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A look back at Cornelia Frances’ most memorable roles

As tributes pour in for Cornelia Frances, who lost her battle with cancer at 77, fans and peers are fondly recalling the TV legend’s most memorable roles.

A veteran of Australian television screens, Cornelia appeared in some of the biggest shows of the 1980s and 1990s, including Prisoner, Sons and Daughters and of course, her longest running role, as Morag on Home and Away.   

While she died on Monday in Sydney, surrounded by her friends and family, Cornelia’s roles, already iconic, like the woman who played them, will be remembered forever. 

 A star of the screen: As tributes pour in for Cornelia Frances, who lost her battle with cancer at 77, fans and peers are fondly recalling the TV legend’s most memorable roles

Speaking of her career, which began in 1970 with the soap Dynasty and spanned 47 years until 2017,  Cornelia said she was proud to have played a ‘b***h’.   

‘I’d like to thank the producers who hired me because it ain’t easy to put a b***h on television,’ she told A Current Affair in February. 

She was nominated for six Logie Awards but never won, however the actress took it all her her stride. 

‘It’s a public opinion, they don’t like the b***hes, they like the nice ladies,’ she told the current affairs program. 

Nonetheless, she was thankful, Cornelia said, adding: ‘Being nominated was a great thrill. It was lovely’.   

Happy to be bad: Speaking of her career, which began in 1970 with the soap Dynasty and spanned 47 years until 2017, Cornelia said she was proud to have played a 'b***h'

Happy to be bad: Speaking of her career, which began in 1970 with the soap Dynasty and spanned 47 years until 2017, Cornelia said she was proud to have played a ‘b***h’

Channel Seven paid tribute to Cornelia on Tuesday, describing her as an inspirational and ‘unique person’.

A spokesperson said: ‘Her onscreen presence inspired a generation of actors. 

‘This gift was coupled with an ability to bring a sense of dignity and presence into each room she entered. Her energy and character will be missed.’  

Ray Meagher also said Tuesday: ‘Cornie was an incredibly loved and valued member of our cast over many, many years.’ 

Like family: Ray Meagher also said Tuesday: 'Cornie was an incredibly loved and valued member of our cast over many, many years' 

Like family: Ray Meagher also said Tuesday: ‘Cornie was an incredibly loved and valued member of our cast over many, many years’ 

Morag Bellingham – Home and Away

The acid-tongued sister of Alf Stewart (played by Meagher) Morag Bellingham was a soap opera super-villain known for her cutting wit and brutal take downs. 

Cornelia played Morag on and off for almost thirty years, between 1988 and 2017, and the arch nemesis is perhaps her most memorable on screen role.

Morag was a character everyone loved to hate, forever meddling in the lives of those around her, whether they were family or not.  

Despite her meddling, Morag is actually a respected magistrate and uses her smarts to get what she wants. 

Speaking to What’s On TV in 2011, Cornelia described Morag as a ‘a worthy and antagonistic character.’

Not a nice lady! Cornelia played the villain Morag on and off for almost thirty years, between 1988 and 2017, and the arch nemesis is perhaps her most memorable on screen role

Not a nice lady! Cornelia played the villain Morag on and off for almost thirty years, between 1988 and 2017, and the arch nemesis is perhaps her most memorable on screen role

She also saw her an ‘independent, amazingly strong woman, but I think she now realises family is what matters most.’

The actress even suggested story lines for the character, including what she described as some of the most ‘sizzling’ ones. 

Cutting jabs were Morag’s greatest strength, and her most memorable was an exchange with Donald Fisher, played by Norman Coburn.  

Fisher snapped: ‘You are without doubt, the most despicable vindictive venomous woman I’ve ever had the misfortune to meet’. 

Without missing a beat, Morag replied: ‘Flattery will get you everywhere’.  

Speaking in 2011: Cornelia described Morag as a 'a worthy and antagonistic character'

Speaking in 2011: Cornelia described Morag as a ‘a worthy and antagonistic character’

 Presenter – The Weakest Link

They were big shoes to fill when Cornelia lead the local production of the infamous British game show, presented by Anne Robinson.

But Cornelia was a perfect fit, off the back of her great still at playing a villain, the role of the icy presenter suited her perfectly. 

The show’s famous catch phrase, ‘You are the weakest link, goodbye’ was just one of many ice-cold jabs Cornelia delivered. 

Cold hard cash: The show's famous catch phrase, 'You are the weakest link, goodbye' was just one of many ice-cold jabs Cornelia delivered

Cold hard cash: The show’s famous catch phrase, ‘You are the weakest link, goodbye’ was just one of many ice-cold jabs Cornelia delivered

The role allowed the actress, so good at playing devious characters, play with ad lib and a hint of comedy.

Although the show aired only two seasons, between February 2001 and 22 April 2002, it was lauded for it’s clever format. 

The Weakest Link was nominated for a Logie in he category of Most Popular Game Show in 2002. 

Game changer: The Weakest Link was nominated for a Logie in he category of Most Popular Game Show in 2002

Game changer: The Weakest Link was nominated for a Logie in he category of Most Popular Game Show in 2002

Carmel Saunders – Prisoner

Playing the first lawyer of her career, Cornelia was in her element, as determined legal eagle Carmel Saunders on the iconic prison drama for several episodes in 1980.

Passionate Carmel fought for jailed armed robber Pat O’Connell as she launched an appeal on her prison sentence.  

The compassionate lawyer then convinced the imprisoned mum of three to try a second appeal, convinced that newspaper publicity influenced the judge to hand down too harsh a sentence.  

It would be one of the few righteous characters Cornelia would play, and showed her range as not just a villain but a hero. 

Strong turn: Playing the first lawyer of her career, Cornelia was in her element as determined legal eagle Carmel Saunders on the iconic prison drama in 1980

Strong turn: Playing the first lawyer of her career, Cornelia was in her element as determined legal eagle Carmel Saunders on the iconic prison drama in 1980

Barbara Hamilton – Sons and Daughters

Cornelia played the role of Barbara Hamilton on the long-running Australian soap between 1982 and 1986.  

The daughter of a wealthy, high flying socialite Dee Morrell, Barbara’s life was filled with drama and heartbreak.

Barbara’s relationship with her mother was shaky, first because she believed Dee tro be cheating on her husband, Benjamin, Barbara’s father. 

Drama! Cornelia played the role of Barbara Hamilton on the long-running Australian soap between 1982 and 1986

Drama! Cornelia played the role of Barbara Hamilton on the long-running Australian soap between 1982 and 1986

After years of heartbreak, Barbara finally stopped speaking to her mother altogether after blaming the businesswoman for the death of her father. 

The role allowed  Cornelia to show off her softer side, with her character often fraught emotionally, giving the actress a change to flex her range and hinted at the brilliant career yet to come. 

Not always the bad guy: The role allowed Cornelia to show off her softer side, with her character often fraught emotionally 

Not always the bad guy: The role allowed Cornelia to show off her softer side, with her character often fraught emotionally 

 



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