Veteran actress Eleanor Bron has joined the cast of radio soap The Archers - as the character of Carol Tregorran returned to the show tonight after 34 years away.
The 76-year-old, who has appeared in British cinema classics such as Alfie, Help! and Women In Love, was heard by Radio 4 listeners heading back to Ambridge to attend the funeral of her on-air husband, John Tregorran.
The character debuted in The Archers 50 years ago and she was dining at Grey Gables on the night Grace Archer was killed in a fire, one of the show's most famous storylines as it was broadcast the night ITV launched in an effort to overshadow the fledgling channel.
A successful and stylish businesswoman, originally portrayed by Anne Cullen, she quickly becoming popular with listeners and remained in the core cast until 1980.
Bron said of her new role: "I was thrilled when my agent called. I have been around long enough that The Archers is part of my history. It is such a valuable part of the narrative of British life; partly because of the daily-ness of it and partly because of this broad set of characters that all have good sides and bad sides - and you see all of it, and it is so like-life.
"Playing Carol has been wonderful. I think she is possibly quite forceful and independent, even now in her 80s. Now she has returned to Ambridge she is able to be around friends, a particular older generation, people whom she's known for a very, very long time - there's something very wonderful when you can pick up those sorts of friendships and see them play out in a drama."
Show bosses are remaining tight-lipped about future storylines but it is thought she will go on to take a regular role in the programme.
Sean O'Connor, the editor of The Archers, said: "We needed an extraordinary actress to play one of the most iconic characters in Archers mythology. We're completely thrilled that Eleanor has taken on the role - and, already, she has fitted into Ambridge as if she has been here for 30 years.
"In the 1950s, Carol was a significant role model for young women and we hope she will continue to be so for older women today - an independent, spirited woman who embraces her later years on her own terms and without compromise."
Bron studied at Newnham College, Cambridge, beginning her performing career with Cambridge Footlights in 1959, alongside Peter Cook.
Her appearance with The Beatles in Help! in 1965 is said to have inspired Sir Paul McCartney to use her first name for the song Eleanor Rigby which was recorded the following year, although there have been alternative stories about the genesis of the track.
Bron has also had an extensive career on stage with seasons at the National Theatre, leading classical roles in productions such as Hedda Gabler and The Duchess Of Malfi.