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Dennis Tanner was the former black sheep of the Tanner family who returned to his old home of Coronation Street in 2011 after an absence of 43 years and became Rita Sullivan's third husband.

An ex-borstal boy, Dennis pursued a legitimate career as a talent scout for Lenny Phillips and spent a few years working in clubs. His camp, charming manner made him a natural entertainer, but his hare-brained schemes never went to plan and after a few years he quit the business. In 1968, now a sales rep, Dennis married Jenny Sutton and the two moved to Bristol. Five years later, the marriage had broken down and Dennis found himself in prison for conning money out of pensioners.

After some lean years, including a spell of homelessness in late 2010, Dennis found himself back in Weatherfield. Within months of his return, he entered into a romantic relationship with old flame Rita Sullivan, who married him in 2012. Once again, Dennis grew restless and in 2014 he dumped Rita for a more exciting life with Gloria Price. He left for good in July of that year after Rita refused to take him back, and the couple subsequently divorced.

Biography

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"Couldn't you just hang on a bit love, give me a chance to get me face on?"
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1942-1960: Early life

Dennis Tanner was born at 11 Coronation Street, Weatherfield on 1st April 1942, the son of Elsie and Arnold, and younger brother of Linda. He was conceived when Arnold came home from the war, beat the Polish soldier Elsie was having an affair with and raped Elsie. Elsie tried having an abortion, but when the procedure failed, she decided to have the baby after all, since he wanted to live so badly. When asked how she knew the baby would be a "he", Elsie said that only a man would cause her this much trouble. Several months later, Vi Todd delivered Dennis.

The family continued to live at No.11; Arnold walked out after returning from the sea in 1946 and didn't contact Elsie again until 1961. There were always men in the house though, as Elsie frequently had boyfriends over. When he was eleven, Dennis defended Linda from Chuck Nelson from Victoria Street when he tried to rape Linda while Elsie was out. Dennis jumped on his back and bit his ear while Linda kicked him in the groin.

Dennis Tanner 1951

'Dennis Tanner 1951' on the window of 11 Coronation Street

Growing up without a father figure, Dennis was prone to misbehaviour. At nine, he managed to etch "Dennis Tanner 1951" into No.11's bay window ledge. When he was a teenager, he and some other boys raided an office safe in Rosamund Street. Dennis hid the money in the coal hole back home but the police found it after calling on all the known young offenders and Dennis spent the next year in a borstal. He was released while Elsie was staying with a cousin in Hartlepool and, after finding Ethel Myers ensconced at No.11, he was taken in at the Glad Tidings Mission Hall by Ena Sharples.

Dennis tried to go legit but he kept poor company and was easily led. In 1960, he and Jed Stone were caught breaking into Biddulph's newsagent. To Elsie's shame, Dennis was sent to prison for six months. He came home in October but considered his employment prospects poor and barely spent any time looking for a job. Elsie worried that he would get up to no good again and when he won £25 at the dog track, people were quick to assume that he had stolen the money. Elsie was relieved when neighbour Harry Hewitt revealed that he had seen Dennis place the bet, providing him with an alibi.

1960-1963: Career in showbusiness

When Dennis did find work, it was in the auditorium of the Orinoco Club; a job with prospects but not quite in the way Elsie had envisioned. He briefly dated one of the club's acts, Joyce Bond, but when he took her home Elsie was unwelcoming. Dennis told Elsie that he was embarrassed to bring girls home and called her a hypocrite - she had had more than her fair share of boyfriends over the years.

Dennis was intrigued by the world of showbusiness; after a few months, he took a regular singing spot at the club, performing under the stage name "Ricky Dennis". He hoped that an agency would recognise his talent and sign him up, but when well-known agent Lenny Phillips asked to see him, he was advised by Lenny to abandon his singing career as he wasn't very good, and work for him as a talent scout. Dennis was made Assistant Manager at the Orinoco and in 1962 left Weatherfield for London to open an office there for Lenny's agency.

