Harold Legg

Harold Legg
EastEnders character
Portrayed by Leonard Fenton
Created by Tony Holland and Julia Smith
Introduced by Julia Smith (1985)
John Yorke (2000)
Louise Berridge (2004)
Diederick Santer (2007)
Duration 1985–97, 2000, 2004, 2007
First appearance 19 February 1985
Last appearance 8 June 2007
Classification Former; regular
Book appearances Home Fires Burning
Date of birth 1920
Occupation Doctor (until 1989) (retired)

Doctor Harold Legg is a fictional character from the British soap opera EastEnders, played by Leonard Fenton. Dr. Legg was Walford's original GP. He was widely trusted within the community, and was always on hand to dish out advice. Dr Legg appeared as a regular character between 1985 and 1989, but continued to appear in a recurring role until 1997. He was officially retired in 1999 by executive producer Matthew Robinson, though he has made cameos since this time in 2000, 2004 and 2007.[1]



Dr. Legg first appeared in EastEnders when it began on 19 February 1985. He was the local doctor for Walford, where he had lived most of his life, opening his practice there in 1947.

His Jewish family had moved out of the East End when Oswald Mosley began his fascist marches in the 1930s. They moved to Finchley in North London, but young Harold travelled from there daily to his East End grammar school, to avoid the disruption to his education that a school transfer would have caused. He went to St. Bartholomew's hospital to start his medical training in 1940, treated air raid casualties, and met and married a non-Jewish nurse, named Judith Martin. They bought a small house in Albert Square. They lived there happily, but during the war a German bomb exploded near number 5 Albert Square and killed Harold's bride. He never remarried, despite the hard work of matchmaking aunts, and Dr. Legg since devoted his life to keeping the residents of Albert Square healthy. He later moved to Islington, living there for several years, but continued to maintain his surgery in Albert Square, renting the premises upstairs to the elderly widow Ethel Skinner and the barman Lofty Holloway, although there were an array of other tenants.[2]

Dr. Legg tries to treat Sue Osman, who was in severe shock following the cot death of her baby (June 1985).

As Walford's GP, Harold was forever getting called upon to sort out the troubled residents, even when he was not on duty, including helping Sue Osman come to terms with the cot death of her son, and humouring the insufferable hypochondriac Dot Cotton.

In 1988 Harold's sister, Hester, came to Walford to visit him, and told him that her son, David Samuels, was interested in joining him in England. As David was also a doctor in Israel, Harold thought it was a great idea and in April that year he arrived in Walford and was made a partner in the practice. Harold even moved back to Walford and he and David lived together in the upstairs flats above the surgery. Despite being extremely fond of each other, the new partners argued about almost everything. David wanted to modernise the surgery and bring in computers, but Harold was set in his ways and was opposed to any obvious changes. Harold also disagreed with David's friendship with their secretary, Michelle Fowler. Particularly when the two got drunk one night at a Christmas party, left together and ended up in the same bed. David awoke the next day not remembering a thing, but was reassured when Michelle informed him that they he had been too drunk to do anything untoward anyway. Harold was not convinced however, and berated David for the degradation he'd brought upon himself and the surgery.[2]

Later David and Harold fell out over Harold's treatment of patients. Harold had discovered that the graphic designer, Colin Russell, was suffering with early symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis. He decided that telling Colin would be to his detriment, as the worry could bring on another attack prematurely. Dr. Legg knew that Colin may not have another attack for 20 years or so, so he decided to tell Colin that he was just overworked and anemic. This highly unethical move appalled David when he discovered his uncle's lie, but despite this Harold stuck to his guns and it wasn't until January 1989 when he finally revealed the truth to a stunned Colin. Colin was furious that he had kept this information from him and shunned all his attempts to explain his reasons for doing so. He threatened to report Dr. Legg to the authorities and was mortified at how unethical he had been. Although Dr. Legg was sorry, he stood by his decision to lie, feeling that Colin benefitted from not knowing - when in fact, the opposite was true.[2]

David later became incensed by his uncle's lack of persistence concerning Donna Ludlow's heroin addiction, and blamed him for her death later in the year. Things reached a head in May 1989 when Dr. Legg failed to correctly diagnose Vicki Fowler's meningitis. This led to Vicki nearly dying, lost him the trust of his practitioners, made him question his own abilities as a doctor and even sent him into early retirement, leaving his practice in the hands of his nephew. However David's contemporary methods proved unpopular with the older residents of Walford, and after much protesting from them he decided to cancel his retirement. David tried to fight his decision, but his visiting girlfriend from Israel made him see how futile the arguing had become. David and Harold managed to sort out their differences before David returned to Israel in September that year.[2]

Dr. Legg's role was largely semi-regular in the latter years of his stint, appearing only when another character needed medical assistance or advice.

He remained Walford's GP for twelve years on-screen. He was eventually written out of the show in February 1997 when the producers decided to introduce a trendier, younger doctor named Fred Fonseca.

He has made several cameo appearances since this time however. He attended the funeral of Ethel Skinner in September 2000 and that of Mark Fowler in April 2004. In June 2007, he was seen with Dot Branning (formerly Cotton) when she had an hour of need. He also (When he cannot make it to them) sends wreaths to his friends funerals including Pauline Fowler's in 2006 and Frank Butcher's in 2008

Dr Legg was mentioned on Monday 15 December 2008 when he telephoned Dot with news of Janine Evans upcoming wedding to a Jewish man.

