LONDON -- Violet Carson, the actress who played Ena Sharples, the sharp-tongued and grim-faced scourge of Britain's most popular television series, Coronation Street, has died, her family announced. She was 85.
Miss Carson died Monday, the family said. The cause of death was not disclosed.
Miss Carson, a classical pianist and singer as well as an actress, last appeared in the twice-weekly soap opera on Britain's Independent Television network in February 1980, when she became ill.
But she was never written out of the program, which regularly has attracted more than 10 million viewers a night since it was first screened in 1960. Instead, the characters of Coronation Street -- shown all over the world -- maintained the fiction that Ena Sharples had retired and moved away.
Miss Carson, while grateful for the accolades granted for her perfomance as the hair-netted virago of Coronation Street, fought a private battle to show that in real life she was nothing like Ena Sharples.
'She's a back-street bitch,' Miss Carson once said of character she portrayed.
The Times newspaper called Miss Carson 'a very talented entertainer-pianist, actress and singer.'
By the age of 15, Miss Carson was playing the piano professionally in a cinema in her home town of Manchester. She was married in 1926 and when her husband died two years later she launched into a show business career to earn a living.
After signing up with the BBC in 1935, she slowly branched into radio acting and children's shows. Keeping up with her musical performances, she moved into television in the 1950s.
Her versatility was displayed in one BBC radio program in which she played a piano concerto with the BBC Northern orchestra, sang a song from Carmen, accompanied herself in singing a classical aria and then sang choruses from traditional musical hall.
'I don't want to be Sharples -- that old bag -- all my life. I want people to remember I'm Violet Carson,' she said.