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Dawn Roma French was born at Holyhead, Wales, in 1957. Her father, Denys, was in the Royal Air Force, and was at that time stationed in Wales. As a Forces family, they moved frequently, and it was decided that Dawn and her older brother Gary would attend boarding sch
school to enable them to be educated in one place. In 1968 Dawn was sent to St. Dunstanís Abbey in Plymouth, where her drama teacher, Ms. Abbott was to become an important influence.
Aged nineteen, Dawn won a public speaking contest which led to a year-long scholarship at the Spence School in New York. In 1977, tragedy struck when her father committed suicide, after which Dawn moved to London to attend the Central School of Speech and Drama, having decided to follow in the footsteps of Ms. Abbott and become a drama teacher.
Jennifer Saunders arrived at the Central at the same time, although at first they were just acquaintances. In their final year they shared a flat an
and, realising that they had a similar sense of humour, performed impromptu sketches for their flatmates.
Towards the end of her first year as a drama teacher, Dawn was doing stand-up comedy with Jennifer Saunders at the legendary Comedy Store (a small venue above a strip-club in London's Soho) that became important in the history of British comedy during the 1980s.
They became part of a group (including Rik Mayall, Adrian Edmondson & Nigel Planer) which decided to open its own club The Comic Strip in Soho's Boulevard theatre.
Rik Mayall & Dawn French in
The Young Ones
Girls On Top
Hugh Laurie & Dawn French in
A young French & Saunders
Dawn French as Satan in
They all became very close friends and when they broke into te
television as The Young Ones, Dawn and Jennifer appeared in several episodes.
The Young Ones
The sit-com Girls on Top resulted from a meeting with Ruby Wax, and was similar to The Young Ones, but with Tracey Ullman and Lenny Henry making up the cast.
Dawn had begun a relationship with Lenny Henry in 1982 and they were married in 1984. Seven years later they adopted a child, and named her Billie.
Lenny & Dawn married for 25 years
Dawn French's wedding day
The comedy sketch show French & Saunders (1987-2005) became extremely popular in the late 1980s and the early 1990s, having been given one of the highes
Dawn French in French & Saunders
highest budgets in the BBC's history. They created a range of regular characters (like the two fat, crude sexist men), and impersonated everyone from Madonna to Harry Potter! The final
show (in 2005) was a 'Christmas Celebrity Special'.
The fat men in French & Saunders
French & Saunders Christmas Special
Dawn French retired for a while around 1991 to be a full-time mother to Billie, but returned to television in 1993 with an acclaimed dramatic performance in Tender Loving Care (1993), starring as Elaine Dobbs, a psychiatric nurse who murders her patients under the guise of 'mercy' killings.
Throughout the 1990s she appeared as a variety of different characters in nineteen episodes of the BBC's Murder Most Horrid (1991-99).
Dawn French in Murder Most Horrid
Dawn French in Murder Most Horrid
Dawn French & Thelma Barlow in
Murder Most Horrid
It was in 1994 that Dawn was first seen in her most famous TV role, as Rev. Geraldine Granger in 24 episodes of The Vicar of Dib
Dibley, which ran until 2007. The role was created by her comedy-writer friend Richard Curtis and was loosely based on a real-life vicar named Joy Carroll. Geraldine is a lusty, modern vicar, who is not averse to cracking rude jokes, eating lots of chocolate and dreaming about her ideal man!
Dawn French as The Vicar of Dibley
Other series starring Dawn French followed. She plays the over-sexed maid Lisette in Let Them Eat Cake (1999) a very crude and vulgar six-episode
Dawn French as Mary Trewednack in Wild West
episode comedy set in eighteenth century Versailles; and Mary Trewednack in Wild West (2004), a quirky 12-episode comedy set in Cornwall.
Dawn French as Lisette in
Let Them Eat Cake
A Bucket o' French & Saunders (2007) was a look back at the best sketches from 20 years of the French & Saunders show. It included some new material including a parody of the celebrities Amy Winehouse and Britney Spears.
