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Whirligig TV News Archive
Anthony Valentine, actor,
has died aged 76 (3 December 2015)
Anthony Valentine was one of Britains best known television baddies, the suave villain of numerous drama series from the 1960s to the 1990s.
He made his acting debut as a 10-year-old as a little boy in the film No Way Back (1949), and aged 12 was a youthful sleuth in The Girl on the Pier (1953). Children's TV kept Valentine busy, casting him as Humphrey Beverley in The Children of the New Forest (1955), JO Stagg in Rex Milligan (1956) and Lord Mauleverer (1955), then Harry Wharton (1956-57), in Billy Bunter of Greyfriars School. He also sang in the children's magazine show Whirligig accompanied by Steve Race on the piano and for two seasons in operas at Sadler's Wells Theatre.
But he came into his own as Edward Woodwards fellow Secret Service agent and rival Toby Meres in the first two series of Callan (ITV, 1967-69), a character he brought to life as a supercilious upper-class thug whose urbane demeanour somehow fails to conceal his total lack of moral compass.
He became a household name as the sadistic German Luftwaffe officer Major Horst Mohn in the BBC series Colditz (1972-74) and was the gentleman jewel thief and ladies man in the Yorkshire Television hit series Raffles (1977).
Valentines other television credits included Dr Finlays Casebook, Softly Softly, Lovejoy, The Detectives, Tales of the Unexpected and Robin of Sherwood (ITV 1984-86). more....
Redvers Kyle, television
announcer, has died aged 85 (27
Redvers Kyle arrived in England in 1952 from his native South Africa, and spent a year teaching in a south London school before becoming a freelance radio and television broadcaster for the BBC.
With the arrival of Independent Television in 1955 he switched to ATV London as a presenter and also joined ITN News. The following year he moved to Associated-Rediffusion (until 1968). In addition to Looking and Seeing, he worked on several other programmes including the childrens show Tuesday Rendezvous.
In 1968 he moved as chief announcer to the new Yorkshire Television in Leeds, becoming one of the best-known voices on the station, where he remained until his retirement in 1993. more....
Hazel Adair, writer of
Crossroads and other television and radio soap operas, has died
aged 95 (23 November 2015)
Hazel Adair was a pioneer of soap opera on British television. She was the co-creator of Sixpenny Corner, Britains first daily soap; Compact, the first serial to feature a regular black character; and, most famously, Crossroads.
Adair wrote scripts for two series, At Your Service, Ltd (1951), with Robert Tronson, and Stranger from Space (1951-53), with her husband Ronald Marriott.
She also became a scriptwriter on the weekday radio serial Mrs Dales Diary, alongside others such as Peter Ling and its lead writer, Jonquil Antony. This led her to create, with Antony, ITVs first soap opera, Sixpenny Corner (1955-56): the first on British television to run five days a week.
From 1957, when the hugely popular Emergency Ward 10 was launched, Adair wrote episodes of the hospital serial. She also co-wrote the spin-off film, Life in Emergency Ward 10 (1959), and the 1961 comedy Dentist on the Job.
Also a writer for magazines, Adair was sitting in the offices of Womans Own waiting to deliver a feature when she had the idea for Compact (1962-65), a serial based in the world of magazine publishing.
In 1967, Adair and Peter Ling devised Champion House (1967-68), a BBC drama series about a family-run textile firm. more....
Peter Dimmock, TV
broadcaster and producer, has died aged 94 (22 November 2015)
Peter Dimmock became the face of BBC Sport in the 1950s, having already made his reputation as a gifted television producer by organising coverage of the Queens Coronation in 1953, the moment the fledgling medium came of age. Dimmock had spent a year planning coverage of the day and, with technical skill and stylish aplomb, had succeeded in capturing the majestic drama as it unfolded live in front of a watching audience of more than 20 million in Britain nearly half the population and many millions more worldwide.
No television broadcast had been so prepared and so polished, and for this Dimmock deserved a large share of the credit. As the director as well as the producer, he displayed an intuitive eye for delivering pictures that he knew the public wanted to see.
In 1948 Dimmock had helped to organise the BBCBBC record. After s coverage of the London Olympics. In the course of 15 days he oversaw 70 hours of television coverage, a commentating on the 1949 Boat Race, he produced the BBCpictures to Britain s first televised Test match from Trent Bridge in 1950, and organised the first relay of live television from Calais in the same year.
In February 1952 Dimmock arranged television coverage of the funeral of King George VI. The sombre images of Queens at the door of Westminster Hall were three black-veiled more eloquent of the passing of an era than any spoken commentary.
Dimmock began to carve out a parallel on-screen career as the anchorman of the BBCprogramme switched from Thursday to a peak slot on Wednesday nights in August 1955, 21 per cent of the adult population regularly tuned in. In the lahost of Grandstand, before handing over the reins to David Coleman. Sportsview ran until 1964. s first the first regular sports magazine programme Sportsview, launched in April 1954.
In the meantime Dimmock had produced and directed the State Opening of Parliament in 1958 and, two years later, the first televised Grand National. In the same year Dimmock supervised television coverage of the wedding of Princess Margaret to Anthony Armstrong-Jones, later Lord Snowdon. From 1963 until the Queens silver jubilee in 1977, he was the BBCs liaison executive with the Royal family.
More than any other individual, he could be said to have single-handedly created the corporations outside broadcast department, having produced, directed and commentated on virtually every important event in the 1940s and early 1950s . Dimmock was also a great discoverer of television talent, and launched the broadcasting careers of Harry Carpenter, Peter OSullevan and Eddie Waring, among others.
In 1972 he was appointed general manager of BBC Enterprises, the corporations commercial arm.
He was wounded and disappointed when the BBC failed to invite him to the service at Westminster Abbey in June 2013, attended by the Queen, to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Coronation.
He was appointed OBE in 1961 and CVO in 1968. In 1977 he was made a Freeman of the City of London, and the following year was elected a Fellow of the Royal Television Society. more....
Joy Beverley, singer, has
died aged 91 (1 September 2015)
Joy Beverley was the eldest of the Beverley Sisters, the close-harmony trio whose novelty songs became hits in the 1950s who found fame in the pre-rock and roll era with novelty songs such as I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus and Little Drummer Boy.
During the war, the girls were evacuated together to Leicestershire and Northamptonshire, where they amused themselves by singing close harmony. Spotted by a man recruiting for the Ovaltinies, the harmony-singing advert for Ovaltine on Radio Luxembourg, they soon caught the eye of Glenn Miller and went on to record with his orchestra. Having signed their first contract, with Columbia Records, in 1951, by 1952 they were starring at the London Palladium. The following year they had their first Top 10 hit with I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, which reached No 6 in the charts.
As well as pop hits, for seven years during the 1940s and 1950s they had their own BBC television series , and they frequently topped the bill at the London Palladium, alongside such stars as Danny Kaye, Bob Hope and Max Bygraves, taking part in several Royal Command performances. more....
George Cole, actor, has
died aged 90 (6 August 2015)
George Cole was a comic actor who excelled at playing shifty 'spivs such as the roguish Arthur Daley in Minder.
He appeared in a couple of films before joining the RAF in 1943. After the war Cole returned to acting, appearing in a variety of mediocre films including My Brothers Keeper (1948), The Spider and the Fly (1949) and Gone to Earth (1950). He had greater success with Alastair Sim in the classic comedies Laughter in Paradise (1951) and Scrooge (1952).
Over the next decade, Cole and Sim repeated their screen partnership in a string of films, the most successful of which were the St Trinians series, directed by Frank Launder. In the first, The Belles of St Trinians (1954), Cole (as the spiv Flash Harry) received third billing after Sim and Joyce Grenfell. The film was extremely successful and was followed by five more, including Blue Murder at St Trinians (1958) and Coles only film in the series without Sim, The Pure Hell of St Trinians (1961).
Between films, Cole starred as the bumbling bachelor David Bliss in the long-running BBC radio series A Life of Bliss (118 episodes, 1952-67). The show was broadcast on Sunday afternoons. Cole recalled it as wholesome to the point of nausea, and insisted that the best part of the show had been Percy Edwardss performance as Psyche the dog. more....
Val Doonican, singer, has
died aged 88 (3 July 2015)
Val Doonican, the Irish singer who has died aged 88, rose to fame in the early 1960s when he appeared in Sunday Night at the London Palladium; his relaxed manner and easy charm made him extremely popular with family audiences, who appreciated his whimsical renditions of folk songs such as Paddy McGintys Goat, ORaffertys Motor Car and Delaneys Donkey.
Doonican distinguished himself from other performers at that time by sporting a range of knitwear more usually seen in Lapland and by performing many of his songs while sitting in a rocking chair.
In 1951 Val Doonican moved to London and made his radio debut as a member of the Four Ramblers on Riders of the Range. He played one of a number of bunk-house boys who were heard crooning cowboy songs in the gaps between the action. At the same time he was supplementing his income by writing musical accompaniments for Tex Ritter.
When not performing as cowboys, the group toured Britain, appearing at various variety venues. By 1953 they were working regularly in cabaret, performing at American Air Bases.
In 1959 Val Doonican auditioned as a solo performer with BBC radio and was offered a spot on Dreamy Afternoon which led to his own show, Your Date with Val. Doonicanss mix of songs and stories proved popular and the following year he was touring the country with his own show. In 1964 Val Doonican was offered a spot on ITVs Sunday Night at the London Palladium and was acclaimed as an overnight star. Within a year he was appearing on BBC television in The Val Doonican Music Show and was voted BBC Personality of the Year (an award he won three times altogether). more....
Marguerite Patten, food
writer and broadcaster, has died aged 99 (10 June 2015)
Marguerite Patten helped the nation to feed itself through the war years and for the next half century taught the British how to cook "sensible food in an appetising manner".
As a home economist with the Ministry of Food during the war, Marguerite Patten showed housewives how to get by with a tin of Spam and a ration book. She rose to prominence in the post-war years, becoming one of the BBCs first food broadcasters, on Kitchen Front and then on Womans Hour.
Marguerite Patten predated Philip Harben, the Cradocks and Elizabeth David and endured for decades longer. She was the most prolific cookery writer ever, the author of more than 165 cookery books, which sold over 17 million copies worldwide. She was also one of the few people ever to have been decorated for their services to cookery.
From 1947 Marguerite Patten was the BBCs first regular television cook, on Kitchen Front. She gave recipes on Womans Hour from its second day, and even starred in cookery shows at the Palladium. In 1952, she wrote a regular column for The Daily Telegraph called Merry-go-round of Meals.
Over the next 40 years, as Britain moved from being the nation with the reputation for the worst cooking in Europe to the most cosmopolitan food culture on earth, Marguerite Patten played a full part in showing the amateur cook how to get to grips with the huge new range of ingredients and fashions. more....
Peter Howell, stage and
screen actor, has died aged 95 (11
Peter Howell found himself catapulted into the spotlight and up to 24 million viewers homes when he played Dr Peter Harrison in British televisions first medical soap, Emergency Ward 10. Howell joined the twice-weekly serial in 1958, a year after it began, and appeared in 111 episodes through most of its 10-year history. Although he left in 1964, when audience figures were starting to slip, he returned for a short run two years later and a special appearance in the final episode, in 1967.
His West End stage plays included The Affair (Strand theatre, 1961), The Doctors Dilemma (Theatre Royal, Haymarket, 1963), Little Boxes (Duchess theatre, 1968) and Conduct Unbecoming (Queens theatre, 1969).
Among Howells dozens of television roles were Lord Howard in Elizabeth R (1971), Julius Caesar in Heil Caesar! (1973), Francis Knollys in Edward the King (1975), Uncle Glegg in The Mill on the Floss (1979) and Sir William Lucas in Pride and Prejudice (1980), as well as various priests, detectives, lawyers, judges, headmasters and army officers. more....
Pamela Cundell, actress,
singer and comedian, has died aged 95 (8 May 2015)
She was best known on television for her regular appearances as the spoony, matronly-built Mrs Fox in Dad's Army, smothering American soldiers with her affections and flirting her way into getting an extra sausage off the ration from the meek butcher Corporal Jones (Clive Dunn).
Full of life, and habitually bursting into rehearsals with a flourishing "hello darlings!", Pamela Cundell's music-hall sense of showmanship cast her first and foremost as a comedy player.
In the final days of music hall she appeared as a singer and comedian alongside such stars as Jimmy Jewel, Terry Scott and Sid Millward and His Nitwits. Throughout the 1950s, alongside Dick Emery, she was a regular on BBC Radio's Workers' Playtime.
She appeared regularly in seaside revues such as Between Ourselves, which toured the east coast in 1955, and began her association with the gloriously bovine Bill Fraser, through whom she made her first television appearances in 1961 in the sitcom Bootsie and Snudge, a civvy street spin-off from The Army Game that starred Fraser and Alfie Bass. more....
Ronnie Carroll, Eurovision
singer, has died aged 80 (14
After Carroll appeared in a BBC television talent show, Camera One in 1956, positive reaction to his warm baritone led to a recording contract with Philips and to frequent radio appearances on the Light Programme and Radio Luxembourg. Carroll was also a guest on the television shows of Morecambe and Wise, Bruce Forsyth, Kathy Kirby and others.
Also in 1956 his first hit record, Walk Hand in Hand, reached No 13 and the following year The Wisdom of a Fool entered the top 20. Further records were less successful, until in 1962 Carroll had a top 10 hit with Roses Are Red (My Love).
In 1962 Carroll was also chosen as the national standard bearer for that years Eurovision song contest. His song, Ring-a-Ding Girl, came a creditable fourth, a good enough position to ensure that Carroll became the first vocalist to represent Britain in the contest for two years running. His 1963 entry, Say Wonderful Things, composed by Norman Newell, also achieved fourth place. more....
Shaw Taylor, television
presenter, has died aged 90 (18
After the War, a London County Council grant afforded him two years at Rada, where a heavy Cockney accent was ironed out of him. Work on stage in the West End and small parts in films and television dramas followed throughout the 1950s.
After standing in for six weeks as a relief announcer at ATV in the summer of 1957 Taylor was offered a staff job at the station. Tired of the thespian life and describing himself as an actor of no consequence, he decided on a change of direction and began his career in broadcasting.
He quickly became one of the stations best-known faces, and was in demand as a quizmaster on shows like Tell the Truth, Pencil and Paper and Password and Dotto. He also commented on royal occasions and on ITVs coverage of the Cenotaph ceremony, and worked as a sports commentator for the channel.
But it was as the host of Police 5 that Taylor found sustained success. The show was the brainchild of Steve Wade, the head of outside broadcasts at ATV. It was commissioned by the ATV boss Lew Grade in June 1962 and devised to fill a gap left by an American import that ran for 55 minutes instead of the required 60 minutes. more....
Gerry Wells, radio
enthusiast, has died aged 85 (December
Gerry Wells was a self-confessed obsessive whose life was dominated by his fascination with radio apparatus.
By the time of his death he had amassed a collection of more than 1,300 radio and television sets and associated equipment, covering the entire pre-transistor history of broadcasting. This had become the British Vintage Wireless and Television Museum, and today it occupies his lifelong home, a substantial Edwardian house in Dulwich, south-east London. The collection contains many working examples, most of them found and brought back to life by Wells himself. Visitors can have the unique and somewhat unsettling experience of watching live television programmes in the old 405-line, black-and-white format, abandoned in 1984. more....
Pauline Yates, stage and
screen actor, has died aged 85 (21
Pauline Yates was a spirit of domestic calm when she played his wife in the mayhem led by Leonard Rossiter as the erratic Reggie Perrin, whose bizarre behaviour she treated as normal and in need of no explanation.
Yatess looks and ability to learn lines quickly, a trick perfected during her years in rep, made her a popular choice for TV casting directors. In 1957 she appeared in one of the first hospital soap operas, ITVs Emergency Ward 10, and she appeared in the BBC police series Z Cars and Softly Softly, and, on a number of occasions, in ITVs Armchair Theatre, for which her husband Donald Churchill wrote several plays.
Yatess career path was almost like a route map through British TV comedy in the 70s and 80s. She was a consummate comic foil, appearing in The Ronnie Barker Playhouse on ITV in 1968, but also taking on central roles as the Tory MP in the BBCs My Honourable Mrs (1975), opposite Derek Nimmo, and the divorcee finding a new life after marriage in Thames TVs Harriets Back in Town (1972). more....
Lotte Hass, model and
undersea film-maker, has died aged 86 (14 January 2015)
Lotte Hass was an underwater photographer and model who, with her husband Hans, produced pioneering films of the sea depths during the 1950s.
Shot on early watertight cameras, the Hasses footage offered viewers a glimpse of an underwater world unparalleled in its intimacy at considerable personal risk to Lotte, who dived using a lightweight rebreather and a fashionable swimsuit that afforded her little protection from aquatic predators.
The couples commercial success allowed Hass to purchase a 170-foot hull, the Xarifa, and Lotte accompanied him on expeditions to the Caribbean and Galapagos islands, where they shot Under the Caribbean (1953).
Diving To Adventure, the couples 1956 BBC series, was the first of its kind for British television, proving a great hit with critics and viewers alike. more....
Ronnie Ronalde, artiste
famous for his whistling and yodelling, had died aged 91 (13 January 2015)
In 1950 the EMI record producer Norman Newell was in a pub on the Edgware Road when Ronalde performed "If I Were A Blackbird" on the radio. As the customers were silent as he performed, Newell realised that this could be a hit record. That and "In A Monastery Garden" became best-selling records and favourites on the BBC programme Housewives' Choice.
He recorded the songs of the day, singing and whistling his way through "Hair Of Gold, Eyes Of Blue" and "Mocking Bird Hill". He discussed bird song with the ornithologist Percy Edwards and when he recorded "Ballad Of Davy Crockett" he made sure that his choice of birds was right for the area. He could mimic flutes and violins, while his version of "I Believe" highlighted his commanding tenor voice.
Ronalde was a major attraction and audiences marvelled at his lightning-fast versions of "Tritsch Tratsch Polka" and "Can-Can". He hosted variety series for the BBC and ITV, but in the late 1950s there was a decline in variety acts and he was seen as an anachronism. more....
Roberta Leigh, Children's
author and puppeteer, has died aged 87 (27 December 2014)
Roberta Leigh wrote romantic novels and childrens stories under a variety of noms de plume and in the 1960s was successful as a creator and producer of popular puppet series on ITV.
After the publication of her first romantic novel, In Name Only, by Harlequin books in 1950, Roberta Leigh published more than 10 novels over the next decade and branched out into childrens writing, magazines, newspaper columns and television.
Roberta Leigh began her television career with The Adventures of Twizzle in 1957, which was turned into her first childrens book in 1960. She created, produced, scripted, and wrote the music and lyrics for the puppet series (and then for a further seven puppet film series), all shown on ITV.
As well as Sara and Hoppity (1962-63), a 50-episode television series about a little girl and her mischievous doll with one leg shorter than the other and Space Patrol (1963, Planet Patrol in America), a 39-episode science fiction series incorporating elements of Gerry Andersons Supermarionation techniques, these included Torchy the Battery Boy; Wonder Boy and Tiger; Send for Dithers; and Picture the Word (52 animations for a Fun to Learn series).
To make the films, she acquired the Soho-based National Interest Pictures and a second film studio in Harlesden, becoming the first woman producer in Britain to have her own film company. more....
John Freeman, Soldier, MP,
diplomat and broadcaster best known for his series of interviews,
Face to Face, has died aged 99 (20
John Freeman was offered work by the BBC, first as a freelance current affairs reporter on Panorama, then on Press Conference, a political discussion programme. On Panorama he conducted a merciless interview with Frank Foulkes, the Communist President of the Electrical Trades Union, who had been accused of rigging the union ballot.
Cross-examination was his forte a skill he may have acquired from his father. It reached its flowering in Face to Face, a series that began in 1959. Until then, there had been few instances of the hard-hitting, confrontational TV interview. Public figures were given a fairly easy ride by broadcasters, with any hint of potential embarrassment scrupulously avoided.
Freeman recognised that provocation would generally draw out more truth from interviewees than politeness. Sitting with the back of his head towards the camera, and with the victims face in close-up, he turned the programmes into gladiatorial contests. In an unemotional, forensic style, he would nag away at any weaknesses he perceived in his subjects defences. In one notorious programme, the game show panellist Gilbert Harding was reduced to tears during a relentless interrogation about his family history. The series was immensely popular and in 1960 Freeman was named television personality of the year. more....
Rex Firkin, television
producer, has died aged 88 (7
The producer and director Rex Firkin described himself as being "in the engine room of commercial television" at its inception in Britain. Starting in 1955, when Lew Grade's ATV opened, he spent more than 30 years at ITV, made some of its biggest popular and critical successes and brought others to the screen himself after becoming head of drama at LWT.
In 1953, Firkin looked for work in television, but a string of job applications to the BBC were rejected. A meeting with Norman Collins, who became a founder of ATV, led to his becoming a trainee programme director in 1955 when the commercial channel opened. His first work was directing The Adventures of Noddy, Theatre Club, the live drama serial One Family and the advertising magazine Home with Joy Shelton.
He directed (1957-60), then produced (1959-60), Emergency Ward 10, television's first occupational soap, following the lives of doctors and nurses at the fictional Oxbridge General Hospital. It was watched by up to 24 million viewers and won a 1957 Society of Film and Television Arts Merit Award.
While continuing to direct occasionally, he spent the next quarter of a century as a producer. He began with the Ward 10 spin-off Call Oxbridge 2000 (1961-62), then made the second and third series (1961) of the newspaper drama Deadline Midnight and the final run (1962) of Probation Officer.
As a producer, Firkin then created, with Wilfred Greatorex, another drama set in the workplace. Against the wishes of ATV's casting department he hired Patrick Wymark to star in The Plane Makers (1963-5) as the bullying aircraft factory boss John Wilder, locked in battles with unions on the shop floor and management in the boardroom. more....
Cherry Wainer, pianist
hailed as the female Liberace, has died aged 78 (14 November 2014)
Wainer first appeared on ITVs Lunch Box, the lightest of light entertainment shows.
It was through one such appearance that along with her future husband, Don Storer a highly paid jobbing drummer, she came to the attention of Jack Good, who had been commissioned to produce the first series of Oh Boy!
During live broadcasts of Oh Boy! on ITV in the late 1950s, screams became cheers for Cherry Wainer, seated at an upholstered Hammond organ as part of the programmes house band, Lord Rockinghams XI.
Jack Good also brokered a recording contract for Wainer. Her output was to include Money (1960), historically the first Tamla-Motown number to be covered in the UK.
While chart entries proved elusive for Wainer in her own right, a maiden Rockingham single, Fried Onions, made the US Hot 100. Hoots Mon, the follow-up, was a domestic No 1 and was heard on a section of Oh Boy! featured in the 1959 Royal Command Performance. Wainer became the focal point of the band publicised as the female Liberace with solo spots as both a singer and instrumentalist.
After the final edition of Oh Boy! in 1959, Wainer went on to star in another ITV series, Boy Meets Girls, which was aimed at a wider audience. more....
Angus Lennie, actor, has
died aged 84 (14 September 2014)
On television, he was in Armchair Theatre, "The Mortimer Touch" (ABC, 1957), during its earlier, less adventurous period, in this case a stage play by Eric Linklater. By contrast, Lennie appeared in Mario (BBC, 1959), for the experimental drama movement the Langham Group, employing montages and still photography in adapting a short story by Thomas Mann. More in character was Para Handy Master Mariner (BBC, 1959-60), as Sunny Jim, deckhand on the Vital Spark, commandeered by lean, craggy-faced Duncan Macrae in the title role.
After The Great Escape, Lennie stayed in RAF uniform for 633 Squadron (1964), chiefly remembered for Ron Goodwin's stirring score, and was directed by Attenborough in the panoramic Oh! What A Lovely War (1969). more....
Sir Donald Sinden, actor,
has died aged 90 (12 September 2014)
Donald Sinden joined the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre at Stratford-on-Avon for the 1946-47 season. In October 1947 he made his West End debut as Aumerle in Richard II, and in 1948 joined the Bristol Old Vic. He left Bristol to appear as Arthur Townsend in The Heiress, an adaptation of Henry Jamess Washington Square. Sinden had nine lines and appeared in all 644 performances of the show.
During the 1950s, he immersed himself in cinema work, appearing in more than 20 films, including The Cruel Sea (1953), in which he shared top-billing with Jack Hawkins, and Mogambo (1954), a huge safari epic in which Sinden received fourth billing after Clark Gable, Ava Gardner and Grace Kelly, as Kellys cuckolded gorilla-hunting husband.
After playing Tony Benskin, a womanising medical student in Doctor in the House (1954), Sinden began to find himself being typecast in comic roles. He played Benskin and characters like him for the next eight years.
When the British film industry began to falter in the early Sixties, Sindens film career ended.
Sinden went on to make a name for himself as a comedian and farceur. He appeared as Robert Danvers in Theres a Girl in My Soup at the Aldwych in 1966, and won Best Actor awards for his appearances in the Ray Cooney farces Not Now, Darling (1967), Two into One (1984) and Out of Order (1990). In 1976 he was nominated for a Best Actor Tony Award for his performance on Broadway as Arthur Wicksteed in Alan Bennetts Habeas Corpus. more....
Bill Kerr, Australian
actor, has died aged 92 (30 August 2014)
Bill Kerr made his name on the radio in Britain in the 1950s, becoming particularly well-known for his role (alongside Sid James and Hattie Jacques) as one of Tony Hancocks three cronies in Hancocks Half Hour.
But Kerr was also a character actor of distinction, giving memorable performances as a racketeer in My Death is a Mockery (1952); as the bomber pilot Micky Martin in The Dam Busters (1955); and as a mentally disturbed crook in Port of Escape (1956), co-starring Googie Withers and Joan Hickson. His other films of this period included Appointment in London (1952), You Know What Sailors Are (1954) and The Night My Number Came Up (1955).
In 1954 he joined Hancocks Half Hour, which ran on the radio for six series and later moved on to television. As Hancocks Australian lodger at the dilapidated 23 Railway Cuttings, East Cheam, Kerr appeared as the gormless, slow-on-the-uptake butt of his landlords humour. The role made Kerr a household name in Britain, and he later resumed his partnership with Sid James in the first series of the television comedy Citizen James (1960). more....
Lord Attenborough, actor
and director, has died aged 90 (24
Richard Attenborough was one of the pillars of British cinema, originally as an actor and subsequently as an Oscar-winning director; his 1982 biopic, Gandhi, won best film of the year in the annual Academy Awards, Attenborough himself being named best director and Ben Kingsley best actor in the title role.
Having first made his name on screen in his student days, playing a Navy stoker, terrified under fire, in the war film In Which We Serve (1942), Richard Attenborough was just 24 years old at the time of filming his standout role as Pinkie Brown, the adolescent gangster of Brighton Rock.
In later years his own warmth of personality came to the fore, and with Jurassic Park (1993) he endeared himself to a whole new generation of fans, playing an avuncular professor whose naivety almost proves fatal when things go awry at his dinosaur-filled island theme park.
But it was Gandhi that was the apex of Richard Attenboroughs career and displayed a facility, unsuspected in his acting days, for handling large casts and epic, sweeping narratives. more....
Juno Alexander, actress,
broadcaster and local politician, has died aged 88 (2 August 2014)
Juno Alexander was the older sister of the Conservative politician Lord St John of Fawsley (Norman St John Stevas) and the first wife of the actor Terence Alexander; she made a name in her own right as an actress, broadcaster and local politician - and as a woman of idiosyncrasy and verve.
During the war she joined the Free French and worked with the Resistance; later she served as a Conservative councillor on Richmond council, south-west London.
From the late 1940s to the 1960s, Juno Alexander made frequent appearances on television, in programmes such as The Alfred Marks Show, The Max Miller Show and The Eamonn Andrews Show. After the births of her children, she did less work, but still had small parts in films and in television series, among them Compact and Garry Halliday (a precursor to Dr Who in which she appeared with her husband as his air stewardess girlfriend), and also appeared in series such as Harpers West One (1961) and Love Story (1963), She also appeared on television and radio panel shows including Petticoat Line, with Anona Wynn, Just A Minute and Going for a Song. more....
Neal Arden, actor and one
of the voices behind Housewives Choice, has died aged 104 (1 August 2014)
Neal Arden was for more than 20 years one of Britains favourite presenters on Housewives Choice, the popular record request programme broadcast every morning, six days a week, from 1946 to 1967 on the BBC Light Programme.
In a long and varied career in theatre, film, radio and television, Arden worked with many of the leading stars of their day, from Richard Tauber, Leslie Henson, Trevor Howard and Dulcie Gray to Roger Moore, Harry Secombe, Prunella Scales, Donald Sinden and Doris Day. He was an assiduous fundraiser for charity and, as an actor, took numerous supporting roles both on stage and in television series such as Maigret, Ivanhoe, Z Cars, Dixon of Dock Green and I, Claudius. He also wrote songs, plays and film and television scripts.
He made his screen debut in the 1934 film Princess Charming. Other film credits over the years included the wartime anti-Nazi thriller Pimpernel Smith (1941); John Wesley (1954); and The Shakedown (1960). His most substantial role was in Norman Walkers Life of St Paul (1938), in which he played the saint from beardless youth to bewhiskered old age.
His early theatrical credits included Toad of Toad Hall (Royalty, 1933); Blossom Time (1942, with Richard Tauber, Lyric); Night of the Garter (Strand, 1942); and The Lilac Domino (His Majestys, 1944).
In the 1950s Arden wrote many scripts for the new Independent Television and record reviews for newspapers and magazines. more....
Dora Bryan, actress and
comedienne, has died aged 91 (23
Dora Bryan was one of Britains most versatile performers; she was at home in revues, restoration comedies and musicals and equally comfortable in dramatic roles, most notably in the film A Taste of Honey (1961), in which she played Rita Tushinghams slatternly mother and for which she won a Bafta award for best actress.
With her tiny frame, round, friendly and mobile face, her warm-hearted grin and Lancashire gurgle, Dora Bryan had the gift of appealing to every audience as soon as she appeared. To all her work she was able to bring a breezily adaptable and engaging personality.
She starred in several television series designed to showcase her talents, including Our Dora (1968), According to Dora (1968) and Dora (1972), in all of which she played various hapless, apparently simple-minded characters.
Dora Bryan made her screen debut in the late Forties, appearing in a variety of films, including Odd Man Out (1947), The Fallen Idol (1948) and in The Cure for Love (1949), in which she co-starred with Robert Donat. Her versatility was demonstrated by her taking roles in films as diverse as the old-fashioned police thriller The Blue Lamp (1950) and the madcap comedy Mad About Men (1954). more....
James Garner, actor and
producer, has died aged 86 (20
James Garner made his reputation in the late 1950s as the shrewd, anti-heroic gambler Bret Maverick in the iconoclastic Western series of the same name and sealed it as the 1970s private investigator Jim Rockford in The Rockford Files.
In 1955, Warner Brothers hired him for small roles in Cheyenne, one of the western series infesting television, and advanced him to Marlon Brando's buddy in the movie Sayonara (1957).
Then, after appearing in Towards the Unknown in 1957, Garner was offered the lead in a new television Western series, Maverick. He accepted because he was eager to play characters that upset traditional models: At that time all cowboys were tough and spent their time shooting one another. Maverick was different because he avoided trouble wherever possible. He hardly shot anyone and he was always on the look-out for a fast buck. The series was an immediate success and prompted one critic to claim that James Garner defined 'cool for a whole generation.
"We nearly killed the cowboy shows," said Garner. "It was hard after Maverick to see those guys go around being brave without laughing." Maverick was the hottest show from 1957 to 1959; it reinforced ABC when the network was struggling, and won a 1959 Emmy. more ....
Frank Mumford, master
marionettist, has died aged 95 (13
Frank Mumford, who has died aged 95, was a master of marionettes whose career in variety spanned eight decades.
After the Second World War, he and his wife, Maisie, created a speciality act featuring 2ft-tall puppets with large heads and scaled-down bodies. Their line-up included hippos, skating cats, skeletons, dancers , a matador and bull and their most famous creation, Mademoiselle Zizi, a diminutive chanteuse based on Lana Turner and Gypsy Rose Lee.
The Mumfords played top London nightspots - including the Coconut Grove, Grosvenor House, Ciros, the Embassy and the Dorchester - and variety shows and cabarets around the world .
The Mumfords made many television appearances in Britain, working at Alexandra Palace in the early days of childrens television . Mumford carved the early versions of the Watch with Mother puppet character Andy Pandy and also featured in Time for Tich (1963-4) alongside the ventriloquist Ray Alans dummy Tich and his pet duck Quackers.
Mumfords last public appearance was in 2004 - 72 years after he had first appeared on stage with his creations aged 14. more....
Dickie Jones, child star
of cowboy films and rodeos, has died aged 87 (9 July 2014)
Richard 'Dickie' Jones hit the big time - aged 13 - when he voiced Pinocchio for Disneys 1940 classic animated feature film.
Jones excelled as the voice of the mischievous marionette whose dreams of becoming a real boy are hampered by a propensity for telling tall tales - until, that is, his nose points him in the right direction.
Jones began working at rodeos at the age of six, billed as The Worlds Youngest Trick rider and Roper. He was soon discovered by Hoot Gibson, an actor and rodeo champion. Film work followed. He played opposite Al Jolson in Wonder Bar (1934) and James Stewart in Mr Smith Goes to Washington and Destry Rides Again (both 1939).
In the Forties and Fifties he appeared in a series of film and television westerns (including a number of Gene Autry features). He had his own short-lived series, Buffalo Bill Jr, from 1955 to 1956. He also starred as sidekick Dick West in The Range Rider western series alongside Jock Mahoney. more....
glamorous star of the BBC's Paul Temple and voice of Captain
Scarlet, has died aged 86 (14
Francis Matthews' television debut, for the BBC in its single-channel days, was in Prelude to Glory (1954). For Durbridge, he first did My Friend Charles (1956), as a seemingly affable fellow revealed in the last episode to be a drug-dealing villain.
Tall, slender and with a quietly amused expression, Francis Matthews was ideally suited to play Francis Durbridge's gentleman sleuth Paul Temple, in the popular television adaptations of the 1960s and 70s. But his 60-year career also spanned horror films, comedy and modern classics, and as the voice of Captain Scarlet he reached a new generation of admirers.
Matthews's first film was the Raj tale Bhowani Junction (1956). His clean-cut qualities were also at work in several horror movies. He was an eager assistant to Peter Cushing in Hammer's The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958), then played Boris Karloff's son in Corridors of Blood (1958), with Christopher Lee. Matthews grappled with Lee, on the same sets, in Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1965) and Rasputin the Mad Monk (1966).
Paul Temple, which started in 1969 and ran for 64 episodes, was one of BBC1's first colour series. It enabled extensive film sequences and overseas locations, the glamour of which transferred to Matthews and his co-star Ros Drinkwater, playing his wife, Steve. The couple appeared almost impossibly elegant to television audiences of the day, George Sewell as their down-at-heel sidekick helping to underline their suavity.
Overhearing an interview in which Matthews did a jokey impression of Cary Grant, the producer Gerry Anderson cast him in his puppet saga Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons (ATV, 1967-68). more....
Joy Laurey, puppet maker
and puppeteer, has died aged 90 (2nd June 2014)
Joy Laurey was born the great grand daughter of the famous Drury Lane clown Sam Laurey.
She started her professional career with E.N.S.A. during the Second World War with her sister and mother making up the Laurey Puppet Company. They entertained troops with puppet shows up and down the country in a wide variety of locations from Balloon sites on the mainland, to H.M.S. Bulldog at the time of the official announcement that it had liberated Guernsey.
At the end of the war, Joy continued entertaining with puppets, although concentrating the focus on children's entertainment, performing regularly at such venues as the Lord Mayor's Children's Party held at the Mansion House London, appearing with the Laurey Puppet Company regularly for summer seasons at seaside resorts, and representing Britain in puppet festivals in countries such as Rumania.
During the early 50's Joy Laurey was offered an opportunity to make a puppet character for a one-off television show called "Whirligig". She made a puppet based on a vegetable, and it was named "Mr Turnip". The pilot show proved so successful that it went on to run for over 6 years and Mr Turnip was one of the very first television puppets ever to become a celebrity in his own right. Mr Turnip was so popular in his day that there was great demand for Mr Turnip toys, dolls, games and even toiletries such as Mr Turnip soap. Cardboard cut outs were printed on the back of cereal boxes and even fleecy material was printed with Mr Turnip on it for making children's pyjamas. The programme "Whirligig" was the first "magazine" type children's programme ever to be produced by the B.B.C. and featured appearances from many famous names such as: Humphrey Lestocq, Steve Race, Peter Butterworth, Francis Coudrill with his puppet "Hank", and Rolf Harris. more....
Sir Jack Brabham, World
champion racing driver and constructor, has died aged 88 (19 May
Jack Brabham was three-time Formula One World Champion Driver and two-time Formula One World Champion Constructor, becoming the first driver to win the title in a car of his own making.
Black Jack Brabham, an Australian, proved that the pre-requisites of the racing star quick judgment, lightning reflexes and exuberant dash are not exclusive to youth. He was past 30 when he started to race Formula One cars, making his debut at the British Grand Prix in 1955 at Aintree, driving a Cooper that he had built himself, before returning home where he won the Australian Grand Prix. The next season, he was signed by John Cooper for his Cooper Car Company team.
Over the next few years, Brabham shone in minor formula races while gradually gaining experience in Formula One. He won his first three World Championship points in 1958, and then at the start of the 1959 season won the Monaco Grand Prix in a works Cooper car, setting a new course record. He followed this with a second place in Holland, a third in France and Italy, and victory in the British Grand Prix.
He was in his 34th year when, in 1959, he first won the World Championship. When, the next year, he won the World Championship again, he told his family that he might give the sport a further two years. However, he was still racing as hard as ever, and successfully, after becoming World Champion for a third time in 1966, when he had turned 40. more....
Eli Woods, comedian who
was a stuttering stooge to the great Jimmy James, has died aged
91 (16 May 2014)
Eli Woods was one of the last links to the great era of twice-nightly British variety theatre. A stooped and gangling figure with a long, lugubrious face and permanently gaping mouth, clad in flapping trousers, too-tight jacket and deerstalker hat, he had a stammer which he exaggerated to tremendous comic effect. Woods spent his early career as a stooge for his uncle, Jimmy James, the innovative music-hall comedian who eschewed traditional jokes in favour of elaborate and surreal flights of fancy and was revered in the business as "the comedian's comedian".
Jimmy James, a Northumberland comedian, was renowned for his drunk routines "The Spare Room", "His First Night", "Sober as a Judge". The most enduring was "In the Box": James was the vaguely inebriated gent who falls into conversation with two idiots named Hutton Conyers and Bretton Woods. The lanky Woods, inhabiting a suit that had long ago parted company with sartorial logic, would stand next to James as though in a stupor, jaw agape, struggling to follow a bizarre exchange about the contents of a shoe box.
"In the Box" evolved through several changes of personnel. Jimmy James' real surname was Casey, and it was his nephew James (Jack) Casey who became the definitive Bretton (later Eli) Woods. From 1948 the young Casey was employed as James' driver, until they arrived in Preston to find that one of the stooges would not be able to make the performance. Casey became Woods, and was persuaded to stay.
Hutton Conyers was first played by James' brother-in-law Jack Darby, later by Dick Carlton, and for three years (1956-59) by Roy Castle, who had temporarily abandoned his own act to perfect his comic timing under the acknowledged master. more....
Efrem Zimbalist, star of
77 Sunset Strip, has died aged 95 (2 May 2014)
Efrem Zimbalist played leading roles in two of American televisions most celebrated crime dramas, 77 Sunset Strip (1958-64) and The FBI (1965-74).
The first of these featured a pair of former government agents (Zimbalist as Stu Bailey, Roger Smith as Jeff Spencer) who set up as private detectives with an office on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. They were assisted in their investigations by Kookie (played by Edd Byrnes), a hip car-parking valet. Introduced by a catchy theme song, the series had a breezy, light-hearted edge that prefigured similar television dramas that would become popular throughout the Sixties.
During summer breaks between 77 Sunset Strip and The FBI, Warner Bros cast Zimbalist in several feature films, including Too Much Too Soon, Home Before Dark, The Crowded Sky, The Chapman Report and Wait Until Dark (in which he appeared alongside Audrey Hepburn). His other films included By Love Possessed and Airport 1975. In the 1990s he recorded the voice of Alfred, the butler, in the cartoon Batman series. more....
Sir Christopher Chataway,
record-breaking athlete, broadcaster and government minister, has
died aged 82 (19 January 2014)
In the 1952 Helsinki Olympics he tripped going for the lead in the 5,000 metres, recovering to finish fifth, 12 seconds behind Emil Zatopek. In his last year at Oxford, in the Varsity match, he cut his best for the mile to 4 mins 8.4 sec, then the third fastest by a Briton. In May 1953 Bannister set his record of 4 mins 3.6 sec, paced by Chataway.
For Chataway, the bridge from athletics to politics was television. Chataway joined ITN two months before ITV went live. The reader of ITNs first bulletin on October 11 1955, he was one of a cluster of contemporaries who became household names: Robin Day (with whom he shared ITNs debut), Ludovic Kennedy and Geoffrey Johnson Smith. He excelled, but wanted to do more reporting and in 1956 he moved to the BBC as an interviewer with Panorama.
After winning the June 1970 election, Heath made Chataway, not yet 40, Minister for Posts and Telecommunications. He came under immediate pressure from Mary Whitehouse to "clean up" programmes, and from colleagues to stop jamming pirate stations such as Radio Caroline and to legalise commercial radio. Setting up commercial radio as Minister for Posts and Telecommunications, he spent 12 years with the medium as chairman of LBC. more....
presenter of Songs of Praise and Top of the Form, has died aged
83 (2 January 2014)
Geoffrey Wheeler began making radio programmes for the BBC while studying Law at Manchester University and in 1954 was appointed the Corporations radio producer for the northern region.
He cut his teeth on variety shows, working with such entertainers as Ken Dodd, Benny Hill and Morcambe and Wise.
As the smartly-blazered, avuncular question master on Top of the Form from the early 1960s to 1975, Wheeler earned a place in the cultural hinterland of a generation of vaguely bookish, mostly middle-class, viewers of the sort who now do sterling service as members of pub quiz teams.
The show began in 1948 on the BBCs Light Programme and Wheeler joined as co-question master with Paddy Feeny. Each would present his half of the show from a different school hall, the two being connected by a then state-of-the art (for the BBC) landline.
In 1962 the show transferred to television, slimmed down to a single location and with Wheeler as its sole presenter.
Wheeler went freelance in 1963 and as well as presenting Top of the Form, appeared as a panellist on Call my Bluff, as a story teller on Jackanory, and spent 21 years as a regular presenter of Songs of Praise, now the worlds longest-running television religious programme. more....
David Coleman, Sports
|Commentator, has died aged 87 (21
David Coleman was the face and voice of BBC Television sport for 40 years, the anchorman for the flagship Grandstand programme on Saturday afternoons and later the affable host of the popular quiz A Question Of Sport.
In 1953 he started freelance radio work in Manchester and the following year joined the BBC in Birmingham as a news assistant. Having made his first television broadcast on Sportsview in May 1954 on the day Roger Bannister became the first runner to break the four-minute mile, Coleman was appointed sports editor, Midland Region, in November 1955. After the editor of Sportsview, Paul Fox, had seen him interview the footballer Danny Blanchflower on regional television, Coleman transferred to London. In 1958 the BBCs Head of Sport, Peter Dimmock, offered Coleman the frontmans job on the new sports magazine programme, Grandstand.
He made his name on the programme where his ad libs and mastery of football trivia standing alongside the teleprinter as the football results came in revealed remarkably acute and detailed research. But he became frustrated by being always studio-bound and yearned for a new challenge. In 1967, however, after repeated wooing by ITV, he signed a new seven-year BBC contract at £10,000 a year, making him the highest-paid broadcaster in television sport. more....
Jean Kent, actress, has
died aged 92 (1 December 2013)
Jean Kent adopted a variety of stage names. At different times she was Peggy Summers and Jean Carr, finally adopting the name Jean Kent in 1943 in Its That Man Again, a film version of the popular radio show ITMA, starring Tommy Handley.
Her big break came when she was hired as a dancer and understudy in the Max Miller show Apple Sauce (1941) at the Palladium. During rehearsals one of the leading ladies was sacked and Jean was asked to replace her at short notice. She was then spotted by Weston Drury, casting director at Shepherds Bush studios, and signed to a contract with Gainsborough Pictures.
She landed her first leading role, in Caravan (1946). In the interim, she had played supporting parts in such pictures as Champagne Charlie (1944), a Tommy Trinder musical about the heyday of music hall, Madonna of the Seven Moons (1944) and The Wicked Lady (1945).
Through much of the Fifties, Jean Kent concentrated on the theatre, appearing in plays and pantomimes (notably a Prince Charming in Cinderella) for which she had hitherto had little time.
In later years she was seen more frequently in television. She played Good Queen Bess in a 1962 series based on the life of Sir Francis Drake and subsequently appeared in such long-running series as Emergency Ward 10, Up Pompeii, Crossroads, Lovejoy and Shrinks. more....
Stan Stennett, comedian,
actor and pantomime veteran, has died aged 88 (26 November 2013)
With his doleful face, good-natured smile and ever-gleaming teeth, the stalwart entertainer Stan Stennett was a favourite in pantomimes and seaside shows around the UK for decades. After starting out as a musician, he found success at the BBC, cracking jokes on the radio series Welsh Rarebit and compering The Black and White Minstrel Show on television in the 1960s.
Stennett's period with The Black and White Minstrel Show did not endear him to the younger and more politically correct generation of TV comedy producers who later took charge. Stennett argued that when the clever satirists took over, audiences tended to stay away. He revered comedians such as "Laurel and Hardy, Mack Sennett, Buster Keaton these were the gods We are trying feebly to imitate these people." more....
Jack Alexander, singer and
musician, has died aged 77 (13
Jack Alexander was the singer and pianist with the Alexander Brothers, the duo he formed with his elder brother Tom. They were two of Scotlands best-loved entertainers, and during a career lasting five decades they toured the world with their versions of traditional Scottish songs, releasing more than 50 albums.
Their big break came in 1962, when the songwriter and producer Tony Hatch saw them perform at the Metropolitan Theatre, Edgware, and suggested that they record an album. Hatch, who had begun his career working with Petula Clark, immediately understood the potential for an act playing traditional Scottish tunes.
Their first album, Highland Fling, was recorded in London, and included favourites such as A Scottish Soldier and Scotland the Brave, becoming an enormous success. They followed the success of Highland Fling with the single Nobodys Child, which topped the charts in Scotland in 1964, outselling the Beatles that year.
The following year, inspired by the reception of the single, Andy Stewart invited the brothers to tour with him in Canada and the US. They performed alongside Shirley Bassey on the television variety show Sunday Night at the London Palladium and by 1965 had been given their own show on STV and had become a mainstay of The White Heather Club, the yearly televised Hogmanay celebrations. more....
Graham Stark, actor who
was frequently cast in supporting roles in comedy films starring
his close friend Peter Sellers, has died aged 91 (31 October
After the war Stark joined the bohemian coterie frequenting the ornate Grafton Arms pub in Victoria where up-and-coming entertainers like Terry-Thomas, Jimmy Edwards, Tony Hancock, Dick Emery and Alfred Marks held court. It was in the Graftons back bar that Stark renewed an RAF friendship with Peter Sellers while Sellers and Spike Milligan experimented with material that, in 1951, would metamorphose into The Goon Show.
As well as providing madcap voices for The Goons, Stark also appeared in other popular radio shows of the day, notably Educating Archie, with the ventriloquist Peter Brough, and Rays A Laugh, starring the Liverpool comedian Ted Ray.
Whenever Spike Milligan failed to turn up for a Goon Show recording, Stark would stand in for him; and when Milligan and Sellers moved into television with A Show Called Fred in 1956, Stark joined the cast.
In 1964 Stark starred in his television comedy sketch series, The Graham Stark Show, which although written by Johnny Speight, later to create Till Death Us Do Part proved a flop. more....
Singer Joan Regan, who had
chart success in the late 50s and early 60s, has died aged 85 (15 September 2013)
Joan Regan had a number of hit records, including Ricochet, May You Always and If I Give My Heart to You.
Regan also had her own BBC television series, Be My Guest, for several years.
The singer starred on both sides of the Atlantic with artists such as Perry Como, Max Bygraves and Cliff Richard.
Regan, who was born in 1928 in Romford in Essex, was one of the most popular British singers of her era and appeared regularly on radio and TV.
Her career took off after theatrical impresario Bernard Delfont heard her recordings and signed her up with his agency.
Regan soon won a recording contract with the British record label, Decca Records, although only for a trial period of three records, which by her own admission "didn't exactly set the hit parade alight".
However, Decca released a recording she had made some months earlier of a song called Ricochet.
The record paved the way for theatre, radio and television engagements.
Regan was later to feature on American television with major performers including Eddie Fisher, Tennessee Ernie Ford and Perry Como.
She appeared at the London Palladium many times, with other entertainers such as Max Bygraves, Cliff Richard, Russ Conway and Edmund Hockridge.
In 1984, she hit her head in the shower causing a blood clot on the brain which left her paralysed and without speech.
But after therapy she made a complete recovery, singing again in Britain on radio and in concerts. more....
David Jacobs, actor and
radio and TV broadcaster, has died aged 87 (3 September 2013)
David Jacobs' first acting role was as Laurie in the BBC's first TV adaptation of Little Women (1950-51). When Charles Chilton's Journey into Space proved to be a great radio hit in the 1950s, Jacobs introduced it and took 22 roles.
After a period on Radio Luxembourg he was offered the freelance job of disc jockey on the radio programme Housewives' Choice, on which Jacobs had to play record requests and punctuate them with anodyne chat.
He was perfect for the job. It was a natural progression when he took over Juke Box Jury on TV, chairing a celebrity panel as they assessed likely chart hits hailed with a hotel-reception-counter bell or misses dismissed with a hooter. At one time Jacobs seemed to be always on television whenever the on-switch was turned, with appearances on What's My Line, Top of the Pops, the Eurovision Song Contest, Come Dancing, Miss World and many more.
When a senior BBC executive advised him that it was all too much, he reinvented himself as a player with more gravitas, to succeed Freddy Grisewood on Any Questions? Having conceded that he was "too square for the pop scene", Jacobs became a stalwart of Radio 2, presenting music programmes in a succession of formats right up until a few weeks before his death. more....
Mike Winters, straight man
to his goofy-toothed brother Bernie, has died aged 82 (27 August 2013)
The brothers were pioneers of television comedy, first appearing on Britains screens in 1955 on the BBC show Variety Parade after which they moved to ITVs Sunday Night at the London Palladium, supporting Shirley Bassey.
