Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Friday, January 25, 2013

Second Set of Answers to Jolly Old BritComs

We will continue on identifying those actors from two of my favorite BritComs, "Are You being Served" and "Keeping Up Appearances".

Pictured on the left this time is the cast of "Keeping Up Appearances", obviously from one of the Christmas episodes as Richard is dressed as Father Christmas and there are Cards, tastefully arranged, of course, about the room.

Here are the identities of the middle eleven of that first pop quiz post.

Wendy Richard was born Wendy Emerton. Richard was her stage name. She was married four times, but none of her husbands had the last name Richard. Her parents ran the Corporation Hotel in Middlesbrough where she was born in 1943. Wendy was a successful actress and was well known by at least three of the characters she played, Joyce Harker in The Newcomers, a soap opera in the 1960s. She gained much more fame playing Miss Shirley Brahms on “Are You being Served?” of course, but she was probably just as well known for her subsequent role as Pauline Fowler in the soap opera “EastEnders. She began her Fowler portrayal with the very first episode of the show in 1985 until they had her character die at Christmas 2006. After 22 years, she had requested to leave the show earlier that year. Wendy died of breast cancer in 2009 at the age of 65.

Although he appeared in several TV series, Trevor Gordon Bannister mainly did theater plays. He first got his taste for teater at the age of 15 when his future co-star on “Are You Being Served?”, Arthur Brough, took him into Brough’s Folkestone Repertory Company (1950). In 1969-70 he appeared as “Heavy-Breathing” in the British sitcom “The Dustbinmen”, which let to him being recruited to star in the pilot of “Are You Being Served?” on Comedy Playhouse as Young Mr. Lucas. He continued in that part in the series. Originally the show was to revolve around Young Mr. Dick James Lucas, but it evolved into an ensembly program with John Inman’s Mr. Humphries eventually becoming more the featured player.   Trevor left the sitcom in 1979 to concentrate of his stage career. Bannister later had a continuing role as The Golf Captain, Toby-Mulbery Smith in “Last of the Summer Wine”, a series in which both Frank Thornton and Josephine Tewson appeared. On January 14, 2011, Bannister attended Frank Thornton’s 90th birthday party. Three months later Trevor died of a heart attack. Born in 1934, he was 76 when he died.

Milo Sperber was born in Poland in 1911.  He became a leading actor in Germany during the 1930s. In 1939 he came to England fleeing the Nazis. There he joined the Oxford Pilgrim Players where he directed the company’s touring play, “Case 27 VC”.  He produced anti-Nazi propaganda for the BBC during World War II. He taught at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and had a long career in cabaret, film and TV. He appeared as the shoe salesman Mr. Grossman, promoted to senior in the men’s department of Grace Brothers. He only appeared in four episodes of “Are You being Served?” in this role. Milo died in December 1992 in London age 81.

Mike Berry was born Michael Hubert Bourne in 1942. In 1981 he replaced Trevor Bannister on “Are You Being Served?” as the junior clerk Mr. Spooner and remained until 1985. In one episode it was discovered Mr. Spooner could sing, this of courae took advantage that Mike Berry had been a pop singer with several hit records in Britain. In fact his first hit song, “Tribute to Buddy Holly” had been banned in Britain as too morbid.  He had a hit record in the UK called “The Sunshine of Your Smile” in 1980. His last film work was in 1999 in “Julie and the Cadillacs”.

Throughout most of “Are You being Served?, Young Mr. Grace would pop in on his employees to remind them, “you are all doing very well”. Young Mr Grace was of course portrayed as a very elderly man. The line was, “that’s YOUNG Mr. Grace?” ‘Yes, Old Mr. Grace doesn’t get around much.” But Harold Bennett, who played Young Mr. Grace had to leave the show for health reason and died shortly thereafter. He was replaced on the show by Kenneth Waller. Waller appeared as Old Mr. Grace, although in reality Kennett Waller was 28 years younger than Harold Bennett. Waller died in London on January 28, 2000 at the age of 72. This means he was only in his mid-fifties when he was Old Mr. Grace.