A Bucket o' French & Saunders
As Amy Winehouse and BritneySpears in
As Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell in
A Bucket o' French & Saunders
In the comedy thriller Psychoville (2008) Dawn French plays Joy Aston, a misguided midwife with a very odd child. She is one of five odd characters to receive an anonymous card warning, "I know
Dawn French as Joy Aston in Psychoville
know what you did..." In complete contrast, the same year she appeared as Caroline Arless in the BBC TV drama Lark Rise to Candleford (2008), saying that she wanted to appear in a series with a large cast as it gave her the chance to learn things from other actors.
Dawn French as Caroline Arless in
Lark Rise to Candleford
Another notable series begun in 2006 was Jam & Jerusalem (known in the US as Clatterford) which, by 2009, had run to 16 episodes. Written by Jennifer Saunders (who also plays Caroline) it is set in the local Women's Guild world of knitting and cake baking. Dawn French plays Rosie Bales, a sweet little woman with an alter-ego called Margaret, who is angry and rude towards everyone around her.
Dawn French as Rosie Bales in
Jam & Jerusalem
Dawn French has also been seen as Janet Erskine in the Miss Marple mystery Sleeping Murder (2006); as She
and in the speaking role of the Duch
Shelley Pollard in Little Britain (2006)
As Duchesse de Crackentorp in
La Fille du Regiment
Duchesse de Crackentorp in the op
opera by Donizetti La Fille du Re
Paul McGann & Dawn French in
Agatha Christie's Sleeping Murder
Away from television, Dawn French has appeared in several stage plays in London's West End including Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, in which she played the character Bottom, at the Albery Theatre in 2001. In 2006 Dawn starred with Alison Moyet in Smaller, a humorous, all-female play, directed by Kathy Burke at the Lyric Theatre.
Dawn French as Bottom in
A Midsummer Night's Dream
Matt Lucas & Dawn French in
Dawn French's big-screen appearances include Andrea in The Supergrass (1985); the baker's wife in The Adventures of Pinocchio (1996); Virginia in Milk (1999) and Fat Lady in the Painting in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004).
Since 1986, Dawn has been involved with the charity Comic Relief. It began with Daw
Dawn French as Andrea in Supergrass
Dawn, Lenny Henry and Richard Curtis (the writer of Mr Bean and The Vicar of Dibley), putting on a three-night live co
comedy show for charity at the Shaftesbury theatre. The BBC became involved in the project, and this eventuall
in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Dawn French as the Fat Lady in the Painting
eventually led to the very first Red Nose Day in 1988, that raised £15 million. It is now a biennial event which has raised more that £600million since it was first launched.
Dawn French &
Dawn French has always had a weight problem. She is only 5ft tall and even aged 13 was a size 16. In 1991 she went into partn
partnership with Helen Teague to provide
fashionable clothes for larger-size women, and they opened their
shop sixteen47, so named because 47% of British women are a size 16 or above! The business is now web-based.
Helen Teague & Dawn French
Dawn French has won surprisingly few awards. In 2001 she was offered the OBE but turned it down. In 1997, she
won a British Comedy Award for Best TV Comedy Actress in The Vicar of Dibley. In a 2006 poll, she was named as the most admired female celebrity in Britain. In 2009, she and Jennifer Saunders were each awarded a BAFTA Fellowship, the highest accolade they give, in recognition of outstanding achievements.
Over a 10 year period from 1997, chocaholic Dawn French featured in a number of advertisements for Terry's chocolate with her famous slogan, "It's not Terry's, its mine!"
Dawn French advertising Terry's Chocolate Orange
Dawn French & Jennifer Saunders with their
BAFTA Fellowship Awards
Dawn French with her autobiography
Dawn's best-selling autobiography, entitled Dear Fatty was published in 2008.
Dawn French and Lenny Henry live at Point Neptune House, a 40-room mansion high up on a windswept cliff overlooking the Cornish coast near Fowey (pronounced Foy).
Dawn French's house at
Dawn French has signed this photo for me
Ciaran Brown with Jennifer Sunders & Dawn French
I met Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders at the stage door of the Theatre Royal in Nottingham after I had been to see their performance of Still Alive in April 2008. They were on tour with the show which they took to 21 different venues. It was billed as the last chance to see them perform together as a comedy duo.
Dawn signed a 10x8 photo for me and I had my photo taken with her.
THERE ARE MANY DAWN FRENCH VIDEOS ON YOU TUBE - This is just a small selection!!