In 1965 they won their own comedy show on ITV which ran for eight years, regularly reaching the top three in the ratings and attracting guest stars such as Tom Jones and The Beatles, who appeared on the programme three times. They did pantomimes in Cardiff, cabarets in Sheffield and summer seasons in Yarmouth where, in 1967, despite the resort also boasting Rolf Harris, Morecambe and Wise and Val Doonican, each in their own their rival shows, Mike and Bernie broke all box-office records for the season an achievement that still stands. In 1962 the brothers starred at a Royal Variety Performance and the following year they starred with Frankie Howerd and Tommy Cooper in Michael Winners film The Cool Mikado.
But in 1978 they fell out, and Mike abandoned showbusiness and emigrated to Florida where he became a successful Miami nightclub owner, did much work for charity and wrote several books including a memoir, The Sunny Side Of Winters (2010). He eventually retired to Gloucestershire. more....
Jeremy Geidt, presenter of
Childrens's TV Caravan in the 1950s, has died aged 83 (17 August 2013)
Jeremy Geidt acted in London, moving to the USA in 1961 where he acted at Yale Repertory Theatre before helping to start the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He also taught at Harvard University.
The Children's Television Caravan was an Outside Broadcast unit which traversed the British Isles during the summer for five years starting in 1956. It utilised a very large vehicle which, by letting down one of its sides, formed a miniature stage on which a team made up of a compere and master of ceremonies, two clowns, a pianist, and a drummer provided continually changing entertainment. Local children, chosen for their talent, appeared in this caravan theatre as a regular part of the programme. It was compered by Jeremy Geidt with resident artists Clive Dunn (as Mr. Crumpet) and Elton Hayes.
Alan Whicker, interviewer
and documentary maker, has died aged 87 (13 July 2013)
Alan Whicker was the quintessence of the glory days of British television, the time between the late 1950s and the late 1970s when there were no more than two or three channels and any notable programme would be seen by more than half the population.
He was doing odd jobs for BBC radio when Alasdair Milne, then working for its flagship current affairs programme Tonight, spotted his ability to ask "impertinent" questions without giving offence.
In 1957 Whicker was invited to join the BBCs early evening magazine programme Tonight, presented by Cliff Michelmore. His first story was about Ramsgate landladies. Nine reports from Northern Ireland about the uneasy truce between Catholics and Protestants went unused after vociferous complaints about his deadpan, even-handed approach from the local BBC controller and the Bishop of Derry. From then on Whicker insisted on seeing the footage first, then writing his own commentary. The technique served him well as he looked all over the world for kinks in human character and behaviour for Whicker's World.
In the 1960s he got his own show, Whickers World, which allowed him to travel continually around the globe from Alaska to the Outback and turned him into a household name. By the 1970s Whickers World was coming top in the ratings, beating Coronation Street. He worked seven days a week, meeting luminaries such as John Paul Getty, Papa Doc Duvalier, Peter Sellers, Luciano Pavarotti, Sean Connery, Salvador Dali and the Sultan of Brunei. It was a frenetic pace, belied by the smooth, dapper and unruffled persona on screen.
In 1993 Whicker was the first to be named in the Royal Television Society's Hall of Fame for an outstanding creative contribution to British TV. A fanclub was formed, consisting of members who dressed up as Whicker and discussed their hero once a month. His singular style also gave rise in 1972 to Monty Python's celebrated Whicker Island sketch, with all of the team doing impressions.
Whicker remained active into old age, continuing to make TV and radio series until recently, and publishing volumes of memoirs. He had become wealthy, with a Nash flat in Regent's Park and a handsome home in Jersey. In 2005 he was appointed CBE. more....
Hans Hass, marine
biologist, oceanographer and zoologist, has died aged 94 (25
Hans Hass was a pioneer - with his wife Lotte - of spectacular films of the sea depths, and in the mid-1950s shot the first underwater footage for the BBC.
The Hasses first BBC series, Diving To Adventure, largely filmed in the Aegean, was screened in 1956. The programmes proved hugely popular and the couple returned to the screen two years later with another series, The Undersea World of Adventure, shot in the Caribbean, Indian Ocean and the Red Sea.
The couples exploits beneath the sea, filmed on comparatively primitive cameras and broadcast in black and white, thrilled television audiences throughout the late 1950s and 1960s by opening a window on to a breathtaking and hitherto unseen world. Rivalled only by Jacques Cousteau, Hass and his wife managed - often in perilous circumstances - to capture the habits and activities of a range of deep-sea creatures including dangerous sharks, barracuda and giant manta rays.
The pictures he brought back also helped to inject the emerging sport of scuba-diving with some much-needed glamour, as did the television series Sea Hunt, launched in 1958 and starring the actor Lloyd Bridges. more....
Frank Thornton, actor, has
died aged 92 (18 March 2013)
Frank Thornton was conscripted into the air force as a navigator in 1943 and, after the end of the war, remained in the RAF entertainment unit where, among his charges, were Dick Emery, Peter Sellers and Tony Hancock.
He appeared in the Edgar Lustgarten-hosted series The Silent Witness in 1954 and, a year later, was credited in the part of Inspector Finch in the British film Radio Cab Murder.
The next 15 years saw him appearing in a wide range of small character parts in films and TV series including The Avengers and Danger Man.
He also appeared in various comedy programmes such as It's a Square World, Hancock's Half-Hour, The Benny Hill Show, Sykes and Steptoe And Son, as well as movie spin-off Steptoe And Son Ride Again.
But it was in 1972 when he took the role of the officious Captain Stephen Peacock in the comedy series, Are You Being Served? that he became known to millions. Frank Thornton played the lugubrious, disdainful and immaculately tailored Capt Peacock in the long-running BBC Television sitcom for 12 years. more....
Dale Robertson, Western
film and TV actor, has died aged 89 (27 February 2013)
Dale Robertson was a skilled rider at the age of ten and training polo ponies by the time he was a teenager. He often said that the only reason he acted professionally was to save money to start his own horse farm in Oklahoma, which he eventually did.
In the movies he was a ruggedly handsome counterpart to leading ladies like Betty Grable, Mitzi Gaynor and Jeanne Crain. On television he had starring roles in popular westerns like 'Tales of Wells Fargo' which appeared from 1957 to 1961; 'Iron Horse' from 1966 to 1968; and 'Death Valley Days' which he hosted from 1968 to 1972.
He developed, owned and starred in the Wells Fargo series, playing Jim Hardie, a troubleshooter for the stagecoach company. To make the character distinctive, he had the right-handed Hardie draw his gun and shoot left-handed.
Wells Fargo was originally shown in black and white and in half-hour episodes. In 1961, however, the producers wanted to turn it into a full-hour show, broadcast it in color and expand the ensemble of characters. Mr. Robertson refused and sold the show to them.
In 1981 he played an oil wildcatter in early episodes of 'Dynasty'. The next year he had a recurring role in another glitzy nighttime soap opera, 'Dallas'. more....
Reginald Turnill, the
BBCs former air and aerospace correspondent, has died aged
97 (13 February 2013)
Turnill covered the golden age of post-war aviation from jet power to the Space Shuttle; though he reported on the success of the first Moon landing, his most celebrated story was the scoop that Apollo 13 was in difficulties.
Turnill joined the BBC in 1956. There he became assistant industry correspondent. After covering Sputnik in 1957, however, he was so enthralled with space that, in 1958, he agreed to become the corporations air and space correspondent, with a brief to cover defence. As a result he covered bombing raids over Vietnam only to irritate the US Air Force by pointing out their inaccuracy.
As the public enthusiasm for the Moon declined after the first landing, the BBC grumbled about Turnill still wanting to go to America. But he proved his value with the Apollo 13 trip in 1970. After the astronauts safe return, there were no more demands that he remain in London, and his wife received $75 for being his editorial assistant.
On October 4 1957, Turnill was on hand to announce the starters pistol for the race to the Moon the Soviet launch of Sputnik. He covered the space race in its entirety, travelling first to Moscow to describe Yuri Gagarins guarded press conference after the cosmonaut became the first man in orbit in 1961, and then to Cape Canaveral for Alan Shepherds account of his 15-minute sub-orbital lob.
During the periods between launches Turnill found plenty to occupy him, notably the joint development of Concorde by Britain and France, with its mixture of scientific difficulties, national pride and astronomic costs. But it was undoubtedly the pictures beamed from the surface of the Moon in 1969 that proved the most intoxicating story of all. more....
Peter Gilmore, actor and
star of The Onedin Line, has died aged 81 (9 February 2013)
Gilmore began his stage career as a vocalist, appearing with the George Mitchell Singers in summer seasons with Harry Secombe and the comedian Al Read. Between 1954 and 1956 he played in the popular Crazy Gang revue Jokers Wild (Victoria Palace). From the mid-1950s he also made television commercials in Germany, Ireland and the United States.
After working in provincial stage productions, with occasional London dates, stardom beckoned in 1958 when he was cast as Freddy Eynsford Hill in the West End production of My Fair Lady (Theatre Royal, Drury Lane). At the last minute, however, he was replaced because he was a baritone and the score called for a tenor.
His big television break came the same year in the ITV series Ivanhoe, in which he worked with the executive producer Peter Rogers, later to develop the Carry On comedy canon. Gilmore made several appearances in Carry On films, including Carry On Jack (1963) and Carry On Cleo (1964), both of which afforded him seaborne roles, as well as Carry On Up The Khyber (1968) and Carry On Henry (1971). more....
Robert Kee, writer and
broadcaster, has died aged 93 (12 January 2013)
Robert Kee was well known as the presenter of such programmes as Panorama, This Week, Yorkshire Televisions Various Faces of Communism, and ITNs lunchtime news programme, which he launched in 1972; he was, however, probably most famous, both as a presenter and writer, as a historian of Irish nationalism.
In 1958 Kee joined the BBC to report on the Algerian war for Panorama, helping to set new standards for television reportage. In a series of vivid on-location reports, he gave the viewers a sense of being in the thick of the action.
In 1962 he left the BBC to become one of the founders of a freelance agency, Television Reporters International. When that did not get off the ground, he accepted Jeremy Isaacss invitation to join Associated Rediffusions This Week. For the next 14 years he worked on and off for various other independent television companies, most notably, from 1972, as presenter of First Report, ITNs first lunchtime news programme, for which he won the Bafta Richard Dimbleby Award. In 1978 he returned to the BBC to work on the Ireland series. Three years later he replaced David Dimbleby as presenter of Panorama.
Kee specialised in strife. For television he reported on conflicts in Algeria and the Congo, as well as the Prague Spring; as a historian, he also chronicled the key years of the Second World War. His interest in the troubled history of Ireland developed in the 1950s, when he embarked on a three-volume study which eventually saw the light of day in 1972 as The Green Flag: A History of Irish Nationalism. more....
Alasdair Milne, the only
Director-General of the BBC to be dismissed from office, has died
aged 82 (9 January 2013)
Alasdair Milne joined the BBC as a general trainee in 1954, being one of two selected from 1,110 applicants (the other was Patrick Dromgoole, later managing director of HTV).
By February 1957 he was one of the architects (later he became editor) of BBC Televisions nightly news and current affairs flagship Tonight, in charge of a team which included such future stars as Cliff Michelmore, Alan Whicker, Geoffrey Johnson Smith, Macdonald Hastings, Fyfe Robertson, Derek Hart and Kenneth Allsop. It went on air every weeknight at 6.05pm.
The vigorous, young Tonight team aimed for a new, more incisive style of interviewing that, in Milnes words, would test the ability of politicians to think on their feet. When ITV presented the Corporation with its first-ever competition, the BBCs overall audience share plunged to an all-time low of 28 per cent; Tonight, however, succeeded in maintaining its nightly viewing figure of between eight and 10 million.
When his boss, Donald Baverstock, was promoted to Assistant Controller of Programmes, Milne took his place. Under his editorship, the programme spawned Tonight Productions, a stable which included Whicker Down Under and the memorable 26-part documentary series The Great War. more....
Daphne Oxenford, Radio
presenter and actress, has died aged 93 (4 January 2013)
Known to millions as the voice of Listen With Mother, Daphne Oxenford would open each programme by asking: "Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin."
She was also one of the original cast members of Coronation Street, playing Esther Hayes, and was a cast member of Midsomer Murders until 2008.
Debuting in 1950, Listen With Mother consisted of stories, songs and nursery rhymes for children under the age of five. It began at 1:45pm every weekday, to coincide with the end of children's lunchtime meal. At its peak, it had an audience of more than a million.
Oxenford narrated the programme from 1950 to 1971, and her meticulously modulated opening phrase was eventually included in the Oxford dictionary of quotations.
But regular listeners will also recall the words that would precede her arrival: "And when the music stops Daphne Oxenford will be here to tell you a story". more....
Anderson, pioneer of TV puppetry, has died aged 83 (26 December 2012)
Gerry Anderson entertained generations of British children with a string of futuristic puppet series for television in the 1960s, including Thunderbirds, Joe 90 and Fireball XL5.
Until his arrival, televised puppets ran the brief gamut from Andy Pandy to Bill and Ben. Anderson was struggling to find work until the childrens writer and animator Roberta Leigh, who was pitching ideas to ITV, asked him to make The Adventures of Twizzle, about a toy who gathers and befriends other unwanted toys.
In 1956, with his business partner Arthur Provis, he moved into film production and formed AP Films in the hope of making a classic epic but the opportunities were not forthcoming. So, after Twizzle, the company went on to make Torchy The Battery Boy and Four Feather Falls, a Western series in which the puppets (unable to draw their guns) had to swivel their holsters to fire.
These early efforts convinced Anderson of the potential of puppet series as an entertainment form, and his 1960 series Supercar was the first successful science-fiction format to reflect the growing interest among children in futuristic technology. He followed it with the more sophisticated Fireball XL5, 26 episodes featuring the hero Steve Zodiac, and timing it to coincide with increased interest in the space race. more....
television: Final broadcast on BBC One (21 December 2012)
Children's television will no longer be aired on BBC One after today with programmes moving to the dedicated CBBC digital channel.
The changes are part of BBC-wide cost cutting but investment in children's programming will remain the same.
Kendall, the first BBC newsreader to appear on television, has
died aged 88 (14 December 2012)
Kenneth Kendall's long association with the BBC began in 1948, when he became an announcer on the Home Service. He transferred to Television News in 1954, presenting with Richard Baker.
At first the newsreader did not appear in vision, for fear that facial expressions would suggest that he had opinions of his own. Instead briefings were read over a series of still images and maps. Only in 1955, with the imminent launch of ITN promising a less formal news service, did the BBC decide to take a risk; Kendall became the first "in-vision" newsreader, broadcasting from Alexandra Palace on September 4.
He stayed with BBC News on and off for three decades, gaining a reputation for his immaculate appearance, clear diction and unflappability.
In the end, however, his firm adherence to Reithian values led to clashes with his producers, and in 1981 he left the BBC, three years before he was due to retire, complaining about the sloppily written and ungrammatical stories he was expected to broadcast. more....
who played 'Hurry Ramset Jam Singh' in the '50s TV series of
Billy Bunter has died aged 75 (13
Ronald Moody, was born on 27th May 1936, in Calcutta, India and died in October 2011. He had a brief acting career, with the BBC at Limegrove Studios, in the early 1950s. He played an asian charactor called Puffin, in the BBC production of 'The Windmill Family' and another asian charactor called Hurry Ramset Jam Singh in the BBC production 'Billy Bunter' from 1954 to 1956. He had been discovered by producer Joy Harrington while working at the Great Eastern Hotel, London as a Bell Boy/Luggage Attendant in his late teens.
Other famous people, who started their careers at Limegrove Studios, at about the same time, were Anthony Valentine, Melvyn Hayes and Cliff Richard. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1632065
Moore, amateur astonomer and TV presenter, has died aged 89 (9 December 2012)
Patrick Moore did more than anyone, with the possible exception of Arthur C Clarke, to educate the British public about astronomy and space travel. A genuine eccentric who never took himself too seriously, Moore played up to his image as a mad professor, and wrote more than 100 books - most of them about astronomy for a popular audience. Meanwhile, his monthly Sky at Night programme - launched on BBC Television in April 1957 - attracted millions of viewers. Moores extended tenure made him the worlds longest-running presenter of a single television show. He became celebrated for the thunderous fervour with which he would utter the words: "We just dont know!" to emphasise that our comprehension of the universe is incomplete. He was noted also for his piercing gaze, the machine-gun pace of his speech, his wildly untidy hair and his oversized suits.
Yet there were many other sides to Moore besides astronomy. He was a connoisseur of music, and sometimes played a xylophone on television. He also wrote the score for an opera about Theseus and the Minotaur, and appeared in the chorus as a hairy-chested, armour-vested, double-breasted, great red-crested man of the Cretan guard. more....
actor who specialised in playing dotty old gents, has died aged
92 (7 November 2012)
Clive Dunn, the actor, who has died aged 92, was best known as Lance-Corporal Jones, the zealous old soldier in Dads Army celebrated for the catchphrases Dont panic! and They dont like it up em!.
Clive made his first screen appearance as a schoolboy extra in the film Boys Will Be Boys (1936), for the fee of a guinea and a lunch box from Lyons Caterers. His first professional stage booking came in the same year, at the Holborn Empire, in Where the Rainbow Ends, a production in which he excelled as a dancing frog.
Around 1951 Dunn appeared in Buckets and Spades, the first childrens variety show on television. He sang The Galloping Major while cavorting fully padded and breeched around the Lime Grove studio to musical accompaniment.
He also appeared regularly on the live BBC show 'The Children's Television Caravan' which was a travelling variety show.
As his career gathered pace during the 1950s, Dunn worked with stars such as Peter Ustinov, Peter Sellers and Tony Hancock. He also appeared in a number of shows including Treasure Island, in which he played Ben Gunn. But it was with the anarchic Michael Bentine that Dunn was most successful, and he played in many episodes of the madcap sketch show Its a Square World, which ran from 1960 to 1964.
Dunn was beginning to acquire national recognition, not only for Its a Square World, but also for the part of Old Johnson in Granada Televisions Bootsie and Snudge, which starred Alfie Bass. At that stage Johnson was the most famous of Dunns repertoire of old men. more....
Slater, actress who played the first television Jane Eyre has
died aged 84 (31 October 2012)
Slater's acting talents were transposed to BBC television as it began to dramatise the English literary canon in serial form. In 1952 she played Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, with Peter Cushing as Mr Darcy (he was then considered as good casting for a dashing gentleman). Four years later, in another serialisation, she became the small screen's first Jane Eyre, in a performance brimming with passion, with Stanley Baker playing Mr Rochester.
She played Prue Sarn in Precious Bane (1957), Portia in Julius Caesar (1959) and Anne Elliot in Persuasion (1960). After retreating to small character parts on television during the 1960s, she proved a commanding presence when she finally returned to period drama as Mary Tudor in Elizabeth R (1971), well able to stand up to Glenda Jackson as her sister. more....
singer and comedian, has died aged 89 (1 September 2012)
Max Bygraves became famous for his stage performances, notably in 19 Royal Variety Performances, and went on to lead the market in the kind of foot-tapping nostalgia which characterised his Singalongamax recordings.
He had spent the war as a fitter in the RAF, and in 1945 went to work as a carpenter in East Ham when a chance meeting with an RAF contact outside the London Palladium secured an appearance in the BBC variety show 'Theyre Out'.
The bandleader Jack Payne heard the programme, and this led to a spot in a new show, 'For the Fun of It', in which Bygraves starred with Donald Peers and a young Frankie Howerd. In 1950 Jack Parnell and Cissie Williams hired him as a replacement for Ted Ray at the Palladium, a role he filled so successfully that he was back in Argyll Street a few weeks later, appearing with Abbott and Costello at the theatre which was to become, for a number of years, his second home.
He gave his first Royal Variety performance in November 1950, and was invited to join the radio ventriloquist Peter Brough in 'Educating Archie', the show which "launched", among others, Tony Hancock; Bygraves then scriptwriter, Eric Sykes; and 14-year-old Julie Andrews, who was ousted from her singing spot when Bygraves arrived.
During the 1950s there were numerous stage appearances in Britain, notably in 'Wonderful Time', and in 'Were Having a Ball', which also starred the Kaye Sisters and Joan Regan. Bygraves took some time off from having a ball to write You Need Hands, a song which ran for several months in the Top 20. more....
singer who moved successfully from music hall and variety to
radio and television, has died aged 102 (7 July 2012)
The brothers Bob and Alf Pearson were one of the most popular music hall acts of the 1930s and 1940s and, after the war, they found national fame as part of Ted Ray's radio series, Ray's a Laugh. They would introduce themselves with the words, "We bring you melodies from out of the sky, my brother and I" and would harmonise popular songs to Bob's piano accompaniment.
Recording for a variety of labels, the brothers made an impact with "Ro, Ro, Rollin' Along", "Great Day" and "When You're Smiling". They worked with Sir Harry Lauder and Gracie Fields and toured with both Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong. They were the first duo to appear on TV, although as Alf said, "There were only about 400 sets in the country and the picture was the size of a cigarette card."
In Ted Ray's series, Bob performed as a variety of characters. Alf recalled: "Ted would say, 'Why, it's a little girl, what's your name?' and Bob would say, 'Jennifer' and there would be a comedy routine." The brothers toured on the strength of Ray's a Laugh and had dolls made that they would give to girls called Jennifer.
They toured in a stage show for another radio success, Take It From Here, and had some of the biggest-selling records for Parlophone, sometimes working with a young George Martin. Their singles included "Red Roses For a Blue Lady", "Careless Hands" and a song for the Coronation, "In a Golden Coach". The work dried up with the advent of rock'n'roll but during the 1970s they became involved in music hall revivals. In 1985 they appeared on Highway with Harry Secombe. more....
Borgnine, actor who was one of Hollywoods most popular
villains, has died aged 95 (9 July 2012)
Once described as having an executioners grin, he specialised in playing sadistic bullies, and is best remembered for performances such as the brutal sergeant Fatso Judson in From Here to Eternity (1953), and as an ageing outlaw in Sam Peckinpahs bloodthirsty epic The Wild Bunch (1969).
In the early 1950s Borgnine moved to Hollywood where, after several minor film roles, he gave an excellent performance as the sadistic Fatso Judson in From Here to Eternity. He followed this with another memorable appearance, as the snakelike villain in Bad Day at Black Rock (1954), taunting the one-armed Spencer Tracy.
His sensitive portrayal of a loveless butcher in Marty (1955) brought him film star status. Written by Paddy Chayefsky and directed by Delbert Mann, the film won Oscars for best actor (Borgnine), best director (Mann) and best screenplay (Chayefsky).
Borgnine followed his first major success with two more leading roles. He was perhaps ill-advised in his choice of scripts, making little impact in The Best Things In Life Are Free (1956) and Wedding Breakfast (1958). The former dealt with the biographies of the songwriting trio De Sylva, Brown and Henderson; the latter (co-starring Bette Davis) told the story of a family preparing for a wedding. Later the same year he appeared (opposite Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis) as the rotund warrior Ragnar in The Vikings. more....
comedian, actor and scriptwriter, has died aged 89 (4 July 2012)
Sykes became a national figure through his long-running television partnership with Hattie Jacques. The series, entitled either plain Sykes or Sykes and a [whatever was the theme of that weeks episode], ran from 1960 to 1965 - at which point Sykes announced that he was finished with it for ever - and then from 1972 to 1979.
In 1941, four days before his 18th birthday, he joined the RAF. Trained as a wireless officer, he served on the beaches of Normandy (where the noise of the guns affected his hearing) and at the siege of Caen, and was present at the German surrender on Luneberg Heath.
Sykes also had the opportunity to join an entertainments section run by the actor Bill Fraser, later Snudge in the television series Bootsie and Snudge.
After the War, Frankie Howerd invited him to provide material for the radio show Variety Bandbox. Sykes was soon working for Tony Hancock and Hattie Jacques, both of whom he met on the Educating Archie series. He was also occasionally called upon to emulate Spike Milligan as scriptwriter for The Goon Show. Nevertheless, he always longed to perform on his own account.
He directed a number of films with an emphasis on visual humour, notably The Plank (1979), with Arthur Lowe and a cameo role for Frankie Howerd, and Rhubarb (1969), which featured Harry Secombe, Jimmy Edwards and Hattie Jacques.
Sykes had long acted in the cinema, and was especially good as a gipsy in Heavens Above (1963) and as Terry-Thomass factotum in Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines (1965). His other film credits included The Bargee (1963), One-Way Pendulum (1964), Rotten to the Core (1965), Shalako (1968), Monte Carlo or Bust (1969) and The Boys in Blue (1983). more.... tribute....
known as Auntie Jean to fans of the popular 1960s ITV
childrens programme Tingha and Tucker, has died aged 91 (26 May 2012)
Jean Morton was a British television announcer. She served as continuity announcer from the launch of the original Midlands regional independent television station, ATV. She was one of four original announcers, the others being Arthur Adair, Peter Cockburn and Shaw Taylor.
For a generation of children Jean Morton was simply Auntie Jean of the popular ITV childrens programme Tingha and Tucker.
The launch of Tingha and Tucker, which brought her national fame, happened by chance after a viewer sent in two toy koala bears which appeared on screen as a time-filler between programmes.
The instant response saw Australian producer Reg Watson, who went onto create soap opera Neighbours, suggest a short childrens programme based around the koalas and Jean.
It hit the Midlands ITV schedules five days a week, later airing across the whole of the network.
Jean also hosted many other programmes from ATV in Birmingham before taking on an executive role behind the scenes in the mid-1970s. more....
O'Casey, actor and playwright, has died aged 89 (10 May 2012)
Ronan O'Casey found early success as a stylish character actor in the postwar films such as The Mudlark (1950), Talk of a Million (1951) and Norman Wisdom's Trouble in Store (1953), going on to play the prisoner of Room 101 in 1984 (1956) and the sergeant in Nicholas Ray's war film Bitter Victory (1957). While starring in the West End in Detective Story he met my mother, the actor and singer Louie Ramsay, whom he married in 1956.
Casey's comedy talents then brought him his best known role, as Jeff Rogers, Canadian son-in-law of Peggy Mount, in the sitcom The Larkins (1958-64). He also became host of ITV's charades gameshow Don't Say a Word (1963), before being cast as Vanessa Redgrave's lover, the "blow-up" of Antonioni's Blow-Up (1966). more....
guitarist, has died aged 91 (20
His big musical break came after the war, when he joined Stephane Grapellis group as a replacement for Django Reinhardt, then progressed through the rhythm sections of various popular dance bands of the day, including those of Harry Leader, Lou Praeger and Harry Gold. By the early Fifties, Weedon was resident guitarist with the BBC Showband under Cyril Stapleton and worked on regular radio sessions.
Signed to EMIs Parlophone label as a solo artist, Weedons first record, Stranger Than Fiction, was released as a 78rpm single in 1956.
Weedon also became a prolific broadcaster, appearing regularly on childrens television shows such as Tuesday Rendezvous and Five OClock Club, as well as on radio and fronting his own long-running ITV series.
Through his skimpy 'Play-in-a-Day' manual, which first appeared in 1957, Weedon introduced aspiring musicians to the three basic chords that underpinned most of the simple rock and roll hits of the Elvis era, and explained what to do next. more....
Halliday, actor, has died aged 87 (16 March 2012)
As the young, idealistic scientist Dr John Fleming, he was the star of A for Andromeda (1961), decoding radio signals from a fictional galaxy in outer space and discovering them to be instructions for building a super-computer that can generate human life.
He made his screen debut in the 1954 B-film Fatal Journey, in the Scotland Yard series of crime dramas, and was later seen on the big screen in pictures such as The Battle of the River Plate (1956), Sunday Bloody Sunday (1971) and The Remains of the Day (1993).
But Halliday found more rewarding roles on television almost 100 in all, in programmes ranging from The Count of Monte Cristo (1956) and Danger Man (1965) to The Sweeney (1975) and occasional sitcoms, including Goodnight Sweetheart (1997). Whereas in his early days he was often cast as police officers, in later years he frequently found himself playing priests.
Halliday appeared on the London stage in The Dark is Light Enough (Aldwych Theatre, 1954), the musical Chorus Girls (Theatre Royal, Stratford, 1981), Exclusive (Strand Theatre, 1989) and For Services Rendered (Old Vic Theatre, 1992-93). He took over the role of Roy Jenkins in the John Wells satire Anyone for Denis? (Whitehall Theatre, 1982), in which the politician was cast as butler to Margaret and Denis Thatcher. more....
Cochrane, the creator of Rag Tag and Bobtail has died aged 93 (8 March 2012)
Rag, Tag and Bobtail were three puppet characters (Rag was the hedgehog, Tag the mouse, and Bobtail, the rabbit) whose innocent woodland capers delighted children in that remote period when only one-third of homes had a television and screens went blank between 6 and 7pm so that small children could be put to bed . To those brought up in the early 1950s, the Watch With Mother line-up - Picture Book on Monday; Andy Pandy on Tuesday; The Flowerpot Men on Wednesday; Rag, Tag and Bobtail on Thursday; and The Woodentops on Friday, is probably more familiar than memories of their first school.
In 1948 Louise Cochrane joined the BBC as a producer of current affairs programmes for schools.
As well as Rag, Tag and Bobtail, for which Louise Cochrane wrote her first episode in 1953, she published a series of career advice books such as Sheila Goes Gardening (1957) and Social Work for Jill (1959). more....
Easton, actor, has died aged 81 (26
After an appearance in the John Huston-directed Civil War drama The Red Badge of Courage (1951), the 6ft 4in actor legally changed his name, dropping his father's surname to become Robert Easton sometimes credited as Bob Easton. He was rarely out of work and soon in demand on television, too, taking one-off roles in series such as The Adventures of Superman (1953) and Gun Law (1955) before a run as the college student Brian McAfee in The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show (1957-58).
To branch out from the country-bumpkin roles in which he was becoming typecast, Easton decided he must learn other accents. He studied phonetics at University College London, which enabled him to add European dialects to his repertoire. While there, he acted alongside Steve McQueen in the film The War Lover (1962), about the effects of combat on young men at a USAF base in Cambridgeshire, and appeared in the comedy Come Fly with Me (1963). He also had a small role in the television series The Saint (1962). more....
'Cheeky cockney' character actor has died aged 85 (5 January 2012)
Harry Fowler never attained star status but created a gallery of sparky characters, including minor villains, servicemen, reporters and tradesmen enriched by an ever-present cheeky smile and an authentic cockney accent. He was Smudge or Smiley, Nipper or Knocker, Bert or 'Orace, as part of an essential background an everyman for every occasion.
Although he was called up and served in the RAF, he was given leave to appear in eight films, including Alberto Cavalcanti's anti-fascist Went the Day Well? (1942), then again as an evacuee in The Demi-Paradise (1943). He was also in the modest semi-documentary Painted Boats in 1945, directed by Charles Crichton.
On television, Fowler could be seen in series such as Dixon of Dock Green and Z-Cars, but his big break came with three years' duty in Granada's popular comedy The Army Game (1959-61) and later as Harry Danvers in the heaven-sent Our Man at St Mark's (1965-66). These and later series including World's End (1981) and Dead Ernest (1982) brought lucrative employment, as did commercials.
He still accepted cameo roles in films, including Doctor in Clover (1966), recalling the advice that "each appearance was an advertisement for the next". He turned up as a milkman delivering to a home tyrannised by Bette Davis in Seth Holt's fine chiller The Nanny (1965), drove a cab in Lucky Jim (1957), and featured in the film of George and Mildred (1980), as he had in the TV series. more....
Searle, artist and author, has died aged 91 (4 January 2012)
After the war, Searle worked as a graphic artist for advertisers; created St Trinians (based on his sisters school and other girls schools in Cambridge); collaborated with Geoffrey Willans on the Molesworth books (Down With Skool!, 1953, and How to be Topp, 1954); and produced an extraordinary volume of work for magazines and newspapers, including drawings for Life, Holiday and Punch and cartoons for The New Yorker, The Sunday Express, the News Chronicle and Tribune.
He also designed posters, illustrations for travel books and the title backgrounds for the Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder film The Happiest Days of Your Life (1950).
Searle attempted to kill off St Trinians in 1953 to concentrate on what he considered to be his more serious work. But, much to his annoyance, a series of film adaptations meant that the spindly stockinged legs and dastardly schemes of his St Trinians girls remained his most distinctive trademark in Britain.
As the sadistic minxes of the school and their male counterparts, the illiterate "skoolboys" of St Custards, continued to delight generations of British schoolchildren, Searle complained of being trivialised and typecast in his homeland. more....
writer of Educating Archie, The Rag Trade and On The Buses has
died aged 89 (20 December 2011)
Ronald Wolfe was a cousin of the actor Warren Mitchell. He worked as a radio engineer for Marconi before contributing scripts to BBC radio series and writing material for Beryl Reid's stage shows. In 1953, a year after Reid joined the radio comedy Educating Archie, starring the ventriloquist Peter Brough and his schoolboy puppet, he was asked to produce scripts for it and eventually became head writer. The programme also featured Ronald Chesney performing his "talking harmonica" novelty act and at times included Benny Hill, Dick Emery and Bruce Forsyth.
Wolfe and Chesney continued in the same roles for a 1956 BBC television special and the 1957 series Archie in Australia but, when ITV launched Educating Archie (1958-59) on television, Chesney abandoned performing and worked on scripts, doing the same for the final two radio series, finishing in 1960. more....
star of British stage and screen for more than 50 years, often
appearing with her husband, Michael Denison, has died aged 95 (16 November 2011)
Theirs was a famously long marriage, which lasted for almost 60 years in a profession not known for stability. Between them they starred in more than 100 West End plays and, in the 1940s and 1950s, were familiar figures in British films. On screen they co-starred in My Brother Jonathan and The Glass Mountain in 1948, The Franchise Affair in 1950 and the Battle of Britain movie Angels One Five in 1952. In 1983, both were awarded the CBE.
On screen she was never a leading lady. Her career started with supporting roles in such films as 2,000 Women and Madonna of the Seven Moons (1944), They Were Sisters (1945) and Mine Own Executioner (1947). Only when she began co-starring with Michael Denison in My Brother Jonathan (1948) did she register with film buffs. Like John McCallum and Googie Withers, Derek Farr and Muriel Pavlow, the Denisons became known as a team. But in a sense that was the problem. They were identified as Michael-Denison-and-Dulcie-Gray rather than separate players. They made a good living out of it, but at the expense of individual fame. With the exception of Michael Denisons Algernon in The Importance of Being Earnest, their screen work was unmemorable.
On television, however, in later life, Dulcie Gray enjoyed success in soap operas and serials such as The Voysey Inheritance and Rumpole. In particular, she became identified in the 1980s with the character of Kate Harvey in the long-running nautical saga Howards Way. more....
bandleader, has died aged 100 (23
Edmundo Ros was the first to hit on the mix of melody and rhythm which made Latin-American dance music so popular in the dreary austerity days of the 1940s and 1950s.
The seductively orchestrated Latin-pop songs that set British feet tapping in the 1940s and 50s made the Trinidad-born bandleader Edmundo Ros a household name. But beside such musical success, Ros made a remarkable reinvention of his life: the mixed-race "outsider" successfully challenged the British class system, to become, as he put it, "a respected gentleman".
During the second world war, Ros briefly drove ambulances before launching his own 16-piece dance orchestra to play at the Coconut Grove Club at 177 Regent Street. He alternated between that and the Bagatelle Club off Picadilly, where members included Winston Churchill and Charles de Gaulle, and the heads of Europe's allied forces. Most significant to Ros, Princess Elizabeth danced there with her friend Captain Wills.
Ros's popularity escalated in postwar Britain through live radio concerts, produced by Cecil Madden. In 1948, he supported Carmen Miranda for a year at the London Palladium, while still playing the Coconut Grove, and the following year The Wedding Samba sold 3m copies in Britain and entered the US charts.
On the radio, his hit records were a constant presence on programmes like Housewives' Choice and Two-way Family Favourites. On British TV, Ros performed on faux-Spanish sets for The Billy Cotton Band Show, Saturday Night at the London Palladium and the Royal Variety Shows, and in 1965 was hired by Madden for A Night of 1000 Stars, the opening party for the BBC TV Centre, where he backed Vera Lynn and the Beverley Sisters. more....
Hammond, actor and director has died aged 87 (20 October 2011)
Peter Hammond helped to transform staid television productions with methods and techniques inspired by Orson Welles and Alfred Hitchcock.
Hammond starred in such early television series as The Buccaneers (as Lt Beamish) and The Adventures of William Tell (as Hofmanstahl), before embarking on a BBC television directors course in the late 1950s.
Television camera techniques of the time, even in dramas, were wooden and rudimentary. Actors were lined up in a row, with one camera per face, and another in reserve for wide shots. Hammond helped to change all that. During the 1960s, when he directed such series as The Avengers (for which he won a Directors Bafta in 1965), Armchair Theatre and Out of the Unknown, he carved a reputation for his fresh and unusual work with camera angles, including clever mirror and window shots which added to the drama by heightening atmosphere and tension.
His other credits as a film actor actor include Morning Departure (1950, with John Mills); The Adventurers; (1951) and X the Unknown (1956).
After switching to behind-the-camera work, he forged a reputation as a director of classic BBC drama serials, beginning with a 12-part adaptation of The Count of Monte Cristo (1964), with Alan Badel as Dantes. In his Hereward the Wake (1965), Alfred Lynch took the title role as the son of Lady Godiva who wages an unsuccessful guerrilla war against William the Conqueror in 11th-century England; in The Three Musketeers (1966) Jeremy Brett was in swashbuckling form as DArtagnon. more....
television producer, has died aged 86 (18 October 2011)
Cecil Korer's credits included Its A Knockout, The Good Old Days, Jeux Sans Frontieres, Ask the Family and Top of the Pops.
He spent five years as a travelling salesman before hearing of a vacancy at the BBC for a scene shifter, the lowest grade production worker, at £6 a week. Slowly he climbed the career ladder until he reached the level of assistant floor manager. Assigned to the highly-rated talent show Top Town, he worked with its producer Barney Colehan, famous for the radio programme Have a Go with Wilfred Pickles, who had recently moved to television.
On the day the finale of Top Town was to go out live, with an estimated audience of some 14 million viewers, the floor manager was taken ill and Colehan had to find a replacement. Korer had attended all rehearsals and knew the programme thoroughly, so Colehan asked him to step in. As a result, Colehan offered him the job of assistant producer, in essence his personal assistant. more....
actor, has died aged 80 (8
The British cinema spotted his handsome features almost as soon as they loomed across the West End boards in Frederick Lonsdale's Aren't We All? (1953). Baker had the knack, as a character actor, of furnishing whatever roughly was needed arrogance or timidity, charm or urbanity, fear or manliness, polish or menace.
It was the same in films like The Dam Busters, The Ship That Died of Shame (both 1955), A Hill In Korea (1956), The Moonraker, Tread Softly Stranger (both 1958), Goodbye Mr Chips and On Her Majesty's Service (both 1969). He was a sympathetic actor because he knew how to seem to listen to the others.
To the playgoer, though, it was his Shakespeare which won him most respect, notably with the Old Vic (1959-61, including a tour of the Soviet Union). His Bolingbroke to John Justin's Richard II was rated "forthright, powerful and vindictive". His Page in The Merry Wives of Windsor, his Jack Worthing in Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest and his Earl of Warwick to Barbara Jefford's Saint Joan in Shaw's play were also good. more....
Cilento,actress, has died aged 78 (7
Her heyday came in the late 1950s and 1960s, with her most memorable film part being that of Molly Seagrim, the lewd gamekeepers wench in Tony Richardsons 1963 production of Henry Fieldings Tom Jones.
Cilento disliked the majority of her early films, which were quite anaemic, apart from the passion she injected into her roles, something she put down to her Italian ancestry. Her first leading part was in Roy Ward Baker's murky J Arthur Rank drama Passage Home (1955), as the only woman on a cargo ship from South America to London. Her sultry presence naturally gets the crew all steamed up, especially the captain Peter Finch and first mate Anthony Steele. She again causes sexual tension in The Woman for Joe (also 1955), this time between a fairground owner (George Baker) and a dwarf working as one of his attractions. In the same year, Cilento married an Italian aristocrat, Andrea Volpe, with whom she had a daughter, Giovanna.
Her allure was almost enough to sustain the whimsical The Angel Who Pawned Her Harp (1956), in which she played the title role she is sent on a goodwill mission to Earth, landing in the Angel, Islington. Much classier was Lewis Gilbert's adaptation of the JM Barrie play The Admirable Crichton (1957), in which Cilento is winsome and poignant as the maidservant Eliza Tweeny, in love with the perfect butler (Kenneth More), who takes over his master's role when his employer's family are shipwrecked and marooned on a desert island. more....
Peter Twiss, the first man to fly faster than 1,000mph ,has died
aged 90 (3 September 2011)
At the controls of the Fairey Delta 2 (FD 2), a supersonic research aircraft, Twiss did not just creep past the post he smashed the previous world air speed record, setting a new benchmark of 1,132mph.
Twiss appeared in the Bond film From Russia with Love (1963) at the helm of a Fairey Marine Speedboat and also in the film Sink the Bismark (1960), when he flew a Fairey Swordfish torpedo aircraft. His autobiography, Faster than the Sun, was published in 1963. more....
Davies, actor and TV producer, has died aged 72 (24 August 2011)
John Howard Davies' performance as Oliver in the 1948 David Lean production of Oliver Twist led to roles in three other films, including Tom Browns Schooldays (1951); then, after school, he appeared in the television series William Tell.
As an adult he directed and produced some of the greatest comedy series in British television. He was made a BBC producer in 1968 and worked first on Misleading Cases, a legal satire starring Alastair Sim, moving on to The World of Beachcomber, starring Spike Milligan; and All Gas and Gaiters . Then came Monty Python; The Goodies; Steptoe and Son and Frankie Howerds Whoops Baghdad.
He became Head of Comedy in 1978, launching yet more famous series, including Yes Minister , Not the Nine OClock News, and Only Fools and Horses.
In 1985 he joined Thames Television. But his productions there, barring Mr Bean (1990) and After Henry (1992), were generally regarded as disappointing.
Robinson, broadcaster and writer, has died aged 83 (13 August 2011)
Although he had made his first radio broadcast in 1955, it was BBC Television's early 1960s film review programme Picture Parade that first brought him to the public eye. This led to an even more popular programme, Points of View. Originally a five-minute gap filler before the news, Robinson briskly and amusingly conducted the presentation of viewers' letters about BBC programmes.
He became best-known as the host of three long-running quiz shows. On television, from 1967, there was Call My Bluff and Ask the Family. (The first, a wordy parlour game for mid-league celebrities, he satirically renamed Call My Agent.) On radio, from 1973, he hosted Brain of Britain.
In 1971 Robinson was persuaded to join Radio 4's early morning Today programme.
Also on radio Robinson's satirical side was given free reign in his role as chairman of the incestuous but acerbically droll Radio 4 programme Stop the Week, which ran from 1974 until 1992. more....
Withers, leading lady of British stage and screen, has died aged
Through talent and determination, Googie Withers succeeded in carving out a varied career despite a name that seemed forever to consign her to light comedy roles. Born in Karachi, she was given the nickname Googie by her Indian nanny and it stuck. A Hindi word, it meant (according to who was telling) "dove" or "crazy".
From a young age she intended to become a professional dancer. She took her first lessons at the age of four and, when she was eight, came to England for more advanced training. Her professional training was undertaken with Italia Conti and then with Helena Lehmiski in Birmingham.
During the war, she joined Southern Command's Garrison theatre and after the liberation of France, played to the troops in Holland and Belgium. In Antwerp, she narrowly escaped death when the theatre where she was playing was hit by a V2 rocket only minutes after she had left.
Particularly successful were the films she made with the director Robert Hamer. After an episode in the portmanteau picture Dead Of Night (1945), they worked together on a film of the play Pink String And Sealing Wax (1945), a period piece set in Brighton, in which Googie Withers enjoyed her strongest part to date as a murderess.
On television she was named best actress of the year in 1954 in Terence Rattigan's The Deep Blue Sea. Her other films, included Once Upon A Dream (1948), Pat Jackson's White Corridors (1951) and Night And The City (1950) with Richard Widmark. more....
Reynolds, actress, has died aged 85 (1 July 2011)
Joan Reynolds was the star of Joan and Leslie, the first home-grown sitcom on the newly launched commercial television channel ITV in 1955. It was immensely popular with viewers and helped to revive the sitcom on British television the BBC had, after the second world war, launched Pinwright's Progress, then dropped it, and had only recently transferred Life With the Lyons from radio to television.
Reynolds and her actor husband, Leslie Randall, played a married couple. He was a journalist who wrote an agony-aunt column and she was a "resting" actor, performing the role of his stereotypical, dutiful wife. The programme, set in the fictional couple's London flat, began as Leslie Randall Entertains, then switched to the title Joan and Leslie towards the end of the first series, which consisted of 15-minute episodes. Two subsequent series were extended to 30 minutes and, by the final run, Reynolds and Randall were earning the then huge sum of £12,000 a year each. A sequel, The Randall Touch (1958), ran for 12 episodes.
Their fame kept the couple's profile high over the next decade, when they were regularly seen in commercials for the washing powder Fairy Snow (1962-67). An opportunity of success in Australia was dashed when Joan and Leslie was revived there in 1969, panned by the critics and achieved poor viewing figures. Following the couple's divorce in 1978, Reynolds never acted again. more....
Ornadel, Conductor and composer, has died aged 86 (23 June 2011)
In the 1950s, as conductor of ITV's immensely popular Sunday Night at the London Palladium, Cyril Ornadel possessed the most famous back of the head on British television. He was also musical director on the West End productions of some of the greatest of all musicals, twice won a Novello Award for his own compositions and was awarded the prestigious Gold Badge of Merit by the British Academy of Songwriters and Authors for services to British music. His song "Portrait of My Love" is a standard as is "If I Ruled the World" from his musical Pickwick, which had the distinction of being, for a time, the longest-running British musical on Broadway.
After the war, Ornadel began conducting variety shows and in 1950, aged 25, became the youngest musical director in the West End when he took charge of Take It From Here with Jimmy Edwards and Joy Nichols at the Victoria Palace. Over the next four decades he went on to conduct such musicals as Kismet with Alfred Drake and Doretta Morrow, Call Me Madam with Anton Walbrook, Pal Joey, Wonderful Town, The King And I and My Fair Lady.
Among the many names he worked with at the London Palladium were Nat King Cole, the Crazy Gang, Mario Lanza, Judy Garland and Noel Coward. And as well as conducting other people's musicals, Ornadel was busy writing his own. The first was Starmaker (1956), written for Jack Hulbert and Cicely Courtneidge, and then in 1963, he wrote Pickwick for Harry Secombe. more....
Hewlett, actor, has died aged 90 (13 June 2011)
Donald Hewlett was best known for playing upper-crust roles in the popular BBC Television sitcoms It Ain't Half Hot Mum and You Rang M'Lord?
Hewlett began his on-screen career with a small part in the 1954 comedy film Orders are Orders, starring Peter Sellers, Donald Pleasence and Sid James. He went on to appear in numerous television shows, among them The Saint, The Avengers, Doctor Who and Coronation Street.
In the West End in the 1950s, Hewlett appeared in two revues at the Fortune Theatre, toured with the husband-and-wife team of Jack Hulbert and Cicely Courtneidge, and in 1956 starred in a successful musical, Grab Me A Gondola, which ran for two years.
His early television work was in children's programmes with Rolf Harris. Hewlett later worked with Ronnie Barker, Ronnie Corbett and Dick Emery, among others, and appeared as Sir George Hardiman, boss of a nuclear plant, in the 1971 Doctor Who story The Claws of Axos.
His other roles included Sooty Pilkington in The Adventures of Brigadier Wellington-Bull (1959), and Winkworth in Morris Minor's Marvellous Motors in 1989. His last television appearance was in The Upper Hand in 1995.
Among his other film credits are Bottoms Up (1960); Spike Milligan's Adolf Hitler- My Part in His Downfall (1972); A Touch of Class (1973); Carry on Behind (1975); and The First Great Train Robbery (1979). more....
actor, has died aged 79 (9
Roy Skelton provided the voices for many characters on British television over nearly 50 years.
He joined the National Association of Boys Clubs Travelling Theatre straight from school and worked at the Oldham Coliseum before training at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. After repertory work in Bristol, he appeared in several plays in the West End (including Oh! My Papa! and Chrysanthemum) and got his first television role as Lampwick in Pinocchio. He went on to appear in repertory theatre all over the country before landing parts in Music for You and Quick Before They Catch Us, on the BBC.
An opportunity to voice the grumpy Mr Growser character in the BBCs rod puppet version of Toytown led to his career providing voice characterisations. Among other roles, he was Sossidge the dog in Picture Book and the Lord Chamberlain and King Boris in Gordon Murrays Rubovian Legends. more....
actor, has died aged 88 (4
James Arness played Matt Dillon, the square-jawed, heroic marshal of Dodge City in Gunsmoke, one of Americas longest-running television series. The programme was an immediate success, despite the observation by Amanda Blake (the saloon keeper Miss Kitty) that: "This is the only show where the characters can sit around in a bar room and say 'hello' for half an hour." A youthful Burt Reynolds was recruited to play the lusty, honest Dodge City blacksmith.
Critics hailed the show as "the grimy, gritty version of the reality of frontier life" and as "television's first adult Western".
In 1966-67, however, the ratings plummeted, and it looked as though the series had run its course; but when it was axed, such were the howls of protest from viewers that the chairman of CBS, William Paley, ordered it to be reinstated. The show (which had originally begun on radio in 1952) ran on television until 1975, notching up 635 episodes and making Arness a household name.
Arnesss brother Peter, who changed his last name to Graves, starred in the television series Mission Impossible. more....
Comic actress and impersonator of Margaret Thatcher, has died
aged 87 (27 May 2011)
In 1946, while taking part in rehearsals for a Jack Hylton revue, Janet Brown met the actor Peter Butterworth, who was later to appear in the Carry On films. They married the same year, and she credited him with sharpening her sense of humour.
She appeared with him in the first TV sitcom, Friends and Neighbours, which ran for six episodes in early 1954. They played husband and wife George and Constance Bird, opposite Banny Lee and Avril Angers as Arthur and Maisie Honeybee. The theme tune was a popular hit for Billy Cotton and his Band.
The children's TV show Whirligig alternated with "Telescope" on Saturday afternoons when both started in 1950, but the latter was replaced in 1951 by "Saturday Special" which was hosted by Janet Brown and Peter Butterworth. Whirligig's star was Mr Turnip and his opposite number was Porterhouse the Parrot (voiced by the great and legendary Peter Hawkins).
Janet was also in demand on radio and later appeared on The Goon Show.
On television, Janet Brown appeared in Rainbow Room, Where Shall We Go? and Friends and Neighbours before the Seventies taste for impressions led her to concentrate on the showbusiness niche that would make her famous.
On shows such as Who Do You Do (in which she appeared with Freddie Starr) and Mike Yarwood in Persons she gave impressions of the Coronation Street character Hilda Ogden, the entertainer Two-Ton Tessie OShea, Noele Gordon and Pam Ayres among others.