Dennis mavis

Dennis comes clean with Mavis Fox, who believed that he came from a wealthy family

In 1963, Dennis returned and moved back in with Elsie. True to form, he immediately caused trouble by opening the door to bailiffs, unaware of the lengths Elsie had gone to keep them out. He was quiet about his life in London, but when Mavis Fox arrived looking for a Dennis Tanner who lived in a detached house in Coronation Street, Elsie smelled a rat and got it out of Dennis that he had been living with Mavis' family and that the upper-class girl had believed he was from a wealthy family. He tried to pretend that his gran lived in Coronation Street and Elsie was the maid but had to admit the truth eventually. When he did so, Mavis lost interest in him and returned home.

Still working for Lenny Phillips, Dennis kept his eye out for new talent. He was ecstatic when he met window cleaner Walter Potts, who turned out to be a talented singer. Walter agreed to hire Dennis to find him gigs. Walter’s career was just starting to take off when Lenny’s partner Laurie Frazer showed up and put Dennis under pressure for not signing up Walter officially, only on gentleman’s agreement – Walter had since signed a three-year contract with a London agency, invalidating his agreement with Dennis. Amazingly, Dennis wasn't sacked, but later lost the job anyway for failing to open the office over Christmas.

1964-1966: Back to square one

To the residents’ surprise, Dennis went back to square one when he got a new job in the loading bay at Amalgamated Steel. It was a physical job he wasn’t suited to and he didn’t get along with his workmates. Without a care, he took the blame for damaged stock so he would be sacked.

Next up was a job at the Viaduct Sporting Club, which he had to thank Elsie for as she was dating its manager Laurie Frazer. Surprisingly, he packed it in after only a few months to study hairdressing. The course was unpaid but Elsie approved of it and wanted to encourage him, and so she secretly took a job posing for art students in order to fund Dennis while he wasn't earning. When Dennis found out, he offered to drop out of the course for Elsie's sake but she persuaded him not to. After passing his exams, he got a job at the posh Gerald's Salon.

Dennis sandra

Sandra realises Dennis has been using her

Later in 1964, Dennis met Sandra Petty, who fell for him. To his horror, Sandra's dad Lionel Petty bought the Corner Shop, making it impossible for Dennis to avoid her. In exchange for use of the shop storeroom to keep bulk items he intended to sell, Dennis agreed to go out with Sandra. His scheme worked until Sandra got into trouble for storing 144 boxes of crackers in the loft at Gamma Garments for Dennis. She finished with him, calling him selfish. Dennis was disheartened - but only because he now had 108 Christmas trees and nowhere to put them!  In December of the same year, Dennis spotted his friend Rita Littlewood in the Rovers Return and allowed her to stay the night at the Tanner residence.  Rita would become an important figure in Dennis's life almost half a century later.

In 1965, Dennis decided he wanted to work somewhere else but a clause in his diploma meant that he couldn't practice hairdressing professionally at anywhere other than Gerald's. He left the business anyway, and - after a short spell working at the Corner Shop - got a job as a salesman for the Children's Novelty Toy Company. In typical Dennis fashion, he started out with a zest for the new challenge but after a few months got bored by it and got himself sacked by skipping work.

The following year, Dennis decided to get back into showbusiness. After a short-lived venture running an auction room with borstal friend Jed Stone, Dennis took a job as the Entertainments Manager at a holiday camp in Carlisle, and left Weatherfield to move closer to work. He returned to the Street in June, hotly pursued by two thugs who were after £94 he owed them. Elsie found Dennis a job at Dave Smith's Betting Shop in Rosamund Street but he gambled away his earnings, and when he found out the thugs were after him, he hid away in No.11 until a generous Len Fairclough paid the thugs off and offered to let Dennis work at Fairclough and Booth to pay off the debt.

1966-2010: Leaving the Street

With few job prospects, Dennis stayed on at the yard but quit after accidentally setting Len's house on fire while decorating it. Dennis accepted a job offer from Emily Nugent to manage the men's section at Gamma Garments. He got on well with his co-workers Emily and Lucille Hewitt.