Frederick John Inman was born in June 1935, one day later than my own birthday.) Of course six years earlier.) Inman gained fame as Mr. Wilburforce Claybourne Humphries on “Are You Being Served?” He was before that an actor and singer and also well-known as a pantomime dame, a specially field of men in drag. He sometimes displayed this aspect on the TV show, appearing in elaborate female garb on occasions (See left below). One trademark of Mr. Humphries was a person never knew in what outlandish costume he might show up wearing (Right below with Frank Thornton).  It was never quite made clear what Mr. Humphries sexual preferences were on the show, but most speculated he was gay, as was John Inman in real life. He was born to a woman who ran a boarding house and his father was a hairdresser. John made his stage debut at age 13 in a melodrama called “Freda”. He suffered ill health in his last few years and died of hepatitis A in December 2004 at age 71. He left his estate of 2.8 million pounds to his civil partner of 35 years, Ron Lynch. In the photo on the right above John Inman is tangling with Rita Webb in "Odd Man Out".

Michael the Postman, a man always in dismay when delivering to the Bucket residence on “Keeping Up Appearances” was played by David Janson (Born Jackson in 1950). A child actor, he made his debut as age 12 in “Oliver!”. He then joined the Royal Shakespearean Company. In the Beatles’ film, “A Hard Day’s Night”, he appeared as a young boy during a walk by Ringo. He had a continuing role in the soap opera “The Newcomers” and also played Adolph Hitler’s double in the sitcom, “’Allo, ‘Allo”. He continues to act at age 62. (Michael the Postman was portrayed in some episodes by actor Leo Dolan on bottom right.)

Jeremy Gittins is a British character actor who has appeared in various TV shows, including “Doctor Who”, “EastEnders” and “Footballers’ Wives”. He gained his most fame playing the Vicar who lived in fear of “That Bucket woman” on “Keeping Up Appearances. He was born in 1956 and continues to act.

John Evitts was one of four actors (I believe) to play the character of Bruce, Hyacinth’s sister Violet’s husband, on “Keeping Up Appearances". He seems to have portrayed the bizarre husband the most times, appearing in “The Pageant”, “A Barbecue at Violet’s” and “Skies”, all in 1995. Bruce was generally seen but briefly in most cases. Although he was a well-to-do and owned a Mercedes, swimming pool and room for a pony, Violet and he had a stormy relationship. 

Clive Swift was the co-star of “Keeping Up Appearances”, the always frustrated, but obedient husband of Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced Bu-kay), Richard Bucket. Clive was born in 1936 and became an English Character Actor and songwriter. Clive was also once a teacher at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. As a songwriter he did the music and lyrics included in two one-man shows he performed about Britain, “Richard Bucket Overflows: An Audience with Clive Swift” and “Clive Swift Entertains”. He is best known for his role in “Keeping Up Appearances” and the part of Roy in the later series, “The Old Guys”, co-starring with Roger Lloyd-Pack. I guess he is an old guy, he will be 77 in 2013.

Shirley Stelfox, another graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, played the first Rose on “Keeping Up Appearances”. Rose is Hyacinth Bucket’s man-hungry younger sister, known for her too short skirts. Shirley is better known for her present role as Edna Birch in the British soap opera “Emmerdale". She has been in several other TV shows including “EastEnders” as well as several films. In 1984 she played the $2.00 Prostitute in the film Nineteen Eighty-Four, an adaption of George Orwell’s novel. She apparently left “Keeping Up Appearances” after the first season to continue in the drama “Making Out”. Shirley was born in 1941 and is 71.

1 comment:

Ron said...

More fascinating interesting facts about some of my favorite character actors. Dd you know Clive Swift also played George the Third in one of those "Masterpiece Theater" productions? When I realized who he was I couldn't get his character of "Richard" out of my mine, part of the problem of being too closely identified with a character.

Good post!