In 1981 she was given her own show, Janet and Co, making an impact with her impersonations of Mrs Thatcher and the celebrated dog trainer Barbara Woodhouse. She also played Margaret Thatcher in the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only (1981) and on Roy Hudds The News Huddlines on Radio 2. more....
Roderick, pioneering television producer in Wales, has died aged
82 (25 May 2011)
One of the first television producers in Wales, Selwyn Roderick had a distinguished career in which he was held in high esteem as much for the programmes he made as for his amiable personality and the unfailingly generous help he gave to younger professionals in the broadcast media.
He joined the BBC in Cardiff early in the 1950s while still in his 20s, working at first in radio, and remained with the Corporation for the rest of his working life. He and his colleagues, who included DJ Thomas and Dafydd Gruffydd, laid the foundations for what became BBC Cymru/Wales by exercising the talents they had in abundance.
Among his early successes was a series of programmes as diverse as Come Dancing, Songs of Praise and Your Life in their Hands. He also covered umpteen royal events, eisteddfodau and rugby internationals. more....
Longdon, actor, has died aged 88 (9
Terence Longdon was best known for his lead role in the 1950s-1960s British TV series Garry Halliday where he played a Biggles-like pilot who flew into various adventure situations. In film he was Drusus, Messala's personal aide in the film Ben-Hur. He is also known for his character actor roles in British television productions such as The Sandbaggers, Danger Man, and The Avengers. He was also in some of the early Carry On films.
He also had a role in the 1958 film Another Time, Another Place starring alongside Sean Connery and Lana Turner. more....
ceramic designer known for her popular Homemaker range, has died
aged 79 (9 May 2011)
Enid Seeney designed ceramics in Stoke-on-Trent for just seven years, but her most famous design, Homemaker, launched in 1957, achieved classic status. The black-and-white pattern, which featured contemporary furniture and other domestic objects flying across the plates, was sold by Woolworths stores, and brought modern design into ordinary homes at an affordable price.
Her early work was typified by stylised floral motifs, often executed in pen and ink, and this fine line technique was perfectly suited to the new movements in postwar design. Her new design was believed to be too radical for the public, and it attracted little interest when a single plate was displayed on the Ridgway stand at the 1956 Blackpool trade fair. Convinced it could be a success, Seeney and her team made up a prototype coffee set, which sat on her workstation until it was spotted by the buyer for Woolworths, and in May 1957 an order was placed for tea sets, to be sold in five of its London stores. more....
comedy scriptwriter, has died aged 90 (6 May 2011)
Bob Block was a prolific writer on both radio and TV shows from the '40s until the late '80s. His earliest writing was for the radio show 'Variety Bandbox' where he wrote for Derek Roy and Frankie Howard. He was probably best remembered as scriptwriter of 'Life With the Lyons' from 1951 for ten years. He also wrote for 'Starlight Hour' which starred Vic Oliver, Ronnie Barker, June Whitfield, Kenneth Connor, Dick Bentley, Ronnie Stevens, Bernard Braden and Barbara Kelly and also for 'Arthur's Inn' which starred Arthur Askey.
For television Bob wrote for the children's programme 'Crackerjack!'. See here for his full CV.
Cooper, the most popular and respected British boxer of the
postwar era, has died aged 76 (2
Cooper was the only man ever to win three Lonsdale belts, each awarded for three successful defences of the British heavyweight title he held for 12 years. His embodiment of the virtues of courage and modesty endeared him to millions of fellow Englishmen as Our Enery.
In 1952 he won his first Amateur Boxing Association title, as a light-heavyweight.
Cooper had a difficult two years from September 1956, winning only one of seven fights. An open air challenge for the European heavyweight title was lost when Ingemar Johansson knocked out Cooper while the sun was in his eyes. He considered quitting boxing, but in 1958 outpunched Zora Folley, ranked third in the world, to restore his confidence. In 1959 he won his first British and Empire titles, from Brian London, in 15 hard rounds. more....
Fordyce, unflappable host of Ready Steady Go! has
died aged 82 (29 March 2011)
On obtaining his degree, he worked as a football commentator for BBC TV, his first broadcast being on the Leyton v Hereford match on 22 November 1952. A comment on the BBC's files says that "his voice lacked crispness".
Fordyce presented a flagship programme, Housewives' Choice, for a week in August 1955, and this time the assessment was "Professionally-modulated, virile voice and not too smooth; but no strong character, no indication of extra entertainment potential." Also in 1955, Fordyce fought a municipal election for the Conservatives and won a seat on Wimbledon Council, but he was to move to Radio Luxembourg as a staff announcer. He presented their weekly Top Twenty programme and stayed with the station for three years.
In 1960, he compèred Jack Good's ITV show Wham! which featuredBilly Fury, Little Tony and Dickie Pride. That was short-lived but he became the original host for Thank Your Lucky Stars and the Sunday morning radio show, Easy Beat.
In August 1963 Fordyce hosted the first edition of Ready Steady Go! for Associated Rediffusion and it was thought that his know-how would help the inexperience of Cathy McGowan and Michael Aldred. The chaos was all too real, especially on one programme where Marianne Faithfull was to walk down a spiral staircase lip syncing to "Blowin' In The Wind", but the wrong record was cued the Kinks' "All Day And All Of The Night". The cameras switched to Fordyce to save the day. Among his more embarrassing duties was to preside over a weekly mime competition. Still, he preferred Ready Steady Go! to being the straight man for Groucho Marx in his only UK television series. more....
Elizabeth Taylor, actress, has died aged 79 (23 March 2011)
She made more than 50 films, won two Oscars, was a grandmother at 39 and was married eight times to seven men.
A woman of exceptional physical beauty, she grew into the most photographed Hollywood film star of all. Other love goddesses, such as Rita Hayworth, Lana Turner and Ava Gardner, were not in her league in terms of public and press attention. Everything she did was news.
Her career was long and many-stranded. She began as a child star and, with Natalie Wood and Judy Garland, shared the rare distinction of enjoying even greater fame as an adult. Her affair with, and subsequent marriage to, Richard Burton catapulted her into world headlines and gave her waning popularity a fillip just when it was needed. With Burton she embarked on a long series of films which, at least at first, became box-office hits thanks to curiosity alone, regardless of their quality.
To her credit, she was a tireless fund-raiser on behalf of Aids and cancer research and a generous supporter of Jewish and Israeli causes following her conversion from Christian Science to Judaism, the religion of her third husband, Mike Todd. This resulted in her films being banned in many Arab countries.
Hollywood film star of the Forties and Fifties has died aged 89 (2 March 2011)
She was a discovery of Howard Hughes, the aeronautics tycoon. The Outlaw, a Western about Billy the Kid, was his production, which he ended up directing himself after firing Howard Hawks, a much more experienced film-maker. The Outlaw, made in 1941, was briefly shown in 1943 but caused such controversy that it was rapidly withdrawn and not widely released until 1950.
Though her mother had been an actress, the young Jane did not initially entertain thoughts of a career in showbusiness, opting instead for employment as a chiropodist's assistant. But showbiz was in the blood and in 1940, she enrolled in Max Reinhardt's Theatrical Workshop. Later, she studied with Maria Ouspenskaya, with a little modelling on the side.
In a short space of time she made several thrillers such as His Kind of Woman (1951) and Macao (1952), both opposite Robert Mitchum; The Las Vegas Story (1952) with Victor Mature; and Double Dynamite (1951), with Frank Sinatra and Groucho Marx. in 1952, she also made Son of Paleface for Paramount.
Her biggest success and the one memorable film of her career was Gentlemen Prefer Blondes in 1953. It was blessed by a stroke of casting genius. The blonde whom gentlemen are supposed to prefer was Marilyn Monroe, leaving Russell to play the brunette they allegedly marry. And calling the shots was director Howard Hawks. more....
at Night" breaks a record (28
The BBC's The Sky At Night programme was first broadcast on 24th April 1957 - making Sir Patrick Moore the longest-running presenter of the same television show in the world.
On Sunday 6th March 2011 the programme celebrates its 700th episode, and Sir Patrick has fronted all but one of them. more....
Shearing, jazz pianist and composer, has died aged 91 (15 February 2011)
Sir George Shearing was one of the most successful pianists in jazz, developing a style of such enduring yet broad appeal that it became known as the "Shearing sound"; he also composed several well-known jazz themes, including the standard Lullaby Of Birdland.
Shearing's international popularity was based initially on the quintet which he formed in 1949, featuring the novel and attractive sound of piano, guitar and vibraphone playing in unison. This was much imitated, but no one else could quite replicate its fragile charm, or the fleet virtuosity of the leader's own piano solos. As his career developed, Shearing broadened his musical range, revealing himself to be an immensely resourceful and witty improviser.
Among the Quintet's biggest successes were a version of Jerome Kern's Pick Yourself Up (1950), with its clever introductory eight bars in strict canon, and in homage to the celebrated jazz club in Manhattan Shearing's own Lullaby Of Birdland (1952). Ultimately the latter tune acquired such overwhelming renown that Shearing was well-used to being known for little else.
Later in the 1950s, Shearing pursued an interest in Latin-inflected jazz. He had another hit record with Mambo Inn (1954) and appeared leading a Latin ensemble in the 1959 film Jazz On A Summer's Day. In the same year he recorded the hugely popular album Beauty and the Beat with the singer Peggy Lee. more....
celebrates his 100th Birthday (7
Caribbean musician, vocalist, arranger and bandleader, Edmundo Ros OBE celebrates his 100th birthday today. He made his made career in Britain and directed a highly popular Latin-American orchestra, had an extensive recording career, and owned one of London's leading night-clubs.
Edmundo Ros was born in Trinidad in December 1910. The family moved to Caracus, Venezuela. Edmundo's musical career started in the army, then he became the tympanist in the Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela. He moved to London in 1937 to continue classical studies, but popular music was to become his career. He played drums in the Fats Waller recordings, played percussion and sang in Don Marino Barreto's Cuban band and formed his five-piece Rumba Band in 1940, and the rest is history. more....
Halas & Batchelor animation archive (4 December 2010)
15 years after the studio's last release, the British Film Institute will announce that it has been given the Halas & Batchelor archive, including film prints, stills, scripts, correspondence and original cells.
Different generations will have different memories: the only feature-length animation of Animal Farm, perhaps, or the first Murray Mints TV ad. Then there was Foo Foo from the 1960s, Jackson Five and Asterix cartoons from the 1970s, numerous education films screened in schools or one of the first pop videos featuring downright weird and trippy animation that accompanied Kraftwerk's Autobahn in 1979.
All of the above were from one of the most important British animation studios there has ever been the husband and wife-run Halas & Batchelor, sometimes called the British Disney which for more than 50 years produced adverts, public information pieces, feature films, TV cartoons and serious award-winning animation respected the world over. more....
Salutes the Palladium: 100 Years of Variety. (1 December 2010)
The BFI launch the first part of the season in December with a celebration of the London Palladium's centenary, and present a two-month season reflecting the golden age of television variety.
The season will use silent movie footage, vintage film clips and a clutch of TV material to celebrate this prestigious occasion and through these precious moving images you can relive some outstanding performances and memorable nights. The December programme features screenings such as Sarah Vaughn's TV debut in 1958, a couple of brilliant vintage editions hosted by a very young Bruce Forsyth and the legendary Judy and Liza at the Palladium (an historic record of Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli at the Palladium).
engine found in pig shed (26
A "priceless" collection of Ivor the Engine episodes from the 1960s have been found gathering dust in a pig shed.
Almost 40 rusty reels of videotape were discovered under a "large pile of steaming mess" in the disused sty.
The 16mm footage is understood to have been stashed by the late Oliver Postgate, the creator of both Ivor the Engine and Bagpuss, who died in 2008.
But they lay undiscovered for more than 40 years until they were found by Postgate's former business partner, Peter Firmin, on his property in Blean, Kent.
There are now plans for the animations, which are black and white, to be digitalised and re-released.
postwar BBC television announcer, has died aged 92 (15 October 2010)
Together with Sylvia Peters and McDonald Hobley, Mary Malcolm made up the trinity of announcers who nursed us into becoming a nation of television watchers. This was in the 1940s and 50s, when the BBC had resumed its pioneering service after the wartime shutdown. Pretty well all the programmes went out live; breakdowns, gaffes, broken links and missed cues were commonplace. The announcer's task at such times was to reassure and placate the audience, and fill in the time as best as he or she could.
They were the first television celebrities, or at least the first to enjoy celebrity beyond a limited London and home counties area, and thus the first to experience the familiarity in which the nation would hold its heroes and heroines who came into the home. These were were not the outsize deities of cinema posters. Except for their BBC accents Mary Malcolm would have been enunciated as Merry Melcombe they were not so different from people encountered in ordinary life.
Malcolm joined the team in 1948. The BBC's first instinct had been to reconvene the pre-war announcing trio of Leslie Mitchell, Jasmine Bligh and Elizabeth Cowell, but only Bligh was available, and she soon left again. Hobley was recruited in time for the relaunch, and Peters the following year. Both came from the theatre. Malcolm came from BBC radio, having been urged to apply for a job there after appearing on a wartime Workers' Playtime. She did continuity announcing and presented a forces' favourites request show of the sort associated later with Jean Metcalfe. more....
Wisdom, actor and comedian has died aged 95 (4 October 2010)
Norman Wisdom ranked second only to Charlie Chaplin as the 20th centurys most consistently successful British screen comic; he shared with Chaplin a talent for visual and physical humour whose roots lay in music hall and whose appeal transcended cultural boundaries.
His break came in December 1945 at the Collins Hall, Islington, a venue for new variety turns. He had followed the manager everywhere for three weeks asking for a chance. Billed as The Successful Failure, he produced an act that was a synthesis of his experiences and would never change. Wisdom was lifes victim, a gormless, game village idiot. Mime and pratfalls were his stock-in-trade, dance and song mere distractions, as he clowned with musical instruments that shut on his fingers or was knocked out by his boxing shadow. It was silly, unsophisticated fun larded with pathos and austerity audiences lapped it up. In Skegness one teenage schoolgirl laughed so hard that she dislocated her jaw. Within two years Wisdom was a West End star.
He wanted to create a character unique to him, and in a Scarborough charity shop he found a uniform. The Gump, in a jacket three sizes too small with tie awry and cap askew, became his trademark role, the eternal schoolboy with the looks of a beaten puppy.
In 1953 Wisdom made his first major film, Trouble in Store. Although he was already established on stage and on television, reviews of the film were moderate, and Rank executives held out no great hopes for it. In the event, the film set records in 51 London cinemas, and Wisdoms plaintive theme song, Dont Laugh at Me, spent months in the Top 10.
An unbroken run of 15 successes followed until 1966, with the 5ft 4in tall Wisdom holding off even the challenge of James Bond to be Britains favourite box-office draw. In 1964 a record 18.5 million people watched his BBC pantomime Robinson Crusoe. more....
one of Hollywood's last matinee idols has died aged 85 (1October 2010)
The product of a classic success story, he rose from a New York ghetto to enjoy fame and stardom that was largely unparalleled for much of the 1950s and 1960s.
Curtis's rise began in the late Forties with a series of costume dramas which exploited his athleticism and slightly feminine good looks. Known among casting directors as "the ice cream face" because of his smooth skin, he was typecast for a decade in what he described as "doublets and hose" parts.
But in 1957 he managed to secure his reputation as an actor with a fine performance in Sweet Smell of Success (1957). His portrayal of the sleazy, unprincipled publicity man Sidney Falco surprised critics who had previously dismissed him as nothing more than eye-candy.
Two years later Curtis managed to combine his looks and acting talent in the film for which he will be best remembered, Some Like it Hot. His partnership with Jack Lemmon produced some of film comedy's most memorable lines, delivered with panache and perfect timing.
After Some Like It Hot Curtis had the opportunity to work with Cary Grant in Operation Petticoat, a nautical farce with Curtis as a crafty junior officer. He had also taken the lead role in The Vikings, which co-starred Kirk Douglas, and in 1960 starred opposite Douglas again in Stanley Kubrick's Roman slave epic Spartacus. more....
Lost tapes of
classic British television found in the US (12 September 2010)
A rediscovered haul of television dramas that has been lost for 40 years or more is set to change the way we think about many of Britain's biggest acting stars.
The extraordinary cache of televised plays described by experts as "an embarrassment of riches" features performances from a cavalcade of postwar British stars. The list includes John Gielgud, Sean Connery, Gemma Jones, Dorothy Tutin, Robert Stephens, Susannah York, John Le Mesurier, Peggy Ashcroft, Patrick Troughton, David Hemmings, Leonard Rossiter, Michael Gambon, Maggie Smith and Jane Asher. The tapes have been unearthed in the Library of Congress in Washington DC.
After months of negotiation, the library and the New York-based public service television station WNET have agreed to allow the British Film Institute in London to showcase the highlights in November, an occasion that is certain to generate intense nostalgia for what many critics maintain was the golden age of television. more....
List of recovered gems
Johnson Smith, TV reporter and politician has died aged 86 (13 August 2010)
Sir Geoffrey was a charismatic television reporter who switched to politics and enjoyed a 41-year career in the Commons. He joined the BBCs current affairs unit as a producer, and in 1954 went in front of the camera, quickly establishing himself as an accomplished and personable interviewer, appearing five times weekly in the Highlight magazine programme.
Highlight earned him a reputation for breaking controversial stories, and this followed him when he moved to the flagship Tonight programme, where his interviews became increasingly political, though never partisan.
Shortly before the 1959 general election, Cliff Michelmore, Tonights presenter, had a hernia operation and Johnson Smith was promoted to co-host the show for six weeks. His profile was thus at its highest when the election was called, and on October 8 1959 he ousted the Labour member for Holborn and St Pancras South, Lena Jeger, by 656 votes.
Arriving at Westminster as a media star, Johnson Smith worked his passage as a backbencher, concentrating his fire on St Pancrass Red Labour council. He successfully promoted a Bill authorising councils to operate a meals-on-wheels service for the elderly.
His inexperience did sometimes show, as when he dismissed settlers in East Africa as clods . But he was on the fast track, within six months becoming PPS to ministers at the Board of Trade; in 1962 he moved to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance.
His parliamentary career was interrupted in October 1964 when Lena Jeger, as Labour came to power, had her revenge by 2,756 votes. He briefly returned to television, freelancing for the BBC and Rediffusions religious programmes.
The following February he was back for the safe seat of East Grinstead, the local association preferring him to the past and future Cabinet minister Geoffrey Rippon. He took the seat by more than 10,000 votes ; he would represent the constituency redrawn in 1983 as Sussex Wealden until 2001. more....
at The London Palladium conductor, Jack Parnell has died aged 87 (9 August 2010)
Jack Parnell provided the music for shows such as Sunday Night At The London Palladium and wrote the theme tunes to programmes including The Golden Shot during his long spell as musical director at ATV where his Uncle Val was the Managing Director.
Parnell led his own band and from 1951 left Ted Heath to lead a 12-piece and then a 16-piece band.
With the advent of rock and roll, the fortunes of the big bands declined. Parnell accepted the job of musical director at ATV in 1956, a post he was to hold for 26 years. The companys flagship show, Sunday Night At The London Palladium, was broadcast live for most of its run, with rehearsals during the day. The tension as transmission time approached was enormous, but Parnell always maintained that shows produced under these stressful conditions came over better than the later, pre-recorded ones.
Disasters were sometimes only narrowly avoided, as when the orchestra, accompanying Placido Domingo in a rehearsal of excerpts from Pagliacci, turned the page and found itself playing a soft-shoe shuffle. The library had sent along Harry Secombes music by mistake.
During his decades at the broadcaster, he worked with legends such as Ella Fitzgerald, Sammy Davis Jr, Lena Horne and Nat King Cole.
He also made series with Tom Jones and Engelbert Humperdinck, acted as a panellist on TV talent show New Faces and was musical director for programmes such as The Benny Hill Show and a lavish production of Peter Pan starring Mia Farrow, Sir John Gielgud and Danny Kaye. He also composed signature tunes for programmes such as Family Fortunes.
In the late 1970s he began his association with The Muppet Show, for which he conducted the orchestra and frequently appeared on screen. He was instrumental in getting the jazz great Buddy Rich on the show.
Parnell retired from ATV in 1982, when it became Central Television, moving to Southwold but continuing to perform with the all-star veterans group Best Of British Jazz with trumpeter Kenny Baker and trombonist Don Lusher. He also played with his small group for weekly shows at the Green Man in Rackheath, Norfolk. more....
horse fetches $266,500 (17 July 2010)
Trigger, the stuffed horse belonging to cowboy actor and singer Roy Rogers, has fetched $266,500 (£174,000) at auction.
Christie's auction house, which ran the sale along with Western auctioneer High Noon Americana, said the collection of items related to Rogers' and wife Dale Evan's roles on television and in the movies brought in $2.9 million.
Trigger, the palomino horse which Rogers had stuffed after it died in 1965, was bought by rural US cable television station RFD-TV for $266,500, while his saddle fetched $386,500 (£252,000) from a private buyer.
Other top sellers included Roy Rogers' 1963 Pontiac Bonneville and the Nellybelle jeep, an iconic emblem on the Roy Rogers Show, which ran on television in the 1950s and 1960s.
The Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Museum, which was based in Branson, Missouri was closed in 2009. Roy Rogers died in 1998 at age 86.
The more than 300 items included in the sale ran from Roy's sunglasses to a sterling belt buckle to a Roy Rogers directors chair.
BBC television continuity announcer and actress, has died aged 92 (18 June 2010)
In March 1954 Avis Scott became a BBC TV in-vision announcer, replacing Noelle Middleton and was immensely popular with viewers. However, her good looks and charm were to be her downfall as in January 1955 she was sacked for being "too glamourous and sexy."
She also starred in several movies in the early 50's including Waterfront with Richard Burton and in the West End she was featured in Noel Coward's Present Laughter 1947-1948 as well as Dear Murderer and Lady from Edinburgh, both in 1946. She moved to Hollywood and worked in television until her retirement in the early eighties.
music hall artiste who tore up telephone directories, has died
aged 89 (3 June 2010)
During the mid-1950s, she appeared on television and in variety, tearing up phone books, lifting a steel table in her teeth, bending and breaking iron bars and nails and throwing obese men over her shoulder. Billed as "The Mighty Mannequin", she showed no outward sign of her considerable muscle power: with her 22in waist, she described herself as "an iron girl in a velvet glove", dressing like a showgirl and interspersing her feats with a slightly fey rhyming patter about the drawbacks of being so strong.
In 1949 she gained national attention when she appeared in a freak show entitled Would You Believe It? which toured the country. Considerable success in the London music halls and tours of America followed, and she appeared in a number of British summer shows.
At Christmas 1958 she performed before the Royal Family at Windsor Castle, where she snapped a 10in nail which the Duke of Edinburgh had been able only to dent. On her way to the Pier Theatre, Shanklin, in 1960, she was stopped by a policeman on the Isle of Wight ferry and asked to explain the presence of several hundred telephone directories in the back of her car.
At the height of her fame Joan Rhodes was viewed by the British public with a kind of stupefied fascination. She became the object of music hall jokes and cartoons in Punch. more....
actress, has died aged 83 (1
Carol Marsh earned her big screen break when she was chosen from more than 3,000 applicants to play Rose, the mousy, wide-eyed waitress in the film noir classic Brighton Rock (1947).
After Brighton Rock she dyed her hair platinum for the title role in Alice in Wonderland (1949). In the same year she was in three comedies: Marry Me, Helter Skelter, and The Romantic Age, in which she appeared with Mai Zetterling and Petula Clark.
She was the fragile, delicate yet ghoulishly determined Lucy, Christopher Lee's ill-fated victim, in the 1958 Hammer production of Dracula, the first colour version of Bram Stoker's classic. In the 1951 film of Scrooge, with Alistair Sim in the title role, Carol Marsh played the old skinflint's sister Fan, who dies giving birth to his nephew, Fred.
Her career continued into the 1960s with films such as Man Accused and parts in television dramas, among them The Adventures of Sir Lancelot and Dixon of Dock Green. In the 1970s she appeared in the record-breaking West End play The Mousetrap.
She had made her television debut in 1950 in The Lady's Not For Burning, starring Richard Burton and Alec Clunes. She was Miranda in a children's version of The Tempest, and Alexandra in Little Foxes (both 1951). She featured in the 1959 Trollope serial The Eustace Diamonds, playing Augusta Fawn, and was Mrs Blacklow in the Arnold Bennett serial Lord Raingo of 1966.
She was busier on radio, and was a member of the BBC Drama Rep at intervals between 1966 and 1979. more....
Hopper, iconoclastic actor and director whose film Easy Rider
defined the counterculture of the 1960s, has died aged 74 (31 May 2010)
Put under contract by Warner Brothers after being spotted on television while still a teenager, he made his film debut in Rebel Without a Cause alongside James Dean, Natalie Wood and Sal Mineo. He played opposite Dean again in Giant (1956) and was strongly influenced by Deans brooding style. He always regarded Dean as the most talented and original actor he worked with. They became close friends and Deans death in a car crash in 1955 at the age of 24 affected him deeply.
Much of his subsequent work was in westerns, from Gunfight at the OK Corral (1957) to The Sons of Katie Elder (1965), Cool Hand Luke (1967) Hang em High (1968) and True Grit (1969).
Dennis Hopper was triumphantly to capture the spirit of the youth revolution of the '60s in the film that became iconic of the spirit of Sixties counter-culture, Easy Rider (1969). As scriptwriter (with Peter Fonda and Terry Southern) actor (with Peter Fonda) and director, of Easy Rider, Hopper was the controlling genius of a film that could so easily have degenerated into chaos as it pursued him and Fonda as a couple of drop-outs on Harley-Davidson motorcycles on a ragged odyssey across America (on the way giving Jack Nicholson his first big screen break). more....
ventriloquist, has died aged 79 (24 May 2010)
Ray Alan was a technically brilliant voice-thrower who, alongside his superbly snobbish, drink-soaked creation Lord Charles, became the most famous ventriloquist in Britain during the Sixties and Seventies.
Alan was inspired to create Lord Charles (family motto: Semper Inebriate) in 1960, while watching a drunken aristocrat in the audience at the Satire Club off Jermyn Street. "I saw this chap sitting at a ringside table," Alan recalled, "dinner suit on, delightful young lady with him, and there he was patting her knee and pouring her champagne and saying: 'By Jove, you lovely thing, oh you lovely little thing.' And I thought what a wonderful character.
Lord Charles made his first television appearance in 1961 on the BBC pastiche music hall show The Good Old Days.
Such was Alan's success with Lord Charles that they appeared together on the programme more frequently than any other act. With his frequent rejoinder "Silly ass", Lord Charles would introduce viewers into the cosy, Wodehouseian world of the peerage.
Alan's natural ability quickly helped him take over as the nation's favourite ventriloquist from Peter Brough, whose radio show, Educating Archie, had been a big success in the Fifties. Alan was technically a much better "vent" than Brough, who was well suited to radio in that his lips moved when he did his act which proved fatal when he attempted to transfer to television.
in 1958 he made his television debut on Toytown, alongside the hero of which, Larry The Lamb, Alan introduced a new character reflecting the dawning space age: Mikki the Martian. Though Lord Charles was his star turn throughout the Sixties, Alan also performed in that period with his two best-known characters for children (of which he was particularly proud), a small boy and his pet duck known as Tich and Quackers. more....
BBC Parliamentary correspondent throughout the 1950s, has died
aged 97 (16 May 2010)
Roland Fox was a BBC Parliamentary correspondent and only the second to hold the post; he covered the last years of Churchill's premiership and the heated Suez debates, the first televised State Opening of Parliament, and accompanied Harold Macmillan on his "Wind of Change" tour of Africa.
There was no guidance, no training and no autocue; he often read straight from his notes on to the air, anticipating the next morning's press by many hours. When Winston Churchill resigned in 1955, there was a newspaper strike, so the story was broken by the BBC's Parliamentary staff.
When regular television news bulletins began in July 1954, it often meant a long taxi journey to Alexandra Palace in north London, allowing Fox some time to learn his lines by heart on the way. Later the Westminster studio was adapted for television.
On one occasion the studio lights suddenly failed in the middle of Fox's piece. He knew what he wanted to say and gamely continued in total darkness to the end of his live report. He never had any editorial supervision; all that was required, he said, was that he come out on time. more....
singer, actress, civil rights activist and, eventually, a
showbusiness phenomenon has died aged 92 (16 May 2010)
Although she did not regard herself as a jazz singer, she had a formidable sense of rhythm and an easy-going style which went well in a jazz context. As a film actress she had notable success in Stormy Weather (in which she sang the title song) and Cabin In The Sky. Her refusal to play demeaning roles, or to allow her light complexion to be darkened with make-up, made enemies in Hollywood but in the long run brought her great public respect.
Lena Horne starred on Broadway in Jamaica in 1957. She toured internationally, appearing several times at the London Palladium and the London Casino. She also recorded many albums, ranging from jazz and blues to Rodgers and Hart songs such as The Lady is a Tramp. Altogether she appeared in some 15 films, among them I Dood It (1943) and Ziegfeld Follies (1946). The last, Death of a Gunfighter, came out in 1969, after which she retired to Los Angeles to grow cacti. more....
Provine, actress and singer, has died aged 75 (6 May 2010)
In 1958, Provine played a female gangster in The Bonnie Parker Story: this was essentially a B-movie and had none of the quality of Bonnie And Clyde (1967), but Provine shone in her role. This was followed by inconsequential parts in Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer and Wagon Train, but she played opposite Lou Costello in the comedy, The 30 Foot Bride Of Candy Rock (1959): Provine played the 30 foot bride. Roger Moore and Provine co-starred in a TV series about prospectors, The Alaskans (1959-60).
Provine's big break came with another TV series, The Roaring 20s, in which she played the flapper, Pinky Pinkham. This light-hearted escapism about cops, gangsters and showgirls in Chicago in the 1920s was very successful and co-starred Donald May and Gary Vinson.
Provine appeared in the comedy extravaganza It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), as Jack Lemmon's wife in Good Neighbour Sam (1964), with Hayley Mills in That Darn Cat! (1965) and she was back to being a flapper in Blake Edwards' The Great Race (1965). Provine was to play the film star, Jean Harlow in Harlow (1965), but, at the last minute, the director Alex Segal decided that Carol Lynley had a greater dramatic range. more....
actor and television presenter on important state occasions, has
died aged 82 (20 April 2010)
For 44 yearsTom Fleming gave a very definite Scottish identity to the BBC's coverage of the Edinburgh Tattoo. His musical voice brought a feeling of home-grown passion to the events on the Esplanade. That voice captured the excitement and solemnity of many occasions, starting with the Queen's Coronation in 1953, when Fleming was outside Westminster Abbey. He also provided the television commentary for the funerals of Diana, Princess of Wales and the Queen Mother and numerous other state occasions. Another annual duty was the Ceremony of Remembrance at the Cenotaph in London. Fleming was able to find the correct intonation for any event and make it suit the occasion.
Fleming was a renowned actor and did prestigious seasons with the Royal Shakespeare Company and was closely connected with the epic drama The Three Estates, which he first performed at the Edinburgh Festival in Tyrone Guthrie's celebrated production in 1953.
In 1953, he joined the BBC to commentate on the Coronation and proved a natural: unflappable and always ready with some information when things were delayed.
In 1956 he gave a sympathetic reading of the title role of Jesus of Nazareth: particularly challenging as it was the first time the face of Christ had been acted on television. The 12-part series, shown over Easter, displayed Fleming's acting skills to excellent effect.
One of his more unusual assignments was to front the BBC's coverage of the Eurovision Song Contest from Edinburgh in 1972.
Fleming's contribution to outside broadcasts for the BBC was immense. He commentated on two royal weddings and ten funerals, and the enthronement of two Popes and three Archbishops. One of his last broadcasts was on Radio 4 in 2007, when he was in a dramatisation of Walter Scott's Heart of Midlothian. more....
McKellar, among the most popular of Scotland's singers, has died
aged 82 (11 April 2010)
He became familiar to English television viewers courtesy of the BBC and The White Heather Club, a hugely popular Scottish country dance and music show which ran from 1958 to 1968 and, at its peak, drew an audience of 10 million.
The White Heather Club featured stars such as Andy Stewart, swathed in lace and tartan, singing Donald Where's Your Troosers? and Kenneth McKellar with poignant renderings of Song of the Clyde, Bonnie lass o' Ballochmyle and other stirring numbers.
In between, dainty girls in white blouses and laced pumps, and young men with kilts and fixed smiles, would whisk and whoop each other through the Dashing White Sergeant or the Eightsome Reel to the strains of Jimmy Shand and his Band.
After abandoning the operatic stage, in 1954 McKellar signed with the Decca record company. Over a period of 25 years he recorded some 45 LPs, ranging from oratorio to Burns songs, achieving massive sales all over the world.
During the 1950s McKellar became well-known in Scotland through radio, singing Scottish songs, light opera and popular songs on his own series, A Song For Everyone, for the BBC. At the same time, he began trying his hand as a songwriter and was responsible for such ballads as The Tartan, which has been covered by some 40 artistes and The Royal Mile, which was heard by more than four million people during the televised opening of the 1986 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh.
In 1966 McKellar was chosen to represent Britain in the Eurovision Song Contest, singing A Man Without Love. It was not a happy experience. Despite widespread predictions that he would win, he was placed ninth, a result he attributed to the fact that the Scandinavian nations had "made a mockery of the whole contest" by voting for each other. more....
Bedser, the Surrey and England cricketer, has died aged 91 (5 April 2010)
His supreme triumph came in 1953, when his 39 wickets at 17.48 apiece in five Tests enabled England to reclaim the Ashes for the first time since the Bodyline series of 1932-33. The other nine bowlers used by England that summer managed only 52 wickets between them.
In the first Test in 1953, at Trent Bridge, on a pitch that was far from vicious, Bedser returned figures of seven for 55 and seven for 45, in the process overhauling Sydney Barness record of 189 Test wickets for England, which had stood since 1914. Later that summer, in which he celebrated his 35th birthday, he established a world record for Test bowling when he surpassed Clarrie Grimmetts total of 216 Test wickets for Australia. He also became the first England bowler since Barnes to take 100 wickets against Australia.
Alec Bedser continued to play for Surrey until 1960, frequently captaining the side in Peter Mays absence. He played a vital part in Surreys run of seven consecutive championships from 1952 to 1958, particularly in 1957, when he temporarily recovered full fitness.
He served on the England board of selectors from 1961 to 1985, and as chairman from 1968 to 1981. more....
Benson, actor, has died aged 91 (30
Benson made his greatest mark during a busy acting career as Kralahome, the Grand Vizier in The King and I, whom he played in the long-running London stage production and then in the 1956 Hollywood film with Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr.
But on starting out in films it was his hard face, elegantly tailored figure and mastery of foreign accents that earned him a natural place on the wrong side of the law; it was said he was first choice for a role if Herbert Lom was unavailable.
After the war Benson decided against returning to a 10s-a-week job in pharmacy and quickly found work in The Adventures of PC 49 (1949); I'll Get You for This (1951); Wide Boy (1952); Escape by Night (1953); Soho Incident (1957); and Assassin For Hire (1958).
He stayed on in Hollywood after The King and I but was unimpressed at being cast in 23 Paces to Baker Street, which placed Sherlock Holmes's house on the edge of the Thames, and returned home to appear in Interpol, The Flesh is Weak, Istanbul and many more in the burgeoning world of British television. From 1958 he spent an enjoyable two years in Sword of Freedom as the murderous Duke de Medici, opposite the dashing Edmund Purdom as a painter and swordsman in 15th-century Florence. He was an impressive resident defence counsel in The Verdict is Yours. He also could be regularly spotted in episodes of The Saint, The Troubleshooters, The Champions, The Bill and Last of the Summer Wine. more....
Carpenter, sports journalist and boxing commentator, has died
aged 84 (22 March 2010)
For millions of television viewers, Harry Carpenter's boxing match commentary was an essential ringside ingredient.
After wartime service in the Royal Navy as a Morse code operator, he worked on several newspapers before joining the Daily Mail as boxing columnist.
In 1949, Carpenter offered his services to the BBC as a boxing commentator, but because there was no relevant footage to hand at his audition, he had to provide a commentary for a football match instead.
He heard nothing for months, until the head of outside broadcasts, Peter Dimmock, phoned him to ask whether he could fill in as commentator for an amateur boxing night.
Harry Carpenter proved himself adept at commentating on a host of other sporting events, but it was always boxing with which he was most closely associated.
His first fight commentary for the BBC was in 1949 and in the next decade, he was responsible for the first live commentary from behind the Iron Curtain in 1957 and the first via satellite from the United States.
For much of the 1970s and 80s, Carpenter co-hosted the Sports Personality of the Year programme, having first contributed in 1958. He was "flattered and pleased" that he was asked to pay tribute to the Sports Personality of the Century, Muhammad Ali. more....
actor, Fess Parker, has died aged 85 (19 March 2010)
Fess Parker, the Texas-born actor, became a star of early television playing American frontier folk hero Davy Crockett and later portrayed Daniel Boone. His role as Crockett made him a household name in the mid-1950s and inspired a generation of young American baby boomers to don his trademark coonskin cap.
His life changed at the age of 29, in 1954, when Walt Disney hired him to star in a three-episode miniseries about Crockett, the "King of the Wild Frontier" whose life became an American folk legend.
The three episodes were enormously popular with viewers, catching the Walt Disney Co by surprise and spawning one of TV's first pop culture frenzies inspiring the sale of coonskin caps, buckskin clothes, toy rifles, books and other memorabilia.
The show's theme song, "The Ballad of Davy Crockett," which recounted that the hero "kilt him a bear when he was only three," went to the top of the pop charts and stayed there for 13 weeks.
Although the series was meant to end with Crockett's death at the Alamo, its unexpected success prompted Disney to crank out two more episodes and a feature film.
Parker returned to the frontier in 1964 as the star of "Daniel Boone", a hit NBC series about another early American folk hero and adventurer that ran until 1970. more....
actor, has died aged 83 (16 March 2010)
Peter Graves appeared in a multitude of films and television shows during a career which spanned nearly 60 years, but will be remembered principally for his roles as a spymaster in the TV series Mission: Impossible and as a pilot in the spoof disaster movie Airplane!
Peter's elder brother was James Arness, who found fame as Matt Dillon in the television series Gunsmoke; and when Peter followed him to Hollywood he decided to call himself Graves the surname of his maternal grandfather to avoid any confusion.
He first came to public attention in the 1950s television series Fury, about the adventures of a boy and his horse, and in 1953 won plaudits for his portrayal of a Nazi spy in Billy Wilder's prisoner-of-war drama Stalag 17.
In 1955 he appeared in John Ford's The Long Gray Line; Charles Laughton's The Night of the Hunter; and Otto Preminger's The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell.
Graves's television appearances included Alfred Hitchcock Presents, the miniseries The Winds of War (1983) and War and Remembrance (1988), and Fantasy Island (1978-83). He also presented a number of programmes about science and, for the Arts and Entertainment Network's Biography series, was narrator on programmes about the lives of famous figures such as Winston Churchill and Sophia Loren. more....
O'Neil, comedy actress and singer, has died aged 83 (11 March 2010)
Paddie O'Neil was a supremely versatile comedy actress and singer with a career spanning five decades; she often appeared in shows that featured her husband, the theatrical all-rounder Alfred Marks.
In the late 1940s she met Marks, an up-and-coming comedian, when they both appeared in a summer show in Brighton. In 1950 the BBC, which was trying to find a successful comedy format for its fledgling television service, starred them in a sketch series, Don't Look Now, with a young Ian Carmichael.
The following year, Paddie O'Neil made her first movie, 'Penny Points to Paradise', a low-budget comedy that was one of Peter Sellers's earliest films. By now Marks and she had fallen in love and they were married in the West London synagogue.
They scored their first major television success with Alfred Marks Time (1956-59). Each week, Paddie O'Neil sang a duet with Ray Ellington, who had become well-known for his appearances on BBC Radio's The Goon Show.
Marks and O'Neil were again teamed for Val Parnell's spectacular London Palladium pantomime Humpty Dumpty (1959-60), with Harry Secombe in the title role. They played the King and Queen of Hearts.
Paddie O'Neil appeared in her second feature film in 1965: The Early Bird, starring Norman Wisdom. Other movies followed: The Adding Machine (1969); Fanny Hill (1983); and The Little Match Girl (1987). more....
Vaughan, singer who fell foul of the BBC but sold half a million
records as a result has died aged 81 (25 February 2010)
In October 1956, Malcolm Vaughan was due to appear on BBC TV's Off The Record to promote his new release, "St. Therese Of The Roses". The invitation was withdrawn a few days later after a BBC committee had determined that the record was unsuitable for broadcast because "the lyric is contrary both to Roman Catholic doctrine and to Protestant sentiment." The resulting controversy helped to sell records, and with airplay on Radio Luxembourg the sugary wedding song climbed to No 3, stayed on the charts for five months and sold half a million copies.
Early in his career Vaughan appeared, using his real name Malcolm Thomas, as the voice of Dennis the Dachshund in a television production of Larry The Lamb.
Vaughan had many hits in the 1950s with "To Be Loved", "More Than Ever (Come Prima)" and "Wait For Me", and sang the theme song from the Kenneth More film about the sinking of the Titanic, A Night To Remember (1958). Strangely, Vaughan did not make an album until Hello in September 1959.
Vaughan worked as a double act with Kenneth Earle throughout the 1960s but they never realised their ambition of making comedy films like Morecambe and Wise. It would have been better for Vaughan's career if he had continued making records and capturing the same market as Matt Monro. The duo split up in 1972 with Earle becoming an agent and Vaughan touring in productions of The Good Old Days. more....
Jeffries, character actor, screenwriter and director, has died
aged 83 (20 February 2010)
As an actor, the bald, bewhiskered Jeffries showed a facial mobility and excellent comic delivery that turned him into one of the best-known bumbling figures in British cinema; and however brief his appearances, he was always an asset in films that ranged from The Colditz Story and The Quatermass Xperiment to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and The Trials of Oscar Wilde.
Jeffries won his first West End engagement, as Major ATM Broke-Smith in Dorothy and Campbell Christie's Carrington VC (1953), with Alec Clunes in the title role. The following season saw him on the London stage as The Father in Peter Hall's production of Lorca's Blood Wedding and The Doctor in Jean Giraudoux's The Enchanted, both at the Arts Theatre.
Jeffries was soon attracted to the cinema, starting his film career in Alfred Hitchcock's Stage Fright (1949). But he made his first real impression as one of the prisoners-of-war in Guy Hamilton's The Colditz Story (1954).
In one year alone he acted in nine different films. In 1955 he was a great success in Windfall, and there followed a plethora of successful cameo roles in which he proved capable of summoning up both dry comedy and menace. Among them were an inquisitive reporter in the Quatermass Xperiment (1955); Gelignite Joe, a diamond robber whose schoolgirl niece contrived for him to impersonate a new headmistress in Blue Murder at St Trinian's (1957); and a sailor charged with trying to prevent the ship's captain from knowing about all the livestock being carried on board in Up the Creek (1958).
Other parts included Major Proudfoot in Law and Disorder (1958); an army adjutant trying to impose regulations on Anthony Newley's conscripted pop singer in Idol on Parade (1959); and a prison officer attempting to discipline Peter Sellers and Bernard Cribbins in Two-Way Stretch (1960).
Jeffries continued in this vein for another two decades, samples being The Hellions (1961); The Wrong Arm of the Law (1963); First Men in the Moon (1964); You Must be Joking! (1965); Rocket to the Moon (1967); Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968), in which he played Grandpa Potts; and The Prisoner of Zenda (1978). In all he appeared in 70 films between 1949 and 1988.
But it was as the director of The Railway Children, one of the most enchanting films ever made for young people, that Jeffries left his mark on the history of cinema.
Jeffries's script and direction, along with the acting of Bernard Cribbins, Dinah Sheridan and Jenny Agutter and the homely tone of the whole enterprise, earned the film its place as a minor classic.
With this success behind him, Jeffries was inspired him to make more films in the genre, coming up with The Amazing Mr Blunden (set in 1918, it has a widow and her two children living in a country house haunted by the friendly Mr Blunden); Wombling Free (1977) and The Water Babies (1978). None of these, though, rivalled the warmth, simplicity, charm, and eye for period detail that distinguished The Railway Children. more....
Grayson, soprano and familiar star of MGM musicals, has died aged
88 (20 February 2010)
She appeared in 20 films, all but three for MGM but only one, the 1952 remake of Show Boat, was a big hit.
Cast opposite Gene Kelly in Thousands Cheer (1943) and Anchors Aweigh (1945), she displayed a winsome charm.
Early co-stars were June Allyson in Two Sisters from Boston (1946) and Frank Sinatra in Anchors Aweigh, It Happened in Brooklyn (1947) and The Kissing Bandit (1948), a pseudo-Mexican extravaganza that failed at the box office.
MGM then cast her opposite Mario Lanza, a podgy and then unknown tenor of whom some hopes were entertained. They made two films together That Midnight Kiss (1948) and The Toast of New Orleans (1950).
Kathryn Grayson's career benefited in tandem with Mario Lanza's; hence Grounds for Marriage (1951), a comedy with Van Johnson about a prima donna who makes a play for her ex-husband. This afforded a rare on-screen chance to show her operatic form, though she was vocally and dramatically miscast in excerpts from Carmen and the film was released only as the second half of a double-bill.
Shrewdly typecast in Showboat as the pretty but simpering "belle of the Cotton Blossom", she was backed by outstanding production values and strong performances from Howard Keel and Ava Gardner. Her last three films for MGM, all with Howard Keel, contained her best work. Show Boat, Lovely to Look At (a 1952 remake of Roberta, with music by Jerome Kern) and Kiss Me Kate, the 1953 3-D version of the Cole Porter musical based on The Taming of the Shrew, were well within her vocal range. In the last, in particular, as Shakespeare's shrewish Kate, she demonstrated the long-awaited germs of an acting talent. more....
Cy Grant, the
Guyanese actor, singer and writer who was the first black person
to be seen regularly on British TV, has died at the age of 90 (16 February 2010)
Cy Grant served in the Royal Air Force during World War II and qualified as a barrister before turning to acting.
He became best known for his role singing 'Topical Calypsos' on the BBC's daily topical programme, Tonight. It made him a household name but he left after two and a half years to avoid being typecast.
He went on to star in the award-winning TV drama Home of the Brave in 1957 and played the lead in Othello at the Phoenix Theatre in Leicester in 1965 at a time when white actors were routinely "blacked up" for the part.
He returned to the Bar briefly in 1972 but left after six months.
Two years later, he helped create the Drum Arts Centre in London - which was considered to be hugely important in the development of black theatre. He went on to set up multi-cultural festivals across England in the 1980s.
Alongside his acting and activism work, he recorded five albums, having performed Caribbean folk songs and calypso across the world. Two of his best known singles are King Cricket and The Constantine Calypso, in celebration of Garfield Sobers and Learie Constantine, two of the West Indies' most famous cricketers.
He also recorded many shows for radio and wrote several books including a collection of poems. more....
Dale, ballet choreographer and TV producer, has died aged 87 (9
Margaret Dale was a Sadler's Wells Ballet dancer who became Britain's most distinguished producer of ballet for television, making more than 60 programmes in an era that is often considered ballet's golden age.
The invitation to create six little ballets for children's television led, in 1954, to her decision to train as a BBC producer. There she invited Kenneth MacMillan to create a half-hour ballet for television. This was 'Turned Out Proud', for the weekly 'Music at Ten' slot, and she and MacMillan sifted through the corporation's record collection to create a musical score.
Although the BBC's music controller was "bewildered" by the result, and the Musicians' Union protested at the use of recorded material, Margaret Dale used these concerns to ask for, and be granted, permission to use live music for MacMillan's much darker and more ambitious Sadler's Wells ballet, 'House of Birds', transmitted live in 1956.
She also set up a studio session with the Bolshoi Ballet in the lakeside act of 'Swan Lake' during their famous 1956 debut tour to London. This attracted 12 million viewers, and was the first of several television films she made during visits to London by the Bolshoi and the Kirov.
Margaret Dale also adapted many classic ballets for television, starting in 1957 with 'Coppelia', starring Nadia Nerina. Others included Giselle, Ashton's 'La fille mal gardée' and John Cranko's 'Onegin', whose 37-minute abridgement in 1966 was thought by some to be better than the stage version. more....
Dankworth, pioneer of modern jazz has died aged 82 (7 February 2010)
Johnny Dankworth, was a leading composer of film music, a tireless champion of musical education, regardless of genre, and a superb instrumentalist in his own right.
In 1950 Dankworth formed his first band, the Johnny Dankworth Seven, containing some of Britain's leading young soloists. The style was neatly arranged bebop, inspired by Miles Davis's band of the time. Although this enterprise almost collapsed in its early days, a modest growth in the audience for modern jazz allowed it to gain a foothold. Within a year, the Seven, and Dankworth himself, figured among the winners in the annual polls conducted by the music press.
In 1951, the Seven appeared in one of the two inaugural jazz concerts at the Royal Festival Hall. In the same year the Seven recruited a young and totally inexperienced singer, Cleo Laine.
Dankworth broke up the Seven in 1953 and launched his first big band, consisting of eight brass, five saxophones, rhythm section and three vocalists.
In the mid-1950s the orchestra had a long-running radio series in which Dankworth made a point of introducing guests from other musical genres. These were mainly classical virtuosi, such as the clarinettist Jack Brymer and violinist Kenneth Essex.
In 1960 Dankworth gave up full-time bandleading in order to concentrate on composition. He composed and conducted the music for Saturday Night And Sunday Morning (Reisz, 1960) and The Criminal (Joseph Losey, 1960). So successful were these, and so distinctive the music, that the Dankworth sound became inseparably linked with the new wave of British cinema in the 1960s.
Among the best known are The Servant (Losey, 1963), Darling (John Schlesinger, 1965), Modesty Blaise (Losey 1966) and Morgan, A Suitable Case For Treatment (Reisz, 1966). To these were added television themes such as The Avengers (1961) and Tomorrow's World (1966), as well as an endless stream of advertising commercials.
John Dankworth and Cleo Laine were married in 1958 and their careers were intertwined thereafter. more....
Carmichael, the actor, has died aged 89 (7 February 2010)
Ian Carmichael personified the affable, archetypal silly ass Englishman in scores of revues, light comedies, films and television programmes.
To his wide-eyed boyish grin, bemused courtesy and trusting manner, Carmichael brought an invaluably comic air of innocence to bear on his thousand and one misfortunes. His old-world manners were his technical lifeline, and the lightness of his touch on stage and screen ensured the effect of often-thin material.
In sometimes brilliant London stage shows in the early Fifties which satirised the fashions and foibles of the day, Carmichaels timing and gravely expressive features enriched scores of sketches as a polite and easily embarrassed Englishman, trying to change his clothes discreetly, for example, or to assemble a recalcitrant deck chair.