In 1967, Dennis taught English to Swede Inga Olsen and the two started dating. They were caught in Gamma Garments late at night by Emily and the owner Mr Papagopolous. He would have been sacked anyway, but he resigned so Emily wouldn’t have the burden of firing him. Keen on Inga, he went to Sweden with her, returning a month later not with Inga, but her sister Karen, who he signed off as his au pair, claiming to be Steve Tanner (the real Steve Tanner was Elsie’s fiancé). The affair ended when a Swedish official visited Weatherfield to check on Karen and discovered the deception. Karen was sent elsewhere.

Dennis went through a few more jobs but never stayed anywhere for long. When Elsie married Steve, the newlyweds moved and Dennis took in some circus performers as lodgers, which horrified the neighbours. Elsie wasn’t shocked that Dennis was up to his usual tricks and was fine with it as long as the bills were paid and the house stayed in one piece. Eventually Dennis got rid of the lodgers but couldn’t even manage the cooking on his own, relying on the neighbours to help him out.

The Tanners reunited at No.11 to spend Christmas together before Elsie and Steve emigrated to the United States of America. When Dennis was left alone again, a party at No.11 went out of hand when the party-goers – hippies – decided to squat there. The neighbours complained to the landlord who wanted everybody out, including Dennis. With his family all gone, Dennis decided there was nothing left in the Street for him and didn’t fight the eviction.

He took a shine to one of the hippies, Jenny Sutton, and got her a job at the hotel where he worked as a waiter. Jenny was impressed when Dennis blackmailed his boss who had groped her. Hoping for romance, Dennis followed her to London when she left Weatherfield abruptly.

Dennis wedding

Dennis and Jenny marry

Later in 1968, Elsie separated from Steve and moved back into No.11. Dennis returned with Jenny in tow, lying that they were married so that Elsie would let them sleep together. Elsie wasn't fooled and tried to make Jenny feel uncomfortable but became more supportive when they announced that they were actually going to get married.

Dennis got a job as a salesman again, selling hairdressing toiletries. A crisis arose when Dennis's boss asked him to be in Bristol for a work meeting on 29th May, the day of his wedding. Dennis waited until after he and Jenny had married to tell her, but Jenny understood that he'd been put in a difficult position and his boss was so impressed by his dedication to the firm that he offered him the position of area manager in Bristol. He accepted, and the Tanners moved to Bristol for a new and better life.

In 1973, Dennis was sent to prison for for three years for defrauding pensioners in a double-glazing scam. By this point, Dennis and Jenny's marriage had broken down and she left him. Although Elsie continued to live in the Street for over a decade afterwards, Dennis never returned to visit her. Elsie often complained but her affection for her son still stood: when he was sent to prison, Elsie visited him, allowing her neighbours in Weatherfield to think that she was having a secret affair.

In 1984, Elsie left the Street to run a wine bar in Portugal with her old boyfriend Bill Gregory. Dennis reconciled with her not long after she and Bill married, and was a frequent visitor to the Gregory household until the two were killed in a road accident in the mid-2000s.

Episode7599

Dennis Tanner returns homeless to Coronation Street in 2011.

Dennis gradually found that his "speciality" acts were becoming increasingly unneeded and unwanted in the 21st century. However, around 2009, he found a lifeline, and meal-ticket, in Norma Fountain. Dennis moved in with Norma and, pretty soon, they made arrangements to marry. Dennis knew he didn't love her but found it difficult to tell her face-to-face. On the day of their wedding, he didn't turn up, leaving Norma confused and upset.

2010-2011: Back in Weatherfield

By late 2010, with Elsie no longer around to lean on, Dennis' luck finally ran out and he ended up homeless. He found himself back in Weatherfield, frequenting a local soup kitchen run by the Roof & Refuge charity. During one of his visits to the kitchen in May 2011, Dennis ended up chatting to two teenagers who volunteered there, Sophie Webster and Sian Powers, who were charmed by his manner and stories. They invited him to Roy's Rolls in Victoria Street for some dinner. Not realising how close in proximity the cafe was to his birthplace, a hesitant Dennis made a quick exit. Under the cover of night, he returned to Coronation Street to examine No.11. He was tackled by ex-cabaret singer and one-off girlfriend Rita Sullivan, running off when the two recognised each other.

