor Johnny Briggs, who played Mike Baldwin in the ITV soap for 30 years, has died, his family have said.
Briggs, who also appeared in several Carry On films, was 85. In a statement issued on Sunday, his family said: “It is with great sadness that we announce the death of our father, Johnny Briggs.
“He passed away peacefully this morning after a long illness, with family by his side. He was 85. We politely ask for privacy at this time, so that we can quietly grieve as a family and remember the wonderful times we had with him.”
For three decades, Briggs was a fixture on Coronation Street, beginning when his character arrived in Weatherfield in 1976 from his London market stall. Over the years, Baldwin – the straight-talking, cigar-chomping, larger-than-life boss of a clothing factory – became famous for his string of girlfriends and long-running feud with his arch-rival, Ken Barlow.
He once had an affair with Barlow’s third wife, Deirdre, and eventually married Barlow’s daughter Susan.
Briggs decided to leave the show to spend more time with his family and play golf in Florida but first wanted to reach his 30th anniversary. His exit storyline involved his character being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, with Briggs winning acclaim for his sensitive portrayal of Baldwin’s decline.
More than 12 million viewers watched Baldwin’s 2006 departure from Coronation Street, as he died in the arms of Ken Barlow after having a heart attack. ITV1 also screened a tribute to him when he left the programme in recognition of his popularity. The following year, Briggs was awarded an MBE.
Antony Cotton, who plays Sean Tully, who worked in Baldwin’s factory in Coronation Street, tweeted: “Johnny Briggs was a complex character, on and off screen, and we all adored him. Feel lucky that I got the chance to work with him in the factory. I am, and will always be, a Baldwin’s Casual. Night night Mr Baldwin, I’ve left you a bottle of Scotch in the filing cabinet.”
Another Corrie co-star, Samia Longchambon, who plays Maria Connor, tweeted: “Rest in peace Johnny Briggs. Really sorry to hear the sad news. I have fond memories of working with Johnny, he was such a lovely man.”
The former Coronation Street writer Phil Ford wrote: “Very very sad to hear that actor Johnny Briggs has died. Knew him during my time on Corrie. Many a lunchtime chat. Lots of smiles.”
Briggs’s career began after he landed a place at the prestigious Italia Conti Stage Academy, among classmates Nanette Newman and Anthony Newley.
He appeared in the 1948 movie Quartet, with George Cole and Joan Collins, making his TV debut in The Younger Generation, a series of plays that also starred John Thaw. During his career he also worked with Dirk Bogarde and Sir Laurence Olivier.