Character creation and development

Dr. Harold Legg was one of the original twenty-three characters invented by the creators of EastEnders, Tony Holland and Julia Smith. Dr. Legg was an attempt to represent the successive wave of Jewish immigrants that had settled in the East End of London between 1881 and 1914 in order avoid the persecution that they were being subjected to in Europe.[3] The second generation of East End born Jews (as Dr. Legg was meant to represent) prospered in the area until the 1930s when Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists was formed, and used violence to instil fear in the Jewish population.[4] As the Jewish community grew wealthier, many moved out of the East End to more affluent areas of London,[4] just as the character of Dr. Legg had done on-screen when the show began; living in Islington, but commuting to his practice in Walford.

Dr. Legg's original character outline as written by Smith and Holland appeared in an abridged form in their book, EastEnders: The Inside Story.

"His parents took the name Legg from the street they used to live in... the tough time came in the mid-thirties when the extreme right and Mosley on one hand, and the persecution of the Jews in Europe on the other, forced him as a bright teenager to become positively aware of racism, freedom and persecution. He didn't become a communist, he didn't start hating all Germans — but he did stop going to the Synagogue... he decided as he approached seventeen to become a doctor... perhaps he should have been a musician? Like his uncle Leon... He saw the air raid casualties... it reinforced his passion for the underdog... he met and fell in love with a young (non-Jewish) nurse - they were married when he was twenty-one... She was in the garden when a dog-fight took place overhead, and the German pilot dropped his bomb in order to get away. The corner of the Square went — so did she." (page 53)[3]
Dr. Legg as he appeared in 1985.

Holland and Smith had difficulties in casting the role of Dr. Legg, as they had problems finding an actor of the right age, intelligence, and class, who could also play a Jewish professional man.[3] Leonard Fenton was suggested by the writer Bill Lyons and took a great interest in the role. Holland and Smith thought that he would be perfect and he was subsequently cast as Dr. Legg.[3] Fenton has since revealed that the character was based on him. He has commented, "It wasn't easy raising a family on theatre wages, so EastEnders couldn't have come at a better time. It was the first time I had played myself on television. I'm normally a character actor, but Dr Legg was based on me."[5]

Dr. Legg was conveyed as a man that was trusted within the community. A traditional GP with roots in the East End, who had a genuine concern for his loyal patients and the area.[6] The majority of his storylines concerned other characters' problems (where he was seen as the first port of call should anyone need advice or fall ill), or they related to his own professional conduct. His personal life was largely kept hidden from viewers, although he would occasionally reminisce about his and Albert Square's history, mainly with other characters supposedly born in the area, such as Ethel Skinner, Lou Beale and later Benny Bloom. The character was also featured within a series of spin-off EastEnders novels by Hugh Miller, set prior to 1985. Within the novelisation entitled Home Fires Burning, readers were made privy to the character's history as a trainee doctor during World War II, and his blossoming relationship with his would be wife, Judith.

The character served as Walford's GP for 14 years. Though a regular character with his own storylines throughout the 1980s, for much of the 1990s he was a recurring character, making increasingly sporadic appearances, and only when other characters needed medical assistance. In 1998, the executive producer of EastEnders, Matthew Robinson, announced that he was officially retiring Dr Legg. The character was one of many axed by the producer, who was dubbed the "axeman" by the British press. Speaking of his decision, Robinson commented "Dr Legg is getting on a bit, so we're retiring him. He'll be going to a nice cottage in the country." His place was filled by a younger alternative medicine fan, Dr Fred Fonseca, played by Jimi Mistry.[1] Leonard Fenton has since spoken about his frustration that Dr Legg did not get to practice enough, claiming that he "was frustrated for years by Dr Legg's sporadic appearances". In an interview in 2000, Fenton commented "I told them I wasn't happy about going on once every two months. That's why it ended...".[5] Dr. Legg was never given an official exit on-screen, his retirement was mentioned by Dr. Fonseca in January 1999, when the character Ruth Fowler requested to see him.[7]

Since his retirement, Dr Legg has made several brief cameos in the soap, his returns relating to storylines concerning other longrunning characters. In 2000, executive producer John Yorke brought him back for the death of Ethel Skinner, in 2004 Louise Berridge brought him back for the funeral of Mark Fowler, and most recently he was brought back for one episode in 2007 by Diederick Santer, to provide counsel for the character Dot Branning. At the time Santer commented, "Dr Legg was well-loved. I hope to get him back for at least one episode."[8]

See also


  1. ^ a b "Nadia quits Square; She joins exodus from EastEnders". The Mirror. http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-60611215.html. Retrieved 2007-10-21. 
  2. ^ a b c d Kingsley, Hilary (1990). The EastEnders Handbook. BBC books. ISBN 0-563-36292-8. 
  3. ^ a b c d Smith, Julia; Holland, Tony (1987). EastEnders - The Inside Story. Book Club Associates. ISBN 0-563-20601-2. 
  4. ^ a b "East End Jews", BBC. URL last accessed on 2006-09-23.
  5. ^ a b "SQUARE ARE THEY NOW?; 15 years on we track down Walford's memorable residents". Daily Record. http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-60854421.html. Retrieved 2007-10-21. 
  6. ^ Brake, Colin (1995). EastEnders: The First 10 Years: A Celebration. BBC Books. ISBN 0-563-37057-2. 
  7. ^ "Tuesday 12 January 1999". Walford.net. http://walford.net/cgi-bin/pdb.pl?19990112. Retrieved 2008-02-19. [dead link]
  8. ^ "Dr Legg Will Be Back in Eastenders". The Sun. 2007-03-09. 

External links

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