Rita managed to track Dennis down while volunteering at the soup kitchen the next day, and after initially making yet another hasty exit, returned to see her, nearly fifty years after their last encounter. The two talked and reminisced about the old days over tea, with Rita offering Dennis her sofa in her flat above The Kabin. A clean-shaven Dennis made his first visit to the Rovers in four decades, along with Rita who reintroduced him to Ken Barlow and Emily Bishop - and introduced him to a somewhat irate Norris Cole, who warned Rita that Dennis may be up to no good. In spite of this, Rita and Dennis began to grow close and, after months of living together, entered companionship.

A chance remark in July 2011 helped to unearth a link between Dennis and the Grimshaws of No.11: after Dennis revealed that his mother Elsie's maiden name was Grimshaw, Julie Carp convinced herself that Dennis was related to her half-sister Eileen Grimshaw. Researching the family trees of all involved, Julie discovered that Arnley Grimshaw, a cousin of her and Eileen's father, was also Elsie's cousin - making Julie and Eileen long-lost nieces of Dennis.

DennisTannerandNorma

Dennis settles things with Norma Fountain after jilting her at their wedding two years previously, before running away.

In November 2011, it transpired that the Roof & Refuge charity was in fact a money-making scam set up by its managers Rob and Janet White. When the two were tracked down and arrested, a well-meaning Norris contacted the Weatherfield Gazette to tell them of Dennis' personal story and his struggle with homelessness - without informing Dennis himself. The article, which included particular details including the address of The Kabin, was published in the evening edition. Dennis flew off the handle, insulting Norris for wading into his life in such a manner - and his worst fears were confirmed when Norris told him that a woman called Norma Fountain had turned up at The Kabin in search of Dennis. True to form, Dennis disappeared. He was tracked down by Rita and Deirdre Barlow and, with Rita's encouragement, faced Norma in the Rovers. He admitted to Norma that he never loved her - but she revealed that she already knew, and that all she wanted was somebody to look after. She left, finally putting the matter to bed.

2012-2015: Later life

Mr and Mrs Tanner

Dennis and Rita as Mr and Mrs Tanner.

In March 2012, Norris built on Dennis' insecurities by pointing that he had made no effort to pay Rita for her hospitality. Rita insisted that it was not necessary, but Dennis felt guilty for "taking advantage". He managed to contact an old friend in Birmingham, who offered him a job in a DIY shop. He accepted, leaving Rita devastated. She revealed to Audrey Roberts that she did not want him to leave - Dennis had filled a gap in her life and she had grown to love him. Nonetheless, both she and Dennis remained unable to convey their true feelings to each other, and the two parted tearfully. However, Dennis - spurred on by the thought of Rita's support over the last year - changed his mind and returned. Finally admitting that they both loved each other, Dennis proposed to Rita and she accepted. However in June prior to the wedding, Dennis began seeing Norma again in secret as he was supporting her after her son ended up in a car accident. When Norris spotted Dennis letting Norma into the flat, he informed Rita who thought Dennis was cheating. Despite finding out it was just a misunderstanding, she claimed she couldn't trust Dennis, leaving him to wonder if she would go ahead with the wedding. At the register office, Dennis became worried that Rita was late, unaware she had been kidnapped by loan shark Rick Neelan. Dennis believed he had been jilted, and it wasn't helped by Norris' constant jabbing. However, Rita later turned up in the safety of the police, and they went ahead and got married.

In late 2012, Dennis decided he didn't want to sponge from Rita anymore, so got himself a job at Bessie Street School as a Lollipop man. He was too ashamed to tell Rita about his new occupation, so made out that he had a better job. However Steve McDonald spotted Dennis as a patrol man and made a joke about him. Dennis then told Rita who turned out to be happy with it. However Dennis entered into a feud with Steve, and began deliberately blocking the road to stop him getting by in his taxi. A fed-up Steve decided to have his own revenge and told headmaster Brian Packham that Dennis was being mean to the children. Brian approached Dennis about the accusation, and Dennis packed in the job feeling he was unfairly accused. Dennis' mentor and now retired lollipop man Malcolm Lagg decided to help Dennis get his own back at Steve, so gathered up loads of lollipop men and women from across Weatherfield to block Coronation Street, preventing any Street Cars taxis from being able to leave. Malcolm then got Steve to apologise to Dennis and drop the accusation, and Dennis resumed work at Bessie Street.