It was the film version of his first straight stage success, Simon and Laura (1955) which established Carmichael on the screen. The following year his portrayal of an artful conscripted dodger in the Boultings comedy Privates Progress endeared him to everyone who had ever been called up. Few comedians knew how to look more comically, humanly afraid. His apprehensive subaltern - standing rigidly to attention on the parade ground as an offstage sergeant barked a string of commands which he knew he would never be able, as expected, to repeat to his platoon - was a model of silent, facial panic. The character returned, fleetingly, in Im All Right, Jack (1959). In this picture he had just been demobilised and, in looking for work, became caught in a wrangle between capitalists and trades unionists from which he emerged, inadvertently, triumphant.
But it is probably his portrayals on television of PG Wodehouse's dithering Bertie Wooster and Dorothy L Sayers's elegant Lord Peter Wimsey which underlined his gifts as an exponent of the light English comedy of manners to greatest effect.
Carmichael also directed several light entertainment television series such as Mr Pastrys Progress, Its A Small World and We Beg To Differ. more....
Roberts, actor who starred as Adam Cartwright in Bonanza, has
died aged 81 (27 January 2010)
Pernell Roberts was the last of the original stars from Bonanza, the US television series that took the western to a huge mainstream international audience of all ages and both sexes, with its focus on family values and moral dilemmas.
One of the most successful television series ever, it originally ran from 1959 to 1973 in the US, opened in the UK on ITV in 1960.
Roberts played Adam Cartwright, the introspective, eldest son of a rancher, Ben Cartwright (Lorne Greene). Ben had been married and widowed three times, which explained why he had produced three such different sons. The others were big, awkward, loveable Hoss (Dan Blocker) and the handsome, young ladies man Little Joe (Michael Landon).
But Roberts grew dissatisfied with the series. He had been an acclaimed Shakespearean stage actor and found the production line of television "banal". The stories did indeed get repetitive. Characters were repeatedly victims of prejudice and were accused of things they did not do. The Cartwrights were against violence, but killed dozens, possibly hundreds of villains, against their will.
Roberts quit in 1965, but failed to build on the success of Bonanza before effectively re-emerging as the star of the MASH spin-off Trapper John MD (1979-86). more....
actress Jean Simmons dies aged 80 (23
Simmons, who was born in London, made her film debut in the 1944 British production Give Us the Moon after being spotted by Val Guest, the director.
Several minor films followed before David Lean, the British director, gave the actress her breakthrough role of Estella, companion to the reclusive Miss Havisham in the 1946 Great Expectations.
That was followed by the Black Narcissus and Oliviers Oscar-winning Hamlet in 1948, for which Simmons was nominated as best supporting actress.
Simmons left Britain for Hollywood in 1950, accompanied by the actor Stewart Granger, her future husband.
She then starred in Young Bess, where she played the young Queen Elizabeth I, The Robe, The Actress, The Egyptian and Desiree in which, in 1954, she played the title role opposite Brandos Napoleon. The pair teamed again in 1955 for Guys and Dolls.
Her other notable films included Elmer Gantry, with Burt Lancaster; Until They Sail, with Paul Newman; The Big Country with co-star Gregory Peck; Spartacus, also starring Kirk Douglas; This Earth Is Mine with Rock Hudson; All the Way Home with Robert Preston; Mister Buddwing, alongside James Garner; and Rough Night in Jericho with Dean Martin.
During the '80s she won an Emmy Award for her role in the miniseries, The Thorn Birds and then she also appeared on television shows including Murder, She Wrote, In the Heat of the Night and Xena: Warrior Princess. more....
Rugby union broadcaster, has died aged 86 (20 January 2010)
Bill McLaren spent 50 years commentating on rugby union matches for BBC radio and television.
In this role his powerful Scottish tones, memorable turns of phrase, dedication to research and rigid impartiality proved an awesome combination, enhancing the broadcast experience for millions of listeners and viewers throughout club and international seasons.
In 1948 he was selected for the final trial to represent the Scottish national team but was unable to compete, having been given a diagnosis of tuberculosis. When he recovered he worked for three years as a reporter on the Hawick Express, all the while maintaining his strong interest in rugby. Unbeknown to him, a colleague with BBC connections wrote to a friend in London recommending McLarens services as a rugby commentator.
On the strength of this McLaren was offered a commentary test. He was characteristically reluctant to accept the challenge but eventually agreed, making his debut on the Scottish Home Service in January 1952 for the South of Scotland versus South Africa game. This led, in 1953, to his national radio debut covering the Scotland v Wales international. In 1962 he switched to television.
McLarens day job was to supervise sport and teach PE in Hawicks five primary schools. He filled this role from the early 1950s until 1987, and was proud to have taught several of Scotlands future international players in their youth. more....
Pickering, actor, has died aged 76 (15 January 2010)
Donald Pickering made his stage debut in 1951 in George Devine's production of Shakespeare's The Comedy of Errors at the Old Vic School Theatre in London alongside Prunella Scales, Joan Plowright and Patrick Wymark. He made his first television appearance in 1956 in an edition of ITV's Television Playhouse.
Often cast in the role of a suave authority figure, government minister or a high-ranking military officer, Pickering made his debut in Dr Who in 1964 when he played Eyesen in the story The Keys of Marinus alongside the first Doctor, William Hartnell.
Pickering's other television roles includes appearances in dramas such as The House of Eliott, All Creatures Great and Small, Rumpole of the Bailey, The Professionals, Tales of the Unexpected, Crown Court, The Pallisers and The Saint. His comedy appearances included roles in Yes, Prime Minister, Lovejoy and The Brittas Empire. In 1980 he played Doctor Watson for 23 episodes in Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson. more....
Cowling, the nation's first on-screen weather man, has died aged
(28 December 2009)
George Cowling secured his place in history on January 11 1954, when he ventured before the BBC cameras to become the BBC's on-screen weatherman.
From 1949, the BBC had carried weather maps at the end of the evening's programmes, during which an off-screen announcer read a script supplied by the Meteorological Office. The introduction of an on-screen forecaster was a big step for both organisations.
Studio facilities and technology available to the forecasters were extremely primitive and provided little in comparison to the vast quantities of instantly-accessible data churned out by today's hi-tech instruments, many of them in orbit above the Earth.
In the early-1950s television programmes began at 8pm, and the new weather feature was tacked on to beginning of the schedule. Part of the brief was to look back at the previous day's forecast, assess how accurate it had been, and, if necessary, to try to explain what had gone wrong.
Thus Cowling and his colleagues began to talk at 7.55pm, and had four-and-a-half minutes to fill before the continuity announcer took over to introduce the evening's entertainment. While the viewer might have considered the slot brief, more than four minutes represented a real challenge for an inexperienced broadcaster to fill fluently without a script. Cowling himself noted later that to fill the time "unprompted, before critical millions, could only spell one thing: unhappiness".
Cowling joined the Met office, then part of the Ministry of Defence, aged 19, and worked through the war as a weather forecaster for the RAF, stationed initially in Yorkshire, and then on the Continent.
After 15 years with the Met, he was transferred to the London Weather Centre where he coped successfully with the exacting requirements of his new television job before promotion took him, in February 1957, to RAF Bomber Command. Subsequent postings included Singapore, Malta, Bahrain and Germany. He also taught at the Met Office College and was principal forecaster at Heathrow. more....
actor, has died aged 90 (12
In 1951, Gene Barry landed a film contract with Paramount at 1,000 dollars a week and made his big-screen debut as a nuclear physicist in The Atomic City (1952). He was a scientist again in his best-remembered film role, as Dr Clayton Forrester, in The War of the Worlds (1953).
But television became the medium in which Barry made his mark. Following his appearance in an episode of the suspense series The Clock (1950), he worked his way up the cast list, via programmes such as Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955), to play the PE teacher Gene Talbot during the run of the sitcom Our Miss Brooks (1955-6).
Then came the title role of the suave, dapper, Arizona gambler-lawman, with a black derby, pinstriped suit, gold vest and a sword disguised as a gold-tipped cane, in the Western series Bat Masterson (1958-61). Masterson, "the fastest cane in the West", who also carried a gun, was a 19th-century former Dodge City sheriff and the character established Barry's line in debonair roles.
As the suave and witty Los Angeles Chief of Detectives in Burke's Law, Gene Barry brought to television screens a policeman who turned up to crime scenes in style, sitting in the comfortably upholstered rear of a chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce.
The millionaire Amos Burke was also seen at home, in his luxurious mansion, where a string of beautiful women visited the eligible bachelor. Burke's Law (1963-65) was the tongue-in-cheek antithesis of established American crime dramas such as Dragnet, with its mundane but eminently watchable police procedurals, and The Untouchables, which presented a weekly bloodbath of murders and massacres.
Following Burke's Law, he was cast as the snappily dressed publishing tycoon Glenn Howard in The Name of the Game (1968-71), a lavishly made series that rotated Barry, Tony Franciosa (as a journalist) and Robert Stack (as a senior editor) in a three-weekly cycle of stories. When leading roles dried up, Barry made guest appearances in programmes such as Fantasy Island (1978, 1981), The Twilight Zone (1987) and Murder, She Wrote (1989). more....
actor, has died aged 90 (5
Todd was one of the first British officers to land in Normandy in advance of the main D-Day landings and went on to become Britain's highest-earning matinee idol of the post-war years; his most memorable role was that of Wing Commander Guy Gibson, VC, in The Dam Busters (1955), a film he carried with the help of Michael Redgrave as Barnes Wallis.
Todd made his screen debut in For Them That Trespass (1948) and triumphing in The Hasty Heart, Todd travelled to Hollywood to appear as a bridegroom with a murky past in King Vidor's Lightning Strikes Twice (1950), then starred as Marlene Dietrich's former lover and a murder suspect in Hitchcock's Stage Fright (1950).
There followed an orgy of swashbuckling heroics in Disney's The Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men (1952), The Sword and the Rose (1953) and Rob Roy, The Highland Rogue (1954), all of which served only to prove that Todd was no Errol Flynn.
His role as Peter Marshall in A Man Called Peter persuaded Henry Koster to cast Todd in his Virgin Queen (1955) as a roguish Sir Walter Raleigh, whose dalliance with lady-in-waiting Joan Collins angers Elizabeth I (Bette Davis). Koster then cast him in D-Day, the Sixth of June the following year.
The Dam Busters (1954) marked the beginning of a fruitful collaboration with the director Michael Anderson. Todd went on to appear in Anderson's Yangtse Incident (1956) as the commander of a crippled frigate breaking a Chinese blockade, and in the Hitchcock-style Chase a Crooked Shadow (1958) he played the mysterious stranger claiming to be the late brother of the heiress Kimberley Prescott (Anne Baxter). He returned as a wing commander (this time named Kendall) for their last film together, Operation Crossbow (1965).
Todd made his television debut in 1953, as Heathcliff in a BBC adaptation of Wuthering Heights. Later, Todd appeared in such series as Virtual Murder; Silent Witness; Holby City; Murder, She Wrote; and in the Doctor Who story Kinda in 1982. He was General Benjamin Cutler in the television miniseries Jenny's War (1985), and played Lord Roberts of Kandahar in the miniseries Sherlock Holmes and the Incident at Victoria Falls (1992, featuring Christopher Lee as Sherlock Holmes and Patrick Macnee as Dr Watson). more....
Bateson, character actor, has died aged 83 (27 November 2009)
Bateson established his reputation as a fine character actor in 1955 with the single, incomprehensible speech of the pathetic Lucky in Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot.
The young actor had learned his craft carrying spears and having one-line parts at Stratford and the Old Vic while drawing inspiration, when appropriate, from the touching comedy of Miles Malleson. He went with the productions of Antony and Cleopatra and Caesar and Cleopatra which Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh took to New York.
Although Bateson preferred the theatre, he continued to take film work, playing Coker in Vice Versa (1948); Dr Cook in White Corridors (1951); and the ostler in Olivier's Richard III. More work came with the growth of television. He was Lord Shoreby in The Black Arrow (1958); Guppy in Bleak House (1959); and Tappertit in Barnaby Rudge (1960). There were occasional roles in The Saint; Dr Finlay's Casebook; The Avengers; Doctor at Large; Please Sir; Last of the Summer Wine; Hi-De-Hi!; and Midsomer Murders. more....
Robertson, writer, broadcaster and sports commentator, has died
aged 94 (20 November 2009)
Max Robertson was the first presenter of Panorama, of BBC Television's antiques quiz show Going for a Song, and was a commentator at the Queen's Coronation in 1953; but he was best known as the "other voice of Wimbledon", alongside the television pundit Dan Maskell.
Robertson covered every Wimbledon final for the BBC from 1946 to 1986 and transformed the art of tennis broadcasting for radio. He delighted audiences by being able to describe with riveting exactness every stroke that was being played, conjuring up a dynamic mental picture of what was taking place on court.
Following service during the War, he began doing outside broadcasts, initially for the BBC European Service then, from 1949, for Outside Broadcasts. He was chosen to do the commentary for the first postwar Grand Prix at Silverstone in 1948 and covered summer and winter Olympiads. He also covered the royal tour of Canada in 1951 when the young Princess Elizabeth deputised for her father who was too ill to travel.
Robertson established a reputation as a jack-of-all-trades. In addition to his outside broadcasts for radio, he was in increasing demand for television, working on children's programmes, sports broadcasts and conducting interviews. During the Coronation he was to be seen on the Victoria Embankment alongside three cameras, shouting against the full-throated cheering of thousands of schoolchildren as the Queen passed by.
He became caught up - briefly - in BBC current affairs broadcasting when, in 1953, he was appointed to present the new flagship programme Panorama. This was, originally, a fortnightly "magazine" programme with the presenter holding the fort while roving interviewers made their contributions. After Malcolm Muggeridge took over as studio anchor man, Robertson continued to file items on such varied matters as myxomatosis in rabbits, horror comics and rag-and-bone men.
In 1954 he turned freelance. As well as his tennis commentaries, he covered swimming and athletics for television and commentated on summer and winter Olympiads until 1968. more....
Towers, prolific radio, television and film producer and
screenwriter, died in August aged 88 (4
In 1944 Towers was head of the RAF's Radio Unit, making programmes for the Forces Service; there he introduced Richard Murdoch to Kenneth Horne, and the outcome was the long-running BBC comedy series Much-Binding-In-The-Marsh.
In 1956 his company, Towers of London, hired Marius Goring to impersonate The Scarlet Pimpernel for a series filmed at Elstree studios. Between 1957 and 1959 Towers masterminded two co-productions with a Stateside company, Ziv TV: Martin Kane, Private Investigator in which William Gargan played the American gumshoe seconded to Scotland Yard, and Dial 999, with Robert Beatty's RCMP detective seconded to the Yard.
Towers graduated to the cinema in the '60s. Edgar Wallace's hero Commissioner Sanders was played by Richard Todd twice, in Death Drums Along The River (1963) and Coast Of Skeletons (1964), while Sax Rohmer's fiendish oriental villain Fu Manchu was splendidly interpreted by Christopher Lee in five movies between 1965 and 1970.
There followed two comedy adventures, Our Man In Marrakesh (1966) and Jules Verne's Rocket To The-Moon (1967), loaded with bankable stars like Terry-Thomas; and Sumuru, with Shirley Eaton the eponymous "female Fu Manchu". more....
Kennedy, television presenter, author and campaigner, has died
aged 89 (20 October 2009)
When the Independent Television network was established in 1955, Kennedy was engaged as a presenter in a magazine programme called Sunday Afternoon. The programme was short lived but launched Kennedy on his television career. A year later he was called in at short notice by ITN to stand in for Robin Day, who had been struck down with flu, and was invited to stay. One critic described him as reading the news "as though it were a letter to faraway relative whom he wished to interest", an attractive and comfortable style which soon caught the attention of other television producers. His star rose in the Sixties and Seventies, when he presented This Week, then Panorama and later Midweek and Tonight.
During the 1950s, Kennedy developed political ambitions and in 1956 he stood as Liberal candidate in the Rochdale by-election. Though Labour won the seat, he won the largest Liberal vote at any election for two decades. He contested the seat again in the general election of 1959 and was again narrowly beaten.
From 1961 onwards, Kennedy published a steady stream of books about crime, the law and miscarriages of justice. He believed the main culprit in nearly all these cases to have been the "extremely childish" British system of adversarial justice in which "each side does its best to vanquish the other and truth falls by the wayside". He campaigned for many years for the establishment of a Ministry of Justice and a change to a system more like the French inquisitorial system in which a juge d'instruction battles away to find out the truth.
Kennedy combined his laconic, humorous style with a rage for justice that made him a formidable investigator. He specialised in ferreting out truth, pursuing almost-lost causes and bringing to light what seemed to him to be miscarriages of justice. Some of his television exposés were followed up with books, of which the most famous were to do with the execution of Timothy Evans (the man hanged in 1951 for murders which, it later transpired, had been carried out by John Christie), the framing of Stephen Ward in the Profumo case and, with The Airman and The Carpenter (1985), the electrocution in America of Bruno Hauptmann, the man accused, probably falsely, of being the kidnapper and murderer of the Lindbergh baby. More recently, Kennedy campaigned for the release of the Birmingham Six and other IRA suspects who, it is now recognised, had been the victims of serious injustices.
Following his mother's death (in 1977 after many months of bedridden misery) he became an active and public supporter of voluntary euthanasia. more....
opera singer and 'My Music' panellist on radio, has died aged 90 (14 October 2009)
He ranged from singer, character actor, comedian, compère and clown to radio and television panellist, scriptwriter and pantomime king.
What made Wallace a household name was the endearing way he had with silly songs about animals, especially one about an amorous hippopotamus with a chorus which went: "Mud, mud, glorious mud". First broadcast on a Henry Hall Guest Night in 1952, the song virtually became Wallace's signature tune.
Whether in classical opera, musical comedy, plays, films, television, radio or on the concert platform, Wallace's readiness to perform on all kinds of occasion brought him an exceptional range of admirers.
Apart from opera, his dramatic credits included Bottom in A Midsummer Night's Dream; César in a West End musical version of Marcel Pagnol's Fanny (Drury Lane); and the Emperor of China in Cole Porter's Aladdin (Coliseum).
Wallace was also a regular on the Radio 4 panel game My Music and other quiz shows on radio and television in which he would, sitting down, suddenly break into snatches of opera. With his unpretentious affability he could always put audiences at ease.
Wallace made his Italian operatic debut as Massetto in Don Giovanni at Parma (1950); and was La Cenerentola at Rome (1955), and Dr Bartolo in Il Barbiere di Siviglia at Venice (1956). From 1965, his regular appearances for Scottish Opera included Leporello in Don Giovanni, Pistola in Falstaff and the Duke of Plaza Toro in The Gondoliers. For the Welsh National Opera (1967) he sang Don Pasquale and for Glyndebourne Touring Opera (1968) Dr Dulcamara in L'Elisir D'Amore. more....
actor, director and producer, has died aged 84 (13 October 2009)
A pioneer of British television, Barry Letts served the medium for more than half a century. As an actor, he was rarely off screen in the embryonic days of television drama. Later, as a producer and director, his early-evening dramas commanded large and loyal family audiences. But it was through his work on Doctor Who that he secured his place in TV history.
His earliest screen role, as a Welsh seaman, came in Ealing Studios' San Demetrio, London (1943), a naval adventure.
After the war he began to appear on stage, TV and in film, with featured roles in Scott of the Antarctic (1948), The Cruel Sea (1952) and Reach for the Sky (1956). His TV debut came in Gunpowder Guy (1950), a one-off on BBC children's television. Patrick Troughton starred as Guy Fawkes, Letts was a fellow conspirator and it was broadcast live from Lime Grove, west London. Letts said his understanding of the demands placed on a producer stemmed from his appearances in early Sunday evening serials, such as The Black Arrow (1958) and the second world war drama The Silver Sword (1957).
Children's TV productions included The Gordon Honour (1956), which traced two feuding families down the ages, and The Man from the Moors (1955), as Charles Dickens.
For older viewers, he played Lewis Carroll in Nom-de-Plume (1956), a series in which the identity of each episode's subject was revealed only at its end, and?Colonel Herncastle?in Wilkie Collins's The Moonstone (1959), again with Troughton. The mid-50s saw him telling 15-minute stories to camera that he had written, and by 1963 he was reading the Epilogue. more....
actor who played television's 'other' Lone Ranger has died aged
91 (11 October 2009)
Destined to go down in history as television's "other" Lone Ranger, playing the masked man riding his trusty white horse Silver for 52 episodes, John Hart stepped into the role in 1952 when Clayton Moore was replaced amid reports that the original star had walked out in a pay dispute. However, television viewers were not so accepting of the "new" Lone Ranger, who brought them rushing to the small screen with his shout of "Hi-yo, Silver!" and his native American companion Tonto (Jay Silverheels) on horseback by his side. Eventually, in 1954, American television executives brought back Moore, who continued in the role until The Lone Ranger ended in 1957 after an eight-year run, denying that his departure had been caused by disagreements over money.
Despite this disappointment, Hart went on to other starring roles on screen. First, he played the hero of the title in the 15-part cinema serial Adventures of Captain Africa, Mighty Jungle Avenger! (1955). Then, he was seen on television, also as the title character an 18th-century fur trader in New York's Hudson Valley during the French and Indian War in 39 episodes of Hawkeye and the Last of the Mohicans (1957). Again, he had a native American companion, this time Chingachgook, played by the horror film star Lon Chaney, Jr. more....
Bowness, actor and warm-up man, has died aged 87 (7 October 2009)
Felix Bowness died on September 13th. He was best known as the jockey Fred Quilly in the 1980s television sitcom Hi-De-Hi!
He worked in radio during the 1950s and began his radio career, billed as That Irresponsible Young Man, in 1950 on Variety Bandbox, followed by Workers' Playtime (1953-59) and Mid-day Music Hall (1954). For BBC TV, he was in the sitcom Hugh and I (1964), with Terry Scott and Hugh Lloyd, and The Benny Hill Show (1965), in Hill's pre-smut days. Bowness was also in Frankie Howerd's 1966 BBC series.
He was the BBC's most prolific "warm-up" man, working on The Morecambe and Wise Show and some 3,000 editions of Wogan. He was cast in Jimmy Perry and David Croft's Hi-De-Hi! in 1980, and went on to appear in their You Rang, M'Lord, and in Oh, Doctor Beeching! by Croft and Richard Spendlove. more....
Australian actor, has died aged 82 (11
Aussie actors don't come much tougher than Ray Barrett. His heavy build, steely eyes and pockmarked, though handsome, face became well known to British television viewers in the 1960s, mainly as Peter Thornton, a hardnosed, globe-trotting field agent for a multinational oil company in The Troubleshooters (1965-72).
By 1955, having moved to Sydney, he was getting roles on radio and became adept at changing his accent to suit the parts, which later became handy for voiceover work. But in 1958 he decided to try his luck in Britain, though it took him two years to find work as an actor. His career in Britain began with the lead as a detective sergeant in an episode of Armchair Mystery Theatre (1960) and, in the same year, he joined his fellow Australian Charles Tingwell in several episodes of the medical soap opera Emergency-Ward 10.
Mainly playing British characters, with only a smidgen of an Aussie accent, Barrett's often unsmiling face was seen in series such as The Avengers, The Saint and Doctor Who, as well as seven episodes of the espionage drama Ghost Squad (1963-64).
From 1963 to 1964, he provided the American voice for the irascible, disabled Commander Sam Shore in Stingray, the Supermarionation futuristic sub-aquatic puppet series made by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson that preceded Thunderbirds. Each episode began with Barrett announcing: "Stand by for action! We are about to launch Stingray! Anything can happen in the next half hour."
Barrett was then called upon to voice Tracy (and the villainous The Hood) in Thunderbirds on television as well as the feature film Thunderbirds Are GO (1966).
But it was The Troubleshooters that gave him his highest profile, instantly from the all-action title sequence with Barrett in a speedboat. more....
Waterhouse, playwright, novelist and newspaper columnist has died
aged 80 (5 September 2009)
Keith Waterhouse's collaboration with Willis Hall was one of the most enduring and distinctive dramatic partnerships in the history of theatre, films and television.
After two years' National Service in the RAF, he was hired by the Yorkshire Evening Post in Leeds before he joined the Mirror, for which he was a correspondent in the United States and the Soviet Union. He was also invited to write speeches for the Labour leaders Hugh Gaitskell and Harold Wilson.
Meanwhile, he embarked on a career as an author which would see him produce some 60 books during his career. In 1956 he produced a history of the Café Royal, and the following year he published There Is A Happy Land and in 1959 Waterhouse published Billy Liar, one of the great comic novels of the 20th century. The book caught the public's imagination with its portrait of a cheeky north country lad trying to bring some fun into his drab life as an undertaker's assistant by engaging in fantasies that embarrassed and dismayed his family.
Waterhouse's collaboration with Willis Hall produced a rich seam of material. Celebration (Nottingham Playhouse and Duchess, 1961) evoked the manners of a proletarian northern family, first at a wedding reception and then at a funeral. England Our England (Prince's), with music by Dudley Moore, was a satirical revue in the spirit of the mocking television programme That Was the Week That Was, to which the duo also contributed.
They followed up with a wryly amusing double bill, Squat Betty and The Sponge Room (Royal Court 1962), and then All Things Bright and Beautiful (Bristol Old Vic), which extracted slightly indignant fun from a family being moved from a condemned house to a block of flats. more....
ventriloquist, has died (28 August 2009)
As a ventriloquist, Neville King was a master of his art, and his dummy "Grandad" epitomized the mischievious twinkle eyed pensioner whom we all love, or have loved at some time in our lives.
Turning professional in 1963, his first summer season was on the Isle of Man followed by seasons in Blackpool, Bournemouth, Bridlington, Scarborough, Torquay, Eastbourne, and Paignton.
In 1964 Neville joined the worlds longest running Musical, "The Black & White Minstrel Show", with whom he remained for 11 years, 3 of which were at the Victoria Palace, London. He also did a season in Malta and a very long, record breaking, tour of Australia whilst with the Show.
In 1965 he was chosen to appear before Her Majesty the Queen & the Duke of Edinburgh in the Royal Variety Performance at the London Palladium. In 1967 he again appeared at the Palladium, this time in front of Princess Margaret at a Royal Gala.
Neville entertained the troops for Combined Services Entertainments in Ireland, South America, Cyprus, Germany, Salalah and Masirah. He also entertained UN troops in Holland & Belgium. He did 5 World Tours, including a tour of Canada, with the London Palladium Show. He also worked in Salisbury, Johannesburg, Tangier, Malta, Tasmania and more recently at the famed "Sporting Club" in Monte Carlo.
star Margo Henderson has died aged 80 (28 August 2009)
Margo Henderson died of a broken heart - just nine days after her beloved husband in July 2009. Margo Henderson and Sam Kemp, who worked as a stage double act during the 1950s and 1960s, were devoted to each other.
Margo and musician Sam met 61 years ago on the Glasgow stage circuit, when she was 19 and a budding solo performer. Musician and singer Sam was around 10 years older. They married and were soon working together as Kemp and Henderson.
During their theatre careers, the couple played dozens of venues throughout Scotland.
Margo also enjoyed success in London, with a regular bill in the Five Past Eight Show at the Alhambra Theatre, before being signed for a slot alongside the Black and White Minstrel Show in the 1960s. more....
movie, television and soap opera star has died aged 92 (17 August 2009)
Handsome, British stage actor John Bentley entered London's film industry in 1946, where he was immediately put to work grinding out inexpensive detective melodramas. He was seen as radio hero Paul Temple in an entertaining Boy's-Own-Adventure film series, then starred as John Creasey's gentleman sleuth "The Toff" in a brace of second features. Occasionally, Bentley ventured into "A"-picture territory, notably the 1956 Errol Flynn vehicle Istanbul (1956). In 1957, John Bentley starred as Inspector John Derek in the Kenya-filmed TV detective series African Patrol.
He went on to play Hugh Mortimer from 1965 through 1977, becoming a favorite of housewives everywhere in the soap opera "Crossroads." The soap achieved its highest ratings ever during the 1975 wedding episode where Bentley's character married the Crossroad's Motel matriarch, Meg Richardson played by soap legend Noele Gordon. 18 million viewers watched the on-screen wedding and Bentley's popularity soared. In 1977, in true soap opera style, Bentley's character was killed off in a terrorist plot that Bentley himself described as "ridiculous." more....
Carroll, film actress, has died aged 95 (5 August 2009)
Virginia Carroll rode into film history in a series of Westerns during a career in which she accumulated more than 85 on-screen credits.
But as in the cases of so many of her film contemporaries among them Dorothy Revier, Muriel Evans, Madge Bellamy and Nell O'Day the female leads in these films often brought little attention or hopes of further screen work outside the Western genre.
Throughout the 1940s Virginia Carroll rode the range with a plethora of Western cowboy leads, including Gene Autry and Roy Rogers, often cast as the love interest held captive by cattle rustlers, an embittered lawman or a band of "Red Indians".
She had parts in popular television shows such as The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok, The Roy Rogers Show, Dragnet and Perry Mason before retiring in 1959. more....
McKennon, actor and character artist has died aged 89 (29 July 2009)
McKennon was best known for his extensive work over half a century as a character artist for the Walt Disney Studios; his distinctive voice can be heard in such animated classics as The Lady and the Tramp (1955), One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961), Mary Poppins (1964) and Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971).
McKennon was also a prolific contributor to Disneyland Records, appearing on numerous recordings over many years. Away from Disney, he voiced many other famous cartoon characters for Tex Avery and Walter Lantz, as well as appearing on-screen in a variety of films and television shows, including Dragnet, Lawman, Gunsmoke and The Untouchables.
During the 1960s and 1970s, he provided the original voice of Tony the Tiger for Kellogg's Frosties ("they're g-r-r-r-r-r-eat!"); Corny the Rooster for Kellogg's Cornflakes; and Snap, Crackle, and Pop for Kellogg's Rice Krispies.
McKennon quickly became a fixture at Walter Lantz's production company which distributed animated features through Universal Studios; he was the voice of Buzz Buzzard in Lantz's Woody Woodpecker shorts between 1951 and 1972.
In Lady and the Tramp he voiced the Hyena, Toughy, Professor and Pedro. He voiced the Owl in Sleeping Beauty (1959), and the Fox, Hounds, the Penguin, the Hunting Horse, the Carousel Guard and various news reporters in Mary Poppins.
On-screen, McKennon played Cincinnatus, the local store keeper opposite Fess Parker in Daniel Boone, which ran for six years. He played opposite Fred MacMurray in Good Day for a Hanging (1959); was the projectionist in the Vincent Price horror film The Tingler (1959). more....
actor, has died aged 83 (27 July 2009)
One of the actor's biggest stage roles was in the National Theatre production of Brighton Beach Memoirs. He also performed in Little Shop of Horrors, Barmitzvah Boy, Death of a Salesman and The Mandate. With the Royal Shakespeare Company Mr Towb helped bring Sherlock Holmes and Travesties to Broadway.
And back in his home town he most recently played Tiresias in Antigone at the Waterfront Hall, Belfast.
At Dublin's Abbey Theatre his plays included Philadelphia Here I Come, The Rivals and The Importance Of Being Earnest. Elsewhere Mr Towb's numerous television credits include Z Cars, The Avengers, Home James, Moll Flanders, Heartbeat, Casualty, and The Bill.
He also took roles in the films The 39 Steps, Patton, Digby the Biggest Dog in the World, Carry On at Your Convenience, and The Most Fertile Man In Ireland.
During the Fifties he had TV parts in 'The Teckman Biography', Sherlock Holmes, Billy Bunter, Joan and Leslie, The Army Game, The Vise, Dial 999 and The Third Man amongst many others. more....
Dowling, TV writer, producer and director, has died aged 89 (25 July 2009)
As a writer, a producer and a director, Patrick Dowling was responsible for some of BBC televisions most enchanting output for young viewers, from the 1960s to the 1980s.
With Vision on (1964-76) and Take Hart (1977-83), he cemented the reputation of the endearing artist Tony Hart (obituary, January 18, 2009), and introduced Peter Lord and David Sproxton (later to form Aardman Animations and to win an Oscar) to the screen with their plasticine Morph.
Dowling also created one of televisions most engaging oddities, The Adventure Game (1980-86). It was set on the planet Arg, and audiences and the participating celebrities were confronted with such oddities as an elderly retainer who could only hear when wearing his spectacles, a backwards-talking Australian and an angry aspidistra plant.
His BBC career began in 1955, as production assistant and floor manager, initially for the writer-producer Dorothea Brooking. He also composed the music for The Balloon and the Baron, a new fairytale by Brooking, shown on Boxing Day 1960.
He began directing with The Cabin in the Clearing (1959), a childrens western serial. Working with a Computer (1965) was a prophetic, educational series. In 1968 he made Price to Pay (1968), a vehicle for Alan Price.
In 1964 he created the pioneering programme for which he became best known, Vision on, for deaf children. more....
the creator of Captain Pugwash has died aged 88 (24 July 2009)
The cartoonist and animator invented the hapless pirate in 1950 and the character first appeared as a strip in the comic The Eagle.
He went on to be the star of two animated television series which Mr Ryan produced using a unique live animation technique, moving the characters and sets by hidden levers.
His other characters included Harris Tweed, Special Agent, Sir Prancelot and Mary Mungo & Midge.
John Ryan used his talent for caricatures to supplement his teaching income and created his famous pirate and his ship The Black Pig.
Captain Pugwash strips were published in several magazines and the first Pugwash book came out in 1957. In that year Mr Ryan was commissioned by the BBC to create the first animated series.
The characters and sets for each scene of the five-minute episodes were created using cardboard cut outs and filmed moving in real time, with Mr Ryan and his wife Priscilla pulling the levers. The voice-over by the actor Peter Hawkins was recorded at the same time as the animation.
The series was revived in 1974 for a colour edition, still keeping its distinctive look. Other programmes by John Ryan Studios filmed using the same animation technique were Mary Mungo & Midge (1969) and The Adventures of Sir Prancelot (1971-72) and he also made Ark Stories for ITV in 1981.
He drew for numerous newspapers and magazines and in later years toured the countrys schools, libraries and book fairs giving talks about his artwork. more....
Method actor whose distinctive but homely features effectively
consigned him to a lifetime in supporting roles, has died aged 97 (2 July 2009)
Malden's early film career made little impression. His first appearance was in They Knew What They Wanted (1940) and, until the film of A Streetcar Named Desire, he played only bit parts, albeit in films of some renown, such as Kazan's Boomerang (1947), The Gunfighter (1950) by Henry King, and Lewis Milestone's war epic Halls of Montezuma (1951). Streetcar put him on the map, though not always one on which he would like to be recognised. In King Vidor's Ruby Gentry (1953), he played the first of several betrayed husbands - the man whom Jennifer Jones marries to spite her old flame Charlton Heston. Outrageously melodramatic, it is now a cult classic - unlike Phantom of the Rue Morgue (1954), a tacky 3-D remake of the Edgar Allan Poe story, with Malden in the role (originally played by Bela Lugosi) of a mad psychiatrist, who hypnotises an ape to do his dirty work.
The detective role in Hitchcock's I Confess (1953) was also thankless, as Malden played second fiddle to Montgomery Clift's Catholic priest, who is suspected of murder but bound by the confessional not to reveal the killer's identity.
The mid-1950s were Malden's best years, embracing not only On the Waterfront and Baby Doll, but Fear Strikes Out (1957), a harrowing biopic of the baseball player Jim Piersall (Anthony Perkins), whose confidence was sapped by his father's driving ambition.
At this time, Malden also ventured into direction. He made one film - the 1957 Korean War courtroom drama Time Limit, starring Richard Widmark and Richard Basehart - although Malden did not appear in it himself. It was politely received. He also handled some scenes, uncredited, for a western, The Hanging Tree (1959), in which he played the villain, when the director Delmer Daves fell sick. more....
has died aged 87. She was one of the biggest stars on American
television in the 1950s, famous for her wholesome appearance and
chirpy personality (30 June 2009)
Before landing the starring role in My Little Margie in 1952, Gale Storm had appeared in several B-films opposite such stars as Roy Rogers, Eddie Albert and Jackie Cooper. After her last television series, The Gale Storm Show, ended in 1960, she went on to a successful singing career while continuing to make occasional television appearances.
She was often cast in westerns as the girl the cowboy left behind, and appeared in such B-movies as The Dude Goes West with Albert, The Kid from Texas with Audie Murphy and The Texas Rangers with George Montgomery.
With her film roles diminishing in the early 1950s, Gale Storm followed the path of many fading Hollywood stars of the day and moved to television. The sitcom My Little Margie debuted on CBS as a summer replacement for I Love Lucy in 1952. It quickly became an audience favourite and moved to its own slot that autumn.
The year after My Little Margie ended its 126-episode run in 1955, she moved on to The Gale Storm Show, which lasted until 1960. In this she played Susanna Pomeroy, a troublemaking social director on a luxury liner.
Having taken vocal lessons, she sang on her second series, and three of her records became best sellers: I Hear You Knocking, Teenage Prayer and Dark Moon. She subsequently appeared only sporadically on television, taking guest roles in such programmes as Burke's Law, The Love Boat and Murder, She Wrote. more....
the musician and broadcaster has died aged 88 (23 June 2009)
Steve Race became a familiar face on television in the 1950s and went on to host the popular Radio 4 panel game My Music, which ran from 1967 until 1994; he subsequently set a regular crossword for The Daily Telegraph.
His first job was as a pianist with Harry Leader's band, and he went on to play with the bands of Lew Stone and Cyril Stapleton, and to arrange for the Ted Heath band and Judy Garland.
Race first came to notice on BBC children's television in 1953, in the magazine programme Whirligig, a miscellany of items that introduced a generation of postwar children to puppet favourites such as Hank the cowboy and Mr Turnip.
In 1955 Race became light music adviser to Associated Rediffusion, remaining in the post until 1960, when he went on to conduct for many television series, including the Tony Hancock and Peter Sellers shows.
Race enjoyed nine weeks of chart fame in 1963 with his catchy rendition of Pied Piper (The Beeje), which reached number 29. In 1962 and 1963 Race won awards for his commercial jingles for ITV. The most lucrative was the one for Birds Eye frozen peas: "Sweet as the moment when the pod went pop". He also won an Ivor Novello Award for his composition Nicola (named after his daughter).
In 1965, aged 44, he suffered a heart attack, but it did little to halt his prodigious work rate.
Immaculately dressed and sporting a distinguished white beard, Race - although a somewhat shy man - was always confident and assured in front of a microphone or a camera. 'My Music', while pioneered on radio, made a successful transfer to television bringing out the best (and worst, when it came to puns) from the comic writers Denis Norden and Frank Muir, and their fellow-panellists John Amis and Ian Wallace. Neither Race nor Wallace missed a single episode of more than 520 that were broadcast. more....
Evans, Taffy Goldstein in 'The Navy Lark', has died aged 82 (17 June 2009)
On screen, Tenniel Evans was one of those character actors with a face recognisable in dozens of television programmes but whose name was less familiar. He played doctors, police officers, judges and vicars, and even went on to be become a priest himself.
But it was out of vision, acting a look-out in the long-running BBC radio comedy The Navy Lark (1959-77), that Evans could claim to be "recognised". As Taffy Goldstein, alongside Ronnie Barker as Johnson, he was one of the two Able Seamen among an inept crew aboard HMS Troutbridge, a frigate refitted to house undesirable elements of the Royal Navy.
He made his television début as a policeman in an episode of No Hiding Place (1960), before acting Jonathan Kail, alongside Geraldine McEwan and Jeremy Brett, in an ITV adaptation of Tess (1960, based on Thomas Hardy's novel Tess of the D'Urbervilles).
For 45 years, Evans worked solidly in character parts on television, flitting from one popular programme to another - and even playing Hitler in The Roads to Freedom (1970). Occasionally, the actor found regular roles, such as John, one of the solicitor siblings, in the legal drama The Sullavan Brothers (1964-65), Sergeant Bluett in the sitcom My Brother's Keeper (1975-76), Geoff Barratt in the final series of the post-war comedy-drama Shine on Harvey Moon (1985), Teddy Haslam in the zoo vet drama One by One (1987) and Sir Edward Parkinson-Lewis in September Song (1994). He also took over from the late Patrick Troughton the role of Perce, grandfather of Ashley (Nicholas Lyndhurst), in the sitcom The Two of Us (1987-90). more....
Alexander, actor, has died aged aged 86 (3 June 2009)
Terence Alexander played gentlemen and rogues, combining the two in his most famous role, Charlie Hungerford in the television detective series Bergerac.
He began his successful television career in the 1950s and subsequently appeared in many series, including The Forsyte Saga, the Les Dawson and Dick Emery shows, Terry and June, and The New Statesman. His radio work included several plays as well as the series Law and Disorder and The Toff. Alexanders numerous films included the comedies The Square Peg (1958), with Norman Wisdom, and Carry On Regardless (1961). He also appeared in the epic Waterloo (1970) and the thriller The Day Of The Jackal (1974). But probably his best film role was as an ex-officer turned bank robber in the comedy adventure The League Of Gentlemen (1960).
He performed in many West End comedies and farces, including Fringe Benefits (Whitehall, 1976) and Alan Bennetts Habeas Corpus (Nottingham Playhouse, 1980).
With John Nettles in the title role, Alexander brought humour and suavity to Bergerac as the detectives millionaire ex-father-in-law. His lightness of touch was perfect for the slim, silver-haired Charlie, constantly puffing a cigar and often in a flap. more....
film producer and schoolmaster, has died aged 93 (2 June 2009)
Viv Coxs career in films began after demobilisation in 1946. After working with Sydney, Muriel and Betty Box at Shepherds Bush Studios, he became associate producer to Betty Box and then producer at Pinewood Studios.
Among his early films were So Long at the Fair (with Jean Simmons and Dirk Bogarde, 1950), Father Brown (with Alec Guinness, 1954) and Bachelor of Hearts (with Hardy Kruger and Sylvia Syms, scripted by Coxs friends Leslie Bricusse and Frederic Raphael, 1958).
From 1959 to 1967 Cox worked as an independent producer and screenwriter for Rank Studios, producing such titles as Watch Your Stern (with Spike Milligan, Leslie Phillips, Hattie Jacques and Kenneth Connor, 1960) and We Joined the Navy (with Kenneth More, 1962). Between 1960 and 1976 Cox produced all the stage shows for the annual Royal Command Film Performance and hosted the royal party.
In 1967 Cox returned to his first profession and his alma mater, teaching English, French and Drama at Cranleigh School. A gifted and inspiring teacher, he taught for eight years, during which he also directed several plays, including Hassan with Juliet Stephenson.
From 1975 until his retirement in 1982 he worked with Sir Bernard Miles as administrator at Londons Mermaid Theatre. more....
actor Charles 'Bud' Tingwell has died aged 86 (15 May 2009)
Outside of Australia he was probably best known for his role as a high court lawyer in the cult 1997 comedy The Castle, but locally he was the face of many roles spanning a 50-year career, from television to the stage and the silver screen.
Tingwell acted in his first movie in 1946 and appeared in over 100 films during his long career, which included a 17-year stint working in Britain. He moved to England in 1956 where he carved out a career as a 'London Aussie', appearing as an Australian surgeon in Emergency Ward 10, and as Inspector Craddock in four of the Miss Marple films alongside Dame Margaret Rutherford. He also voiced the character of Mr Bennet in Catweazle as well as characters in The Thunderbirds.
After returning to Australia with his wife and two children in 1973, Tingwell settled in Melbourne and began his long foray in the local entertainment industry.
He had a long-standing role on the police TV drama Homicide and also appeared in the cult TV show Prisoner: Cell Block H, and later enjoyed a recurring role on Neighbours. Tingwell played many small roles in scores of Australian films including Breaker Morant, Puberty Blues and the mini-series All The Rivers Run. more....
Payne, actor, has died aged 89 (4
The screen and stage actor Laurence Payne made his biggest impression as the titular detective in Sexton Blake, a childrens television series which is fondly recalled by a generation of now middle-aged viewers. The series, which ran from 1967 to 1971, went out in a tea-time slot.
Payne made his television debut in the Adrian Brunel play Till Tomorrow (1948). He played Captain Bluntschli in an adaptation of George Bernard Shaws Arms and the Man (1952) and Troilus in The Face of Love (1954), a modern and comic version of Shakespeares Troilus and Cressida. His first film was the Ealing Studios drama Train of Events (1949), directed by Charles Crichton, but apart from an appearance as Joseph in the opening scenes of the biblical epic Ben-Hur (1959) most of his screen work was on television.
Payne played DArtagnan in a BBCs The Three Musketeers (1954); Gratiano in The Merchant of Venice (1955); Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet (1955); Philip Truscott in the sci-fi serial The Trollenberg Terror (1956-57, before reprising the role in the 1958 film); King Magnus in The Apple Cart (1962); Colonel Andrev in the Balkans-set political thriller The Midnight Men (1964); Lieutenant Rinaldi in A Farewell to Arms (1966); Capulet in Romeo and Juliet (1976); and Weaver in Psy-Warriors (a 1981 Play for Today written by David Leland and directed by Alan Clarke).
Payne also had three roles in Doctor Who over the years: Johnny Ringo in the wild west story The Gunfighters (1966); Morix in The Leisure Hive (1980) and Dastari in The Two Doctors (1985).
Payne also wrote crime novels, including The Nose on My Face (1961), Birds in the Belfry (1966) and Spy for Sale (1969). more....
film director whose hits included the Huggetts saga, has died
aged 94 (25 April 2009)
The director Ken Annakin was one of the British cinemas most stalwart craftsmen. Able to turn his hand equally to domestic comedies, war epics, family fare for Walt Disney and big-budget spectaculars, he was a reliable purveyor of screen entertainment as he once put it: I make films for audiences.
He had his biggest commercial success in the 1960s with Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines, a rumbustious comedy built around the 1910 London-to-Paris air race.
In 1946 he joined Gainsborough Studios under Sydney Box and the following year made his first feature, Holiday Camp, a comedy-drama notable for launching the Huggetts, a warm-hearted working-class family headed by Kathleen Harrison and Jack Warner. Annakins sympathetic and unpatronising treatment of ordinary people was rare in the British cinema of those days.
With the teenage Petula Clark joining the cast as their youngest daughter, the Huggetts appeared in three further films, all directed by Annakin, Here Come the Huggetts, Vote for Huggett and The Huggetts Abroad. They were conceived as a series and in many ways the Huggett saga anticipated television soap opera, albeit on a cosier level.
By the early 1950s Annakin had emerged as an efficient all-rounder, tackling anything from the Malayan emergency in The Planters Wife to Jerome K. Jeromes Three Men in a Boat and another Greene story, Loser Takes All. He also began an association with the Disney studio that yielded four films, from Robin Hood and His Merrie Men (1952) to the childrens classic Swiss Family Robinson (1960), which starred John Mills. more....
'Carry On' producer, has died aged 95 (16 April 2009)
Peter Rogers dreamt up the Carry On comedies and went on to produce the entire Carry On oeuvre, from Carry On Sergeant (1958) to Carry on Emmanuelle (1978).
Some time after Rogers had established himself as a producer, working with the director Gerald Thomas, he obtained an RF Delderfield script, The Bull Boys a serious piece about the effect of army conscription on a pair of ballet dancers. To avoid any audience irreverence he had it rewritten by Norman Hudis as a comedy: Carry On Sergeant.
The film, which starred William Hartnell and a youthful Bob Monkhouse, with Kenneth Williams, Charles Hawtrey and Kenneth Connor as three hapless army privates, was shot quickly on a budget of under £75,000. The critical response was lukewarm. The Monthly Film Bulletin called it "a conventional farce, in which all the characters come from stock". Yet Carry On Sergeant became an unlikely success - hitting No 3 in the UK box-office charts for 1958, behind Dunkirk and Bridge On the River Kwai, so Rogers decided to make another.
Carry On Nurse, also starring Williams, Hawtree and Connors, topped the box office charts in 1959. Over the next 20 years the formula was applied to many institutions hospital, police, school and to locations as exotic as the Wild West, the Khyber Pass and Ancient Egypt. The routine was simple enough. Rogers would think up the title in his bathtub, then summon the scriptwriter.
In the mid-1950s, working with Gerald Thomas, Rogers went on to produce children's films in which he was able to indulge his love of animals. These included The Gay Dog (1954), Circus Friends (1956) and The Dog and the Diamonds (1953), which won the Venice Film Festival Award in the same year. He also wrote and produced the thriller Time Lock (1957).
During the Carry On years, Rogers continued to produce other comedies, such as the spicily titled Please Turn Over and Watch Your Stern and also produced the television series Ivanhoe, with Roger Moore, and the film version of the Sid James sitcom Bless This House. more....
versatile character actor, has died aged 76 (14 April 2009)
Stardom came to the actor Edward Judd in cult sci-fi films of the 1960s, sandwiched between his roles in soap operas and other character parts on the small screen.
By the time he found himself catapulted to international fame, he had already appeared as a regular in Britain's first daily television serial, Sixpenny Corner (1955), playing Denis Boyes, one of the community living around a garage run by the newly-wed Nortons in the fictional rural town of Springwood. The soap was written by Hazel Adair, who was later to create the longer-running Crossroads.
His first starring role in a film, as a hard-drinking newspaper reporter redeeming himself in The Day the Earth Caught Fire, was not so far removed from the everyday life of soaps, where the ordinary encounters the extraordinary. In the 1961 black-and-white feature - directed by Val Guest, following his earlier Quatermass pictures - Judd is seen as the fictional Daily Express journalist Peter Stenning, who stumbles on the revelation that American and Soviet nuclear tests have knocked the Earth off its axis, sending it heading for the sun and causing floods and fires.
Judd gained repertory theatre experience in Windsor and Nottingham, before his brooding good looks led him to further screen roles as an adult. On television, he took 11 different bit-parts in The Adventures of Sir Lancelot (1957) and appeared in other swashbucklers such as Ivanhoe, The Adventures of Robin Hood and William Tell (all 1958). Later came roles as Gavin Grant in the espionage drama series Intrigue (1966) and the crippled Uncle Russell in Alan Plater's adaptation of Flambards (1979).
He also started low down the cast list in films, in pictures that included Carry on Sergeant (1958), I Was Monty's Double (1958) and Sink the Bismarck! (1960). But after his sci-fi successes, Judd was cast in supporting roles, such as Oswald in O Lucky Man! (1973), the director Lindsay Anderson's anti-capitalist, surrealist musical. more....
Huw Thomas, ITN news
presenter, has died aged 81 (3
When ITN News started in September 1955, an exciting new format was created with two people for the Six OClock News who were referred to as newscasters rather than newsreaders. The implication was that they had a very definite input into the news coverage.
Huw Thomas fitted well into this bright, professional line-up: he had a touch of Welsh panache, he was articulate, handsome, invariably polite but with a dogged questioning manner that ensured that questions were answered and not skated around.
In 1956 Thomas answered an advertisement for the new Independent Televisions news programme which was to be produced through Independent Television News (ITN). The less formal style of ITN made an immediate impact and was considered more colourful and viewer friendly than the BBCs more traditional presentation. Thomas and his colleagues questioned correspondents and politicians live, and this added to the up-to-the-minute feel of the news coverage.
