Like the feisty hostess Peggy Mitchell of EastEnders, Barbara Windsor is the queen of Albert Square.
But the first time she filmed in the real East End, the Kray twins threatened to KILL the cast and crew.
The new documentary Secrets Of The Krays reveals how notorious London gangsters like Ronnie and Reggie were upset when the hit movie Sixties took over their manor.
Babs once starred in Sparrows Can’t Sing – the story of a merchant who returns home near the pier and discovers his wife is chatting with a bus driver.
The producers were given permission by the Metropolitan Police to film scenes around East London.
But assistant director Peter Medak revealed in the documentary – which aired on BritBox on Thursday – of how a convoy of black limos swarmed in the middle of the scene on the first day of filming.
He said: “Among them there were about five or six people in dark suits and they said, ‘Who’s in charge?’
“The crew pointed at me and said, ‘You fool over there. And these two people came and said to me, ‘Who gave you permission to shoot here? Because no one asked us. ‘
“I said, ‘Obviously the police, because we’re allowed to film in all the streets of the East End’. And they say, ‘Nobody asked us and you could be in big trouble.
“I said, ‘Like what?’ and they said, “It’s like being killed.” “
The two men are Ronnie and Reggie Kray.
In the late 50s and early 60s, the brothers ran a brutal guard racket and failure to pay would often result in serious injury or death.
Chris Lambrianou, who was present when Reggie killed his former partner Jack “The Hat” McVitie at an apartment in Stoke Newington in 1967, where Kray was later imprisoned, said: “They built their reputation by violence. All they have is fear. They threaten people and take money from those who have it.”
To protect the cast and crew, the producers had to reach an agreement with the twins and their entourage, The Firm.
Oscar-nominated director Medek, 82, said: “They put the so-called guard rackets for us and we had to hire two of them.
“We shot at Club Kentucky, where their headquarters were at the time, and our two ‘guards’ appeared in the film as spin-offs.”
Ronnie loved the idea of making the film at the Kentucky Club in Stepney, and joked, “This is the only shot allowed.”
Medak said: “Reggie and Ronnie loved being around the set and they were very friendly with us.
“The bar was open for us. One day the waiter was charging one of the members of the crew and, two seconds later, I saw him being dragged to the yard in the back and they were beating him up for taking money from an employee. They say, “This is our guest and you can’t charge them”. “
In her autobiography, Barbara tells how the royal family attended a movie premiere at the nearby ABC cinema in February 1963.
The Carry On star – who died of Alzheimer’s disease in December, aged 83 – said: “The twins and their brother Charlie have stars in their eyes. And when Ron heard that the premiere of Sparrows Can’t Sing was being held at ABC, across from the Kentucky Club, he suggested that Kentucky throw a party. In the end, Princess Margaret caught a diplomatic cold and stayed away, but her husband Lord Snowdon still returned to watch the film.
“But a lot of celebrities including Roger Moore, Stanley Baker and Ronnie Fraser went to Kentucky, dining on eel and fish and chips and drinking politely with the Kray brothers until the early hours of the morning.”
Barbara was once romantically involved with married nightclub owner and gangster, Ronnie Knight. She tried to keep the relationship under wraps, fearing his fame might ruin her fledgling film career.
At the time, she was a rising stage star, with successful West End performances in the musicals Fings Ain’t Wot They Used to Be and Sparrers Can’t Sing, the play in which the film Her first based. She has also performed on Broadway and had small roles on TV.
A documentary series that explores her love affair with Knight that was exposed when he appeared in court charged with robbery.
Barbara was furious when his attorney Ellis Lincoln hired the beautiful 30-year-old lawyer Nemone Lethbridge, who used to work for the Krays. The two women did not hit if off.
The actress wrote in her 2012 autobiography All Of Me: “When I met her, I had doubts. I thought she was too young, pretty and inexperienced. But Ronnie’s attorney Ellis Lincoln said, “But she’s hot-tempered.” He was right. When he showed up at the Old Bailey, her excellence got him acquitted.
“What it earns me is less positive. Because of my stage and television success, the case attracted a great deal of publicity and, although Ronnie was not found guilty, I’m sure in the eyes of many, I became the moth of a criminal. some black society. ”
Nemone, now 88, told the documentary it was “inevitable” that Babs’ name would appear but that didn’t stop the actress from getting mad at her. She said: “Barbara’s [boyfriend] is a black society. So I went to the Old Bailey to ask for bail.
“It’s the usual, ‘stable address, strong community ties, philanthropy’ – all clichés – and ‘now with a famous actress’. The boys in the press gallery became serious, ‘Who? Who? Who?’ It can’t be hidden anymore and Barbara’s name is already in the frame. And she was absolutely furious with me.
“She came up to me and said, ‘You’re the king’s little cow! They’re not going to sell me a pound of sugar in this business because you let the cats out of the bag’.
“But in reality, it’s quite the opposite. Press fell in love with her. They thought she was the cheeky little Cockney sparrow who stood by her man.”
Barbara married Knight in 1964 and stayed with him for 22 years despite his criminal exploits.
Another secret discovered in the documentary is that Reggie is gay.
Former Company member Micky Fawcett said he wasn’t surprised when Frances Shea, who married Reggie in 1965, complained that gangsters hadn’t touched her while on vacation together.
Fawcett recalls: “Frances said, ‘You know what? He didn’t put a finger on me the whole time we were apart. He hasn’t touched me’.
“I don’t remember being surprised. Let me put it that way.
“Reggie is gay, but doesn’t want to be gay. He wants to be one of the conversation starters, one of the boys.
“I think he probably thought he would go on holiday with Frances and do the business, to prove it to her and the rest of us. But he just froze and couldn’t do it.”
Frances committed suicide at the age of 23, just two years after marrying Reggie. Fawcett also recalls how he tried to kill Reggie after falling.
He said: “Fearing they would catch me and shoot me, I decided to find Reggie first. We decided to shoot him and slit his throat and leave him there as a reminder to his close friends.
“We waited outside the apartment in Stratford [East London] and received a phone call saying Reggie was on his way.
“He never came. So we decided to put it off for another night.”
The Krays’ reign of terror ended in May 1968 when they were arrested for the murders of McVitie and rival gang member George Cornell. Both were sentenced to life in prison.
Ronnie was taken to Broadmoor Hospital in 1979, where he died of a heart attack in March 1995. Reggie was released from prison on philanthropy in August 2000, eight and a half weeks before he was. died of bladder cancer.
- Secrets Of The Krays premieres on BritBox on May 13.
https://www.thesun.ie/tv/6960947/secrets-the-krays-threatened-kill-barbara-windsor/ Inside the Secrets of The Krays and the day they threatened to kill Barbara Windsor