In late 2013, Dennis began to reminisce about his days as a talent agent, much to the displeasure of Rita. He contacted old client Ritchie de Vries, and with the help of Gloria Price, set up a gig at Nick's Bistro with Ritchie's band, leaving Rita feeling left out. Dennis became jealous of Richie and Gloria's closeness and later tried to impress Gloria by dressing up in fancy gear much to the displeasure of Rita. In amidst a discussion in the Rovers, Dennis let it slip that Gloria was younger than Rita, Angered, she told him to leave her alone. Giving Gloria an opportunity to hone in on Dennis, she invited him to stay over at No.13 although he returned to The Kabin the next day to reunite with Rita. This reconciliation was short-lived as Gloria let slip that he had slept on the couch the night before and the future of his marriage to Rita looked bleak. When Ritchie informed them that he'd been poached by an international management outfit, Dennis vowed to retire from the music business and begged Rita for another chance.

Gloria and Dennis leave

Dennis leaves Weatherfield with Gloria Price for a new life.

A few days later however, Dennis discovered that Gloria was planning on leaving Weatherfield for a new life. She invited him to join her, telling him that he would feel trapped with Rita. Deciding he'd had enough of married life, Dennis left Rita in the Rovers with friends Emily Bishop and Mary Taylor without warning, packed his bag and accompanied Gloria in her new sports car, saying farewell to the stunned Price family and broken Rita in the Street. Dennis and Gloria, regretting nothing, then drove away with the intention of boarding a ferry.

The following day - on Rita's birthday, Dennis sent her a text message apologising for his actions.

However the relationship with Gloria didn't last and Dennis returned to the UK only being able to afford a plane ticket back. He was again living rough on the streets, and in April 2014 he was beaten up whilst sleeping in a doorway and admitted to Weatherfield General. He contacted Rita and she came to visit him, although she was still angry about the way he'd upped and left a couple of months previously. She left the hospital refusing to be drawn in by his charm and wittiness. However when he was discharged later in the day, Rita waited for him at the hospital with the offer of letting him live with her temporarily until he found proper accommodation. Despite his best efforts to impress her, Rita refused to take Dennis back, so he moved in with Julie Carp at No.12, determined not to give up on Rita. When Tina McIntyre was viciously assaulted in May, Dennis began offering his support to Rita while she kept a bedside vigil, much to the dismay of Norris. 

Dennis Tanner final appearance 2014

Dennis says goodbye to Julie Carp before leaving the Coronation Street (final appearance of the character).

In July, Dennis orchestrated a plan to get back with Rita by getting Julie to throw him out of her flat in a staged argument, knowing that Rita would take him back in as she wouldn't want him back on the streets. Despite the plan seemingly working, Norris exposed the scam when Julie let it slip and Rita ended things with Dennis. In the Rovers, Dennis revealed his plans to leave Coronation Street to Julie much to her dismay. The next day Dennis turned up at The Kabin to see Rita with his bag, only to come face to face with Norris who made more snide remarks. Having enough of him, Dennis punched Norris to the ground and attacked him in an attempt to take money from the till but was caught by Rita who then threw a devastated Dennis out. He later stood outside No.11 with Julie reminiscing about Elsie and his markings "Dennis Tanner - 1951" under the bay window. After a tearful goodbye to Julie, Dennis departed as a saddened Rita looked on.

Rita received a letter from Dennis in November 2015 - fifteen months after he left Weatherfield, stating that he wanted a divorce.

Personality

Camp and charismatic, Dennis lived life on the edge, charming his way through his problems, even though things rarely went his way. He lived by his own rules, and was difficult to trust as he would be dishonest if it suited his interests to do so. He was also impulsive and self-assured, an attitude that caused great distress to his mother Elsie, who greeted his latest escapades with trepidation. In later life, many of the attributes that coloured his early years - running away from his problems rather than tackle or resolve them head-on - remained with him unless he was persuaded otherwise.