The newscasters were encouraged to create an on-screen personality, and this suited the eloquent Thomas. He had a debonair and gracious on-screen personality, with a fine voice and black swept-back hair. At one stage he was receiving sacks of fan letters and became something of a cult figure. He responded to the challenge of altered schedules and hastily organised live interviews with relish. The value of his legal training was apparent in his questioning, which was always sound, courteous and to the point. more....
Derek Benfield, actor and
the author of more than 30 plays, has died aged 82 (31 March 2009)
In recent years he was most familiar to television viewers in the role of Patricia Routledge's long-suffering husband in the BBC detective series Hetty Wainthropp Investigates, in which she stars as a fussing, somewhat self-righteous private eye in Yorkshire.
Benfield also had a long-running part in one of the most popular television series of the 1970s. The Brothers concerned a warring family, the Hammonds, which owned a haulage firm, and Benfield played the company's foreman, Bill Riley.
Benfield's first television appearance was in the BBC serial Return to the Lost Planet, after which he had roles in popular programmes such as Emergency Ward Ten, Z Cars, and Dixon of Dock Green (for which he also wrote four scripts). There were parts in dramas such as Great Expectations and The Knowledge before he became a regular in the cult children's science fiction drama Timeslip, broadcast in 1970-71.
As a writer, Benfield specialised in farce, and plays such as The Post Horn Gallop and Wild Goose Chase (which chart the exploits of the eccentric Lord and Lady Elrood) have proved popular with amateur dramatic societies. His play Beyond a Joke was staged with Arthur Lowe in the leading role, and Bedside Manners starred John Inman and later Tim Brooke-Taylor. Touch and Go was translated into French by Marc Camoletti and ran for a year in his theatre in Paris; last Christmas it had a successful run at the Mill at Sonning. more....
Tim Brinton, ITN
newscaster who became a robustly right-wing Conservative MP, has
died aged 79 (30 March 2009)
Tim Brinton joined the BBC in 1951 as a radio announcer, mainly on overseas programmes. From 1957 he was head of English programmes at Radio Hong Kong.
He switched to ITN's high-profile team of presenters in 1959. His greatest moment came the following February when he broke into Right of Reply to announce Princess Margaret's engagement.
Brinton, a professionally-trained actor who had left ITN to go freelance in 1962, became almost as well known playing a newsreader as he had been as the genuine article. His film credits included Information Received (1961), Allez France (1964), Bunny Lake is Missing (1965), Man at the Top (1973) and Carry On Emmanuelle (1978). Among television dramas in which he appeared were Dixon of Dock Green, Knocker, The Power Game and The Avengers.
In 1971 Brinton took over as anchor of Southern Television's Scene South-East.
he was a committed Tory who had campaigned for the former Home Secretary Henry Brooke in Hampstead. He was elected to Kent County Council in 1974, and prior to the 1979 election was selected to fight the Labour-held marginal of Gravesend; he captured it with the handsome majority of 9,346, and in 1983 was re-elected for the redrawn constituency of Gravesham.
At Westminster Brinton became a founder-member of the education select committee, defending independent schools and complaining that children were swapping school meal vouchers for Mars bars and chips. He was also vice-chairman of the Conservative backbench media committee. more....
Edmund Hockridge, singer
and actor, has died aged 89 (17
With his rugged looks and strong baritone voice the Canadian-born singer Edmund Hockridge was one of the West Ends biggest stars in the 1950s.
He played leading roles in a string of popular musicals including Carousel, Guys and Dolls, Can Can and The Pajama Game and had recording hits with songs such as Young and Foolish, No Other Love, The Fountains of Rome and More than Ever. A song from The Pajama Game, Hey There, gave him his biggest record hit and became his signature tune.
Immensely popular with British audiences, Hockridge eventually made his home in the UK and for more than 40 years topped bills around the country in musicals, variety, radio and TV shows.
He often worked with the Glen Miller Band and the Canadian band of the Allied Expeditionary Forces led by Robert Farnon. He sang and produced more than 400 shows with the BBC Forces Network and as the war ended he sang with big bands such as Geraldos.
Throughout the 1950s he recorded a host of show tune LPs and was a frequent guest star on television. He appeared in early editions of The Benny Hill Show as well as Sunday Night at the London Palladium and he starred in a six-month, sell-out variety season again at the Palladium. In 1953 he was in the Royal Variety Show along with stars such as Max Bygraves and Tommy Cooper and the same year he was Canadas representative in the Westminster Abbey choir at the Coronation.
He made his film debut in 1944 with a brief appearance in Starlight Serenade but he had more substantial roles in the 1950s in films such as For Better, for Worse (1954), the romantic drama starring Dirk Bogarde, and Kings Rhapsody (1955), co-starring with Anna Neagle and Errol Flynn. more....
Ali Bongo, magician, has
died aged 79 (9 March 2009)
Ali Bongo, real name William Wallace, was a hard-working stage magician with a prodigious talent for inventing tricks; although he eventually became the inspiration for the outlandish magician-detective Adam Klaus in the BBC's Jonathan Creek, Ali spent most of his career in television behind the scenes, devising routines for performers such as David Nixon and Paul Daniels.
Having played the part of a wizard called Ali Bongo in a village hall pantomime, he borrowed the name for his stage act. On stage Bongo always claimed himself to be of "Pongolian" descent, but the character he created was no doubt partly inspired by his Indian upbringing. He wore brightly-coloured clothing, spoke in a ringing Asian accent, and tore through his act at a frantic pace, with a litany of endearingly absurd catchphrases - "hokus-pokus fishbones chokus" or "uju buju suck another juju" - thrown in for good measure.
After National Service, Bongo became a manager at the magic department of Hamleys in Regent Street. When eventually he left the store to become a full-time professional, he came to the attention of David Nixon, a likeable and witty magician with his own show at the BBC.
By the 1950s Ali was working as a magician in variety theatres and clubs throughout the country. Billed as "The Shriek of Araby", he wore outrageously colourful costumes and his act was a combination of brilliantly mimed, zany comedy with expertly performed magic tricks. Casseroles of fire turned into colourful displays of doves and silks, bouquets of flowers changed colour, ladies were sawn in half and he involved his audiences with hilarious mind-reading feats.
Impressed by Bongo's ingenuity and grasp of stage technique, Nixon employed him as an adviser on David Nixon's Magic Box until 1971, when Bongo was given his own slot on the children's entertainment series Zokko. His reputation grew and in 1972 he was voted Magic Circle Magician of the Year. But he continued to be employed as an adviser on such television shows as Tarot Ace of Wands, Doctor Who, The Tomorrow People, and later worked with Nixon's successor at the BBC, Paul Daniels, with whom he was to remain a close friend.
In 2008 he was elected president of the Magic Circle and remained a frequent visitor to its premises near Euston, helping to run the Young Magicians' Club where he passed on the tricks of his trade to the next generation of performers. more....
Joan Turner, comedienne
and popular entertainer, has died aged 86 (5 March 2009)
At the height of her fame in the 1960s Joan Turner was widely regarded as one of Britains most brilliant comediennes. Famed for her soprano voice and biting wit, she was billed as "the voice of an angel - the wit of the Devil" and was regularly seen on popular television shows, at the London Palladium and at nightclubs in New York and Las Vegas.
Critics were quick to compare her to Gracie Fields, and her voice, like that of Fields, did have an astonishing range. She was set for international stardom, but, prey to drink and gambling problems, she proved too erratic and undisciplined to maintain a successful career, and her eventual decline was pitiful.
She made her debut at the Finsbury Empire as a singing comedienne, billed as "The Wacky Warbler", and later played all the leading music halls around the country. For four years she specialised in the title role of Aladdin in the Lew Grade pantomime and on one memorable occasion slipped unannounced into the long-running Crazy Gang show at the Victoria Palace and stopped the show.
By now a headliner in variety she was quickly snapped up by television and made regular appearances as a guest star on shows with Dickie Henderson and Harry Secombe and in 1954 was chosen for the Royal Variety Performance, where she sang with Eric Robinson and his Orchestra.
In the same year she opened with Jimmy Edwards and Tony Hancock in the revue Talk of the Town (Adelphi Theatre), which ran for a record 656 performances. At the end of the 1950s she had written and compiled a one-woman show, An Evening with Joan Turner, running at two hours and in which she did more than 20 impressions.
In the early 1970s she surprised her critics by giving an exceptional performance in the lead role in The Killing of Sister George which toured, and she made several comedy recordings, the best of which was The World of Joan Turner. It was not enough, however, to support her lavish lifestyle, and in 1977 she was declared bankrupt. "I couldnt stop gambling," she admitted. "The more I lost the more I wanted to win it all back." more....
Tony Osborne, composer and
arranger, has died aged 86 (3
Osborne's first job was a trumpeter and relief pianist with Cyril Stapleton, and then with Frank Weir, Carroll Gibbons and Ambrose. He played in the BBC Orchestra for the comedy successes, The Goon Show and Take It From Here.
Soon Osborne was working for the major companies of the day, notably with EMI, and he formed his own band, the Brass Hats, for weekly appearances on the BBC TV teenage show, Six-Five Special. When that was superseded by Juke Box Jury in 1959, Osborne wrote and recorded the theme song, "Juke Box Fury", under the name of Ozzie Warlock and the Wizards. When Osborne fell out with the show's producer, Russell Turner, Turner replaced his tune with John Barry's "Hit And Miss", which began Barry's run of success.
In 1960, the American star Connie Francis recorded in England and Osborne wrote and conducted the arrangement for her million-selling "Mama", which was sung in Italian. Among his arrangements were "Sisters" for the Beverley Sisters, "Out Of Town" for Max Bygraves, "Love Is" for Alma Cogan, "Little Donkey" for Nina and Frederik, and "Say It With Flowers" with Dorothy Squires and Russ Conway.
Around the late 1950s, Osborne began recording under his own name, favouring place names for his instrumental titles the best known are "The Lights Of Lisbon", "The Man From Marseilles", "The Windows Of Paris", which became the theme music for the BBC drivetime programme, Roundabout and was recorded by Bing Crosby, with lyrics by Johnny Mercer, and "The Man From Madrid", a Top 50 entry in 1961. He also had a chart hit with "The Shepherd's Song" in 1973. more....
Dilys Laye, actress known
for comic roles in the Carry On films, has died aged 74 (20 February 2009)
Dilys Laye was one of Britains most experienced comedy actresses, best known for her appearances in the Carry On films. But she was equally adept in straight roles, notably with the Royal Shakespeare Company, and she was a seasoned musical star, having appeared in the original Broadway production of Sandy Wilsons The Boy Friend, opposite Julie Andrews.
Her gift for comedy was noticed during the early 1950s when she began appearing in a series of then hugely popular intimate West End revues, including High Spirits, For Amusement Only and Intimacy at 8.30 in which she starred alongside such performers as Ian Carmichael and Cyril Ritchard.
She made her Broadway debut in 1954 as Dulcie in The Boy Friend after which she returned to Britain to play in both West End and provincial theatre comedies and musicals.
In 1957 she played Mrs Herbert in the film Doctor at Large, opposite Dirk Bogarde and James Roberston Justice. In the 1960s she had established herself as a leading comedy actress on television, appearing regularly in series such as the BBCs Comedy Playhouse. In 1967 she had a small role in Charlie Chaplins romantic comedy film A Countess from Hong Kong.
For much of her career the theatre remained her first love and she showed her versatility as an actress when she joined the RSC in the 1970s playing roles such as Maria in Twelfth Night and the Nurse in Romeo and Juliet. She frequently played leading roles in musical comedy and in recent years had topped the bill in touring productions of Sweeney Todd, The Pirates of Penzance, Fiddler on the Roof and 42nd Street. Trevor Nunn cast her as Mrs Pearce in the 2007 Drury Lane revival of My Fair Lady.
In 1981 she wrote and appeared in the ITV sitcom Chintz, which also starred Michele Dotrice.
Laye almost never stopped working and had been seen on television in recent years in Midsomer Murders, Holby City and EastEnders, in which she played Maxine Palmer. more....
Shirley Jean Rickert, 'Our
Gang' member, has died aged 82 (20
Shirley Jean Rickert was to a legion of Depression Era fans the cute girl with the platinum blonde curls in the Our Gang comedies filmed during the early 1930s. Shirley was five when she made her Our Gang debut in Helping Grandma (1931), appearing with Jackie Cooper, Bobby "Wheezer" Hutchins, Matthew "Stymie" Beard, Dorothy deBorba, Allen "Farina" Hoskins and Norman "Chubby" Chaney.
After a dozen or so Our Gang shorts, Shirley left the troupe to play Tomboy Taylor in the rival Mickey McGuire comedy series, with Mickey Rooney in the title role. Certain that her daughter was a star in the making, Shirley's mother negotiated her way out of the series contract after Shirley had made just five short films in 1934.
Fame eluded her. By the mid-1930s, she was reduced to playing a series of bit parts. During the war years she was briefly under contract with Columbia Pictures, then worked as an uncredited dancer in a number of film musicals, including The Pirate (1948) with Gene Kelly; Royal Wedding (1951), starring Fred Astaire; and Singin' in the Rain (1952).
When the old Our Gang comedies resurfaced in television syndication across America in the mid-1950s as The Little Rascals, Shirley Jean Rickert found herself a new generation of fans. more....
Richard Coleman, Actor,
has died aged 79 (14 February 2009)
Richard Coleman made his big-screen début as a naval officer in Yangtse Incident: the Story of HMS Amethyst (1957) and landed similar roles in Girls at Sea (1958) and The Navy Lark (based on the BBC radio sitcom, 1958). He also played the baddie Metellus in the biblical epic Ben-Hur (1959).
But it was in television that the actor's future lay. He had regular roles as Nick Allardyce in The Adventures of Ben Gunn (1958), a six-part serial by R.F. Delderfield featuring characters from Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, the minstrel Alan-a-Dale in episodes of The Adventures of Robin Hood (1958-60) and Jack Royston in the soap opera Weavers Green (1966), set around a Norfolk country vet's practice.
Coleman also took one-off character roles in many popular television series, including Dixon of Dock Green (1963, 1964), No Hiding Place (1964, 1965), The Avengers (1966), Z Cars (1973), George and Mildred (1977) and Surgical Spirit (1991).
In the 1970s, Coleman was one of the best-known faces on television, starring with Wendy Craig in two archetypal sitcoms of domestic mayhem.
Coleman joined her in thesitcom ...And Mother Makes Three, in which Craig played a dithering young widow, Sally Harrison, trying to hold down a job while bringing up her two sons, with some assistance from her Auntie Flo and in the follow up series ...And Mother Makes Five (1974-6).
Both series were created by the writer Richard Waring and followed his previous sitcom, Not in Front of the Children, which starred Wendy Craig in another family saga. more....
Stewart Morris, BBC light
entertainment producer, has died aged 79 (9 February 2009)
In 1958, the TV producer Jack Good was producing the very exciting rock n roll show, Oh Boy! for ITV, and the BBC wanted something similar. Stewart Morris was recruited to produce their reply, Drumbeat. Morris favoured a studio production over a theatre audience, but otherwise the shows were identical. Many of the performers were the same but Morris made Adam Faith a star and established John Barry as the leader of a rhythm combo, the John Barry Seven. The visiting Americans were Paul Anka and the Poni-Tails. Drumbeat made me a star in Scotland, the singer Vince Eager said, as they didnt have ITV there and had never seen anything like it.
Drumbeat only ran for six months, but Morris had shown his capabilities and he was then entrusted with Juke Box Jury. This was hardly demanding work and hardly a TV format four panellists listening to the latest releases and commenting on them but it had a popular host, David Jacobs, and high viewing figures.
In January 1967, Morris produced The Rolf Harris Show in which Harris sang, joked, painted and played ethnic Australian instruments. Harris was born on the same day as Morris and they referred to each other as twins. During the first season, Sandie Shaw sang the potential UK entries for the Eurovision Song Contest, and the public voted for Puppet On A String, which led to the UKs first victory in the contest. The following year, Morris produced the live TV broadcast of the contest from the Royal Albert Hall and also produced the Royal Variety Performance from the London Palladium. In 1976, he produced the first live broadcast of a Royal Variety Performance.
When BBC2 started in 1964, Morris was put in charge of the Saturday afternoon alternative to sport on BBC1 and ITV. Open House was fronted by Gay Byrne and featured such American stars as Gene Pitney, the Supremes and the Beach Boys.
In 1986, Morris produced his biggest spectacle: the opening ceremony for the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, which involved over 10,000 sportsmen and musicians.
Morris retired from the BBC in 1992. He then produced a Royal Gala for the 50th anniversary of VE Day for Carlton TV in 1995 and four series of Barrymore with Michael Barrymore for LWT from 1992 to 1995. more....
Ingemar Johansson, the
Swedish heavyweight boxer has died aged 76 (2 February 2009)
Ingemar Johansson caused a sensation by destroying Floyd Patterson inside three rounds to win the world title in June 1959; the American was floored seven times before Johansson became the first European to capture the sport's richest prize since Italy's Primo Carnera 25 years earlier. An intelligent fighter blessed with sound boxing skills, Johansson also possessed a thunderous punch in his right hand which the press dubbed "Ingo's Bingo", although the colourful Swede preferred to call it "Thor's Hammer". This was the punch that earned him the Scandinavian and European crowns before his remarkable win over Patterson.
Yet Johansson's reign proved brief. Patterson gained his revenge by stopping him in five rounds in the return bout 12 months later and the Swede also lost their third and final encounter in March 1961. Although this trilogy of fights ended Johansson's days as a world title contender, he emerged from them £1.5m the richer. more....
Tony Hart, Artist and TV
presenter, has died aged 83 (18 January 2009)
Tony Hart was an iconic and much-loved figure for millions of budding young artists who tuned into his BBC art shows for nearly 50 years. He received two Bafta awards, won a lifetime achievement award in 1998, gave a TV platform to Morph - the clay character with the incoherent babble - and also created the original design for the Blue Peter badge.
Hart graduated in 1950 and soon became a freelance artist. His career did not take off immediately, and he later admitted to drawing murals on restaurant walls in exchange for meals. But it would not take long for him to move into television. He met a BBC children's TV producer at a party in 1952 and, following an interview, demonstrated his talents by drawing a fish on a napkin.
He became resident artist on Saturday Special, subsequently appearing on Playbox and Titch and Quackers.
In 1964, he fronted Vision On, which was intended for deaf children, and by the time Take Hart arrived in 1978, colour television gave his programmes added punch.
His kindly, avuncular manner was a key feature of the programmes, and advances in technology allowed his remarkable range of ideas to bear full fruit.
Hartbeat (1985-1994) often attracted 5.4 million viewers and Hart received between 6,000 and 8,000 drawings and paintings through the post every week - the best of them would be pinned to the walls of his studio.
His career continued with his final series, Smart Hart, where he shared the studio with a young Kirsten O'Brien, and that kept him in work until his retirement in 2001. more....
Author and dramatist Sir
John Mortimer has died aged 85 (16 January 2009)
Sir John Mortimer made his radio debut in 1955 when he adapted his own novel, 'Like Men Betrayed' for the BBC Light Programme. But he made his debut as a playwright with 'The Dock Brief', starring Michael Hordern as a hapless barrister, first broadcast in 1957 on BBC Radio's Third Programme, later televised with the same cast and subsequently presented in a double bill with 'What Shall We Tell Caroline?' at the Lyric Hammersmith in April 1958, before transferring to the Garrick Theatre.
His play, 'A Voyage Round My Father', given its first radio broadcast in 1963, is autobiographical, recounting his experiences as a young barrister and his relationship with his blind father. It was memorably televised by BBC Television in 1969 with Mark Dignam in the title role. In a slightly longer version the play later became a stage success. In 1981 it was remade by Thames Television with Sir Laurence Olivier as the father and Alan Bates as young Mortimer.
Mortimer is best remembered for creating a barrister named Horace Rumpole, whose speciality was defending those accused of crime in London's Old Bailey. Mortimer created Rumpole for 'Rumpole of the Bailey', a 1975 contribution to the BBCs 'Play For Today' anthology series. Played with gusto by Leo McKern, the character proved popular, and was developed into a Rumpole of the Bailey television series for Thames Television and a series of books (all written by Mortimer). more....
Patrick McGoohan, actor in
the television series The Prisoner, has died aged 80 (15 January 2009)
After a few minor stage roles in the West End, McGoohan was signed by Rank at a time when the British film industry was flourishing. His clipped, almost metallic delivery in the manner of Oliviers Richard III, and the persistent stare, made him an ideal movie actor. Among his early films were No Life for Ruth, Dr Syn, Three Lives of Thomasina and All Night Long. Possibly his most memorable role of the period was a villain at the wheel in a taut thriller called Hell Drivers that co-starred the also emerging Stanley Baker and Herbert Lom.
The TV series Danger Man followed in 1959 after a troubled Rank failed to renew his contract along with other players. Ever the prickly perfectionist, McGoohan quickly found fault with the early scripts and came close to losing the part because of his demands. He insisted that John Drake should never carry a gun, although he was permitted to wrestle one away from a baddie occasionally, and all women were to be treated with strict courtesy.
At different times McGoohan turned down the chance to play James Bond and also the Saint (he said they were immoral) because of the sex and violence content. But he collected his share of accolades. He won a TV Actor of the Year award for his performance in The Greatest Man in the World, and in 1959 the Critics Award for Best Actor of the Year on stage when he played the title role in Ibsens verse drama Brand, as the religious bigot who finally destroys himself.
He moved behind the camera directing several episodes of his friend Peter Falks long-running TV detective series Columbo, although he did appear in several, picking up a pair of Emmy Awards. He starred in another TV series, Rafferty, a tailor-made role about a rebellious, irascible doctor, and he returned to Britain occasionally for TV appearances. Among them a remake of Jamaica Inn with Jane Seymour, and Hugh Whitemores The Best of Friends in which he played George Bernard Shaw.
But it is for The Prisoner and its infuriating, fascinating mystery that he will be remembered most. As he once said in exasperation: Will I never escape it? I am a prisoner of The Prisoner. more....
Edmund Purdom, British
character actor famed for his roles in The Student Prince and The
Egyptian, has died aged 84 (5
Edmund Purdom made his acting debut in repertory in 1945, aged 21. Six years later, he appeared with Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh on Broadway in alternating performances of Caesar and Cleopatra and Antony and Cleopatra, playing respectively a Persian and Thyreus. One of his first film roles was in Joseph Mankiewicz's Julius Caesar (1953) as Strato, the young servant of Brutus (James Mason).
It was the sad fate of the actor Edmund Purdom that the best known of his films, The Student Prince (1954), is remembered more for the star who wasn't in it. After the temperamental tenor Mario Lanza was fired from the film, the non-singing unknown Purdom replaced him. Luckily for MGM, Lanza had recorded the songs for the CinemaScope production before shooting began. Thus his voice is heard bellowing incongruously out of the slender frame of Purdom.
Purdom's reputation as a surrogate is underlined by the fact that he got his first chance of stardom when he replaced Marlon Brando in The Egyptian (1954) after Brando wisely cried off, preferring to play Napoleon in Desirée instead.
By the end of the 1950s, like a number of stars for whom Hollywood work had dried up, Purdom went to Italy and into rubbishy costume melodramas such as Herod the Great (1959), The Cossacks, Salambo (both 1960), Suleiman the Conqueror and Nefertiti, Queen of the Nile (both 1961). This stream of Italian films was interrupted by some British television work and, in 1964, two films made in England, The Beauty Jungle, revealing the seedier side of beauty contests, and The Yellow Rolls-Royce. more....
US singer Eartha Kitt has
died aged 81 (26 December 2008)
American singer, dancer and actress Eartha Kitt has died at the age 81. She was one of the few artists to be nominated in the Tony, Grammy and Emmy award categories and was a stalwart of the Manhattan cabaret scene.
Her break came at 16 when she got a job as a dancer with a professional troupe touring Europe. She later sang in Paris nightclubs and appeared in several films in the 1950s.
Her lithe, feline movements, the bewitchingly provocative glances from her wide-set eyes and her unique vocal style girlishly husky with an effective use of vibrato were truly incomparable. Initially her image was that of a gold-digger, epitomised by such hits as "Just An Old-Fashioned Girl", "Santa Baby" and "I Want to Be Evil", but other best-selling records testify to her versatility the seductive "Jonny", her wry "Dinner for One Please, James", a vitriolic "The Heel" and, in one of her most persuasive and touching recordings, the pathos of "The Day That the Circus Left Town". Besides stage and cabaret, she also had a film, theatre and television career, delighting a new generation when she played Catwoman in the series Batman.
Kitt was blacklisted in the US in the late 1960s after speaking out against the Vietnam War at a White House function.
However, she returned triumphantly to New York's Broadway in a 1978 production, Timbuktu!, and continued to perform regularly in theatre shows and concert halls.
From the 1980s onwards she appeared in numerous films, and her 1984 hit Where Is My Man found her another generation of night club fans. more....
Jack Douglas, actor and
comedian, has died aged 81 (19
A permanent fixture in the final eight Carry On comedy films, Jack Douglas is best remembered for the twitching character he usually portrayed, complete with flat cap, spectacles and workman's overalls, and the one-word catchphrase: "Phwaay!"
The character, known as Alf Ippititimus, was created on stage two decades earlier and became a staple of his act.
His break as a performer came while he was directing Dick Whittington (1948-49) at the Kingston Empire in Surrey. He was persuaded to step in after the comedian Joe Baker's straight man was taken ill. As a result, the pair formed a double-act and, in addition to their stage appearances across Britain and in Australia, they were seen regularly during the first year of the children's television programme Crackerjack (1955-56). He made his film début in the RAF comedy Nearly a Nasty Accident, starring Jimmy Edwards, in 1961. As well as appearing with the Carry On team in their forays into television, Carry On Christmas (1972) and Carry On Laughing (1975), Douglas performed on the small screen in many entertainment programmes. Having earned a reputation as a brilliant stooge, Douglas worked occasionally with Bruce Forsyth and Benny Hill, and, for 12 years, with Des OConnor. He and OConnor topped the bill in numerous summer seasons: theyappeared in more than 50 TV specials and were the unexpected hit of the Royal Variety Show in 1969. The following year they appeared in America on The Ed Sullivan Show. more....
Van Johnson, actor who
rode his luck to become a major Hollywood star before fading from
view, has died aged 92 (15 December 2008)
After graduating, he worked for a time in an office, but his sights were always set on a career in showbusiness. He took dancing, singing and acting lessons and managed to land small roles in such Broadway shows as Entre Nous (1935) and New Faces (1936).
In the late 1930s, he also appeared in a couple of Rodgers and Hart shows Too Many Girls and Pal Joey. In Too Many Girls he had the lead role, but when it was filmed in 1940, he was unknown in Hollywood and was given only a one-line part. Nevertheless, it was his screen debut.
With war stories dominating Hollywood productions, he became renowned as the boy-next-door turned sailor, soldier or airman. He made his mark in A Guy Named Joe (1943), as a pilot steered towards grieving Irene Dunne by the spirit of her dead lover, played by Spencer Tracy.
A Guy Named Joe was a big hit, so Van Johnson was co-starred with Irene Dunne again in a schmaltzy wartime drama The White Cliffs of Dover (1944) before being cast in a musical, Two Girls and a Sailor (1944), with June Allyson and Gloria De Haven.
As a GI (of which he had no personal experience), he was seen in such films as Thirty Seconds over Tokyo (1944), Battleground (1949) and Go for Broke! (1951). When he was not winning the war, he was the romantic foil for swimmer Esther Williams in the musicals Thrill of a Romance (1945), Easy to Wed (1946), The Duchess of Idaho (1950) and Easy to Love (1953).
None of his later films was distinguished. They included the romantic melodramas Action of the Tiger (1958), with Martine Carol, and Subway in the Sky (1959) with Hildegarde Neff, and the Resistance thriller, The Enemy General (1960).
For a time, he switched to the theatre, appearing in Damn Yankees on tour, Bye Bye Birdie in repertory, The Music Man in London and La Cage aux Folles, replacing Gene Barry in one of the lead roles. Subsequently his screen appearances became increasingly infrequent.
He forsook Hollywood and began appearing in international co-productions, such as La Battaglia d'Inghilterra and Il Prezzo del Potere (both 1969) and a steady stream of television films. His last Hollywood film was a cameo in Woody Allen's The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985). more....
Beverly Garland, B-movie
and television actress, has died aged 82 (13 December 2008)
Beverly Garland did battle with some of the most ludicrous monsters in cinematic history as the star of 1950s B-movies such as 'Swamp Women' and 'It Conquered the World'. She later went on to play Fred MacMurray's wife in 'My Three Sons', one of the longest-running situation comedies on American television.
In 1955 she was nominated for an Emmy for her performance as a leukaemia patient in the medical drama 'Medic', and by the mid-1960s she had left the world of horror and sci-fi to play Bing Crosby's onscreen wife on the short-lived 'Bing Crosby Show'. She also appeared in a string of successful television shows, such as 'Perry Mason', 'Gunsmoke' and 'Rawhide'. She was best known, however, for her role as Fred MacMurray's wife Barbara in the 1960s hit 'My Three Sons'.
In 2001 she faced Anne Robinson on the American version of The Weakest Link, after which she observed of the show's inquisitor: "She's more venomous than Joan Crawford, Faye Dunaway and Miriam Hopkins combined." more....
Oliver Postgate, Bagpuss
and Ivor Creator, has died aged 83 (9
Oliver Postgate's work was both whimsical and matter-of-fact, magical and mundane. He went into partnership with Peter Firmin, forming the production company Smallfilms. It was just that; a two-man operation making short animated films from a makeshift studio in a disused cowshed in Kent.
They started in 1959 with Ivor the Engine, a series for ITV about a little Welsh steam engine who wanted to sing in a choir. Early films like Ivor the Engine relied on cardboard cut outs.
Ivor was followed in the early 1960s by the sagas of Noggin the Nog for the BBC. His adventures were sometimes alarming, sometimes charming, and eventually ran to five series.
In 1963 they branched out into stop-motion puppet animation, first with the Pingwings and then with the Pogles. The arrival of colour television spurred the team to new heights of invention. Their work took on a decidedly surreal edge with the Clangers, pink creatures with pointed noses who lived on a blue moon with a friendly soup dragon, and spoke in whistles. Postgate and another actor did their voices with Swanee whistles, after Postgate had painstakingly written out every word of the script. The Clangers were perhaps Postgate and Firmin's finest achievement though not, apparently, their most popular.
From 1974, that honour went to Bagpuss, a pink and white striped cat, who presided over a shop dedicated to mending broken articles. In 1998 (by which time the Bagpuss generation had reached their 20s and early 30s) the programme was voted the best children's series ever in a television poll.
Oliver Postgate made his last film in 1987, complaining that children's television commissioners were no longer interested in what he had to offer. With his story-telling skills, his love of found objects and mechanical improvisation, his funny voices and air of eccentricity, the man himself gave a good imitation of everyone's favourite uncle.
And his creations live on, at once surreal and comforting. more....
Reg Varney, gifted comic
actor from the East End, has died aged 92 (17 November 2008)
In 1950 Varney made his film debut in Miss Robin Hood. By the late Fifties, with halls closing as television spread, Varney was working only twenty weeks a year. Even a praised Touchstone in a Bernard Miles production of As You Like It at the Mermaid did not yield better work. He was on the point of throwing it in, perhaps to run a pub, when he saw the progress Benny Hill was making on television. Ronald Chesney, the harmonica player showed him a script which he had written with Ronald Wolfe. This was The Rag Trade, a situation comedy set in the dressmaking workshop of Fenner Fashions.
The show was taped on Sundays allowing the producers the pick of actors on the West End stage, who would not have been available for work during the week.
The star-studded cast included Miriam Karlin, Peter Jones, Sheila Hancock and Barbara Windsor. Varney was aware that he was the only performer without West End acting experience and worked hard to make up for it.
At read-throughs of the script his performance would give the writers cause for concern. But on the day of recording, he would know his lines and the comic potential of the episode better than anyone.
He moved on to his own show, The Valiant Varneys, which ran for a year from 1964, and the next year starred in Joey Boy, a comedy feature film about the Army. He appeared in The Great St Trinian's Train Robbery in 1966.
Between 1967 and 1969 he played an affluent fitter in the sitcom Beggar My Neighbour, in which he co-starred with Pat Coombs, Peter Jones and June Whitfield.
But it was the television comedy On the Buses, written by Ronald Wolfe and Ronald Chesney, that made Varney a household name. Screened from 1969 until 1973, the series revolved around a bus driver's capers with his conductor, played by Bob Grant, their home life, and their efforts to put one over on the bus depot's lugubrious Inspector Blakey (Stephen Lewis).
Varney also starred in three On the Buses feature films, made by Hammer: On the Buses (1971), Mutiny On the Buses (1972) and Holiday On the Buses (1973). But when he finally left the role for good, his career suffered. more....
Pat Moss, showjumper
turned rally driver, has died aged 73 (13 November 2008)
Pat Moss was a leading showjumper who later caught the automotive bug and went on to become a trailblazing women's rally driver. She won the European Ladies' Championship five times, and in 1960 she and her co-driver, Anne Wisdom, won the daunting Liège-Rome-Liège rally, the first time a major international rally had been won by an all-female crew.
As an eight-year-old she won many pony events, competing against her brother, and both were presented to King George VI after winning the Victor Ludorum at the 1945 Windsor Cup horse trials. In 1950 she was victorious at the Horse of the Year Show, and three years later she was presented to the Queen after winning the Queen Elizabeth Cup at White City. She went on to make the UK showjumping team.
Moss had her first driving lesson, courtesy of her brother Stirling, in a Willys jeep when she was seven, but in 1952, when she was about to turn 18, Stirling's manager, Ken Gregory, took her on a small rally. She was his navigator and they got lost on their way to the start. Despite this less than propitious beginning to her rally career, by 1954 she had graduated, via a Morris Minor convertible, which she admitted she thrashed, to a Triumph TR2. In March 1955 she was invited to drive a works MG TF on the RAC Rally and success there led to rides for MG in a works Magnette, then with an Austin Westminster in 1956 and a Morris Minor in 1957.
In 1960 she won the Liège-Rome-Liège rally outright in the Healey.
A tough and fast competitor, Moss blazed a trail for women competitors and achieved many strong results, including second on the 1961 RAC, third on the 1962 East African Safari Rally despite a collision with an antelope, and victories on the Tulip Rally and the Rally Deutschland. In the Dutch event she scored the Mini Cooper's first international victory. She would also win the European Ladies' Championship on four more occasions, adding 1960, 1962, 1964 and 1965 to that 1958 success.
A switch to Ford for 1963 brought the ladies' prize on the Tulip and Acropolis rallies and, following her marriage, she drove Saabs successfully with Liz Nystrom as her navigator until a move to Lancia for 1967. In 1968 she took a Fulvia to victory on the Sestrières Rally and finished sixth, the highest-placed Lancia, on the 1969 Monte Carlo Rally. more....
Russ Hamilton, one of the
UKs first international pop stars, has died aged 76 (16 October 2008)
Russ Hamiltion whose real name was Ronnie Hulme scored Top 10 hits in Britain and the United States in the late 1950s.
Ronnie was born in Liverpool and became a Butlins Redcoat at its Clacton camp. His big break came when he was in a Redcoat troupe which recorded at Orioles London studio. He also recorded two of his own songs.
The result was the 1957 single, We Will Make Love, with the poignant lines: When the sun takes the place of the moon in the sky, we'll go on a journey, you and I, to a far distant land, where our dreams were planned, in the clouds up above we will make love.
Oriole released it as a single, under the name Russ Hamilton. It reached number two in the UK chart, selling a million for a gold disc. The flip-side, Rainbow, was a US number four. Russ was in huge demand for a while, appearing alongside major stars such as Perry Como but the following single, Wedding Ring, only scraped into the UK Top 20.
After that the hits dried up, but Russ continued to record fine songs for a several years and then settled in a flat in Buckley, North Wales, occasionally complaining that he had seen very little of the money he had earned for others. more....
Peter Copley, versatile
theatrical actor, has died aged 93 (14
Having been trained at the the Old Vic Theatre School, Peter Copley first appeared as the Gaoler in The Winters Tale at the Old Vic in 1932. Playing in 16 Old Vic revivals in five years, he moved to the Edinburgh Festival as the Fencing Master in the opera Ariadne auf Naxos, he felt again on home ground. He was an expert at swordplay. It had been his custom to supervise fencing at the Old Vic, and he rarely missed a chance to direct duels in, say, Oliviers Richard III and Henry IV.
In 1963 he was called to the Bar at Middle Temple, but nothing could deter him from acting. He went on to appear in all kinds of drama, ancient and modern, in the West End and the provinces, even into old age. With his gleaming eyes, distinctive voice and irresistible presence his assumptions as lawyers, schoolmasters, diplomats, priests and other sticklers for verbal precision made Copley invaluable.
His television appearances in the '50s and '60s included parts in 'Fabian of the Yard', Sunday Night Theatre', 'No Hiding Place', 'Maigret', 'Danger Man' and 'The Saint'. more....
Nadia Nerina, prima
ballerina, has died aged 80 (13 October 2008)
For nearly a quarter of a century Nadia Nerina was one of the most popular ballerinas of her time, largely as a leading dancer with the Royal Ballet but also in guest appearances for many other companies, and on concert tours.
Her special gifts were immortalised in the role of Lise which Frederick Ashton created for her in his production of La Fille mal gardée. He made such dazzling use of her virtuoso technique, with its speed and lightness, that when first given in 1960 he was asked whether he thought anyone else would be able to dance it.
Rudolf Nureyev danced in the Royal Ballets Giselle and inserted a series of entrechats-six, which shocked many dancers and fans. In amusing retaliation, Nerina one night, knowing that Nureyev was in the audience, substituted 32 entrechats-six (not usually a womans step) for her featured 32 fouettés in the Black Swan sequence. Nureyev must have taken it well because a little later he danced with her in the Laurencia pas de six which he mounted for television a medium in which Nerina had been one of dances pioneers, appearing in six programmes between 1957 and 1965. more....
Paul Newman, Oscar-winning
Hollywood actor, has died aged 83 (28
Paul Newman was a Hollywood actor of true star quality, who remained at the top of his profession for more than 40 years.
As an actor he had a commanding presence, dominating the screen by force of personality. It earned him a stream of Oscar nominations in such films as Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), The Hustler (1961), Hud (1963), Cool Hand Luke (1967), Absence of Malice (1981) and The Verdict (1982). He was unsuccessful, however, each time and it was not until 1986 that he was finally named best actor at the seventh attempt in The Color of Money a sequel to The Hustler, for which many felt that he should have won 25 years earlier.
He made his screen debut in 1954 in The Silver Chalice a Biblical epic that proved a commercial disaster. That Warner Bros, to whom he was under contract at the time, did not ditch him was probably due to his striking physical resemblance to Marlon Brando, then at the peak of his powers.
In the late 1950s, for Warner Bros and on loan to other studios, Newman made a number of now largely forgotten melodramas. In Arthur Penns first film, The Left Handed Gun (1958), he played Billy the Kid as a precursor of the crazy, mixed-up kids then being portrayed by James Dean. Audiences shunned it. From this period of his career, only Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958) made money, though Tennessee Williams regarded it as a travesty of his play.
Highlights of the middle section of Newmans career were the two tongue-in-cheek pictures he made with Robert Redford under director George Roy Hill, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) and the Oscar-winning The Sting (1973). Both sophisticated entertainments, they were not among his most demanding work, but were undeniably crowd-pleasers.
So, too, was The Towering Inferno (1974), in which he played the architect of a doomed skyscraper. Sidney Lumets The Verdict (1982), in which he was an ambulance chaser a seedy lawyer who latches onto accident victims as potential clients was notably intelligent and also a box-office hit.
After winning an Oscar for The Color of Money in 1986, Newman was able to be more selective about the scripts that came his way. more....
David Jones, theatre,
television and film director has died aged 74 (24 September 2008)
David Jones was a theatre, television and occasional film director who cut his teeth on the BBCs Monitor programme and had a long association with the Royal Shakespeare Company before moving to the United States, where he did most of his later work.
During National Service he was a second lieutenant in the Royal Artillery and in 1958 he joined BBC Television. He had expected to work on the early-evening magazine Tonight, but was diverted by Grace Wyndham Goldie, the formidable talks executive, to help on a little programme about the arts, though she warned him it might be short-lived.
In the event Monitor became a television landmark, taking the arts seriously while making them accessible to a wide audience. Under the tough yet avuncular and relentlessly enthusiastic Huw Wheldon it became an unofficial film school, nurturing the talents of not only Jones but also John Schlesinger, Ken Russell and, later, Melvyn Bragg. Although still in his early twenties when he joined Monitor, Jones was entrusted with some of the more important assignments and with his literary background was a natural choice for tackling writers.
In 1958 he went to Cambridge to make a film about the usually camera-shy E. M. Forster on the occasion of his 80th birthday. Jones not only directed the film but also interviewed Forster in his rooms at Kings College. Among Joness other subjects were Lawrence Durrell, Frank OConnor, the Irish writer, and George Chapman, the Welsh painter. In 1962 Jones succeeded Humphrey Burton as Monitors editor. more....
Michael Pate, Australian actor, writer and director, has died aged 88 (20 September 2008)
After serving in the Australian Army's entertainment unit during the Second World War, during which he served as compere for the touring performances of Gracie Fields, he began to act in films, and in 1950 he supported Tommy Trinder and Chips Rafferty in Bitter Springs. Telling of the conflict between settlers and Aborigines, it was the last (and least successful) of the three films made in Australia by Ealing Studios after the war.
Pate also acted in a stage version of Charlotte Hastings' thriller, Bonaventure (1950), and he made his Hollywood debut when Universal asked him to repeat his role in Douglas Sirk's enjoyably melodramatic screen version of the play, retitled Thunder on the Hill (1951) and starring Claudette Colbert as a nun turned sleuth, proving the innocence of convicted murderer Ann Blyth. Pate remained in the USA for several years, appearing in more than 200 films and TV shows. He was Flavius to Marlon Brando's Marc Antony in Julius Caesar (1953), played a droll Sir Locksley in Danny Kaye's funniest comedy, The Court Jester (1955), and was frequently cast as a Native American in such films as Hondo (1953) and The Great Sioux Massacre (1965) and countless television westerns including Maverick, Laramie, Have Gun Will Travel, Gunsmoke and a memorable episode of Rawhide in which he saved the stars, Eric Fleming and Clint Eastwood, from being flogged while tied to tree trunks. more....
Lita Roza, Sultry
interpreter of romantic ballads, has died aged 82 (15 August 2008)
The public know the Liverpool singer Lita Roza for one song above all others, the children's novelty "How Much is That Doggie in the Window?" However, that doggie was her bête noire: she was talked into recording the song and did not consider it representative of her work. There were few to rival her real talent as a sultry and sophisticated interpreter of romantic ballads.
In 1951, Roza recorded "Allentown Jail" with the Ted Heath band. Although record sales were not then collated, it was undoubtedly her first hit, as the song rose high in the sheet-music charts. After "Allentown Jail", her A&R man, Dick Rowe, asked her to sing "How Much is That Doggie in the Window?" and Roza replied, "I'm not recording that, it's rubbish." She recalled, "He said, 'It'll be a big hit, please do it, Lita.' I said that I would sing it once and once only and then I would never sing it again, and I haven't. The only time you'll hear it is on that record."
Even when the record was No 1, no one could persuade Lita to perform her hit, but it did lead to her recording several unsuitable songs. She was appreciated as much for her stunning looks as for her voice and she topped the Melody Maker poll for Favourite Female Vocalist from 1951 to 1955, and a similar one in the New Musical Express from 1952 to 1955.
In 1954, Roza left the Ted Heath band and started working as a solo act: "I would be singing with pit orchestras, who were usually dreadful," she said. "It was like going to the knacker's yard although I always carried my own pianist." In 1955, Lita had hits with two songs she liked "Hey There" and "Jimmy Unknown" and then sang "A Tear Fell" on a charity single for the Lord's Taverners Association, which made No 2. She recorded albums of standards, Listening in the Afterhours (1955) and Love is the Answer (1956).
She had recorded another fine album, Me On a Carousel, for Pye in 1958, as well as a stream of variable singles, the better ones including "Volare" and "I Could Have Danced All Night". After leaving Pye in 1960, Roza recorded only sporadically. more....
Sir Bill Cotton, TV light
entertainment producer, has died aged 80 (12 August 2008)
William Frederick Cotton, known early in his career as Bill Cotton Junior, was born on April 23 1928 with showbiz in his blood. He was the younger son of the bandleader Billy Cotton.
According to Bill, his father's musical talent was limited to "waving his arms about" in front of the band (he never learned to read music). But his extrovert personality and ability to spot winning performers made him a variety icon. His famous introductory shout of "Wakey wakey!" was said to have originated when he had to rouse the band for their Sunday morning radio show after a hard week on the road.
Billy's relationship with his sons was complicated and ambiguous. He was proud of Bill junior's success in the BBC but simultaneously afraid that it might threaten his own standing. Despite this, he was happy to have Bill junior as producer of his TV show, while the younger Cotton freely acknowledged the debt he owed to his father's career and influence.
Cotton junior joined the BBC as a light entertainment producer in 1956. After early successes with Six Five Special and the discovery of Tommy Steele, he was asked to produce his father's show. He was extremely reluctant to take on this task. He knew none better how difficult Cotton senior could be and dreaded the almost inevitable public rows. Father and son reached a working agreement: they might have their differences backstage, but never in front of performers or crew.
His name was associated with a string of variety and comedy successes. Among the many artists who owed their promotion up the rungs of the TV ladder to him were Tommy Steele, Russ Conway, Michael Parkinson, Dave Allen, Bruce Forsyth, Des O'Connor and Cilla Black.
Cotton's broadcasting philosophy was simple. He believed his job, both as Head of Light Entertainment and later as controller of BBC1, was to maximise the audience for the BBC channels by providing them with comedy and entertainment programmes of the highest quality. In this way the crucial business of maintaining audience parity with the ITV opposition would be secured, and the future of the licence fee made safe. more....
Jill Adams, actress billed
as 'Britain's Monroe', has died aged 78 (6 August 2008)
A tall, striking blonde, Jill Adams provided good humour and a welcome touch of glamour to several films from the mid-Fifties. At the start of her film career, she was publicised as "Britain's Marilyn Monroe". It was hardly an accurate description, but the former model Adams made a stunning cover girl, featuring on the cover of the popular weekly Picturegoer twice, in 1954 and 1955, and she played in over 20 films in the space of a decade.
In 1953 she began taking bit roles in movies dancing with Nigel Patrick in Forbidden Cargo (1953), appearing in the Arthur Askey comedy The Love Match (1954), and in Doctor at Sea (1955) with Dirk Bogarde.
The James Bond producer Albert R. Broccoli is credited with having discovered her when she played a bit part in his production The Black Knight (1954), and she was soon playing larger roles, notable among which were her fine comic performance in the Launder-Gilliat black comedy The Green Man (1956), with Alastair Sim and George Cole, and her glamorous depiction of the "girl upstairs" in the comedy about barristers, Brothers in Law (1957), her role a deliberate echo of Monroe's in The Seven Year Itch.
She had one of her first substantial roles in the sprightly "B" movie One Jump Ahead (1955), in a rare villainous portrayal as a murderess who was once an old flame of a reporter (Paul Carpenter) who is usually "one jump ahead" of the police. Adams was one of Rex Harrison's seven wives in the sophisticated comedy The Constant Husband (1955).
At the peak of her acting career in 1957, Adams married Peter Haigh, the debonair presenter of radio's Movie-Go-Round and the founding co-presenter (with Derek Bond) of Picture Parade, a weekly television movie magazine that would evolve into the show presented for many years by Barry Norman.
Adams appeared in The Scamp (1957), and was given star billing in an Australian movie, Dust in the Sun (1958), but it had limited distribution. In 1960/61 she featured in a television series, The Flying Doctor, based on the real-life activities of the Royal Flying Doctor Service serving the Australian outback. more....
Hugh Lloyd, comedy actor,
has died aged 85 (15 July 2008)
Hugh Lloyd began his association with Tony Hancock when he was offered several "one-liners" in the radio show Hancock's Half Hour in 1954. After joining Hancock on a tour of Cyprus, Malta and Tripoli, entertaining the troops there, Lloyd and Hancock became close friends.
On their return to Britain Hancock offered Lloyd much larger parts in the television version of Hancock's Half Hour in 1956. Lloyd played "the patient in the next bed" in one of Hancock's best-known episodes "The Blood Donor". He went on to co-star in over 30 sketches including "The Librarian", "The Lift" and "The Reunion".
Lloyd stopped working with Hancock in the late 1950s, although he did appear as Ted (one half of a Punch and Judy act) in Hancock's film The Punch and Judy Man in 1963.
In 1962 Hugh Lloyd starred in his own series opposite Terry Scott. Lloyd and Scott first met during the war and worked together in variety shows in the early 1950s. They reformed their partnership for the long-running situation comedy Hugh and I, which both maintained was based on exaggerated versions of themselves.
Lloyd reprised the type of character he had played with Hancock; lugubrious, meek and constantly under attack from the bludgeoning Scott. In 1969 he returned to situation comedy in the bizarre BBC series The Gnomes of Dulwich. Lloyd, again paired with Scott, played a bearded "fishing gnome". He spent most of each episode sitting perfectly still in front of a plastic garden pond. As usual, Scott played the belligerent, argumentative lead with Lloyd as his morose, deadpan foil.
Hugh Lloyd was appointed MBE in 2006. more....
Veteran character actor
Tony Melody has died aged 85 (9
Tony Melody became a household name in some of Britain's best loved and longest running comedies and soaps. He started out as a singer with the Northern Dance Orchestra and later became a household name with character and comedy cameos. His breakthrough came during the heyday of radio comedy, in The Clitheroe Kid, the long-running show (1957-72) starring the diminutive, Lancashire-born, former music-hall performer Jimmy Clitheroe in the guise of a naughty schoolboy. Melody played Mr Higginbottom, a 6ft 4in taxi driver and Jimmy's arch-enemy, and he joined Clitheroe in the television version, Just Jimmy between 1964 and 1966. Later he moved to play more television parts such as in Steptoe and Son (teaching a young Harold Steptoe how to dance), Coronation Street, Heartbeat (helping Greengrass steal a train), Casualty, Emmerdale, City Central, Where the Heart Is and Last of the Summer Wine.
One of his biggest breaks came when he appeared in the film Yanks alongside Richard Gere. more....
Sir Charles Wheeler,
distinguished BBC foreign correspondent, has died aged 85 (5 July 2008)
His first job was on the tabloid Daily Sketch, where his principal task was to rip news-agency reports from teleprinters and rush them to the editors' desks. In 1943 he joined the Royal Marines and, because he spoke fluent German, was soon recruited by the special intelligence unit formed by Ian Fleming (later the creator of James Bond), playing an important role in the preparations for the D-Day landings.