Hobbies and interests

Dennis tried his hand at everything while he lived in the Street, but tended to move quickly onto new interests. He briefly played the guitar, but gave it up in favour of singing - which he also later gave up.

Other information

  • Dennis was godfather to nephew Paul Cheveski, born in 1961.
  • Jerry Booth asked Dennis to be best man at his wedding in 1963. In 1968, Jerry was best man at Dennis's wedding.
  • In late 1961, Dennis was accused of stealing from the Rovers Return till by landlady Annie Walker. Elsie leaped to Dennis' defence, and told Annie that the Tanners were withdrawing their custom. Dennis was happy to be vindicated but surprised that the neighbours had all backed him for the first time ever.
  • In October 2012, Dennis overheard Rovers landlady Stella Price and her mother Gloria talking about a mystery drinker judging the Rovers Return, so pretended that he was the mystery judge in order to get free drinks out of Gloria. However, she had given him too many free drinks, causing a drunken and delighted Dennis to collapse in the pub.

Background information

Creation and casting

Dennis tanner philip lowrie

Philip Lowrie in 1960

Like the other Tanners, Dennis was present from the earliest drafts of Coronation Street. Tony Warren conceived him as the Street's resident bad boy, contrasting him with the genteel Kenneth Barlow: "In those streets there is always a bad 'un, a wrong 'un. And he was the wrong 'un." (The Coronation Street Story, Boxtree Ltd, 1995)

The part proved one of the most difficult to cast of the original characters. Larry Dann, who played him in the first dry run, was replaced by an unknown actor in the second. Neither were considered suitable and in late November 1960, with rehearsals due to begin on 5th December, the role was still uncast. At one point, Tony Warren thought about taking on the part himself: "It was a much better part than Ken, as originally written." (The Coronation Street Story)

The final choice was made after the front-runners Philip Lowrie and Kenneth Farrington camera-tested with Patricia Phoenix, who had been cast as Elsie Tanner some weeks earlier. Script editor H.V. Kershaw later recalled much toing and froing taking place: "Philip Lowrie was eventually chosen after a great deal of argument and counter-argument and there, apparently, the matter rested." (The Street Where I Live, Book Club Associates, 1981) Lowrie's camera test took place on Thursday 1st December, with the actor receiving the news the next day: "I came back to London on the train on the Friday and when I got back to my flat the phone was ringing, and my agent said you'll have to go straight back because you start work on Monday, you've got it. So I went straight back and started on Monday, absolutely petrified." (The Coronation Street Story) Born in Ashton-under-Lyne, the 24-year-old actor had previously auditioned for the part of Ken Barlow.

Comic turn

Philip Lowrie and Pat

Philip Lowrie with Patricia Phoenix

After the first few episodes, Dennis turned away from a life of crime and embarked on a career in showbusiness. The change in direction came about after Philip Lowrie demonstrated excellent comic timing in the role, underplaying the shadier aspects of his character. Shortly thereafter, producer Stuart Latham informed Lowrie that his acting choice may have saved Dennis from the axe: "He said, 'You played last night's episode well, you gave it some comedy. I'm very glad you did that because we've been considering writing Dennis out.' And that's how Dennis Tanner became a little funny character." (The Coronation Street Story)

The development occurred early enough in the programme's run that it was easily reconciled with Dennis's past history. H.V. Kershaw: "We changed course, excused his previous lapses on the grounds that he was weak and easily led, and turned him into a zany, head-in-the-sky kid, thirsting after a career in show-business." The writer fully endorsed the change: "Juvenile delinquency being one of the biggest cliches on the British television screen at that time, we all preferred to ignore it for the time being." (The Street Where I Live) However, Tony Warren felt that opportunities had been lost: "There were infinite possibilities in Dennis that were never explored. The criminal side." (The Coronation Street Story)

Dennis was also aged down by four years at some point. In episodes 11 and 40, which aired in 1961, he is said to be 22 years old. It is likely that the change occurred due to the casting of Pat Phoenix (37 in 1960) as Dennis's mother, and Dennis having an older sister. By 1968, Dennis's birthday had been fixed on, appropriately enough, 1st April.

Exit Dennis

After one year, Lowrie decided to move on. He planned to leave in December 1961, at the same time as Anne Cunningham, but was persuaded to stay on an additional three months so that Elsie didn't lose both of her children simultaneously. His departure took place during the Equity actors' strike, when Coronation Street was reduced to fourteen actors who were on long-term contracts. The period saw an increased usage of animals - which weren't covered by Equity - including Rupert the chimpanzee and "Bunny and Sherry", two performing sea lions, all of which were foisted on Dennis in his role as club dogsbody.

Lowrie made his last appearance on 7th March 1962. The timing appeared fortuitous for the actor as the strike ended on 3rd April, meaning that production of ITV programmes would now resume, but Lowrie found that he was already typecast and spent a year out of work. In April 1963, he returned to Coronation Street. One person who was happy to see him back was writer Jack Rosenthal, who penned Dennis's return episode. Lowrie: "I spent a whole year out of work. So I returned and Jack [Rosenthal] says that when he wrote "ENTER DENNIS" he cried." (The Coronation Street Story)

Dennis jenny leave

1968: Dennis and Jenny leave the Street

Five years later, Lowrie announced that he was again leaving the programme. His decision came about partly because of the writing for Dennis, which he felt had not progressed: "I did get very tired of him being Peter Pan. I always looked younger than I was and I didn't mind playing down a bit, but I just wanted him to grow up as an adult. When I left I was thirty-two, and he was still about twenty-two. They wouldn't let him grow up." In anticipation of Dennis's departure, his future wife Jenny Sutton was introduced in January 1968. Lowrie was given a say in Jenny's casting, and selected Mitzi Rogers for an unusual reason: "I chose Mitzi Rogers because I thought she was strong and she could stand up to Pat [Phoenix]. By this time Pat and I weren't speaking at all; Pat didn't speak to me from the moment she found out that I was leaving." (The Coronation Street Story) Dennis made his last appearance in Episode 782 on 12th June 1968.

In 1973, Elsie visited Dennis at Pentonville Prison in London after he was involved in a double glazing scam. Dennis didn't appear in the episode but the meeting was expounded upon in Coronation Street - The Epic Novel, which describes Dennis as being older and thinner in appearance.

2011 return

On 24th January 2011, it was announced that Philip Lowrie was to make a comeback to Coronation Street after 43 years [1]. The actor had recently taken part in Coronation Street: 50 Years, 50 Moments, a tie-in programme for its 50th anniversary. Lowrie, about his return: "My agent was emailing the new producer at the time, saying, 'Could the character be resurrected?' At the same time, it appears that Barbara (Knox) was also talking to the producer and saying it would be a good thing to bring the character of Dennis Tanner back, because Rita and Dennis had a liaison some time ago. Phil Collinson, our producer, thought it was a good idea, the story writers thought it was a good idea and that's how it came about." [2].

When he returned on 12th May, Dennis was down on his luck and living rough. Lowrie accepted a six-month contract largely on the basis of this storyline: "This is actually one of the reasons why I accepted the contract - Dennis is brought back into the show as a homeless person. I thought, 'That is wonderful', because that gives me something to play but it also gives the character somewhere to go, somewhere to develop." [3]. Lowrie's dressing room lay opposite a large picture of his former co-star Doris Speed, which the actor found invigorating: "Doris was my absolute favourite person and I miss her tremendously. But when I'm ready to go on set, there she is, beaming away at me - it perks me up no end!" [4]

Philip lowrie record

Philip Lowrie with his Guinness World Record

Dennis's return was significant in several ways. It was the first time since 20th June 1984 that a cast member from Episode 1 besides William Roache had appeared in the programme, and his presence led to the on-screen confirmation that Elsie Tanner, one of the programme's most significant characters, had passed away since she flitted to Portugal in 1984. Additionally, Lowrie's 43-year gap between appearances in the same role was a TV record, and in September 2011 the actor collected a Guinness World Record marking his achievement [5].