In the aftermath of the Allied victory he was assigned to Berlin, where his job was to make sure that German officers with technical know-how, such as U-boat commanders, did not end up in the Soviet zone. In 1947 he joined the BBC Overseas Service as a sub-editor on the Latin American desk and after three years he was given his first reporting assignment, as a correspondent for the German service in Berlin.
In 1956 he moved to television as a producer on Panorama, the long-running current affairs programme. It was the golden age for that old BBC warhorse, and Wheeler found himself a member of a classic company which included such figures as Richard Dimbleby, Robin Day, Ludovic Kennedy and Woodrow Wyatt. One of his earliest successes on Panorama was to get a camera into Hungary to cover the ill-fated anti-Soviet uprising, sending the film back to London every day through Austria. His place, of course, at that time was behind the camera rather than in front of it and it was probably in part a desire to reverse that position which led Wheeler in 1958 to apply for a post with BBC News.
His principal work there was for radio television stories outside Europe at that stage had to be filmed, placed in a canister and then flown home. But the BBCs new South Asia correspondent soon proved himself a master of words, always taking great pains, quite incapable of writing a dull script and rather tending to show up his lazier colleagues on programmes such as From Our Own Correspondent. more....
Sooty changes hands (27 June 2008)
Sooty, the silent puppet bear with a penchant for magic tricks and water pistols, has been sold to his presenter, who plans to bring the children's TV character back in a new series.
Richard Cadell, who has presented the TV show featuring the much loved children's character for 10 years, has teamed up with his brother to buy the rights to Sooty and his friends Sweep, the squeaking grey dog, and Soo the panda. The deal is believed to be worth almost £1m.
Sooty has featured on British TV since the 1950s, first appearing on the BBC under the watch of Harry Corbett, who had bought the puppet on Blackpool pier to amuse his son Matthew. The show moved to ITV in 1968 and Matthew later succeeded as presenter more....
Cyd Charisse, one of the
leading dancers at MGM in the heyday of the Hollywood musical,
has died aged 87 (18 June 2008)
She regularly partnered Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire on screen and was famous for the length and shapeliness of her legs, which were insured in her prime for $10 million. They were so long and lissom that they gave the impression of a woman over six foot tall, though in fact she was a surprisingly petite 5ft 6in. Astaire, with whom she starred in The Band Wagon (1953) and Silk Stockings (1957), paid her perhaps the ultimate, if grammatically suspect, compliment: "That Cyd! When you've danced with her you stay danced with."
Her classical ballet training distinguished her from the other MGM danseuses of the 1940s and 1950s. It lent her a touch of class, even when playing ladies of easy virtue in the ballet sequences from Singin' in the Rain (1952) and The Band Wagon. She could not carry a note, however, and if her films called for even a few vocal bars, she was generally dubbed. One exception was an extraordinary number set in a male gymnasium in It's Always Fair Weather (1955), where her toneless voice could be heard piping "You've got me on the ropes."
Nor could she act. Throughout her career with MGM, the studio made loyal efforts to cast her in straight acting roles, but the results were mostly lamentable. Cyd Charisse's on-screen magic evaporated whenever she opened her mouth. So when the golden age of the Hollywood musical came to an end in the late 1960s, she was forced back on her weakest suit. She continued to make films until 1980 but few tapped her dancing talents and most were Euro pot-boilers ecxposing her rudimentary acting skills. In later years, she had more success in cabaret with her second husband, singer Tony Martin. more....
80 years of BBC shows to
go online (11 June 2008)
Every TV and radio programme ever made by the BBC could be placed online as part of an ambitious project unveiled today. The scheme will see a webpage created for nearly every programme broadcast on BBC radio and TV in the past 80 years. Initially, pages will contain information, clips and links about the show, but it is hoped that whole programmes will eventually be made available as part of a massive internet archive. This will either be via the seven-day catch-up service iPlayer or as a new online archive service.
It is unclear whether the archive service will be free. The new details were revealed by Jana Bennett, director of BBC vision, at the Banff television festival in Canada. However, a number of episodes from shows including Hancock's Half Hour, Doctor Who, Steptoe and Son and the Goon Show have been lost.
During the Seventies many tapes were destroyed or taped over to make space in the BBC's storage facilities or because they were considered a fire risk. Others, such as the Quatermass series, were broadcast live and not recorded. Ms Bennett said: "Eventually we will produce pages for programming stretching back over nearly 80 years - featuring all the information we have on the richest TV and radio archive in the world. The BBC is committed to releasing the public value in that archive." more....
broadcaster, artist and author has died aged 80 (6 June 2008)
Jonathan Routh became Britain's first television prankster in 1960 when he co-starred in Candid Camera, the hidden camera show that became an ITV staple for the next seven years; he also wrote The Good Loo Guide (1968) and later became a prolific, albeit eccentric, painter.
For two years he presented Candid Microphone on Radio Luxembourg, and in 1957 Routh set up as a professional part-time hoaxer with an advertisement in The Times reading: "Practical joker with wide experience of British public's sad gullibility organises, leads, and guarantees success of large-scale hoaxes." By then he had already caused consternation by leaving a pair of shoes daily in Kensington public library, taking a grand piano for a ride on the Tube, and sending himself through the post to Wandsworth covered in two pounds worth of stamps.
In Candid Camera, Routh's hidden lens recorded the chaos resulting from carefully-planned comedy situations for example, his search for Little Louis, a performing flea accidentally mislaid in a London taxi. Although Routh had imported the Candid Camera format from America, there was something essentially British about it. At its heart lay practical joking which, although often cruel, had been a national sport in the leisured days of the 18th and 19th centuries.
With the comedian Bob Monkhouse as host, Candid Camera made Routh a cult television figure as the deadpan agent provocateur with the hangdog aspect, iron nerve and beetle brows who preyed on the unsuspecting. Viewers sent in up to 1,000 ideas for hoaxes a week, most taken in good part by the unfortunate victims. more....
Nat Temple, clarinettist
and dance-band leader who frequently appeared on radio and
television has died aged 94 (5 June 2008)
Nat temple was one of the best-known bandleaders of the post-war period, particularly celebrated for his work in radio and television; he was also an exceptionally gifted clarinettist, whose talent received far less recognition than it deserved.
He turned professional at 16, joining the band led by the singer and comedian Sam Costa. In 1940 Temple joined the Grenadier Guards and played with service bands for the rest of the war, including periods in North Africa and Italy. While still in the Army he contrived to play from time to time, and even record, with numerous other bands.
A chance meeting with the Canadian actor and comedian Bernard Braden led to Temple's becoming musical director of a new, "oddball" radio show, Breakfast With Braden. This was followed by the late-night Bedtime With Braden, which gained a sizeable cult following. Temple was cast as the bumbling bandleader, a part he played so convincingly that he got taken on in the same role by other shows Michael Bentine's Round The Bend, Dick Emery's Emery At Large and Peter Ustinov's In All Directions.
From these, Temple graduated to children's television, acting as genial music-master for Jack In The Box, Telebox and, most famously, Crackerjack, with Eamonn Andrews. more....
rocknroll singer and songwriter, has died aged 79 (3 June 2008)
Bo Diddley's first single Im a Man became a hit on the R&B chart in 1955. It was not exactly blues or even R&B although it owed an allegiance to both but represented a new kind of guitar-based rocknroll which was earthy, basic, unrefined, jive-talking and decidedly funky. A second single, Diddley Daddy, followed it up the charts and in November that year he became the first black artist to appear on The Ed Sullivan Show. He had been asked to perform Sixteen Tons, a song by the country singer Tennessee Ernie Ford. Once the cameras were rolling, he instead strummed the raucous riff from his signature tune, Bo Diddley. The show went out live and a furious Sullivan could do nothing. Diddley was banned from appearing on the show again but he didnt care. The row had already made his reputation as a rocknroll pioneer.
Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry aside, arguably none of the first generation of American rocknrollers had a greater impact on the subsequent course of popular music. Along with Berry, Diddley was also one of the first black performers to cross over and enjoy success in the predominantly white pop chart of the time. Among the classic singles to his name, all driven by the primitive but irresistible beat he likened to a freight train, were Diddy Wah Diddy, Who Do You Love?, Mona, You Cant Judge a Book by Looking at its Cover, Road Runner and Say Man more....
Bernard Archard, star of
the TV series 'Spycatcher', has died aged 91 (6 May 2008)
Disillusioned with the experience of regular unemployment as an actor in Britain, in 1959 Bernard Archard booked a seat on the next boat to Canada, with plans to make a new start. But then he was asked to audition for the starring role in Spycatcher, as Lt-Col Oreste Pinto, a wartime Allied counter-espionage expert. The programme, which ran to four series, finally made Archard a star at the age of 43 and he became a prolific character actor in films and on television.
Following his success in Spycatcher, Archard was frequently typecast as policemen, in long-forgotten films such as The Clue of the New Pin (1960), Man Detained (1961), The Silent Playground (1963) and The List of Adrian Messenger (1963). On television, he was HM Inspector of Constabulary on official visits to the police stations in both Z Cars (1965) and its spin-off, Softly Softly (1967). more....
broadcaster and jazz musician, has died aged 86 (26 April 2008)
After spending the Second World War as an officer in the Grenadier Guards, Lyttelton became a pioneering figure in the British jazz scene. He formed his first band in 1948 after spending a year with George Webb's Dixielanders, a band that pioneered New Orleans-style jazz in the UK. The Humphrey Lyttelton Band quickly became Britain's leading traditional jazz group, and continental tours gave them a following in Europe.
In 1949, he signed a recording contract with EMI which led to a string of records in the Parlophone Super Rhythm Style series and which have become highly sought after. By the late 1950s he was branching out, enlarging his band and experimenting with mainstream and non-traditional material, and shocking his established fans in the process. In 1959, the band made a successful tour of the United States.
He was a keen amateur calligrapher and birdwatcher, and in 1984 formed his own record label, Calligraph. He composed more than 120 original songs during his career. In 1993 he won the radio industry's highest honour, a Sony Gold Award. He also won lifetime achievement awards at the Post Office British Jazz Awards in 2000, and the inaugural BBC Jazz Awards the following year.
It was in 1972 that, against his better judgement, he took on the chairmanship of Radio Fours Im Sorry I Havent a Clue. Nobody imagined that his role, somewhat like a naïve and despairing schoolmaster who was forced to read out double entendres that he never understood, would last for the rest of his life. His sharp humour was hilarious and yet without malice. more....
Hazel Court, horror
actress highly popular for her appearances in Roger Corman's Poe
cycle, has died at the age of 82 (16
Hazel Court was born in England in 1926 and became one of the 'Gainsborough girls' at the Gainsborough production company in the 1940s, but significant screen roles were to elude her until her induction into the horror genre, notably in the Hammer Film The Curse Of Frankenstein(1957), where she played the evil count's unwanted suitor. She also played the daughter of Jack Warner and Kathleen Harrison (in their first appearance as the Huggetts) and represented the millions of girls who had lost their men in the war.
Though appearing in the horror classic The Man Who Could Cheat Death (1959), her enduring popularity was initiated by her involvement in Roger Corman's 'Poe cycle' of films. Of these films, Court appeared in The Premature Burial (1962), The Raven (1963) and The Masque Of The Red Death (1964), in each case starring alongside Vincent Price - and giving him a hard time; Court's 'Poe' roles found her playing conspiring and treacherous women, and at her worst she was at her best...in the eyes of her many fans.
In later years, Court took an interest in painting and the arts, exhibiting in the USA and in Europe. more....
Ollie Johnston, leading
animator with Walt Disney, has died aged 95 (16 April 2008)
Johnston's first work was as an "in-betweener" - the artist responsible for the drawings that appear between the extremes of an action drawn by an animator - on Mickey's Garden (1935), the second colour Mickey Mouse short. The following year, he was promoted to apprentice animator, working under Fred Moore on such shorts as Pluto's Judgment Day and Mickey's Rival.
Under Moore, Johnston became assistant animator on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), responsible for drawing the dwarfs (which Thomas was also working on).
By Pinocchio (1940) he had progressed to animator, and supervised the Blue Fairy sequence. The same year he was in charge of the Pastoral Symphony section of Fantasia before joining Thomas, who had done preliminary work on Bambi. As well as the young Bambi segments, Johnston (credited as supervising animator) developed Thumper. Johnston was also responsible for the animation of the young Bambi.
He drew the stepsisters in Cinderella (1950); Alice and the King of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland (1951); and, two years later, Mr Smee in Peter Pan. After the good fairies in Sleeping Beauty (1959) and 101 Dalmatians, Johnston and Thomas did some of their best work in The Sword in the Stone (1963), for which Johnston was responsible for all the leading characters. The following year Thomas did the dancing penguins in Mary Poppins; Johnston drew the ones who were waiters. more....
versatile actor who deployed his considerable bulk to impressive
effect on stage and on film, has died aged 81 (14 April 2008)
Widely remembered for his excessive corpulence on stage and television, Willoughby Goddard spent over 40 years never trying to disguise it. It brought him authority, variety, monotony and joy. Whether he was genial or aggressive, alarming or soothing, he could be cast in all sorts of moods. Sometimes he played up self-consciously to his weightiness; sometimes it hardly mattered. He could play judges, professors, mayors, landlords, managing directors and chairmen; he could also play sundry characters of no importance whatever.
On television he created first a fine impression as Professor Mark Harrison in The Voices; and in the Adventures of William Tell he put the shivers up watchers as the hero's splendidly weighty main protagonist Landberger Gessler.
As Sir Jason Tovey in The Mind of Mr Reeder he was well cast; and as the monstrous Lord Charley, who sought artistic grants from Hattie Jacques as Miss Manger, it was said that he knew his business.
With Charlie Drake in Drake's Progress Goddard found a strong sense of fun, and one of his last appearances was as Professor Siblington, last seen watching from the elegant spires of an English college in Porterhouse Blue (1987). more....
John Hewer, actor, has died
aged 84 (20
The actor John Hewer won worldwide fame playing Captain Birdseye in the long-running fish finger TV commercials.
He played the role from 1967 until the late 1980s. The jovial, bearded naval captain outlasted the Milky Bar Kid and Ronald MacDonald to become the longest running "brand personality" since food advertising began.
Hewer worked his way up to parts in the films The Dark Man (1951, a melodrama in which his taxi-driver character falls victim to Maxwell Reed's seaside murderer) and the thriller Assassin for Hire (1951, as a violinist whose instrument and lessons are paid for by his brother, a professional killer).
He then landed the title role in the BBC children's series The Great Detective (1953), playing it for the first four episodes, with Graham Stark taking over for the final two curiously, with no explanation for the switch.
At about the same time, Hewer took the role of John Parrish, the bank clerk wrongly suspected of being involved in a heist, in the first episode of the crime series Colonel March of Scotland Yard (1955-56), which starred the horror actor Boris Karloff as an eyepatch-wearing detective investigating eerie cases involving criminals known by names such as the Abominable Snowman and the Missing Link.
During his career, the actor also produced music-hall shows on Southend Pier with the bandleader Henry Hall, and he was hired by Canadian television to host the variety show The Pig and Whistle (1967-77), set in a fictional, traditional English pub and featuring British music-hall entertainment. more....
Barry Morse, Actor who
found fame as Philip Gerard, police chief in 'The Fugitive' has
died aged 89 (5 February 2008)
Barry Morse made his professional début in the People's Theatre production If I Were King while at Rada and finished his time at drama school by taking the title role in Henry V for a Royal Command Performance in front of George VI and Queen Elizabeth. Then, in 1937, he made his first television appearances in some of the BBC's earliest broadcasts. He made his film début as a stooge to Will Hay in the wartime espionage comedy The Goose Steps Out (1942) and followed it with character roles in pictures such as Thunder Rock (1942) and When We Are Married (1943).
Morse's West End début came in School for Slavery (Westminster Theatre, 1942), which he followed with Crisis in Heaven (Lyric Theatre, 1944) directed by John Gielgud. In 1951, Morse, his wife and their two children emigrated to Canada, settling in Toronto when CBC introduced the country's first television service the following year, with Morse working as an actor, producer and director.
Over the years, he won Canada's Best TV Actor award five times, but he was also prolific on radio, most notably acting in and producing the drama series A Touch of Greasepaint (1954-68), a chronicle of actors down the years.
But he became known worldwide through The Fugitive, also directing a 1967 episode, before moving back to London and playing Mr Parminter, the secret service contact issuing assignments to an American government agent played by Gene Barry, in the British series The Adventurer (1972-73). more....
Allan Melvin, character
actor has died aged 84
While working at a job in the sound effects department of NBC Radio, Melvin did a nightclub act and appeared and won on the Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts radio show. While appearing on Broadway in Stalag 17, he got his break into television by getting the role of Cpl. Henshaw on the popular The Phil Silvers Show program. TV fans of this era usually best remember his role as Henshaw, Sergeant Bilko's right hand man on that show.
During this period, in addition to his role on The Phil Silvers Show, Melvin was often cast in slightly loud, occasionally abrasive, but generally friendly second banana roles. Melvin was also adept at "tough guy" roles; in an example of his range as an actor, one episode of Sergeant Bilko featured Melvin doing a recognizable impersonation of Humphrey Bogart.
The jowly, jovial Melvin spent decades playing a series of sidekicks, second bananas and lovable lugs, including Archie Bunker's friend Barney Hefner on "All in the Family". But his place in pop culture will be fixed as butcher and bowler Sam Franklin, the love interest of Brady family maid Alice Nelson, who was played by Ann B. Davis. Melvin played the role from 1970 to 1973. more....
British actress Pat
Kirkwood, star of stage and screen, has died aged of 86 (26 December 2007)
Pat Kirkwood's career spanned more than six decades and she played the lead roles in the West End shows of Noel Coward, Cole Porter and Leonard Bernstein. After appearing in a talent contest on the Isle of Man she was invited to an audition with the BBC in Manchester She made her professional debut, aged 14, as a singer on the BBC radio programme The Children's Hour.
A year later, in April 1936, she made her first stage appearance at the Royal Hippodrome, Salford, billed as The Schoolgirl Songstress.
The following year she starred in her debut film - Save a Little Sunshine.
After the success of the revue Black Velvet at the London Hippodrome in 1939 she was hailed as "Britain's first wartime star".
She became the first female to have her own television series with The Pat Kirkwood Show in 1954 and also appeared in various TV plays. In Our Marie (1953) she played the music hall star Marie Lloyd; she also appeared in Pygmalion (1956) and The Great Little Tilley (1956) as another music hall star, Vesta Tilley, which was directed by Hubert Gregg and subsequently became the film After The Ball (1957). In 1953, she was reunited with George Formby on the panel of What's My Line but was seen on screen feeding Formby questions to ask the contestants. more....
Anton Rogers, stage and
screen actor, has died aged 74 (3
Anton Rogers was a member of the helicopter crew that provided the focus for the BBC comedy series The Sky Larks (1958). During the 1960s and early 1970s Rodgers secured fairly regular employment as a guest star in Lew Grade's contemporary thriller series, including Danger Man (1964-65), The Saint (1967) and The Champions (1968).
He was a Scotland Yard detective who teams up with astrologer Anoushka Hempel in the light-hearted series Zodiac (1974), another policeman in the comic mystery series Murder Most English (1977), Lillie Langry's weak-willed spouse who has to turn a blind eye while she conducts an affair with the Prince of Wales, in Lillie (1978) and a country practice vet in Noah's Ark (1997).
Few of his TV series attained the status of true classics, though Fresh Fields and May to December scored well in the ratings. Fresh Fields was sufficiently popular for Thames Television to reunite Rodgers and Julia McKenzie in their old roles of William and Hester Fields, in a new setting, in French Fields (1989-91) more....
Verity Lambert, the
television and film producer, has died aged 71 (24 November 2007)
In 1956 she landed her first job in television, as a £7-a-week secretary in Granada's press office. Sacked after six months, she moved to ABC Television where she became production assistant to the drama director Ted Kotcheff and worked on the production of the Armchair Theatre series, overseen by the company's new head of drama, Sydney Newman.
As production assistant in a "live" gallery, Lambert had to take over as studio director in November 1958 when one of the actors died on the set of the play Underground, just before a scene in which he was supposed to appear. Meanwhile Kotcheff used a commercial break to reorganise the cast and cover the loss.
At the age of 28, she became the youngest producer at the BBC and the drama department's only woman producer when Doctor Who began the day after President Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963.
After 18 months Lambert moved on to produce the first eight episodes of the twice-weekly serial The Newcomers (1965-69), about a London family adapting to life in a small East Anglian town, and then supervised production on Adam Adamant Lives! (1966-67). more....
Frank Cox, versatile
artist who, with his brother, was a stalwart of the variety
scene, has died aged 86 (22 November 2007)
Frank Cox was the identical twin of Fred Cox who, as the Cox Twins, were one of British variety's most enduring acts. Stalwarts of the RAF gang shows during the Second World War, they played four instruments, sang, tap-danced and performed acrobatics.
After the war and until their retirement in 2000 they were regulars at the London Palladium, notably supporting Johnny Ray, starred in summer seasons and pantomimes and made several films, including the 1972 version of Alice in Wonderland with Peter Sellers, in which they appeared as Tweedledum and Tweedledee.
The twins had irresistible, ebullient personalities. Sporting huge black frizzy hairstyles, they wore brightly coloured garish suits (complete with red or yellow socks) and were liable to burst into song at the drop of a hat. They were virtually impossible to tell apart and in conversation one twin would start a sentence while the other would finish it. In the 1960s they complicated matters further by getting married on the same day to the variety artistes Estelle and Pauline Miles, who were also identical twins. more....
Moira Lister, actress who
excelled in sparkling comedy roles ranging from Shakespeare to
the moderns, has died aged 84 (29 October 2007)
As an actress, Moira Lister was once compared to the American comedienne Lucille Ball, because of her way of turning glamorous women into witty commentators on life. Whether it was in a play, musical, film or television drama or even as a guest on such TV shows as What's My Line?, Call My Bluff and Life Begins at Forty, she stood apart with her slim figure, bright blue eyes and delicate, upper-class voice. She was an accomplished actress whose regal bearing found her often cast in patrician roles, though she also had a splendid sense of humour and a versatility that ranged from acclaimed performances in Shakespearean tragedy to her award-winning display of farcical expertise in Move Over, Mrs Markham.
In 1954, Moira first teamed up with Tony Hancock in the second series of "Star Bill". She was brought into "Star Bill" to replace Hancock's previous lady foil of the first series, Geraldine McEwan. With considerable film experience behind her, Moira's strong personality proved her to be an ideal match for Hancock.
Her distinctive, husky voice made Lister a radio stalwart in such series as Simon and Laura and A Life of Bliss, and in South Africa her radio roles included the leading parts in Rain, The Deep Blue Sea (she had earlier played a supporting role in the film version) and The Millionairess. On television, she was a sparkling critic of record releases in Juke Box Jury, and she was a guest on such shows as Danger Man, Call My Bluff and The Avengers.
For three years, 1967-69, she starred in her own series, A Very Merry Widow. In 1971 she was the subject of This Is Your Life, and her autobiography, A Very Merry Moira, was published in 1969. more....
Deborah Kerr, star of From
Here To Eternity, has died aged 86 (19 October 2007)
Deborah Kerr was the unfadingly ladylike and prototypical English rose whose red-haired, angular beauty and self-possessed femininity distinguished more than 50 films in four decades of cinema. She made serenity dramatic; and though her poise might be ruffled at critical moments in scenes of passion (most famously exemplified by her encounter on the beach with Burt Lancaster in From Here to Eternity in 1953), her well-bred airs and social graces made her a model of British womanhood in Hollywood. Her best-known film was probably The King and I, in which she played a haughty governess opposite Yul Brynner's Siamese monarch; and her principal problem as an accomplished actress was to convince Hollywood of her sensual potential. Although she herself was a more spirited, relaxed and informal person than her image on the screen suggested, producers were reluctant to cast her in passionate roles. more....
Loss-making Sooty up for
sale after losing his magic (5 October 2007)
Sooty is going on sale. TV rights to the mischevious puppet bear, who never speaks, are being sold by his owners Hit Entertainment. The puppet, famous for his magic tricks and water pistol, has been on British TV since the Fifties, alongside his friends Sweep the squeaky dog and Soo the panda. Hit Entertainment, which also produces Bob the Builder, Pingu and Thomas the Tank Engine, is said to have lost money after buying it in 1996 for £1.4 million from presenter Matthew Corbett. A new series of Sooty was cancelled by ITV last year. more....
Marcel Marceau, who
revived the art of mime and brought poetry to silence, has died
aged 84 (23 September 2007)
Wearing white face paint, soft shoes and a battered hat topped with a red flower, Marceau played the entire range of human emotions onstage for more than 50 years, never uttering a word. Offstage, however, he was famously chatty. "Never get a mime talking. He won't stop," he once said. A French Jew, Marceau survived the Holocaust and also worked with the French Resistance to protect Jewish children. His biggest inspiration was Charlie Chaplin. Marceau, in turn, inspired countless young performers. Michael Jackson borrowed his famous "moonwalk" from a Marceau sketch, "Walking Against the Wind."
In 1949 Marceau's newly formed mime troupe was the only one of its kind in Europe. But it was only after a hugely successful tour across the United States in the mid-1950s that Marceau received the acclaim that would make him an international star.
Marceau performed tirelessly around the world until late in life, never losing his agility, never going out of style. In one of his most poignant and philosophical acts, "Youth, Maturity, Old Age, Death," he wordlessly showed the passing of an entire life in just minutes. more....
Peter Graham Scott, award
winning film and TV producer and director, has died aged 83 (11 August 2007)
Scott was the producer behind many classic television series of the 1960s and 1970s including The Avengers, The Prisoner, The Troubleshooters and The Onedin Line; he was also a talented director in television and films.
An energetic perfectionist, Scott was one of the pioneers of television drama, joining the BBC as a trainee after the war before moving to ITV when it launched in 1955. Scott had cut his teeth with Associated-Rediffusion during ITV's early years, directing, in Battle of Britain Week 1956, an acclaimed live production of Richard Hillary's Second World War classic The Last Enemy.
Scott secured, for cash, the television rights to The Quare Fellow after an evening's heavy drinking with Brendan Behan in a London pub; it was broadcast live in November 1958, one of many plays Scott produced and directed during what he considered "the best years of ITV".
Scott had begun his career as a film editor on Brighton Rock (1947), starring Richard Attenborough, and later worked on other films such as The Perfect Woman and Landfall (both 1949), Shadow Of The Eagle (1950), The Small Miracle (1951) and River Beat (1954). As a writer, Scott scripted Sing Along With Me (1952), which he also directed, The Big Chance (1957) and, in 1979, the ITV serial Kidnapped, which he also produced. His producing credits also included The Citadel (1960), The Curse Of King Tutenkhamun's Tomb (1980), Arch Of Triumph and Jenny's War (both 1985). more....
Peter Tuddenham, actor,
has died aged 88 (9 August 2007)
Peter Tuddenham's earliest television appearances included parts in Clara, The Maid of Durham: Or Home Sweet Home (1955) and the BBC's "Musical Playhouse" Ivor Novello productions The Dancing Years (as Franzel, 1959) and Perchance To Dream (as Lord Failsham, 1959). He also had several roles in soap opera, on radio in Mrs Dale's Diary (as Dr Mitchell, who famously once sat on Mrs Freeman's cat) and Waggoners' Walk, and as George Banham in ITV's East Anglian vets serial Weavers Green (1966).
On television, Tuddenham was a regular as the pub landlord in Backs to the Land (1977-78) and as William in Double First (1988). He also guest-starred as priests in the sitcom Nearest and Dearest (1968) and the P.D. James thriller A Mind To Murder (1995), and played doctors in Quiller (1975), The Lost Boys (1978) and Nanny (1981, 1982) and an auctioneer in Lovejoy (1986).
At the age of 60, after spending more than half his adult life as an actor, Peter Tuddenham became most familiar to television viewers as the voices of three computers in the cult science-fiction serial Blakes 7. more....
Phil Drabble, 'One Man and
His Dog' presenter, has died aged 93 (1 August 2007)
A countryman through and through, the writer and naturalist Phil Drabble shared his love of nature and rural ways in dozens of books but, most famously, as the original presenter of One Man and His Dog, which provided the spectacle of working sheepdogs demonstrating their skills at rounding up flocks in lush, green fields and meadows, moving them around fences, gates and enclosures while following their handlers' whistles and commands.
He had made his radio début with a feature on the Black Country's bull-rings and bull-stakes for the BBC Midland Region in 1947. He continued to make contributions for the next 13 years, especially to the rural programme Countrylover, before presenting its successors, Countryside and In the Country, himself.
Drabble's television baptism came in 1952, when he was invited to show off his tame badger for a live broadcast and he was soon in demand for children's programmes. Then, in 1961, he left his day job to pursue writing and broadcasting full time and, three years later, began a weekly column in the Birmingham Evening Mail that ran until 1990.
One Man and His Dog, screened on BBC2, brought him national fame, as well as more television work, beginning with the rural magazine programme Country Game (1976-79), presented by Julian Pettifer, then Angela Rippon, with Drabble as a contributor. more....
BBC to open up archive for
The BBC is to open up its vast archive of video and audio in an on-demand trial involving more than 20,000 people in the UK.
Full-length programmes, as well as scripts and notes, will be available for download from the BBC's website.
The pilot is part of the BBC's plans to eventually offer more than a million hours of TV and radio from its archive.
He said the corporation's end ambition was "one day enabling any viewer to access any BBC programme ever broadcast via their television", and highlighted the need to bridge the divide between TV and content with online connections.
The archive trial will make available 1,000 hours of content drawn from a mix of genres to a closed number of people. About 50 hours - of both TV and radio programmes - will be available in an open environment for general access. more....
Terry Hall, ventriloquist,
has died aged 80 (11 April 2007)
Terry Hall entertained the baby-boom generation as the creator and sidekick of Lenny the Lion. Traditionally, these sidekicks had been boy puppets, such as Arthur Worsley with Charlie Brown and Peter Brough with Archie Andrews, but Hall took advantage of the booming television medium in the 1950s to tweak the format.
Making their BBC debut in 1956 alongside Eric Syke, Hall and Lenny were an instant hit with children, who were captivated by the idea of a talking lion that was, by turns, cowardly, bashful and generally unleonine, and whose catchphrase - "Aw, don't embawass me!" - became one of the best-known on the air. Hall was invited to guest-star on the legendary Ed Sullivan Show in the United States (1958) and returned home to take his puppet to two more popular programmes, Lenny's Den (1959-61) and Pops and Lenny (1962-63).
The Beatles made one of their earliest television appearances in a May 1963 episode of Pops and Lenny, singing their first No 1 single, "From Me To You", and "Please Please Me", as well as joining Hall and his puppet for a song titled "After You've Gone".
The pair remained popular in summer seasons and pantomimes on stage and as guest stars in television variety programmes including Big Night Out (1965), David Nixon's Comedy Bandbox (1966) and The Blackpool Show (1966). more....
George Sewell, the actor,
has died aged 82 (5 April 2007)
George Sewell had one of the best-known faces in Britain, thanks to dozens of appearances on television and in films. With his sandblasted features and shifty, haunted looks, Sewell was as at home playing shady villains as he was in police and thriller roles, which dated from the early 1960s, when he appeared in series such as Z-Cars, to the 1990s comedy The Detectives.
He appeared as Detective Chief Inspector Alan Craven in 25 episodes of Special Branch, a 1970s television drama series made by Euston Films in which he was cast opposite Patrick Mower as Haggerty. At the height of his Special Branch fame, his appearance on This Is Your Life topped the television ratings in December 1973. more....
Ivor Emmanuel, welsh actor
and Singer, has died aged 80 (23 July 2007)
Ivor Emmanuel was renowned for his rendition of Welsh song Men of Harlech in the classic film Zulu.
He was born in 1927, in Pontrhydyfen, near Port Talbot, the same village as fellow actor Richard Burton.
The Hollywood star helped give him his theatrical break, and he became a popular TV name in the 1950s.
He will probably be best remembered for 1964's Zulu, showing the British Army, many of them Welsh, defying an attack at Rorke's Drift in South Africa. Roles on Broadway followed and he made guest appearances on shows such as Morecombe and Wise and Benny Hill. leading role in the Welsh language music programme Gwlad y Gan (Land of Song) in the late 1950s helped give him a large following. more....
Frank Maher, Film and TV
stuntman, has died aged 78 (20 July 2007)
As a stunt performer and co-ordinator in swashbuckling feature films and 1960s television adventure series, Frank Maher made his career out of being other people - notably "doubling" for Errol Flynn and Burt Lancaster in the cinema and Patrick McGoohan and Roger Moore on the small screen. His move into television came with The Adventures of Robin Hood (1955-59), one of ITV's early adventure series, based on the folk legend, filmed at Nettlefold Studios, Walton-on-Thames, in Surrey, and starring Richard Greene in the title role. The programme was made by technicians who had a background in the film industry, so it was natural that some of those who had worked with them would be given a chance in the burgeoning new medium. All the fight sequences were carefully planned and written down before they were shot and the close-in, one-on-one sword fights were recreated, with weapons copied from those of the time preserved in museums.
Maher subsequently acted and did stunt work in programmes such as Man in a Suitcase (1968), The Champions (1969), Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) (1969), The Persuaders! (with Roger Moore again, 1971) and Space 1999 (1976), before working as stunt co-ordinator on the first two series (1978-79) of the science-fiction serial Blakes 7, created by Terry Nation, who invented the Daleks in Doctor Who. Maher also did some work on the cult heist film The Italian Job (starring Michael Caine, 1969) after a stunt company was fired during shooting. more....
George Melly the jazz
singer, author and raconteur has died aged 80 (5 June 2007)
Melly leched, drank and blasphemed his way around the clubs and pubs of the British Isles and provided pleasure to the public for five decades. His involvement in jazz was born out of a romantic nostalgia for a golden age of brothel music. Appearing in the 1950s with Mick Mulligans Magnolia band and later for nearly three decades with John Chiltons Feetwarmers, "Good time George" followed a well-established routine of singing numbers from the 1920s (his foremost influences being Bessie Smith, Fats Waller and Jelly Roll Morton) interspersed with camp asides and bawdy anecdotes. more....
Alan Chivers, one of BBC
televisions leading outside broadcast producers has died
aged 89 (5 June 2007)
Chivers was responsible for events from the Queens Coronation in 1953 to the Moscow Olympic Games in 1980. During the 1966 World Cup in England he was the executive producer of the BBC/ITV consortium responsible for the TV coverage. By 1948 he was involved in the early TV outside broadcasts, first at Alexandra Palace and then at Wembley, in the years when new standards of programming, engineering and invention were set. There was a brief flirtation with ITV in 1959 when he helped to launch World of Sport, ITVs answer to the BBCs Grandstand, but he returned to the BBC in 1962, as a producer, then a senior producer and, for an unhappy spell, as head of events. more....
Gordon Scott, Tarzan
actor, has died aged 79 (9 May 2007)
Gordon Scott played a string of classic heroes in the 1950s and 1960s including Samson, Hercules, Goliath, Zorro and Buffalo Bill in films where the heroes relied largely on their own strength and agility, rather than superpowers or an arsenal of military hardware. But for many who grew up in the 1950s Scott's defining role was as Tarzan.
His physique enabled him to play the role of Tarzan in six films between 1955 and 1960. His Tarzan was a barrel-chested, very physical, slightly dim manifestation, though the earlier films still managed to present him as a jungle version on the average suburban American of the time, with wife Jane, son Boy and family pet Cheeta. more....
Dick Vosburgh, comedy
writer, lyricist, broadcaster and film buff, has died aged 78 (21 April 2007)
Dick Vosburgh was an immensely talented writer, broadcaster and lyricist who provided material for virtually every leading comic performer in the UK, plus such American superstars as Bob Hope, Dean Martin, Carol Channing and Peggy Lee. Vosburgh's quick wit and invention put him much in demand as a gag writer, and stars for whom he provided sitcoms and sketches included Stanley Baxter, Frankie Howerd, Bob Monkhouse, John Cleese, Ronnie Corbett, Lenny Henry and Roy Hudd. He contributed to film scripts for Frankie Howerd (Up Pompeii and Up the Chastity Belt) and Bob Hope (Call Me Bwana), as well as Carry On Nurse.
In 1953 he wrote his first radio show, Breakfast with Braden, starring the Canadian humorist Bernard Braden.
From writing for radio programmes, including over 50 editions of The Show Band Show, he moved into television, and his credits over the following decades would fill several pages. They included Alfred Marks Time (1956), Bresslaw and Friends (1961), The Stanley Baxter Show (1963) and Frost Over Europe (1967), starring David Frost, which won the Golden Rose at Montreux. more....
Lynn celebrates 90th Birthday (20
Lords and ladies turned out to pay their respects to Britain's Forces' Sweetheart Dame Vera Lynn, who has just celebrated her 90th birthday. The House of Lords hosted a special party sponsored by the Royal British Legion in the first of half-a-dozen parties for a woman whose singing inspired the nation during the darkest days of war.
As one of the guests told her: "You put a smile on everybody's face, even in those terrible times. Our wireless was always on."
A sprightly Dame Vera, who said she felt like she was aged 60, was in chatty mood as she mingled with her friends. Even now she is engaged in charity work for many causes, not simply those involving ex-servicemen.
She said: "I don't know where the years have gone. It is amazing what you can do for others. It is up to everybody to utilise whatever talents they have to use to help others inasmuch as they can. I hope I have spent my life well. I tried to do what I could to help others." more....
the original "Blonde Bombshell" has died aged 86 (14 March 2007)
She was once described as "the noisiest girl in Hollywood". The actress and singer made her name in the 1940s in a series of hectic musical comedies, including The Fleet's In and The Miracle of Morgan's Creek, but was probably best remembered for her starring role in Annie Get Your Gun in 1940 in which she starred opposite Howard Keel.
She followed it later that year with Let's Dance, in which she starred opposite Fred Astaire. It flopped.
In 1948 Betty Hutton visited Britain for the premiere of her film Dream Girl. When she appeared at the London Palladium, critics described her as "a big strong, lively girl, always eager to please" but complained that her voice was so loud "she deafened the first two rows of the auditorium".
In 1952, after learning a trapeze act for her performance in Cecil B De Mille's Greatest Show On Earth, Betty Hutton left Paramount Studios and returned to The London Palladium. Hutton's show remained essentially the same although, having learned the trapeze, she now included some aerial acrobatics in her act. more....
the Oscar-winning lyricist, has died aged 92 (23 February 2007)
Ray Evans wrote the words to such familiar songs as Que Sera, Sera - which was a hit for Doris Day - and Mona Lisa, which was very nearly not a hit for Nat "King" Cole.
With his songwriting partner Jay Livingston, Evans wrote Mona Lisa in 1950 for an Alan Ladd film called Captain Carey, USA; the planned title for the song - Prima Donna - was changed at the suggestion of Evans's wife, who preferred Mona Lisa.
They won their first Oscar for best song with Buttons And Bows, from the comedy Western 'The Paleface' (1948); the jaunty number was introduced by Bob Hope who, as the cowardly dentist "Painless" Peter Potter, sang it to Jane Russell; later Dinah Shore had a hit with it.
In later years Evans and Livingston wrote theme music for long-running television series, including Bonanza and Mr Ed. Jay Livingston died in 2001.more....
actor, has died aged 79 (23 February 2007)
Derek Waring was born Derek Barton Chapple in Mill Hill, north London, in 1927, the son of Wing Cdr Harry Barton Chapple, an electrical engineer who assisted John Logie Baird in his early television experiments. (Derek's elder brother, Richard, went on to become a sitcom writer and BBC script editor, under the name Richard Waring.)
On television, Waring appeared in episodes of early ITV series such as The Adventures of Sir Lancelot (1957), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1957, 1958), Ivanhoe (1958), William Tell (1959) and No Hiding Place (1959), and was even seen modelling men's spring fashions in Flair, a 1959 advertising magazine - a type of programming finally banned three years later. He was marrried to Dame Dorothy Tutin. more....
to be free to public (23 February 2007)
Items from the BFI archive will be made available free of charge
Britain's national film and television archive is to be opened up in order for it to be accessed by the public.
Visitors to the British Film Institute (BFI), which is in London, will be able to choose items from the collection and watch them free of charge.
Items range from footage of the Queen's coronation to early scenes from long-running soap Coronation Street more....
Mr. Turnip is coming up for auction! (9 February 2007)
On March 15th 2007 Vectis Auctions - the world's largest toy auctioneer - will be auctioning the Joy Laurey Collection including the original Mr Turnip puppet prop together with associated ephemera including several lots relating to Twizzle. Including the Gerry Anderson and Joy Laurey original A.P.Films hand written signed contract, 1957, plus other agreements between A.P Films and the Laurey Puppet Company detailing the contract concerning the making of Twizzle.
Also original film scripts by Mary Lee, hand coloured photostats from the books by Roberta Leigh, finely painted in gonache, used by Joy Laurey to create puppet personas for the TV series, christmas cards, post cards - many signed, original BBC TV Whirligig scripts, photographs, scrapbooks etc.Vectis website
Laine, singer, has died aged 93 (8
Frankie Laine was the most successful of the black-influenced white singers who came to prominence in the post-war era belting out blues in American nightclubs; he became one of the country's biggest stars, with a string of more than 70 hits and international sales of more than 250 million.
Laine's soulful, masculine style and highly emotional delivery dealt a blow to the gentler crooning styles of the day and paved the way for later blues and rock and roll artists such as Johnnie Ray and Elvis Presley.
From the 1950s Laine enjoyed a second career recording versions of the title songs of Hollywood and television Westerns such as Gunfight At OK Corral; 3:10 To Yuma; Bullwhip; Champion the Wonder Horse and Rawhide. more....
Harmonica player and comedian who contributed 'Cedric' to the
Three Monarchs' has died aged 86. (26
Les Henry was Cedric, the lugubrious comic turn in the Three Monarchs, the hugely popular harmonica-playing trio who topped variety bills in Britain from the 1950s to the 1970s.
The trio was founded in 1946, with the musicians Eric York and Jimmy Prescott, and as it gained fame in clubs and on radio in The Forces Show, Henry developed the character of Cedric. His shuffle, tiny black beard, brilliant timing and squeaky voice turned them into a top-rating variety act. They appeared more times than any other musical act at the London Palladium, starred in revue and cabaret in London, Las Vegas and South Africa, and notched up several Royal Variety performances. In the 1960s they were an almost permanent fixture with the Black and White Minstrel Show. It was Henry who christened the trio the Three Monarchs billed in variety as Kings of Harmonica. Initially the act was purely musical but the character of Cedric became so popular that extra comic routines were added. As well as the harmonica the Monarchs also played trumpet, drums, piano, guitar and saxophone. more....
End of an era
for iconic sports show
Legendary BBC sports show Grandstand will end on Sunday 28th January after 48 years of broadcasting. Grandstand first appeared on 11 October 1958 on Saturday afternoon, with the remit "to feature sports and events as they happen, where they happen". It went head-to-head with ITV rival World of Sport, presented by Dickie Davies, but viewers preferred tuning in to the BBC on a Saturday. Past presenters included Peter Dimmock, David Coleman, Frank Bough, Cliff Morgan, Des Lynam, Tony Gubba and Steve Rider. more....
Kelly, television personality, has died aged 82 (16 January 2007)
Barbara Kelly was one of showbusiness's brightest personalities in the 1950s, often appearing with her husband, Bernard Braden; she was probably best known for her appearances on the panel show What's My Line? Barbara Kelly was in regular demand in radio dramas and scored a hit in Male Animal in the West End, but soon joined her husband on the radio variety show Breakfast with Braden, which was so popular that in 1950 it was moved to a later slot and renamed Bedtime with Braden.
They made their television debut on An Evening at Home With Bernard Braden and Barbara Kelly in 1951 but, though popular, it ran for only one series.
In 1953 she joined What's My Line?, which featured Eamonn Andrews as the chairman, and David Nixon, Gilbert Harding and Isobel Barnett as the other contestants attempting to guess the occupations of members of the public.
Her other television work included Kelly's Eye, Criss Cross Quiz and Leave Your Name and Number as well as the sitcom B and B in 1968, where she again teamed up with her husband, and in which their younger daughter Kim also appeared. more....
Carlo, film star of the 1940s and 1950s, has died aged 84 (12 January 2007)
In the 1940s and early 1950s Yvonne De Carlo was Hollywoods favourite Arabian Nights heroine, a dark-haired beauty waiting for a handsome leading man to loosen her chains. If her function was to look decorative, rather than to stretch herself as an actress, she carried it off with style.
But despite efforts to broaden her range she became typecast in exotic roles and when these were no longer in demand, her career floundered. Ironically, it was with another exotic character, Lily in The Munsters, that she won a new following from a generation who barely remembered her films.
In the 1950s she made two films in Britain: Hotel Sahara, where she starred opposite Peter Ustinov, and The Captains Paradise, in which she played Alec Guinnesss wife, revealing a talent for comedy she was seldom able to display elsewhere. In 1956 she was back in costume playing Sephora, wife of Charlton Hestons Moses, in Cecil B. de Milles The Ten Commandments, and was a mulatto girl sold as a slave in 19thcentury Kentucky in Band of Angels, with Clark Gable.
But on television she had a big hit as the 156-year-old Dracula-inspired Lily Munster opposite Fred Gwynnes Herman in the spoof horror series, The Munsters, which ran for two years in the mid-1960s. She also appeared in several made-for-television films. more....
Prentice, variety artiste, has died aged 98 (7 January 2007)
Lila Prentice was one half of the rope-spinning, whip-cracking variety act El Granadas, which played halls, theatres and miners' galas from the 1920s until the 1970s; they took part in the Royal Command Performance in 1946 at the Palladium, an evening that included performances by Arthur Askey, Sid Field, Tessie O'Shea and Terry Thomas.
Lila's partner was Cecil Prentice, a variety artist whom she first met on stage in pantomime in Derby in 1928. He was a stepbrother of Kay Smart, of Billy Smart's Circus.
Their stage act featured fancy rope-spinning, stock-whips, unicycling, lassooing and baton-swinging.
There were numerous memorable occasions. Once Danny Kaye tried to ride Peter's unicycle and promptly fell off; they appeared on Blue Peter in its early days, and with Judy Garland at the London Palladium in 1947 in a variety show that also featured Max Bygraves, Dina Shaw and the Debonairs. more....
comic Charlie Drake dies at 81 (24 December 2006)
Actor and comic Charlie Drake will be best remembered for his slapstick comedy and his catchphrase "Hallo, my darlings!" He also enjoyed late success in straight theatre. From being the uneducated son of a south London newspaper seller, Charlie Drake went on to become to a multi-millionaire entertainer and one of Britain's best-loved comedians. After serving in the RAF in World War II, Drake turned professional, becoming a noted knockabout comedian, and made his first television appearance in the mid-1950s.
He was in the slapstick children's show Mick and Montmorency and then several of his own shows, including The Worker.
Before long, Charlie Drake was one of television's most popular stars. His catchphrase, "Hallo, my darlings," delivered in his trademark high-pitched voice, was soon to be heard around the country. Gradually the money started rolling in. Drake was starring in films, back-to-back television series, appearing in pantomimes and summer seasons around the country and regularly topping the bill at the London Palladium.
At the 1968 Montreux festival his TV show, The World of Charlie Drake, won the Charlie Chaplin award as the funniest show. The programme included a comic sequence in which he played numerous parts in a comic version of the 1812 Overture. Charlie Drake also made a number of film comedies in the 1960s, most notably Sands of the Desert, Petticoat Pirates and The Cracksman.
The 1980s saw Charlie turn to straight acting, with some success. He was a perfectionist. He wrote many of his own scripts, and would rehearse again and again until he'd got what he wanted.
And, on more than one occasion, he was injured during a slapstick routine. When, in 1961, when he was knocked unconscious during a television sketch, 2,000 people telephoned to see if he was all right. more....
Barbera, animation producer has died aged 95 (20 December 2006)
Barbera was, with his partner William Hanna, the only rival to Walt Disney in the art of making animated cartoons; his creations included Tom and Jerry, The Flintstones, Scooby Doo and Yogi Bear. They began their association at MGM's fledgling animation unit in 1937. Hanna's precise comic timing and technical skills were the ideal complement to Barbera's genius as a storyboard artist and animator.
In 1957 Hanna and Barbera were told by MGM to disband their unit. Instead the pair resigned and set up their own company (H-B Enterprises, soon changed to Hanna-Barbera Productions) to make cartoons specifically for television. In order to do this successfully, they had to cut corners by developing ways of creating animated pictures more quickly and cheaply, using less detail and movement, more stock footage, and fewer drawings 300 for a minute of film rather than the 1,000 they produced for MGM.
Hanna-Barbera's first offering for television was Ruff and Reddy, a tale of a cat and a dog, but they made their fortune in 1958 with the first-ever animated children's television series, The Huckleberry Hound Show. Its mildly satirical tone attracted adults as well as children and the series was so successful that one of its regular characters, Yogi Bear, was soon given his own show. more....
Stevens, actor, has died aged 81 (15
Ronnie Stevens possessed the sort of lantern jaw and mobile features that lend themselves to comedy, and enjoyed a versatile and prolific career on television, in films and on the West End stage. After making his film debut in Scarlet Web (1954) and his television debut in Dick and the Duchess (1957), an American sit-com set in London, he continued to take character roles on television and in films into the 1990s.
His first appearances were in intimate revue, and he performed frequently in Peter Myers shows in the West End alongside Joan Sims, who became a life-long friend. He went on to play comic character roles in some 40 films, including I'm All Right Jack (1958, with Peter Sellers), Dentist in the Chair (1960, with Bob Monkhouse) and Carry On Cruising (1962). In the 1970s and 1980s he was a leading member of the Prospect Theatre Company, playing the Fool in King Lear (1972) and Sir Nathaniel in Love's Labour's Lost (1984). He was also a founder member, with Ian McKellen, of the Actors' Company. On television he appeared in numerous drama and comedy series, including The Goodies, Hi-di-Hi!, Yes, Prime Minister, Goodnight Sweetheart, Rumpole of the Bailey and Hetty Wainthropp Investigates. more....
Coupland, singer and actress, has died aged 74 (11 November 2006)
She began her career at the age of 11 when the BBC producer Barney Colehan heard her sing and gave her a spot on one of his radio shows.
By the time she was 14 she was singing full-time at the Mecca Locarno in Leeds, and a year later moved with her parents to London, where Mecca gave her a job as resident singer at their ballroom in Tottenham Court Road.
During the 1940s she worked with many big name bands, including those of Teddy Foster, Geraldo, Cyril Stapleton and Stanley Black.
She established herself as one of the leading singers of the day, with seasons at the Dorchester and Savoy hotels and bookings at London's leading nightclubs. These led to appearances on BBC Television: Diana Coupland starred in the series Hit Parade, and continued to sing professionally until the 1960s.
But her career took an unexpected turn when Joan Littlewood cast her as Sally in Wolf Mankowitz's musical Make Me An Offer (1959). more....