Lowrie signed a new contract in the summer and in June 2012 Dennis and Rita were married. Collinson: "I like that we can tell a love story of people in their 70s, and it's a relationship that we're really committed to" [6].

Axing and legacy

It was announced on 15th December 2013 that Dennis would be written out of the programme the following summer [7]. The character temporarily left in February when he drove off with Gloria Price, walking out on Rita, only to return with his tail between his legs two months later. Lowrie made his final appearance in Episode 8437 on 30th July 2014 where Dennis left the Street in shame after hitting Norris Cole and getting caught by Rita trying to take money from The Kabin till. Stuart Blackburn, the incumbent producer, stated that the decision to write out Dennis was storyline-led: "Sometimes writers come up with stories that we want to run with. In this case, we wanted to see the Dennis Tanner of old again. He was always a bit of a liar, a bit of a rogue and a bit of a cheat, so we wanted to see the naughty Dennis... and once we began to bring the rogue back, it had to have consequences. It didn't feel right to tell a story where he was so badly behaved and then everything carried on as normal [8].

In his 2010s stint, Dennis was revealed as being a relative of the Grimshaws, the current owners of his old house 11 Coronation Street. No.11 also bears Dennis's name in the form of an engraving on its front window ledge, which has been present on all incarnations of the outdoor set since at least 1980.

First and last lines

"Where's what?" (First line)

---

"Make sure Eileen never covers that up. See you love." (Final line to Julie Carp, with reference to his name marked under the bay window of No.11)

Appendices

List of addresses

Address Duration
11 Coronation Street1st April 1942 to c.1958
Glad Tidings Mission Hall1958
11 Coronation Street1958 to March 1962
LondonMarch 1962 to April 1963
11 Coronation Street15th April 1963 to 20th April 1966
Carlisle20th April to 6th June 1966
11 Coronation Street6th June 1966 to 19th June 1967
SwedenJune to July 1967
11 Coronation Street26th July 1967 to January 1968
LondonJanuary to March 1968
11 Coronation Street11th March to 12th June 1968
BristolJune 1968 to Unknown
10a Coronation StreetMay 2011 to 21st February 2014
12 Coronation StreetMay 2014 to 30th July 2014


Employment history

Role Institution Duration
Front of houseOrinoco Club30th December 1960 to September 1961
Assistant managerOrinoco ClubSeptember 1961 to March 1962
Talent scoutLenny Phillips's talent agencySeptember 1961 to 30th December 1963
LabourerAmalgamated Steel8th January to 5th February 1964
AssistantCorner Shop11th to 18th March 1964
UnknownViaduct Sporting ClubMarch to June 1964
HairdresserGerald's Salon22nd June 1964 to 7th July 1965
AssistantCorner Shop19th July 1965 to August 1965
Sales repChildren's Novelty Toy CompanyAugust 1965 to 16th March 1966
AuctioneerViaduct Bargain BoutiqueMarch 1966
Entertainments managerUnknown firm in CarlisleApril to June 1966
ClerkDave Smith's Betting Shop13th to late June 1966
BuilderFairclough and Booth29th June 1966 to 25th January 1967
AssistantGamma Garments25th January to 19th June 1967
BarmanFerryJune to July 1967
AdvertiserCrickles CircusAugust 1967
Ice cream salesmanN/AAugust 1967
CleanerRovers Return InnAugust 1967
Unknown"Where-you-whither" car hire firmAugust to September 1967
WaiterUnknown hotel20th November 1967 to January 1968
SalesmanCrowning Glory13th March to June 1968
Area sales managerCrowning GloryJune 1968 to Unknown
Lollipop manWeatherfield CouncilDecember 2012 to Unknown

See also

External links

Original characters
Ken Barlow | Frank Barlow | Ida Barlow | David Barlow | Jack Walker | Annie Walker | Elsie Tanner | Dennis Tanner | Linda Cheveski | Ivan Cheveski | Harry Hewitt | Lucille Hewitt | Concepta Riley | Ena Sharples | Minnie Caldwell | Martha Longhurst | Albert Tatlock | Christine Hardman | Florrie Lindley | Esther Hayes | Leonard Swindley