Creator of Quatermass, has died aged 84 (2 November 2006)
During the 1950s and 1960s, the writer Nigel Kneale bestrode the world of British television like a colossus. At a time when the wildest science fiction, in books, magazines and on the big screen, seemed in imminent danger of becoming scientific fact, Kneale's clever and terrifying imaginings became obligatory viewing for a TV audience which had only just recovered from the shock of watching the Coronation.
Kneale wrote many television plays and serials, as well as film scripts, including the ground-breaking and highly controversial small-screen version of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-four (1954).
Kneale's greatest achievement as a melder of science fiction and horror was undoubtedly Quatermass and the Pit, which kept people out of the pubs while it was running. He cheerfully threw aliens from Mars, pagan rituals, the "Horned God" and race memory into the mix and scored a huge popular success. more....
Franklyn, suave TV and Film actor, has died aged 81 (31 October 2006)
William Franklyn, was probably best-remembered as the voice of the "Schhh... You Know Who" Schweppes adverts. He did his first TV work at Alexandra Palace in 1952 as the villain in a John Slater serial before going to the Theatre Royal, Windsor. From there his TV, film, and the theatre career blossomed. It was during the 1960s that Franklyn landed the role in the adverts for Schweppes tonic. During the '50s he appeared in episodes of Dick and the Duchess, Quatermass II, The Adventures of Sir Lancelot, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. Presents, The Count of Monte Cristo and The Scarlet Pimpernel amongst others. more....
ITC at the
On Saturday 4th. November 2006, the National Film Theatre in London will be celebrating the release of Robert Sellers' new book on ITC with two events looking back at Lew Grade's groundbreaking company.
At 4pm Richard Holliss will interview Gerry Anderson on stage about his career with particular reference to his work at ITC (illustrated with clips). This will be followed at 6.30pm by Robert Sellers' 'Gallop Through the Archives', an illustrated look at the cult history of ITC with lots of clips and contributions from those that worked both sides of the screen for ITC. There are still (a few) tickets available for each event or reduced priced joint tickets are also available. Further details here http://www.bfi.org.uk/incinemas/nft/film/6935
Phyllis Kirk, famous for her role as the damsel in distress in
the 1953 3-D horror classic "House of Wax," has died at
(27 October 2006)
Phyllis Kirk is best known for her many television and film roles throughout the 1950s. She appeared with Vincent Price in the 3-D horror film House of Wax in 1953. Her most notable television role was opposite Peter Lawford in The Thin Man (1957-1959), where they played Nick and Nora Charles. She also appeared with Jerry Lewis in his 1957 film The Sad Sack, with Robert Ryan, Anita Ekberg, and Rod Steiger in the 1956 film Back from Eternity. Kirk was also a regular on The Red Buttons Show. Kirk appeared as a guest on some television programs, including an episode of The Twilight Zone, and was a panelist on Mantrap in 1971.
Kirk then returned to the stage before leaving show business altogether to enter public relations, working as a publicist for CBS News, retiring in 1992. more....
Barkworth, actor who brought great subtlety to stage and screen
roles, has died aged 77 (26
Throughout his most fruitful decades the late 1950s through to the 1980s he became one of the small screens busiest actors, starring in a wide variety of productions from the title role in the BBCs Czar Nicholas II, to playing the sleuth in Francis Durbridges The Passenger.
When not before the cameras he was on stage, where he frequently earned critical approval. In one memorable West End success early in his career he played Bernard Taggart-Stewart in Roar Like a Dove at the Phoenix Theatre (1957). It ran for more than 1,000 performances. Fifteen years later he was celebrated for his uncannily accurate portrayal of Edward VIII in Crown Matrimonial at the Haymarket, a role he was to repeat on television.
His stage reputation began building in the early 1950s in spite of being roundly booed in his West End debut, in A Woman of No Importance. An early success in 1956 was at the Lyric Theatre where he played Captain Christopher Mortlock in South Sea Bubble which came just before his Roar Like a Dove triumph.
Early television included appearances in the pioneer medical soap opera Emergency Ward Ten. His first recurring character was in the popular 1960s drama series The Power Game in which he was cast as Bligh, a business executive with a drink problem. A modest drinker himself, Barkworth got into the part by going home and getting drunk several nights running. He discovered that far from merely becoming slurred and unsteady in speech, drunks achieve moments of great clarity. more....
actress, has died aged 96 (26 October 2006)
Jane Wyatt was a noted actress on Broadway but became best known for her work in films and on television.
Usually cast as what she described as the "good wives of good men", she appeared in more than 25 pictures (most famously opposite Ronald Colman in Lost Horizon in 1937) before landing the role of Margaret Anderson in the sitcom Father Knows Best in 1954; she later portrayed the mother of Mr Spock (Leonard Nimroy) in the original series of Star Trek.
It was, however, Father Knows Best, first screened in 1954, which made her name. She once remarked: "I did not want to be in a TV serial. But there was nothing else on offer, and after my husband pushed me I succumbed."
The programme charted the fortunes of a midwestern family, with Jane Wyatt playing the mother of three children, two of them teenagers. She came to be seen as the exemplary suburban housewife, the New York Times observing that the show "restored parental prestige on TV". Father Knows Best was televised until 1963. Jane Wyatt won three consecutive Emmys as best actress in a dramatic series in the years 1958-60. more....
the actor, has died aged 86 (26 October 2006)
Derek Bond enjoyed a brief period of film stardom immediately after the Second World War but found new prominence in middle age, when he was an outspoken president of the actors' union, Equity.
In 1947 Bond played the lead in the film of Nicholas Nickleby, with Sir Cedric Hardwicke in a supporting role. After Nicholas Nickleby Bond played Captain Oates in Scott of the Antarctic and a young lover in Uncle Silas, then appeared in the unsuccessful Christopher Columbus and the comedy Tony Draws a Horse.
After going to Dublin in 1950, where he polished his technique in Gaslight and Dial M for Murder, Bond found some falling-off in the number and size of parts. He was happy enough in 1959 to appear in Your Obedient Servant at the Richmond Theatre as a "resting" actor who goes out charring, but he also had to take such films as Secrets of a Windmill Girl.
He wrote a stage play called Akin to Death (1954) and a television drama Unscheduled Stop, which in 1968 proved a fine vehicle for James Villiers as an amusing drunk. During this time he was sustained by television, which was growing as a medium, as well as by the theatre. His wooden quality went well in such parts as the wealthy peer in the short-lived soap opera 199 Park Lane, a straight man in Tommy Cooper's Cooperama and the intelligence chief in Callan. He also enjoyed the lead in touring productions of The Deep Blue Sea and The Sleeping Prince, and was in Murder at the Vicarage, The Mousetrap and No Sex Please, We're British in the West End. more....
television personality and songwriter, Jackie Rae, has died aged
84 (17 October 2006)
In 1958, Rae moved to London, and made a good start, hosting his own variety show and appearing on Sunday Night at the London Palladium. The following year, the well-groomed performer hosted ITV's Spot the Tune. Contestants had to recognise a song from a few notes of music, usually performed by Marion Ryan who added the glamour; if they claimed, "I'll name that tune in two", they were given two notes. It was an era of popular quiz shows and its viewing figure of five million homes was not far short of Double Your Money, Take Your Pick and Dotto. A decade later he was compering 'The Golden Shot.' He also wrote songs with Roger Cooke and Roger Greenaway.
Rae was a soft-voiced singer, best suited to romantic ballads. Although he never had a hit record, he made several singles including "More Than Ever" (1958) and "Theme From a Summer Place" (1960). He took part in the 1961 Royal Variety Performance. In 1959 Rae married Janette Scott, the actress daughter of Thora Hird. more....
Arnold, composer and trumpeter, has died aged 84 (25 September 2006)
Sir Malcolm Arnold had been composing since childhood, inspired, he once said, by a chance meeting with Duke Ellington in a Bournemouth tea room. Louis Armstrong was another influence. He wrote something like 130 film scores, ranging from his first. Avalanche Patrol, in 1947, to David Copperfield in 1969. Along the way, he collected a Hollywood Oscar, for his score for David Lean's film of The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957). Other films on which he collaborated were I Am a Camera (1955), The Inn of the Sixth Happiness (1958), Suddenly, Last Summer (1959), The Angry Silence (1960), Tunes of Glory (1960) and Whistle Down the Wind (1961).
He once claimed that he only wrote film music so that he could conduct it himself and so gain experience in this area. He may just have been teasing, because many of these scores were highly effective. During this period he also composed three operas and three ballets as well as a quantity of works for the concert hall. more....
television scriptwriter and novelist, has died aged 80 (21 September 2006)
Peter Ling, television scriptwriter and novelist, has died aged 80. Peter Ling was one of British televisions most prolific scriptwriters. He started out writing scripts for radio but then moved over to television scripting the childrens show Whirligig (1950). He also wrote the children's sitcom Happy Holidays (starring Hattie Jacques and John Le Mesurier, 1954). When ITV was launched, Ling became script editor of children's programmes for the London weekday contractor Associated-Rediffusion, responsible for shows such as Small Time, which started that year, and the sketch show Rumpus Point (1955).
During his long career he wrote scripts for many successful series, including Dixon of Dock Green, Sexton Blake, The Avengers and Doctor Who. He also wrote episodes of the crime series Murder Bag (1957-59) and Crime Sheet (1959), which introduced Detective Superintendent Lockhart in the forerunners to No Hiding Place (for which Ling did not write).
With Hazel Adair he created Compact (1962-65), a twice- weekly BBC soap set in the offices of a womens magazine, but the pairs most famous creation was ITVs long-running soap Crossroads (1964-88), starring Noele Gordon as the owner of a Midlands motel.
Ling was also the originator of the BBC Radio 2 soap Waggoners Walk, a series which reflected the swinging Sixties and featured three young women sharing a flat in Hampstead. more....
animator for Hanna-Barbera, has died aged 84 (19 September 2006)
The animator Ed Benedict designed some of television's most famous cartoon characters, from Huckleberry Hound and Yogi Bear to Fred and Barney of The Flintstones. He was noted for drawing heavily outlined figures, with unusual asymmetry and flat geometric shapes - almost like Picasso in style. Benedicts distinctive designs provided characters whose body movements were kept to a minimum and lip movements reduced to a simple, vowel-by-vowel cycle.
The Hanna-Barbera team soon had a hit with The Huckleberry Hound Show (1958-62), featuring the slapstick adventures of a naïve dog who turns up in a different disguise each week. It became the first animated series to win an Emmy Award, for Outstanding Achievement in Children's Programming (1959). more....
Raymond Baxter dies aged 84 (15 September 2006)
He presented "Tomorrow's World" for its first 12 years, but also commentated on the Queen's coronation, Churchill's funeral and Concorde's first flight. He was the BBC's first motoring correspondent and covered 14 Monte Carlo Rallies. He was the voice of the Le Mans 24 Hour race and of 30 Farnborough Air Shows, as well as the annual British Legion Festival of Remembrance, military displays of all kinds and, of course, "Tomorrow's World." He was on air for for Concorde's first flight in 1969 and, fittingly, for her last scheduled arrival at Heathrow in October 2003 and was also the founder of the Dunkirk Little Ships organisation. more....
Middlemass, character actor, has died aged 87 (12 September 2006)
Florid-faced, bewhiskered and with a rich fruity voice, Frank Middlemass was one of Britains finest character actors. In a career that spanned more than 50 years, he appeared in seasons with the Old Vic and Royal Shakespeare companies, starred in numerous TV dramas and was best known on radio as Dan Archer in The Archers.
His television career began in the early 1950s in series such as Dixon of Dock Green and Z-Cars, and he also starred in early live TV dramas. By the 1980s he was one of televisions busiest actors, appearing in a host of series including The Avengers, Soldier Soldier, Dr Finlay, Miss Marple and others. In 1992 he was one of the original cast of the crime series Heartbeat, playing Dr Alex Ferrenby for 21 episodes. "I very much regret being killed off in Heartbeat," he said. "It was one of my favourite roles." In 1993 he played Clive Parrott in the series A Year in Provence, opposite John Thaw.
Middlemasss film appearances were few but they were usually in distinguished productions such as Stanley Kubricks Barry Lyndon (1975), in which he played Sir Charles Lyndon, and the award-winning Second World War drama, One Against the Wind (1991), starring Judy Davis. more....
Andrews is to make comeback (9 September 2006)
Legendary ventriloquists doll Archie Andrews is set to return to the stage for the first time in nearly four decades, after his new owner revealed he is scripting a stage play charting the puppets life story.
Colin Burnett-Dick, who bought Archie at auction for £34,000 last November had already also found a new ventriloquist to perform as part of the show - Eastbourne-based entertainer Steve Haylett.
According to Burnett-Dick, the newly-announced production will be a celebration, a tribute, a walk down memory lane into the puppets past and will feature actors playing many of the famous names who appeared on Archies radio show in the forties and fifties, including Tony Hancock, Max Bygraves and Julie Andrews.
He added: Were at the writing stage now. Its going to be an autobiographical journey. It starts at the auction house where I bought Archie and will look back on his career up to then with ventriloquist Peter Brough.
The show will also include the performance of a complete episode from the Educating Archie radio series. Burnett-Dick is now looking for a producer for the show, which he hopes to have up and running in 2007 more....
Carol Kaye, a
member of the famous Fifties and Sixties girl band the Kaye
Sisters, has died aged 71 (23
Carol joined the blonde trio - which was well known for close harmony numbers - in 1955. When they split up, she became an actress and understudied Doran Bryan who became her good friend.
Young people may not know who the Kaye Sisters were, but in their day they were as famous as the Spice Girls.
Carol's career in showbusiness started when she was a youngster. Then called Carol Mayall, she was one of Grace McKenzie's Juveniles at a talent school.
She appeared in panto and revues, and toured the Continent and North Africa as a youngster, with her first all-girl trio, the Three Tunettes.
Then came the Kaye Sisters, who were not related at all. But Carol, Shan and Sheila wore matching outfits and dyed their hair blonde.
They became regulars on television programmes such as "Sunday Night at the London Palladium", and also appeared on Royal Variety Show. Their chart hits included "Paper Roses".
The Kaye Sisters split after 21 years when Sheila married Bob Wragg, one of the Dallas Boys - a male group also popular in the Fifties and early Sixties - although Carol and Shan continued in cabaret until 1976.
But the trio reformed in 1988 for a nationwide tour and appeared at the Queen Elizabeth Hall alongside the Dallas Boys.
Carol became an actress and appeared in TV series such as "County Hall". She had a short stint in "Coronation Street" in 1983.
Joyce Blair dies at 73
Joyce Blair was best known for appearing in shows such as Morecambe And Wise and The Benny Hill Show. She had been diagnosed with cancer five years ago.
Blair is survived by a daughter, a son as well as her brother Lionel.
She started her showbusiness career while still a child by entertaining people in London air raid shelters during World War II.
After cropping up briefly in long-running series The Adventures Of Robin Hood, Blair's first major TV appearance was in talent show New Look, which introduced stars including Roy Castle to the screen.
Although more famous for her appearances in light entertainment - often alongside her brother - she also had roles in drama series such The Saint, Z Cars and The Last Days of Pompeii. more....
Allen, dashing and industrious actor, has died aged 79 (8 August 2006)
Allen was well known for his resonant voice, which was a feature of many television advertising campaigns from the 1960s - at one time he was known as "The King of the Voice-Over".
Allen came to prominence in the early 1960s in the television series Crane, in which he played a Morocco-based adventurer and smuggler who, with his sidekick (Sam Kydd), eluded the investigations of the local police inspector (Gerald Flood) whilst enjoying the attentions of a voluptuous barmaid (Laya Raki). Allen also achieved popularity on the small screen as the eponymous hero of Brett (1971), a drama about a business tycoon.
He was nothing if not versatile: he gave a powerful performance as Thomas Gradgrind in Hard Times and appeared as Auchinleck in Churchill and the Generals. He had parts in Bergerac and The Return of Sherlock Holmes, The Trial of Lady Chatterley and The Dick Emery Show, and featured as narrator for the first series of Blackadder. He was the voice-over artist for the comedy series The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer and for Vic Reeves Big Night Out. more....
Hawkins, inventive TV voice-over artist, has died aged 82 (15 July 2006)
Spotted by the presenter and puppeteer Humphrey Lestocq, Peter Hawkins joined the children's variety show Whirligig (1950-56), appearing in front of the camera and providing voices for two puppets, the obnoxious Mr Turnip and the mischievous parrot Porterhouse.
It was also Hawkins' inventive voice-play that made The Flowerpot Men (1952-54) so distinctive. Hawkins improvised Bill and Ben's scripted lines in a gibberish fashion that has been likened to the technique employed by the nonsense-spouting comedian Stanley Unwin - an icicle was an "ickle-kickle", for instance - while giving Bill a high-pitched squeak and Ben lower tones to differentiate them. "Flobbadob" was the pair's word for "flowerpot". Hawkins called their language "Oddle-poddle" and, although concerns were voiced about it holding back children's development, The Flowerpot Men became one of the best-loved programmes from the so-called Golden Age of television and continued to be repeated for two decades.
Hawkins followed The Flowerpot Men by becoming one of the voices in The Woodentops (1955-58), the adventures of a family of wooden dolls living on a farm, also in the Watch With Mother slot.
When Captain Pugwash (1957-66) came to television, Hawkins was responsible for all the voices, from the blustering pirate and his work-shy crew on the Black Pig to the various rogues and vagabonds they encountered on the high seas, such as Cut-Throat Jake. Pugwash's creator, John Ryan, devised a form of animation using cut-out puppets with cardboard levers to move their eyes, mouths and limbs, as well as to rock the boats. "Almost as important as the pictures is the sound," explained Ryan.
Hawkins was also in demand to dub voices in English-language versions of foreign animation, most notably Hergé's Adventures of Tintin (1962-63), 50 fast-moving, five-minute episodes based on the newspaper comic strip created by the Belgian writer-artist Georges Remi, featuring the boy reporter and his faithful dog Snowy, along with their seafaring friend Captain Haddock.
With David Graham, Hawkins shared the original voices of the Daleks (1963-67), who made their dramatic entrance in the science-fiction serial's second, seven-episode story, written by Terry Nation and set on the planet Skaro. The pair's voices were processed electronically at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop to give a distinctive sound and the Daleks quickly became the Doctor's No 1 adversaries, helping to make the programme popular with viewers. Indeed, many children could be seen going round with saucepans on their heads at the time. Hawkins and Graham also voiced the 1965 film spin-off Doctor Who and the Daleks. Hawkins then became the first voice of the Cybermen (1966-68), the shiny, cybernetically augmented humanoids, with their distinctive sound created by fitting him with a dental plate containing a microphone, originally designed for people who had undergone laryngotomies.
When John Ryan, the Captain Pugwash creator, launched The Adventures of Sir Prancelot (1972), about a heroic knight and his household setting off to the Holy Land for the Crusades, Hawkins provided all the voices. He was also heard as Zippy in the first series of Rainbow (1972) and, among dozens of productions, later narrated SuperTed (1982-86, commissioned by the Welsh channel S4C) and the Spot the Dog sequel It's Fun to Learn with Spot (1990).
Although seen in front of the camera less frequently over the years, Hawkins appeared in three series of the sketch show Dave Allen at Large (1972-75), playing characters such as a cone-headed bishop, Friar Tuck and the captain of a Mexican firing squad.
Daily Telegraph obituary
Buttons dies at 87 (14 July 2006)
Red Buttons' career spanned 60 years and took in all forms of performance from comedy and theatre to television and cinema. Famed for his red hair, his career began in the 1930s on stage before he landed his own television programme, The Red Buttons Show, in 1952. It ran for three seasons, making him a household name. A move into cinema brought him a 1957 Oscar win for best supporting actor as Sgt Joe Kelly in the film Sayonara, starring Marlon Brando. His last screen appearance was in a recurring guest role in hospital drama ER in 2005, for which he was nominated for an Emmy. His success in Sayonara led to other film roles including The Longest Day, They Shoot Horses, Don't They? and The Poseidon Adventure.
Red Buttons' career spanned 60 years and took in all forms of performance from comedy and theatre to television and cinema. In later years, he appeared in TV shows such as The Love Boat and Knots Landing. more....
OBE, virtuoso jazz trombonist, has died aged 82 (8 July 2006)
Don Lusher was a cornerstone of the Ted Heath band and had many features both in ballads and faster numbers. One of the most exciting and best known was on his own composition "Lush Slide", a combination of breathtaking trombone dexterity in a blazing orchestration.
After the war, his skills gained him easy entry into many top bands. He joined Joe Daniels in 1947 and between then and joining Heath in 1953 he worked for Lou Preager, Maurice Winnick, the Squadronaires, Jack Parnell, Woolf Phillips and Eric Delaney. He also led his own bands and played in Jack Parnell's ATV orchestra.
The Don Lusher Big Band began in 1974 and toured internationally with various musical directors including Robert Farnon, Nelson Riddle and Henry Mancini. more....
actor turned BBC producer, has died aged 82 (1 July 2006)
Bryant was a regular in The Grove Family (1954-57) as Jack Grove, the eldest son and a National Service conscriptee. He reprised his role in the first ever film spin-off from a British television series, It's a Great Day! (1955). Seemingly similar, but more ambitious, was The English Family Robinson (1957), Iain MacCormick's four-part series on colonial rule; Bryant was in its last instalment, with Peter Wyngarde as an Indian, while Champion Road (1958) was a Northern-set "serial" with a young Prunella Scales.
After playing a reporter in A Farthing Damages (BBC, 1959), a single play starring suave Alan Wheatley as a suspect spiritualist, Bryant turned his attentions to radio, first as an announcer, then as a script editor, eventually as head of the BBC's Drama Script Unit.
In 1967 he returned to television, now on the other side of the camera. He became story editor, on Doctor Who, before becoming its producer that year with "The Tomb of the Cybermen". Patrick Troughton was the Doctor, and Bryant remained with the series until Troughton's penultimate story two years later. One of his final acts as producer was to cast Jon Pertwee as Troughton's replacement.
After Special Project Air (1969), an early-Sunday-evening series that formed part of BBC1's first week in colour, he produced Paul Temple (1969-71), starring the debonair Francis Matthews as Francis Durbridge's amateur sleuth, long popular on radio. more....
Elkan Allan, Journalist
and television producer, has died aged 83 (29 June 2006)
Elkan Allan was an extraordinary mixture of journalist, television producer, entrepreneur and innovator. In 1945, Allan was starting his career in broadcasting, creating and writing the questions for BBC Radio's first quiz shows, Quiz Time and Quiz Team. He then had spells as features editor of John Bull Magazine, and assistant editor of Illustrated, before moving into television as a presenter for the BBC's Armchair Traveller in 1953.
In 1962 he became Rediffusion's Head of Entertainment. There he saw the opportunity to bring live pop music to television for the first time by creating and producing Ready, Steady, Go! It was this seminal pop show, with its catchphrase "The weekend starts here", which caught the buzz of Sixties Britain and became an icon of its time while the BBC was still relying on Juke Box Jury. An undeniable part of the show's success was Allan's choice of the unknown, untried Cathy McGowan as one of its presenters. The 19-year-old typist from Streatham came to represent the new possibilities for all teenagers and her appointment was typical of Elkan Allan's imagination and ability to see beyond the norm.
When ITV got under way, Allan's ingenuity and eye for the new was perfect. At Rediffusion, where he was first a reporter, then editor of the current affairs programme This Week, he is said to have given David Frost his first job in television. more....
Aaron Spelling, actor and
television producer, has died aged 83 (26 June 2006)
Aaron Spelling was the most successful and prolific television producer in history, responsible for inflicting upon viewers such series as Charlie's Angels, Dynasty, Starsky & Hutch, SWAT, The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, Melrose Place and Beverly Hills 90210, all of which epitomised trashy glamour and were inordinately popular.
He started out directing plays in the Dallas area before heading for Hollywood and starting out as an actor.
He made his début as a desk clerk in the digs of a murdered model in the film noir Vicki (1953), the first of his nine pictures, and appeared in episodes of legendary television series such as Dragnet (1953, 1954, 1955), I Love Lucy (1955), Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955) and Gunsmoke (1956).
But, with an ambition to write, he sold his first script, Twenty Dollar Bride (1957), to Jane Wyman Presents the Fireside Theatre and subsequently contributed to other anthology shows such as Playhouse 90 (1958), Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse (1958), The Dick Powell Show (1961) and Zane Grey Theater (1958, 1959, 1961), as well as three 1957 episodes to the classic western series Wagon Train.
Hugh Latimer, radio, TV
and stage actor has died aged 93 (24
Hugh Latimer' was a handsome, unambitious actor familiar to West End playgoers and television viewers for several decades. In parallel with his busy stage career, Latimer appeared in the film spin off from the wireless series PC 49 and in Mrs Dale's Diary, playing Bob Dale in the latter.
He was in television's Dixon of Dock Green and The Adventures of Robin Hood, Warship and Hunter's Walk, as well as The Dickie Henderson Show and Two in Clover, with Sid James.
After making his film debut in Corridor of Mirrors (1946) he appeared in Stranger at the Door (1951), The Last Man to Hang (1956) and the crime story The Gentle Trap (1960). more....
Julian Slade, composer and
lyricist who co-wrote Salad Days, the irresistible musical whose
success outshone all his later creations has died aged 76 (21 June 2006)
The name of the lyricist and composer Julian Slade will always be linked to Salad Days, the musical he co-wrote in 1954 with the actress Dorothy Reynolds as an end-of-season show for the Bristol Old Vic. The success made Slade rich and hugely benefited the Bristol Old Vic Theatre and though several subsequent musicals reached the West End none came remotely near it in popularity. Free as Air followed in 1957, then Follow that Girl (1960) and a decade later Trelawny (1972). This last, starring Ian Richardson, Hayley Mills and Timothy West, opened the week before Jesus Christ Superstar, but Slades characteristic style of writing had already fallen out of fashion. more....
Alec Bregonzi, actor in
'Hancock's Half Hour' has died aged 76 (9 June 2006)
Alec Bregonzi was a character player who became one of the stalwarts of British television and radio. He will be particularly remembered for his contributions to the Tony Hancock shows (he was in 22 of the 63 television episodes) and for his support of such other comedy stars as Benny Hill, Arthur Askey and the Two Ronnies.
In 1957 he made his first appearance in the television series Hancock's Half Hour, in an episode titled "The Continental Holiday". Memorable roles in the 22 playlets in which he appeared included his exasperated pilot in "Air Steward Hancock", a young juror in "Twelve Angry Men" annoyed by Hancock's procrastination, a library client disconcerted by Hancock's desperate search for the page which reveals the killer in the book he has been reading, in "The Missing Page", and the character "Fred" in the Archers-type radio show from which Hancock has just been sacked, The Bowmans. more....
Allan Prior, playwright,
television scriptwriter and novelist, has died aged 84 (6 June 2006)
With more than 300 television scripts to his name Allan Prior may have supplied more words for the small screen than any other writer. During the 1950s he wrote two or three radio plays a year and moved into television, where his early work included plays and adaptations for the ITV Armchair Theatre series, a BBC serial, Starr and Company, another serial, Yorky, with Bill Naughton, and episodes of the ITV series Deadline Midnight. By the time he was approached to write for Z Cars he was an experienced, reliable and highly professional writer.
The Z Cars format was devised by Troy Kennedy Martin, who took his inspiration from the American police series, Highway Patrol. Prior also wrote 37 episodes of the Z Cars spin-off, Softly Softly, which ran for ten years from 1966. When Charlie Barlow, the bullying detective played by Stratford Johns, was given his own series, Barlow at Large, Prior, once more, was the scriptwriter. But although he later wrote for two other police shows, The Sweeney and Juliet Bravo, his work was so varied that he never ran the risk of being typecast in one genre. more....
Billy McComb, Influential
entertainer and world-class magician, has died aged 84 (18 May 2006)
Billy McComb was one of the worlds top cabaret magicians, a brilliant, inventive performer who was known for his stylish presentation and off-beat comedy patter. He began working professionally as a magician and quickly made a name for himself in London nightclubs and theatres. He appeared regularly on television, made small cameo film appearances and in 1951 supported Bob Hope in variety at the Prince of Wales Theatre. By the mid-1950s he was acknowledged as one of the countrys finest magicians and he was in demand as an adviser to magic shows worldwide. more....
Val Guest, film director
and screenwriter, has died aged 95 (15
The amazing thing about his career was the wide range of themes and styles: he switched from broad comedy to situation comedy to crime and detective thrillers, from studio-bound productions to location dramas, from period musicals to science-fiction tales, from pop musicals to soft porn, from cinema to television series. It is impossible to think of another British film creator who can approach his record.
His '50s films included: Miss Pilgrim's Progress; The Body Said No; Mr Drake's Duck (1951) based on a radio sketch, "The Atomic Egg", by Ian Messiter. Penny Princess (1952); Life with the Lyons (1953) and The Lyons in Paris (1955); The Runaway Bus (1954), the first film to star the radio comedian Frankie Howerd; Men of Sherwood Forest (1954); Dance Little Lady (1954) featured young Mandy Miller as a child ballerina. They Can't Hang Me (1955); Break in the Circle (1955); The Quatermass Xperiment (1955) was adapted from BBC TV's first huge success, an original science-fiction serial by Nigel Kneale. The sequel - Quatermass II followed in 1957. It's a Wonderful World (1956); Carry On Admiral (1957) which was from Ian Hay's play Off the Record and, according to Guest, gave a rival producer the whole idea of the "Carry On" series.
The Abominable Snowman (1957); Camp On Blood Island (1958); Up the Creek (1958); Further Up the Creek (1958); Yesterday's Enemy (1959); Expresso Bongo (1959) and a revival of the Crazy Gang after a 30-year hiatus, Life Is a Circus (1959). more....
Jennifer Jayne, the
actress has died aged 74 (13
Jennifer Jayne appeared in many of the ITC productions from the '50s, including William Tell (as Tell's wife Hedda), Ivanhoe, The Adventures of Sir Lancelot and Robin Hood and also in other shows such as Martin Kane Private Investigator, The Invisible Man and Dial 999. She also made an appearance in the airline series Garry Halliday. Her TV career continued throughout the sixties when she worked with the cinematographer Freddie Francis, particularly on two of his directing credits, Dr. Terror's House of Horrors and the Man in a Suitcase episode "Which Way Did He Go, McGill?". In both of these she was paired with Donald Sutherland. more....
Mary Cook, head of
entertainments at the Nuffield Centre, has died aged 93 (2 May 2006)
Mary Cook was described by the jazz pianist and presenter Steve Race as "the great unsung heroine of British show business"; as head of entertainments at the Nuffield Centre, near Piccadilly Circus, and of the BBC Auditions Unit from 1947, she was responsible for launching the careers of some of the biggest stars of the 20th century. In 1944 Mary Cook took over as head of entertainments at the Nuffield Centre that had opened the previous year in the disused Café de Paris, off Leicester Square. She proved to be brilliant at spotting talent. Peter Sellers, Harry Secombe, Benny Hill, Tommy Cooper, Tony Hancock, Michael Bentine, Frankie Howerd and Ronnie Corbett were among those who got their first breaks at the centre during Mary Cook's time there. more....
After 48 years, the final
score looms for Grandstand (25
Sitting down to a Saturday afternoon of TV sport will never be the same again as the BBC has announced that it is to axe Grandstand, after 48 years, as part of the corporation's strategy to survive in the digital age. Since Grandstand was launched in 1958, its theme tune, format and popular presenters have made it an institution.
The programme is the most high-profile casualty of plans to help the BBC keep pace with changing viewing habits. more....
Richard Bebb, actor and
connoisseur of the recorded voice, has died aged 79 (20 April 2006)
Richard Bebb was an erudite actor on stage, screen and radio whose deep interest in the history of acting turned him into a distinguished collector and student of the recorded theatrical voice. In 1950 he began working regularly in radio and television. He shared the narration with Richard Burton in the original wireless production of Dylan Thomass Under Milk Wood, and appeared in more than 1,000 broadcast plays.
A prolific TV and film actor he often played doctors or upper-class figures. He made his TV debut in 1951 playing Octavius to Walter Hudds Julius Caesar and appeared in a string of drama series including Dangerman, Softly, Softly, Z Cars and Dixon of Dock Green. For several years he played Dr Harvest in the ITV lunchtime soap, Compact. He was Dr Orlov in Anna Karenina (1977) and Dr Stanhope in The Barchester Chronicles (1982). In recent years he was a regular face (and voiceover) in the Poirot series. more....
Myron Healey, western
actor, has died aged 83 (3
Many character actors are known by name only to enthusiasts, but Myron Healey was so prolific that it is particularly surprising that he falls into that category - he is estimated to have appeared in over 160 feature films and twice that many television shows. With his deep voice and wily smile, he was often cast as the villain, particularly in westerns.
He became established as a regular performer on television, having made his small screen debut in the series The Lone Ranger (1949-57). His numerous credits included such westerns as The Gene Autry Show, Cheyenne, Wagon Train, Gunsmoke and Bonanza, plus other shows such as Perry Mason, Sea Hunt and The Incredible Hulk.
He is particularly remembered for two roles in western shows - his taking over from Douglas Fowley as "Doc" Holliday in the popular series starring Hugh O'Brian, The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp (1958-59), and his portrayal of a sadistic sergeant who gives Robert Horton 20 lashes with a bullwhip in an episode of Wagon Train titled "The Traitors" (1961). more....
Ivy Wallace, the author of
Pookie The Flying Rabbit books, has died aged 90 (1 April 2006)
Ivy Wallace became a publishing phenomenon in the 1950s and 1960s with a series of children's books chronicling the adventures of Pookie, the flying rabbit who leaves his home in the Bluebell Wood to seek his fortune with a red spotted bundle tied on a stick; in the 1990s she became one of the few writers to be rediscovered in her own lifetime. more....
celebrated magician, has died aged 79 (26 March 2006)
Channing Pollock performed one of the most sophisticated and elegant magic acts in the world. A debonair figure, dressed immaculately both on stage and off, he set the standard for producing doves from thin air. As he made literally hundreds of doves appear from nowhere he seemed to be shaping them from his own hands. Magicians throughout the world copied his act but never equalled his artistry. In the mid-1950s he came to Britain where he headlined on several occasions at the London Palladium, sometimes billed as the most beautiful man in the world. When asked how he developed his stage image he said: Fear made me look sophisticated!
He also went on to guest star in American TV shows such as The Beverly Hillbillies and Bonanza. more....
John Crawley, BBC
'complaints' editor, has died aged 96 (22 March 2006)
On 23 September 1955, a grieving nation of radio listeners read of the heroic death of Grace Archer dashing into a blazing stable to rescue a horse. This soap operatic news story caused far more press comment - and far more leading articles - than there were about the formal opening of Independent Television the evening before. The man behind this piece of inter-media gamesmanship was John Crawley, at that time in charge of BBC publicity. Others had devised the idea, but it was Crawley who arranged to invite all the radio correspondents to an afternoon pre-hearing of the Archers episode, to hold them there long enough to prevent a leak to the evening papers and to ensure that they had something compulsive to write about while their television colleagues were attending the ITV banquet in Guildhall. By 1970 he had worked his way up the rungs of the BBC ladder to become Chief Assistant to the Director-General, Charles Curran. more....
Moira Redmond, vivacious
actress known for her work on popular TV series, has died aged 77 (21 March 2006)
She was a redhead of beauty and vivacity who never quite achieved stardom. She popped up in guest roles in almost every popular television crime series of the late 20th century, from No Hiding Place and Dixon of Dock Green to The Sweeney, from The Avengers and Danger Man to The Return of the Saint, but seldom more than once in each. The one title she graced three times was the B-movies series, the Edgar Wallace Mysteries, of the early 1960s.
On the loftier slopes of television drama she created several important parts, notably that of Leonie, the hero's faithless wife, in David Mercer's extraordinary 1962 BBC comedy of madness, A Suitable Case for Treatment, sharing the honours with Ian Hendry, Jack May, Anna Wing, Jane Merrow and Guy the Gorilla, whose scenes the director Don Taylor pre-filmed at the London Zoo.
John Junkin, actor and
scriptwriter, has died aged 76 (8
Born in Ealing, West London, in 1930, Junkin worked as a teacher, lift attendant and labourer before turning to writing professionally. After meeting Spike Milligan, he joined the team on the zany sketch show The Idiot Weekly, Price 2d (1956), which included writers such as Ray Galton, Alan Simpson and Johnny Speight, with Eric Sykes as script editor. It ran for five series until 1956. Junkin teamed up with Freeman and Nation to write the radio sitcom The Floggits for Elsie and Doris Waters. Junkin wrote more conventional humour for two series of The Ted Ray Show (1958-59), starring the popular comedian who had made his name in music hall.
Peter Philp, writer and
antique dealer who made the one-man TV show Collectors' Club, has
died aged 85 (6 March 2006)
For many years from the 1970s Peter Philp wrote witty and highly informative columns in The Times, distilled from one of his principal careers, antique dealing. Not only was he the doyen of the trade in Cardiff, where he was the third generation in the family business, but he had also been the writer, director, lighting man, designer and presenter of the original TV antiques programme, the very much one-man show Collectors Club, first broadcast in 1958. more....
Dennis Weaver, actor in
the classic western Gunsmoke, has died aged 81 (27 February 2006)
Weaver was best remembered as the slow-witted deputy Chester Goode in the series and also the New Mexico deputy solving New York crime in McCloud.
When Weaver first auditioned for the series, he found the character of Chester "inane". He wrote in his 2001 autobiography, 'All the World's a Stage', that he said to himself: "With all my Actors Studio training, I'll correct this character by using my own experiences and drawing from myself."
The result was a well-rounded character that appealed to audiences, especially with his drawling, "Mis-ter Dil-lon."
At the end of seven hit seasons, Weaver sought other horizons. He announced his departure, but the failures of pilots for his own series caused him to return to Gunsmoke on a limited basis for two more years. The role brought him an Emmy in the 1958-59 season. (The series was known as Gun Law in the UK).
Al Lewis, Grandpa in The
Munsters, has died aged 82 (6
American television viewers had also known Lewis as Officer Leo Schnauser in Car 54, Where Are You? a comedy set in a Bronx precinct that aired from 1961 to 1963, and which also starred Fred Gwynne, and later for humorous cameos on such shows as Lost in Space, The Night Stalker, and Here's Lucy, with Lucille Ball. Lewis also took roles in theatre and television shows such as Decoy (1954). He worked on hundreds of radio shows, but his break came when Phil Silvers gave him a showy cameo on The Phil Silvers Show. The Munsters followed. He never escaped the role, but never complained. "It pays the mortgage," he said. Lewis would for decades make guest appearances in character at film conventions and autograph shows. more....
Henry McGee, character
actor and straight man, has died aged 76 (2 February 2006)
McGee was a character actor best known for his role as straight man to the television comics Benny Hill and Charlie Drake. He had only to "feed" their clowning to raise laughter, but he did so with immaculate, farcical solemnity. Few actors knew how to keep so straight a face in front of such sustained absurdity. From 1965 McGee forged a memorable partnership with Drake in the television series The Worker, in which he played the hapless Employment Exchange official Mr Pugh; one job failure after another would cause him, quivering with rage, to haul Drake over the counter by his lapels.
Later McGee began his 20-year association with Benny Hill, often serving as the announcer on Hill's television show, delivering the introduction: "Yes! It's The Benny Hill Show!". Among other television comics whom McGee "fed" were Frankie Howerd, Tommy Cooper, Reg Varney, Eric Sykes, Terry Scott, Dick Emery, Jimmy Tarbuck, Ted Rogers, Max Wall and Lance Percival. Other series included Up the Workers, Rising Damp, The Goodies, The Late Mr H, and A Penny for Your Dreams. more....
John Woodnutt, character
actor, has died aged 81 (31 January 2006)
John Woodnutt was one of the most prolific character actors from the golden age of television drama, his long, thin face well suited to expressing disapproval, particularly as cold officials or implacable villains.
He made one of his earliest television appearances in One (1956), "a story of the foreseeable future", broadcast live on the still new ITV. But he became more familiar in a succession of adventure serials shown in early evenings as part of the BBC's children's television slot, usually on Sundays. He was an evil spy in The Black Brigand (1956) from Alexandre Dumas, while Queen's Champion (1958) was written and produced by Shaun Sutton, later Head of BBC Drama. The cast also included Patrick Troughton, Patrick Cargill, the future "Q" Desmond Llewellyn and a very young Jane Asher. Just four months later, Woodnutt was back, in a Cornish swashbuckler, The Rebel Heiress (1958), and was then strangely cast as a Native American in a western, The Cabin in the Clearing (1959). more....
Bengo the Boxer Pup is set
to return to television (16 January 2006)
Maverick Entertainment who brought back Muffin the Mule in 2005 have agreed a deal with the estate of William Timym, illustrator of the series. He also drew Bleep and Booster, the cartoon characters who entertained Blue Peter viewers in the 1960s, who are also set to return to the small screen.
Trevor Duncan, composer of
television and light music, has died aged 81 (5 January 2006)
His credits include music for the 'Quatermass' serials of the 1950s, 'A For Andromeda' and 'The Planemakers', the theme for the BBC television serial 'The Scarf' (The Girl From Corsica), 'Doctor Finlay's Casebook' (March From A Little Suite) and many other light music titles. more....
Sunny Rogers, exuberant
sidekick and confidante to Frankie Howard, has died aged 92 (5 January 2006)
Sunny Rogers was the long suffering stooge, feed and pianist to Frankie Howerd for 35 years. A diminutive figure with a sparkling smile, she bore the brunt of the comedians onstage insults with remarkable finesse: Poor old soul. Shes past it, you know that is, if she ever ad it! Shes deaf arent you dear? Deaf! I said deaf!
Audiences adored her and she was much respected among her peers for her own considerable comic timing. Far from being a poor old soul, said Roy Hudd, she was very glamorous and knew exactly what she was doing on stage with Howerd. She could feed a line or throw a glance at him that would bring the house down. more....
documentary film-maker, has died aged 73 (4 January 2006)
He was responsible for some of the most influential factual television programmes of the last four decades. In the late 1950s he joined the BBC's Outside Broadcast Unit and in 1960 he covered the marriage of Princess Margaret to the Earl of Snowdon. Latham and Snowdon became friends and worked on a number of television projects together, including Love of a Kind, directed by Snowdon, about the British and their pets.
By the early 1960s Latham had joined BBC Features. It was a time of great innovation and new freedoms, and he leapt at the chance to stimulate debate with his programmes. Diligent and painstaking in his research, with a particular talent for scriptwriting, he approached each new project with a meticulousness and enthusiasm which was to inspire many other documentary film-makers. more....
Belita, glamorous star of
the stage, screen and ice rink, has died aged 82 (4 January 2006)
She dazzled audiences on both sides of the Atlantic. Belita starred in several of Langdons ice shows at Empress Hall in the 1950s. These included Babes in the Wood (as Robin Hood); Jack and the Beanstalk; the celebrated White Horse Inn on Ice with the great comic Max Wall; Wildfire with the singer Frankie Vaughan; and London Melody in which the comedian Norman Wisdom also featured. She also toured with her own show, Champagne on Ice, in England, appearing with it at the London Hippodrome for the impresario Bernard Delfont. She also made an appearance at Eagle Court in a water show with the Tarzan star Johnny Weissmuller. more....
Maurice Dodd, scriptwriter
of 'The Perishers', has died aged 83 (3 January 2006)
In 1959 Bill Herbert, Cartoon Editor of the Daily Mirror (who had served with Dodd during the Second World War), asked him to help out as scriptwriter on "The Perishers", a cartoon strip about a group of "perishing" kids led by a freckle-faced boy called Wellington, who wore Wellington boots and a deerstalker hat. Launched in February 1958 as a British answer to the American Charles Schultz's popular "Peanuts" strip, it first appeared in the Manchester edition of the Daily Mirror with a storyline by Ben Witham (who went on to write jokes for the "Useless Eustace" cartoon feature) and drawings by Dennis Collins. Dodd soon set up a partnership with Collins - creating scripts and rough layouts while Collins produced the finished drawings - and created a host of new characters, including Wellington's pet Old English Sheepdog, Boot, who first appeared in 1959. more....
Phil Tate, who has died
aged 83, led a popular dance band in the post-war years. (15 December 2005)
In 1950 Tate took up a residency at Hammersmith Palais. His band, which shared the billing with Lou Preager's orchestra, featured the unique blend of three flutes and five saxophones. He began recording ballroom dance music for the Oriole label and, with the launch of commercial television in 1955, made regular Friday night appearances on the Associated Rediffusion show Palais Party. Tate hosted the weekly radio show Non-Stop Pop on the BBC Light Programme, in which he interviewed current pop stars, including the Beatles. He also made regular television appearances with the band on the BBC's Come Dancing. more....
Waldo Maguire, broadcaster
who became the first Ulsterman to hold the post of BBC
Controller, Northern Ireland has died aged 85 (30 November 2005)
.....Demobilised in 1945, Maguire was invited to join the BBC Latin American Service: languages came easily to him. He transferred to Radio News the next year, worked his way up the ranks, moved to Alexandra Palace, the home of television news, in 1955, and was made editor, TV news, in 1962. This was a period of great technical and managerial bustle, with the balance of power in the corporation steadily shifting as the newer medium attracted the mass audience. Among other big events for which he was responsible was the news coverage of President Kennedys assassination in 1963. more....
Archie Andrews dummy sells
for £34,000 (23 November 2005)
A private collector has paid £34,000 for the original Archie Andrews dummy used by ventriloquist Peter Brough in the 1950s radio show, Educating Archie. The dummy sold for more than double the £15,000 estimate at Taunton auctioneers Greenslade Taylor Hunt on Tuesday, where it was sold by Brough's family. more....
Ralph Edwards, creator of
'This Is Your Life', has died aged 92 (21 November 2005)
Ralph Edwards was among the first broadcasters to realise the financial importance of a television franchise for a popular idea. Every time Eamonn Andrews or Michael Aspel surprised a subject with the "big red book"on This Is Your Life, the credits had to acknowledge Edwards's role as creator and licensee.
He came up with the idea for This Is Your Life for US radio in 1948 with the purpose of telling the life story of some notable citizen. The television version, which began in 1952, was based more on celebrity and the subjects included Bob Hope, Marilyn Monroe and Laurel and Hardy.
In 1955 Eamonn Andrews, the host of What's My Line?, was booked to host the UK edition, but the press leaked that the first subject would be the footballer Stanley Matthews. When the day of the first show came, Andrews assumed that Matthews would still be the subject, and he was stunned to see instead Ralph Edwards, who then hosted an edition on Andrews's life. more....
Actress Avril Angers has
died aged 87 (11 November 2005)
Avril Angers was one of the most zestful, charming and reliable character comediennes in the post-war London theatre; she also appeared in television series such as Dad's Army, All Creatures Great and Small, Are You Being Served?, Minder, Coronation Street and The Tomorrow People.
Her comic persona flourished on stage and television, particularly in provincial pantomime and in television partnerships with comedians like Benny Hill, Arthur Askey, Frankie Howerd, Terry-Thomas and Les Dawson, and in shows such as Dad's Army and Coronation Street.
She started broadcasting for the BBC radio service in 1944. It was when she was in Cairo with the troops that Douglas Moodlie saw her as a future radio personality, and Variety Bandbox gave her her big chance; followed by more than a year with the Carroll Levis radio show.
She had a topical musical slot called Look Back with Angers on the BBC radio show Roundabout, from which she was upset to be "given a rest" in 1959. From the 1930s through to the 1950s, she was a fixture as a cartoon character in Radio Fun, in a comic strip entitled The Adventures of Avril Angers more....
Geoffrey Keen, film and
television actor, has died aged 89 (7
Geoffrey Keen specialised in playing tetchy authority figures.
During the 1950s and 1960s, if ever an actor was required to portray an authoritarian headmaster, strait-laced chairman or a commanding officer, Keen was high on the wanted list.
He established himself as one of the busiest character actors in the profession, often averaging more than five films a year. The joke in British film studios was that Keen seemed to pop up in every home-grown film ever made, an indication of how memorable his performances were.
Among Keens 100 film credits were Genevieve (1953), Doctor in the House (1954), The Long Arm (1956), Fortune is a Woman (1957), The Spiral Road (1962) his first taste of Hollywood, he appeared with Rock Hudson and Doctor Zhivago (1965). His most memorable small screen role was his portrayal of Brian Stead, a ruthless oil company chairman, in Troubleshooters. more....
Actress, Jan Holden, has
died aged 74 (28 October 2005)
Jan Holden was a stage actress known for her performances in light comedy, and also appeared in popular television series of the 1950s and 1960s.
Her television credits in the 1950s included the television series Fabian of the Yard and Douglas Fairbanks Presents. She was also in the successful detective series The Vice, playing some 10 different characters in the show until 1961. In that year she played the personnel officer in Harper's West One, an ATV black and white television series about life in a large Oxford Street store. There were 32 one-hour episodes, all broadcast live. She also appeared in episodes of The Avengers, The Saint and Are You Being Served? and was the magazine editor to Maureen Lipman's agony aunt in the sitcom Agony.
She was married to the actor Edwin Richfield, who played was Armando in the ITV show The Buccaneers. more....
Little Rascal, Gordon Lee,
has died aged 72 (25 October 2005)
The former child actor Gordon Lee was known as "Porky" in the "Our Gang" film comedies - subsequently rechristened The Little Rascals for television - produced by Hal Roach from 1922 to 1938, and in the continuation of the series produced at MGM until 1944. "Porky" - joined the series with Little Sinner (1935) and remained until 1939's Auto Antics. In all, he appeared in 42 of the films. Although by no means too old to continue, Lee had begun to grow much taller and slimmer, thus belying the "Porky" tag (his eventual adult height was 6ft 4in). During his time with the Gang, Lee was identified by the exclamation "O'tay" - or "OK", as rendered through the minor speech impediment that he came to outgrow - and as part of an unofficial double act with another of the tinier children, the black actor Billie "Buckwheat" Thomas. more....
COI Public Information
Films available on the Web (25 October 2005)
To celebrate their 60th birthday, for the first time on The National Archives' website you can view complete public information films from the 20th Century. The first selection of films from 1945 -1951 features some fascinating events from Britain's post-war history. For more information and to view the films, follow this link : more....
Michael Gill Director and
producer of Kenneth Clark's 'Civilisation' has died aged 81 (24 October 2005)
He started out in television in 1958, as an arts producer in BBC Schools Programmes, and then went to Monitor, edited by Huw Wheldon. Monitor was the seed-bed that gave television and cinema the talents of Melvyn Bragg, Patrick Garland, Jonathan Miller, Ken Russell and John Schlesinger. Gill brought in John Berger, and during the next five years the pair made many programmes, riding around London together with Gill on the back of Berger's motor-bike, arguing in Soho restaurants, and creating films "out of a dialogue between writer and director; I could not imagine working in any other way". more....
New Muffin Children's
programme ranked no. 1
Peak Entertainment Holdings today reported that Muffin the Mule was ranked the number 1 pre-school program in the United Kingdom. The findings were derived from the BARB/DGA local survey. The survey included the top 25 pre-school programs, targeting children between the ages of 4 to 6 years old residing in multi-channel and free-to-air digital homes. Viewing channels included CBeebies and Nick Jr., with Muffin reaching 21.66 percent of their local viewing audiences. "Muffin the Mule has successfully built an effective presence as the program of choice for our local markets," said Phil Ogden, Managing Director of Peak Entertainment Holdings Inc. "After 60 years, the BBC's classic children's favorite Mule has proven that the old ones definitely are the best. We have broadened our reach by knowing our audience's consumption, knowing that our viewers are searching for the most educational and stimulating programming available for their children." more....
Comedy actor, Ronnie
Barker has died aged 76 (4
For more than 20 years Ronnie Barker was one of the leading figures of British television comedy. He was much loved and admired for his appearances in the long-running series The Two Ronnies, with Ronnie Corbett, as prison inmate Fletcher, in the series Porridge, and as Arkwright, the bumbling, stuttering, sex-obsessed shopkeeper in Open All Hours.
It was during the 1950s that he broke into radio. He was in 300 editions of The Navy Lark as A B Johnson (also known by the nickname 'Fatso').
Ronnie Barker first worked with Ronnie Corbett in The Frost Report and Frost on Sunday, programmes for which he also wrote scripts. In 1971 they teamed up for the first Two Ronnies.
Little Rascal, Tommy Bond,
has died aged 79 (28 September 2005)
The "Our Gang" comedies were one of the most successful series of shorts during the 1920s and 1930s. Starring a bunch of mischievous toddlers, the films were notable in featuring working-class children and for casting the boys and girls, black and white, as equals. Later, in the Fifties, they entertained a whole new generation when released to television as The Little Rascals. One of the most memorable of the team was Tommy Bond, who joined the series at the age of five as a soft-spoken peripheral member of the gang, but became a prime figure when he reappeared later as a hissable bully named "Butch". There were 221 "Our Gang" movie shorts, the series successfully making the transition from silent to sound. Bond made his début in Spanky (1932), a showcase for chubby "Spanky" McFarland, but made a particularly strong impression the following year in Mush and Milk. more....
Actor Ronald Leigh-Hunt
has died aged 88 (24 September 2005)
A smooth supporting actor, Ronald Leigh-Hunt was one of the most familiar faces of postwar British cinema. He made more than 50 films, many of them B-movie thrillers in which he was usually cast as a doctor or a policeman and on television he was best known for roles as King Arthur in The Adventures of Sir Lancelot (1956) and as Colonel Buchan in the long-running childrens series Freewheelers (1968). Rarely out of work throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Leigh-Hunt played supporting roles in a string of films as well as appearing in television series such as The Saint, Dixon of Dock Green, The Avengers and Z Cars. Elegantly dressed on screen and off, he was known in theatrical circles for his glorious voice and impeccable manners. more....
Actor Derek Aylward has
died aged 82 (6 September 2005)
During the 1950's, Derek Aylward concentrated on the new medium of television, in the live days with the BBC as the only channel. He had made his début in 1947 in a play, Blow Your Own Trumpet, as a character called Dick. He became a regular, as a scout named Brayton Ripley, in The Cabin in the Clearing (1954), a BBC western serial for children, and guested in the now unintentionally hilarious Fabian of the Yard (1954), and a No Hiding Place (1959) that was recovered in 1999 as part of the British Film Institute's "Missing Believed Wiped" initiative.
One of his best-remembered roles was in Quatermass II (1955), as a nice young public relations man who perishes after falling into a vat of alien slime; he worked for Rudolph Cartier in Anna Karenina (1961), supporting Claire Bloom in the title role and Sean Connery as Vronsky, and the subsequently wiped Rembrandt (1969), as Banning Cocq, with Richard Johnson. Classic serials included Wilkie Collins's The Moonstone (1959), as Godfrey Ablewhite, with Patrick Troughton, plus some popular swashbucklers: William Tell (1957), Ivanhoe (1958) and The Adventures of Sir Lancelot (1956). There were two appearances during Dixon of Dock Green's long run, and Aylward played an incompetent professor's assistant in a one-off sci-fi comedy, Bellweather Nine (1959). more....
Actor Terence Morgan has
died aged 83 (31 August 2005)
In the cinema, Terence Morgan played a string of charming rats before switching to television as Elizabeth I's seafaring adventurer in Sir Francis Drake. Typical of ITV's early swashbucklers, such as The Adventures of Robin Hood, the 26 half-hour programmes (1961-62) were popular Sunday-afternoon entertainment in British homes and one of the television executive Lew Grade's many series to be sold abroad, including the profitable American market.
Starring with Morgan was Jean Kent as Queen Elizabeth - and two recreations of the Golden Hind. A full-scale model was built for scenes shot at Elstree Studios while another, seaworthy replica for location filming in Cornwall was reconstructed from a neglected motor fishing vessel, found on the mudflats near Colchester, that had seen active service during the Second World War as a harbour launch but most recently as a mission ship with the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel.
The series followed Morgan in his role as the first Englishman to sail round the world, taking on the Spanish on the high seas and bringing home glittering riches. more....
N J Crisp, TV dramatist,
playwright and novelist has died aged 81 (18 August 2005)
Norman James Crisp had a long career as a successful writer for television. In the mid-fifties he had short stories accepted by Reveille, John Bull and the Saturday Evening Post, and a television play, People of the Night (about a radio cab company, 1957) broadcast by the BBC. He went on to write scripts for the BBC soap opera Compact (1963-64), set in the offices of a women's magazine, many Dixon of Dock Green episodes between 1965 and 1975 and The Expert (1968-69, 1971, 1976), which combined George Dixon and Dr Finlay by following the day-to-day activities of a forensic scientist, Dr John Hardy (Marius Goring).
Even during the five-year run of The Brothers, the prolific Crisp wrote scripts for Colditz (1972-74), the wartime prison-camp drama produced by Glaister. The pair then devised Oil Strike North (1975), about the crew and their families on a North Sea oil rig, for which the creators spent two years researching in Scottish coastal towns and on rigs and supply vessels.
In a different vein, Crisp scripted the feature-length television drama The Masks of Death (1984), starring Peter Cushing as Sherlock Holmes and John Mills as Dr Watson, and the horror film Murder Elite (1985), featuring Ali MacGraw. more....
Jack Tripp, pantomine
dame, has died aged 83
Tripp was one of the most popular pantomime dames of the post-war period; a master of drollery and pathos, and a stylish, if eccentric, dancer, he was once described by the Stage as "the John Gielgud of pantomime dames".
His talents as a comic actor were not confined to the pantomime, but he will forever be associated with turning the role of dame into an art form. He played the part some 35 times, in the tradition of such classic dames as George Lacy and Douglas Byng. Never crude or over made-up, and always daintily dressed in lace-trimmed gingham, bloomers and immaculate white pinafores, he had a range of comic expressions - from a wide grin and a grimly pursed mouth to archly raised eyebrows - that said more than any smutty remark. more....
Derek Hilton, Coronation
Street theme music composer has died aged 78 (1 August 2005)
He also supplied incidental music for the series. Having begun at Granada Television as a pianist, Hilton rose to become Granada's musical director, writing 241 television themes. As a conductor and arranger, he worked with some of the biggest names in showbusiness, Shirley Bassey, Tony Bennett, Johnny Mathis and Tom Jones among them. He contributed to Criss Cross Quiz; All Our Yesterdays; Mr Rose; The Caesars; Paris 1900; Cribb; Murder; The Odd Man; Spoils of War; Inheritance; A Family at War; A Kind of Loving, and to many others shows. more....
A brand new TV adventure beckons for Muffin the Mule this September as he makes an eagerly awaited return to the BBC, his first TV home. Maverick Entertainment has been commissioned to produce an initial 26 x 10 minute episodes of 2D animation and is investing £2 million into Muffins TV makeover. Aimed at pre-schoolers, Muffin will be presented as a fun loving problem solver and will be joined in Muffinham by nine friends, including Peregrine the Penguin, Louise the Lamb and Oswald the Ostrich who were all original puppet characters in the 1940s TV show. The charming, humorous and vibrant production remains faithful to the characteristics of the original and will undoubtedly appeal to all generations. more....
Magazine publisher Future is to
expand its childrens' portfolio with a launch this year -- of Muffin the Mule Magazine in October 2005.
Muffin the Mule Magazine is licensed from Peak Entertainment, and its launch coincides with the 60-year-old character's return to TV on BBC One and CBeebies for 26 episodes.
It is Future's first magazine pitched at the pre-school market and will be published every three weeks priced £1.75.
Editor Cavan Scott said: "Muffin was the first ever character created by the BBC and the new TV show and magazine will follow in the BBC's tradition of quality family entertainment."
early television variety artist has died aged 93 (29 July 2005)
During the early days of television, Betty Astell was one of those whose face flickered on the screen as the pioneering John Logie Baird conducted experiments in the new medium. On 22 August 1932, when the BBC began its "30-line" transmission with Baird's equipment, speeches by the great and the good were followed by a programme of light entertainment that included Astell singing and dancing. She married Cyril Fletcher and, after the war, they both wrote and starred in the film comedy A Piece of Cake (1948). They also appeared on television in episodes of the sketch show Kaleidoscope (1949) and their own BBC sketch special Cyril's Saga (1957), written by Bob Monkhouse and Denis Goodwin. Switching to ITV, they starred in The Cyril Fletcher Show (1959), a six- part series of comedy sketches scripted by Johnny Speight. Monkhouse and Goodwin also wrote a radio sitcom for Astell and Fletcher. Mixed Doubles (1956-57) featured them as a married couple, with Michael Denison and Dulcie Gray - another show-business pair - playing their neighbours in south London. more....
Medwin receives OBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours (11 June 2005)
Army Game star Michael Medwin has been awarded an OBE in the Birthday Hounours List. He played Corporal Springer in the series and has appeared in many films and TV series since. He played Don Satchley in the TV series Shoestring and produced the Gumshoe TV series of 1971. more....
Jr. has died aged 70 (24 May 2005)
Billy Smart Jr. was the youthful star of Billy Smart's Circus in the 1950s and 1960s, when his father's fairground empire was one of the largest in Europe; at the height of its success, Billy Smart's Big Top could hold 5,500 people, and the show involved hundreds of animals, vehicles and entertainers, as well as a 15-piece orchestra and its own touring train. Smart took part in many of the regular television shows of Smart's Circus from the early 1950s and contiued until 1983. They were shown first on the BBC, when viewing audiences reached the highest figures recorded for any light entertainment show, and later by Thames Television. more....
Frazer, who played Sergeant Bilko's girlfriend, has died aged 85 (17 May 2005)
Elisabeth Fraser played brassy blondes in films alongside such stars as Frank Sinatra and Burt Lancaster; but she was most arresting as the girlfriend of the crafty Sergeant Bilko in the American television series of the 1950s. As Sergeant Joan Hogan, the colonel's secretary at Fort Baxter, Kansas, she represented an essential alliance for the wisecracking master sergeant, played by Phil Silvers, warning him in advance of any attempts to use his vehicles for military purposes. more....
Stewart, Juke Box Jury producer, has died aged 87 (5 May 2005)
In 1937 Stewart joined the sound effects department for BBC radio drama. On returning to the BBC after the war, he produced several music programmes including Sing It Again and BBC Jazz Club.
In 1958 Stewart transferred to BBC Television and produced Juke Box Jury, hosted by David Jacobs; in 1963 he produced a 90-minute television special, Terry-Thomas Says How Do You View, capitalising on the comedian's appearance in the big-budget film It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World. The disc jockey Jimmy Savile hosted the very popular Teen and Twenty Disc Club on Radio Luxembourg, and, in 1963, the BBC producer Barney Colehan thought his format could be adapted to television. He recorded a pilot with Savile and, in subsequent discussions, it was decided to make it a chart show, produced by Johnnie Stewart. Stewart came up with the title, Top of the Pops. more....
Dixon of Dock
Green back on duty (2 May 2005)
Classic BBC TV police drama Dixon of Dock Green is to make a comeback - but this time as a series on Radio 4.
The show will star Lawless actor David Calder as George Dixon and Casanova's David Tennant as Andy Crawford. A series of six programmes will be broadcast in June and will be based on the original TV scripts. The BBC One series, starring Jack Warner, ran from 1955 to 1976 and was one of the most popular shows of its day, watched by over 14 million people. Set in the East End of London, Dixon of Dock Green focused on the everyday routine tasks of local police, troubled mainly by low-level crime. Compared to contemporary police dramas, the show was gentle and slow-paced, summed up by the comforting central character of Dixon with his catchphrase "Evenin' all". David Tennant will play George Dixon's sidekick Andy Crawford. more....
trumpeter and arranger Robert Farnon has died aged 87 (24 April 2005)
Bob Farnon composed many light music cameos for Chappell Music Publishers, primarily for use as background music in newsreels etc, but many of these pieces were recorded by Bob's and other orchestras, and often became familiar through their use as radio and TV signature tunes. Among his very well known compositions are 'Portrait Of A Flirt', 'Jumping Bean', 'Journey Into Melody', 'Melody Fair', 'Westminster Waltz' and 'Manhattan Playboy'. more....
Mills, one of Britain's best-known and best-loved actors, has
died at the age of 97 (23 April 2005)
He starred in more than 100 films since the early 1930s including Great Expectations, War and Peace, and Ryan's Daughter - for which he won an Oscar. A 1929 appearance as Hamlet at the Old Vic Theatre in London established him as one of the most talented actors of his generation. His role in Goodbye Mr Chips in 1939 first brought him to international stardom. Patriotic roles in such films as Ice Cold in Alex, Above Us The Waves, Dunkirk, Scott of The Antarctic and Tunes of Glory brought him more accolades. He also displayed a deft touch for whimsical comedy in an adaptation of H G Wells' novel The History of Mr Polly and portraying a proud Northerner in The Family Way. He said the Oscar in 1971 for playing a village idiot in David Lean's Ryan's daughter was the highlight of his career. Roles followed in films ranging from science-fiction fantasy Quatermass, historical epic Gandhi and Madonna's Who's That Girl? more....
show comic writer, Dave Freeman, dies aged 82 (1 April 2005)
Comedy writer Dave Freeman was instrumental in the success of Benny Hill. He co-wrote and appeared in The Benny Hill Show in its early days and also worked with Tommy Cooper, Frankie Howerd and Tony Hancock.
He also wrote for sitcoms including Bless This House and Terry and June as well as scripting two Carry On films. more....
Weatherman, Laurie West, has died aged 96 (26 March 2005)
Laurie West was an early television weatherman in the days before the technological wizardry of computer graphics. He became the first independent television weatherman for the London area in 1955. Instead of the Met Office weather chart, he invented a device consisting of maps drawn onto a series of horizontal three-sided metal bars which allowed him to change the map by turning a handle. He also developed the idea of using small mobile symbols of the sun, clouds, rain and snow, which could be attached by magnets to the map. Always smartly dressed, West himself never appeared on television without a fresh flower in his buttonhole. By the mid-1960s he had made nearly 3,000 broadcasts. He retired in 1968. more...
Whitley, former MD of BBC External
Broadcasting, has died aged 93 (24 March 2005)
Oliver Whitley, a former Managing Director of External Broadcasting and Chief Assistant to the Director-General, was regarded by many as the keeper of the BBC's conscience. In 1949 Whitley returned to the BBC as Assistant Head of the Colonial Service and then rose steadily through a succession of posts in the World Service. After nine years he moved to Broadcasting House to take charge of staff recruitment, training and promotion. In 1964 he became the Chief Assistant to the Director-General, Sir Hugh Greene. more....
Kossoff, dies aged 85
David Kossoff was a versatile actor well remembered for his role as Alf Larkin in the television series The Larkins, and a charming exponent of Jewish humour, manners and aspirations.
Apart from his cosy retelling of Bible stories, he was best known on the small screen for his successful collaboration with Peggy Mount on The Larkins. But although the programme was a hit, and though he also had memorable roles in films such as A Kid for Two Farthings and The Bespoke Overcoat, it was the theatre which was closest to his heart. more....
New BBC Four
series features '50s TV (16
BBC Four has launched its website for TV On Trial - a week-long search to discover which was Britain's greatest TV decade, starting Sunday 27 March 2005. Roy Hattersley praises the decade of the Queen's coronation, while the Observer's TV critic Kathryn Flett wonders what was so great about the 50s.
Programmes showing in full: Fabian of the Yard, Double Your Money, Life with the Lyons, Can You Tell Me?
Kathie Kay, 86, dies (9 March 2005)
Big band singing legend Kathie Kay, who belonged to a well-known Glasgow family, has died at the age of 86.
Her big break came in the 1950s when she was made resident singer on Billy Cotton's Band Show, which later switched from radio to television. more....
frightener set for live TV (4
The BBC is to screen a live production of Fifties sci-fi classic The Quatermass Experiment. It will be the BBCs first live drama programme in more than 20 years. The Quatermass Experiment was originally broadcast in 1953 and was so frightening that audiences were said to have fainted in front of their TV sets.
BBC4 will condense the original six episodes into a two-hour special to be broadcast on April 2.
Only two of the six original Quatermass episodes, which were filmed live, remain in the BBC archives the others have been lost. The BBC followed up the series with Quatermass II (1955) and Quatermass and the Pit (1957).
The lead role of Professor Quatermass has yet to be cast. more....
Miall, BBC US correspondent and Head of Television Talks, has
died aged 90 (25 February 2005)
A great institution like the BBC is made by people. Leonard Miall, who was involved with the BBC from 1939 into the new century, must rate as one of its outstanding public servants. He was a star in his own right as a reporter, he was the head of a production department in television that still influences the standards of current-affairs broadcasting, he was an ambassador for the BBC and then went on to be one of its historians. more....
Glaister, TV drama producer, has died aged 89 (16 February 2005)
Gerard 'Gerry' Glaister demonstrated an opportunity to draw in audiences from the beginning: The Dark Island; Maigret (1960-1963), which won a Bafta for best series, and, above all, Dr Finlays Casebook (1962-1971) were all successful. The Revenue Men involved Customs and Excise. In 1968, The Expert was based on his uncles forensic work. Two years later, Codename was a gripping thriller. But all were eclipsed when The Brothers, a series set in a road haulage firm began in 1972. In the same year, Colditz became one of the highest-rated series ever shown, and towards the end of the decade Glaister repeated its success with Secret Army, which dealt with a Resistance escape route in Belgium (and was later sent up by Allo Allo!). Howards Way, set in a boatyard, captured perfectly the tone of the Thatcherite 1980s and proved popular, but by 1991 the formula failed to work so well when it was transferred to the world of horseracing in Trainer. more....
Hoskins has died aged 75 (11 February 2005)
Basil Hoskins was a character actor in the romantic mould and dedicated his career, which spanned nearly half a century, to the theatre. To earn a living he had, somewhat against his will, to work in television. In Emergency Ward 10, Hoskins was the flirtatious Dr Lane-Russell; and, when he wanted to return to the theatre, it proved difficult to write him out.
Lane-Russell had already been up before the General Medical Council, so the scriptwriters had him propose to a staff nurse who turned him down, driving him to find work in a public health department.
Hoskins did, though, still appear in television dramas, among them The Prisoner, Clayhanger, New Avengers, The Return of Sherlock Holmes, The Blackheath Poisonings and Cold Comfort Farm. His film credits included Ice Cold in Alex, The Millionairess, North-West Frontier, Lost in London and Heidi. more....
Pioneer of television special effects has died aged 83 (29 January 2005)
Jack Kine was a true pioneer of television. As the co-founder in 1954 of the BBC Visual Effects Department along with Bernard Wilkie, he worked on many landmark productions, inventing techniques that stood the burgeoning industry in good stead for decades to come. Their baptism of fire was 'Running Wild' with Morecambe and Wise in 1954, quickly followed by Rudolph Cartier's epic production '1984'. They learnt fast and quickly: on 'Quatermass II' (1955) the amorphous monster was hurriedly put together after Cartier finished one morning session with the announcement that "after lunch we shoot the creature". Although shows were predominantly live, some pre-filming was allowed for 'Quatermass and the Pit' (1958/59), for which Kine designed the hideously plausible Martian creatures. Their remit covered every genre including comedy (Dad's Army, Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em), drama (Z-Cars, Maigret) and education (Blue Peter and Tomorrow's World). They weren't backroom boffins, but an integral part of the studio team, establishing a rapport with cast and crew alike. The television Visual Effects Department became the biggest of its kind in the world, with a bevy of talented designers blowing things up with aplomb. BBC bureaucracy would not allow joint heads of department, so Kine became the titular chief, assuming a more administrative role, whilst Wilkie continued on the workshop floor. He was great company, full of stories and proud of his work without being arrogant. more....
Downes, Crackerjack! producer dies aged 84 (25 January 2005)
Johnny Downes, who died in December 2004, was the originator of Crackerjack, the BBC's first live children's television programme.
Made up of sketches, competitions, corny jokes and pop star guests, at the height of its popularity it began with the words "It's Friday, it's five to five, and it's Crackerjack". The studio audience screamed in response, sending adult fingers instinctively toward the off-switch.
Apart from Crackerjack, Downes produced such BBC shows as Peter's Troubles (1953), Peter Cavanagh (1955), Ignorants Abroad (1958), Leave It To Pastry (1960), The Valiant Varneys (1964), Jennings (1966), Oh Brother! (1968) and Michael Bentine Time (1972).
The series he produced included Playbox and Studio E (both 1955), The Lenny The Lion Show (1957), and a cult show for adults, Call My Bluff, from 1965. He came out of retirement in 2001 to produce and direct Boom Boom! The Best Of The Original Basil Brush Showy Bluff, David Nixons shows, Childs Play and The Basil Brush Show. He devised Crackerjack in 1955, just two years after the BBC recruited him. more....
Fletcher has died aged 91 (2
Cyril Fletcher delivered odd odes in strangulated Cockney tones and was a surprising hit with television and radio audiences in a broadcasting career spanning more than sixty years. With his distinctive nasal twang and his contagious bonhomie Cyril Fletcher was one of Britain's most popular comedians.
In the post-war years, he was a regular in three series of the classic 1950s panel game What's My Line? and appeared in the first religious series, Sunday Story. He and his wife starred in Bob Monkhouse and Denis Goodwin's BBC sketch special Cyril's Saga (1957) and in the six-part series The Cyril Fletcher Show (1959), scripted by Johnny Speight. Fletcher was also a regular member of the panel in the BBC radio show Does the Team Think? As well as delivering his distinctive ditties, Cyril Fletcher was also, in his time, a cabaret artist, gardening expert and proud countryman. more....
Institute to catalogue its TV advertisement collection for public
access (30 November 2004)
It has been announced that the National Film and Television Archive (NFTVA), part of the British Film Institute, is embarking on the enormous task of cataloguing its extensive collection of between 70,000 and 80,000 adverts. The project has been given a healthy kick-start with a six-figure sponsorship from Coca-Cola UK, which is also donating its entire 50-year-old archive of 1,200 British commercials to be restored and archived for public access. more....
Arthur Hailey has died at the age of 84 (26 November 2004)
He was known for his bestselling page-turners exploring the inner workings of various industries, from the hotels to high finance.
In 1956, Arthur Hailey scored his first writing success with a TV drama, "Flight Into Danger," which later became a motion picture and a novel, Runway Zero-Eight. Since then, as a novelist and one of the great storytellers of our time, he has acquired a worldwide following of devoted readers and his books are published in twenty-seven languages. more....
Straiton, the first of the "TV vets", has died aged 87.
Eddie started a regular television feature in 1957, giving advice to farmers on animal health and welfare topics on Farming Today. His engaging personality, Scottish accent, down-to-earth advice and straightforward methods brought him immense popularity with his audience. He went on to broadcast widely, and write a series of popular veterinary books (by "the TV Vet") on farm animals and domestic pets. The books themselves had a much more attractive format than conventional veterinary texts of the time. They were translated into many languages and sold almost a million copies worldwide. more....
actor and baritone, has died aged 87 (9 November 2004)
Howard Keel was one of the biggest stars of MGM musicals in the 1950s, with a powerful, if only partially trained, baritone voice that lent itself to lusty singing westerns, ranging from Annie Get Your Gun (1949) to Calamity Jane (1953) and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954). In later life Keel enjoyed a second career in television, playing the role of Clayton Farlow, husband of Miss Ellie, in the long-running series Dallas, which eventually closed in 1991. more....
BBC told to sell
access to archives (20 October 2004)
The BBC has helped drive the take-up of digital radio but should consider making programmes from its vast radio archives available to private sector companies, a government commission says. The report on the publicly funded broadcaster's five digital channels -- 1Xtra, BBC Asian Network, 6 Music, BBC7 and Five Live Sports Extra -- comes less than a week after a separate government-commissioned report criticised the BBC's digital television channels for providing poor value for money.
The digital radio report from former Channel Four executive Tim Gardam comes as parliament reviews the BBC's governing charter. At a time when the BBC's independence from government oversight is in doubt, Gardam also warned that "the lack of any formal relationship between the BBC governors and (media regulator) Ofcom ... is a problem."
Gardam recommended that commercial radio companies be able to buy programmes from the BBC Radio archive, and that the BBC should consider a joint venture with the commercial sector for archival programming in the future.
The BBC is pursuing a separate initiative to open its audio and video archives to the public. more....
the puppeteer has died aged 67 (6
He started out by helping Bob Bura to stage Punch and Judy shows on Southsea beach. In 1956, he and Bura were taken up as marionette puppeteers by the BBC Puppet Theatre and it was there, while working on the Rubovian Legends, that they met Gordon Murray. They also helped Jan and Viasta Dalibor manipulate the puppets on Pinky and Perky. Their first animated films were cinema advertisements, and they later made animated inserts for Blue Peter, Pops & Lenny, and Hey Presto It's Rolf (Harris). The pair went on to create the classic children's television programmes, Camberwick Green, Trumpton and Chigley. more....
Francis House has died aged 96 (18 September 2004)
He was Archdeacon of Macclesfield from 1967 to 1978, but his most substantial contribution to the life of the church was made immediately after the war, when he was head of religious broadcasting at the BBC, then assistant general secretary of the World Council of Churches.
During his time at the BBC (1947-55), House initiated a revolutionary change in the Corporation's approach to religious broadcasting, influenced by the arrival of television and by the recognition that Britain was no longer a churchgoing nation in which Christian values could be taken for granted. more....
The BBC could
be forced to share its radio archive with its commercial radio
rivals, if a move suggested by media regulator Ofcom goes ahead. (17 September 2004)
The BBC's radio archive contains more than 750,000 programmes from the corporation's 82-year history.
Ofcom chief executive Stephen Carter suggested the BBC sell programmes to commercial stations "to enhance their offering to the listening public".
This would also help the take-up of digital radio in the UK, he said. more....
Kelly, founder of the famous Bluebell Girl dancers, has died at
the age of 94. (13 September 2004)
As a child, Margaret Kelly was adopted by a poor Irish family. When the family doctor admired her bright blue eyes, he affectionately called her bluebell and her nickname stuck.
Margaret Kelly started dancing at 14 and toured Europe with an English ballet troupe. At the age of 19, she was a dancer with the Folies Bergere in Paris. She started her first dance troupe in Scotland; they were known as the Hot Jocks
The first Bluebell Girls appeared on stage in 1932. They were noted for their beauty, height (averaging 5 foot 11 inches) and professionalism. Kelly had a reputation for her strict supervision of her girls but, equally, she was also highly protective of them.
When the Germans invaded France in 1940, Margaret Kelly - whose husband Marcel was Jewish - was held at a camp in Besant. After the war, her Bluebell Girls continued to enchant audiences throughout the world with troupes on stage in Paris, Hong Kong, Rio de Janeiro and Las Vegas.
Mararet Kelly's life was later dramatised for the popular British television series "Bluebell" in 1986, which starred Carolyn Pickles as Miss Bluebell. more....
television actor Glyn Owen has died aged 76 (11 September 2004)
Glyn Owen was probably best known for his role as Jack Rolfe in Howard's Way. His career spanned 50 years and early on he played Dr Paddy O'Meara in Emergency Ward 10, one of the first big soap operas on television. In the '50s, he also appeared in The Trollenberg Terror, William Tell and The Invisible Man. His starring roles included Richard Hurst in The Rat Catchers and Hugo in Richard the Lionheart in 1962. In the 1960s, he was seen in The Saint, Thorndyke and Trouble Shooters. More recently he appeared in popular television shows such as Casualty, Heartbeat, Doctor Who and Survivors. more....
Daily Telegraph Obituary
about Charlie Drake (1September 2004)
Until recent weeks, Charlie Drake was living with his brother in Crystal Palace, London. But a few weeks ago, he suffered a stroke, the result of which is blindness. After treatment at Kings College Hospital, he has now been admitted to Brinsworth House, Twickenham - the retirement home for show business performers.
the character actor has died aged 83 (7 July 2004)
Barron was best known for his portrayal of CJ, the maniacal head of Sunshine Desserts in The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin.
In the early 1950s he performed studio drama for the BBC; these were the days in which a "repeat" meant merely that the play was filmed live on Sunday, and once again on Thursday. This early grounding proved invaluable, and throughout his career Barron was never off the small screen for long.
He made early television appearances in Fly Away Peter, Emergency-Ward 10 and (as the Dean) in All Gas and Gaiters. more....
Pragnell, stalwart of ITA has died aged 83 (18 June 2004)
Tony Pragnall was a stalwart of the Independent Television Authority from its beginnings. He served the Independent Television Authority (later the Independent Broadcasting Authority) for almost 30 years of quiet professionalism. When the ITA was formed in 1954 he was picked to be one of the small band who, under Sir Robert Fraser, would launch this venture. First as Assistant Secretary, then as Secretary, and then as Deputy Director General (Administrative Services), Pragnell was increasingly a key man in the engine room. more....
Ross Salmon has died aged 80 (12 June 2004)
After service as a pilot in the Navy, when he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Ross Salmon became an entertainer and author, remembered for his "cowboy" character. He appeared on early BBC children's television, originally on Shirley Abicair's programmes before launching his own series.
His character was a "real" cowboy, informing children about what being a cowboy was all about, things like how to recognise different animal footprints, or how to whittle, the art of horse management, how to make and use a lasso, etc.
He set up an American Western style ranch called the "Lazy S" at Longdown in Devon and introduced a breed of hardy cattle.
There were a series of Ross Salmon books and annuals, printed in the 50's.
He was a broadcaster for the BBC for over 30 years, covering sport (principally rugby and cricket as I recall) for BBC South West. more....
TV Drama head
Shaun Sutton has died aged 84 (18 May 2004)
Shaun Sutton was a tireless champion of quality television whose good fortune was to preside over what is regarded as the golden age of television drama.
Joining the BBC in the very early Fifties, one of his earliest jobs was writer of the children's television programme Saturday Special, he also starred in 'The Cabin in the Clearing' as Silas Sutherland in 1954 and went on to produce six of the later episodes of 'Billy Bunter of Greyfriars School'.
As Head of BBC Television's Drama Group from 1969 to 1981, Sutton was the executive ultimately responsible for an era which produced Pennies From Heaven; Play for Today; Softly Softly; I Claudius; The Pallisers and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. He loosed a huge outpouring of BBC 2 "classic" serials, ranging from The Six Wives of Henry VIII and Elizabeth R to Testament of Youth. more....
Geoffrey Robinson OBE has died aged 90 (6 May 2004)
Probably best known for his appearances on the BBC Children's TV programme in the 1950s, With his fawn coloured lovable docile rabbit called 'Whirly', Geoffrey Robinson made well over 50 appearances in the Whirligig programme, appearing every other week. Over a period of some three or more years he performed over four hundred tricks in all and some wonderful magic. He was appointed treasurer of the Magic Circle in 1973 and held the appointment until 1987. In 1978, perhaps his greatest honour was to be awarded the OBE for services as Secretary to The National Hospitals for Nervous Diseases.
McWhirter has died aged 78 (19 April 2004)
He was co-founder, with his twin brother Ross, of The Guinness Book of Records. In the Fifties he worked with BBC radio as a sports commentator, including the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. He then switched to television as part of the corporation's commentary team for four successive Olympic Games: Rome (1960), Tokyo (1964), Mexico (1968) and Munich (1972). more....
Gregg mourned (29 March 2004)
Hubert Gregg was a unique broadcaster. As a musician he was responsible for memorable songs such as 'Maybe It's Because I'm a Londoner', and in Radio 2's Thanks for the Memory, he painted pictures of a bygone era with wit and style. He appeared in '50s TV series including Robin Hood (as Prince John) and 'Colonel March of Scotland Yard' as well as Radio series such as Auntie Rides Again in 1955. more....
Bardens, Writer and founding editor of 'Panorama' has died aged
92. (18 February 2004)
Panorama was first broadcast on 11 November 1953. Bardens was billed as Editor, and contributed a fascinating item to the first edition about brainwashing and the way a number of British prisoners of war returning from Korea had been won over to Communism. But Panorama was not at first a great success, and after six months Bardens left to work first for the Foreign Office, and then, when the new network began broadcasting two years later, for ITV. more....
the Scottish comedian has died aged 79 (29 January 2004)
Rikki Fulton was a Jock-of-all-trades who mastered every medium in the entertainment business, playing every kind of role from pantomime dame on stage to private detective on radio.
He was the laconic compere of The Show Band Show (1953), a Light Programme showcase for Cyril Stapleton and his musicians and in July 1958 he received the first of many accolades - a booking for that year's Royal Variety Performance, in a predominantly Scots-flavoured cast which included Duncan Macrae and Stanley Baxter. An edited version of the show was broadcast on radio a few days later, and Fulton obtained more national exposure in 1959 on ITV when Bernard Delfont's Sunday Show, transmitted from the Prince of Wales Theatre in London, introduced him as "the new comedy personality".
There followed two Saturday night specials on BBC television in 1960 and 1961, The Rikki Fulton Show, scripted by its star, and with the comedy actress (and Fulton's first wife) Ethel Scott as his principal foil. more....
coming to say his first words in 54 years (22 January 2004)
Throughout 54 years clambering in and out of his wicker basket home, the clown-suit-clad puppet has maintained a profound silence. Soon, however, Andy Pandy and Looby Lou and Teddy, his equally tight-lipped friends in the puppet show, will find their voices for the first time since the programme began as part of the BBC's Watch With Mother series in 1950.
The marionette will break his half-century of silence in a stage production featuring the three characters which opens next month at London's Peacock theatre.
The news of Andy Pandy's venture into speech follows claims by the actor Tom Conti, the narrator of the BBC's new colour version of the classic series, that the updated programmes are littered with double meanings and sexual innuendo. The shows, now nicknamed Randy Pandy according to Conti, feature scenes such as Andy blowing on a wooden horn, which he finds "rather hard".
But parents alarmed that the character's talking stage counterpart will use the gift of speech to make lewd suggestions to Looby Lou or even to swear fruitily at Teddy need not be alarmed. Andy Pandy's opening gambit to youngsters watching the show, produced by BBC Worldwide Events and Children's Showtime, and also featuring the TV puppets Bill and Ben the Flowerpot Men, will be the distinctly low-key greeting: "Hello, my name is Andy Pandy, have you come to play?"
Dinsdale Landen, a veteran of British stage, TV and film, has
died aged 71 (29 December 2003)
Dinsdale Landen, the stage and television actor, was one of the most original, gifted and hilarious exponents of light comedy or farce in the post-war West End theatre.
Short-built, thick-set, round-faced, wide-eyed, fat-cheeked and resonant of voice, Landen had a line in nervous husbands, faltering suitors, idle academics and eccentric bumblers which was not only brilliantly observed but also executed with precision and a degree of panache. His TV debut came when he played Pip in a 1959 adaptation of Great Expectations. more....
entertainment world is mourning comedian Bob Monkhouse, who has
died aged 75 (29 December 2003)
As well as his long career as a talented, slick comedian and occasional straight actor, Bob Monkhouse was probably best known as a host of popular TV game shows.
Bob Monkhouse became a TV regular in the early 1950s. 'Fast and Loose' was Monkhouse's first regular TV show, a live sketch show written with comedy partner Denis Goodwin. Beginning in 1954, it starred the pair alongside other comedy actors including June Whitfield, and ran for two series on the BBC.
Monkhouse also played a character called Bob in 'My Pal Bob' a two-series sitcom, but the domestic characters and scenarios were entirely fictional. Goodwin starred as Bob's "friend, partner and chief victim" while Terence Alexander appeared as Terry, Bob's drunken neighbour. The show ran in 1957 and 1958.
The first of Monkhouse's many quiz shows was called 'Do You Trust Your Wife?'. It was a version of a US game show hosted by Johnny Carson where he would ask contestants: "Would you like to answer this one yourself, or do you trust your wife to answer it?" more....
Alfred Lynch has died aged 72 (27 December 2003)
Alfred Lynch first came to prominence in that period of the late Fifties when working-class realism and kitchen-sink drama were coming to the fore on stage and screen as never before.
For television's fondly remembered Sunday night anthology Armchair Theatre, he played one of three sailors on shore leave in Liverpool in Alun Owen's No Trams to Lime Street (1959). Often referred to as the British equivalent of On the Town, it had songs by Ronnie Scott and Marty Wilde. Lynch also starred in the BBC's series Hereward the Wake (1965) as the 11th-century freedom fighter battling the Duke of Normandy. Sadly, it is one of the shows the BBC is believed to have wiped. more....
Hemmings has died aged 62 (4 December 2003)
One of David Hemmings' first TV parts as a child actor was in the 1950's childrens series Billy Bunter. Hemmings became one of the icons of the swinging 60s appearing in the cult films Blow-Up and Barbarella but later focused on directing and producing TV shows like A-Team, Quantum Leap and Airwolf. He returned to acting in recent years with roles in films like Gladiator, Last Orders and Gangs of New York. more....
the singer, has died aged 73 (28 November 2003)
Dai Francis was a star of The Black and White Minstrel Show, George Mitchell's song and dance spectacular which beat Fred Astaire and the Kirov Ballet to win the Golden Rose (for Best Television Show in the World) at the first Montreux Festival in 1961 and dominated television variety for two decades, regularly attracting audiences of 15 million.
With his fellow bass-baritone Tony Mercer and tenor John Boulter, Francis was one of the Minstrels' excellent trio of lead vocalists. Although he is best remembered for his renditions of Al Jolson, his joie de vivre and energy were such that he gave an instant lift to any scene in which he appeared. more....
Brown has died aged 85
Brown was born November 12, 1918 in the Hebrides Islands, Scotland and appeared in numerous television shows and nearly 60 films. Brown first appeared alongside future Bond co-star Roger Moore in 1958 in the television series "Ivanhoe" playing his trusty sidekick Gurth.
He went on play Admiral Hargreaves in "The Spy Who Loved Me" and later portrayed "M", the head of MI6 in four films: Octopussy, A View To A Kill, The Living Daylights and Licence To Kill.
He has appeared in over fifty movies, from which the most memorable ones include: Carol Reed's "The Third Man" (1949), William Wyler's "Ben-Hur" (1959), Peter Ustinov's "Billy Budd" (1962) and Michael Anderson's "Operation Crossbow" (1965).
Brown's last role came in 1992 with a small role in the television movie, "Merlin of the Crystal Cave." more....
the actor has died aged 84 (24 October 2003)
Elam was the all-purpose "baddie" of dozens of classic Westerns, including The Man from Laramie; Once Upon a Time in the West; High Noon and Gunfight at the OK Corral.
Elam appeared in more than 130 films, and in numerous television series, including Bonanza, Gunsmoke, Laramie, Cheyenne, Rawhide, Have Gun - Will Travel, Bronco, The Rifleman, Lawman, Zorro and Tales of Wells Fargo though he was always better-known as a face than as a name. Tall, weatherbeaten and effortlessly sinister, his grinning, wild appearance was enhanced by a wandering left eye, left sightless and adrift after a childhood fight. In Hollywood circles he was known as "the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly". more....
the film and TV actor, has died aged 82 (21 October 2003)
He was first seen on screen in José Ferrer's Second World War adventure Cockleshell Heroes (1955), as one of the group who break the blockade of Bordeaux by using cockleshell canoes to attach limpet mines.
Other early films included Private's Progress (1956), The Battle of the River Plate (1956) and The Long Arm (1956), a taut thriller that was the last Ealing film actually made at Ealing Studios. Lodge was seen on screen with Peter Sellers for the first time in the amusing black comedy The Naked Truth (1957, as a policeman), followed by Up the Creek (1958), the satire on unions I'm All Right Jack (1959), Never Let Go (1960), Two Way Stretch (1960), The Dock Brief (1962), A Shot in the Dark (1964), Casino Royale (1967), Hoffman (1969), Return of the Pink Panther (1974) and Revenge of the Pink Panther (1978).
Lodge appeared in over 100 films in total, other notable titles including I was Monty's Double (1958), The League of Gentlemen (1959), Oh! What a Lovely War (1969, as a recruiting sergeant), The Railway Children (1970) and Mutiny on the Buses (1972). His last film was Edge of Sanity (1989), a bizarre reworking of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde in which Anthony Perkins, as Jekyll, discovers a formula that turns him into Jack the Ripper. more....
singer-songwriter/actor has died aged 82 (16 September 2003)
In 1958 Wooley became a regular member of the cast of Rawhide, the western television series about a cattle drive, starring Eric Fleming and Clint Eastwood. Playing the role of Pete Nolan, Wooley remained with the series for several years, writing some of the later scripts. He recorded an album, Songs from the Days of Rawhide (1961) and, in a similar vein, Tales of How the West Was Won (1963). His most well-known song however was "Purple People Eater" which topped the US charts for six weeks and sold over three million copies. more....
Versatile actor Ben
Aris dies aged 66 (15 September 2003)
As a youth he appeared on television (in the Muffin the Mule series) and on the radio, as one of the "Ovaltinies". His roles ranged from Rosencrantz in Tony Richardson's boisterous production of Hamlet to the dancing instructor Julian Dalrymple-Sykes in Hi-De-Hi!, but theatregoers may best remember him for a role he created in the West End, the diffident Geoffrey, the only male member of a provincial tap-dancing class, in Richard Harris's hit comedy Stepping Out. more....
Brooks has died at the age of 84 (5 September 2003)
Rand Brooks, the actor who played Scarlett O'Hara's ill-fated first husband in Gone with the Wind and who gave Marilyn Monroe her first screen kiss, has died.
Brooks also appeared as sidekick Lucky Jenkins in a string of Hopalong Cassidy westerns and played Cpl Randy Boone in the 1950s TV series The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin before quitting acting in the 1960s to start up an ambulance business in suburban Los Angeles. more....
broadcaster Peter West dies aged 83 (2
The veteran sports broadcaster Peter West, for many years the face of BBC cricket, has died. He commentated on Test matches in England every year from 1952 to 1986, about 150, and for many years was the anchorman, giving the summary at the end of the day.
For more than 30 years West also gave commentaries on rugby union and tennis at Wimbledon. And he was at five Olympic Games. West joined Come Dancing in 1957 and stayed with the show for 15 years. more....
dies aged 86 (29 August 2003)
Kent Walton has died aged 86, He will be remembered as a Radio Luxembourg DJ, as presenter of the 'Cool For Cats', 'Thank your Lucky Stars' and 'Discs a Gogo' Rock and Roll programmes in the '50s and '60s and as a wrestling commentator on ITV where his catchphrase was always "Have a good week ... till next week".
When Kent Walton was asked in 1955, "What do you know about wresting?" he replied "Nothing", yet five days later he was giving a stylish commentary on his first wresting match on 'World of Sport'. more....
Dyke to open
up BBC archive (24 August 2003)
Greg Dyke, director general of the BBC, has announced plans to give the public full access to all the corporation's programme archives. The service, the BBC Creative Archive, would be free and available to everyone, as long as they were not intending to use the material for commercial purposes, Mr Dyke added. more....
Panorama producer dies at age of 72 (19 August 2003)
David Webster was fortunate to have pursued a BBC career as a producer and editor in the 1950s and the 1960s when the television arm of the organisation was expanding.
At the BBC, Webster first came to prominence as a globe-trotting producer on the BBC's flagship programme Panorama, at that time anchored by Richard Dimbleby and with such distinguished reporters as Robert Kee, John Morgan, Ludovic Kennedy and Robin Day more....
celebrate 50 years on TV (3 August 2003)
Artist and TV presenter Rolf Harris is to celebrate his 50th anniversary in television with a golden jubilee concert at London's Royal Albert Hall. The Australian star is expected to perform orchestral versions of some of his best known hits, such as Two Little Boys and Jake the Peg.
The event, which will be held on 29 September and raise money for the Prince's Trust, will be shown on BBC One.
Harris said: "The show at the Royal Albert Hall will be drawn from everything I've done over the years, both musically and artistically, which will be a fantastic experience. "I can't believe how quickly the years have flown since my first television appearance here in 1953," he said.
Harris will also draw and paint live during the concert. Harris has presented a wide range of programmes since the 1950s, and today is best known for Rolf on Art and Animal Hospital. more....
Hope has died at the age of 100 (27
Despite being born in England, Bob Hope was the most American of comedians. His deft delivery of the one-liner made him the best known comedian since Charlie Chaplin. He was born Leslie Townes Hope at Eltham in south-east London in 1903, the son of a stonemason and a former concert singer. He later changed his name to Bob, because "it sounded brisker".
In the 1950s he appeared on the small screen in such series as "The Jack Benny Show" and "I Love Lucy". more....
has died aged 95 (7 July 2003)
Buddy Ebsen played Jed Clampett, head of the backwoods family in The Beverly Hillbillies, one of the most popular television series of the 1960s. Prior to this Disney had cast him as George Russel, the hero's rowdy sidekick in the television saga Davy Crockett (1954). America suddenly went Crockett crazy, and the television episodes were stitched together to make two profitable feature films more....
Denis has died aged 88 (4 May 2003)
She was, with her husband Armand, a pioneer of wildlife programmes on television.
Their first British television series, Filming Wild Animals, was shown in 1954, the same year in which David Attenborough embarked on Zoo Quest. One television series followed another: Filming in Africa (1955); On Safari (1957-59 and 1961-65), Michaela and Armand Denis (for ATV, 1955-58) and Safari to Asia (1959-61). more....
back after 60 years out to grass (15 April 2003)
Muffin the Mule was the first children's TV character, making his BBC premiere on 20 October 1946. Hugely successful in the 50s and 60s and now very much part of English heritage, he is due to return to the screens in late 2005 or early 2006, just in time for his 60th birthday. Maverick Entertainment, who bought the rights to Muffin in January, will initially produce twenty-six, 10 minute episodes, in partnership with the BBC and production will commence later this year. The revival is likely to see him reunited with some of his old friends including the bossy penguin Mr. Peregrine Esquire, a shy Louise the Lamb, Oswald the Ostrich and Willie the Worm. more....
Hird dies aged 91 (15 March 2003)
The much-loved actress was known to millions for starring in sitcoms like 1960s favourite "Meet the Wife", playing Thora Blacklock, and "In Loving Memory" playing Ivy in the late 1970s. She joined "Last of the Summer Wine" in 1985, starring as the gossiping Aunt Edie Pegden. A deeply religious woman, she was a natural choice to present such Sunday television programmes as "Praise Be". She also wrote several successful books.
In the 1950s, she played very many film parts but her earliest recorded TV role at that time was in "The Adventures of Robin Hood" in 1955 when she played "Ada" in the episode "Husband for Marian". more....
has died of a heart attack at 62 (8 March 2003)
In 1956 he formed a skiffle group with friends called The Worried Men. His big break came when the band was playing in Soho, when he was spotted by television producer Jack Good - director of the BBC pop show 6-5 Special. He adopted his stage name, Adam Faith, and went on to enjoy chart hits including number one singles What Do You Want and Poor Me. more....
CBE, presenter on the "Tonight" programme, has died at
the age of 74. (28 February 2003)
Brasher won an Olympic gold medal in 1956 in the steeplechase. He also acted as pace-maker when Roger Bannister became the first man to break the four-minute barrier for the mile in 1954. He became a TV personality when he presented on the Tonight programme. By 1969, he had been made head of general features television at the BBC, a key appointment at a time when colour television was being introduced. He resigned after four years, and went off to pursue his orienteering, his business interests and some independent productions. Inspired by the success of the New York marathon, Brasher co-founded the London marathon which was first run in 1981. more....
Bucknell, TV's original DIY expert in the 1950s and 1960s has
died, aged 91. (21 February 2003)
Barry Bucknell passed on his tips in a programme called Do It Yourself, which later became Bucknell's House. The half-hour programme was broadcast on BBC TV and was a forerunner to the wide range of homes and interiors shows which fill the schedules today. He later went on to design the immensely popular Mirror dinghy. more....
Star of Sergeant Preston of the Yukon dies aged 89 (20 February 2003)
Dick Simmons was most closely identified with the role of Sergeant Preston of the Yukon, which ran on television from 1955 to 1958. Aided only by his black horse Rex and his malamute dog Yukon King, Preston single-handedly enforced law and order each week on the Canadian frontier, ending each show with the words, "Well King, this case is closed." Simmons also directed several of the 30-minute episodes. more....
character actor and voice-over artist has died aged 79 (24 January 2003)
Cyril Shaps made his first screen appearances as Bibot in the popular ITV swashbuckling series The Adventures of the Scarlet Pimpernel (1955). He was also in demand as a voice-over artist. He took over from George Murcell as the Austrian inventor Professor Popkiss, the arch-enemy Masterspy and other characters in the early Gerry Anderson puppet science-fantasy series Supercar (1962), and was one of the voices of Mr Kipling in the "exceedingly good cakes" commercials. more....
belatedly awarded an OBE (31 December 2002)
Raymond Baxter, from Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire, presented Tomorrow's World, before co-founding the Association of Dunkirk Little Ships. Mr Baxter joined the RAF in 1940 and has been honoured for his work to preserve the memory of those who crossed the Channel to save thousands of British soldiers during the war. more....
has died aged 74 (19 November 2002)
James Coburn, the actor, never quite ranked in the top flight of Hollywood stars, yet his powerful performances in several classic films, such as The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape and Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid rightfully ensured his status as a minor screen legend. Following appearances in the TV Western series Bonanza, Gunsmoke and Wanted: Dead or Alive, Coburn's first film role was in Budd Boetticher's Western Ride Lonesome (1959) as a villain. Other supporting parts in Westerns followed, until in 1960 he was picked for The Magnificent Seven. more....
Lonnie Donegan has died at the age of 71 (3 November 2002)
Best known for novelty songs like My Old Man's a Dustman, Lonnie Donegan enjoyed a worldwide reputation among musicians as exalted as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Van Morrison. During the early 1950s skiffle, with its guitar-driven rhythm, tea-chest basses and washboard percussion, was hugely popular and Lonnie Donegan was its biggest star, notching-up 28 top-30 hits. Donegan's enthusiastic espousal of skiffle, blues, gospel and American folk music was instrumental in igniting the 1960s British blues revival.
As the skiffle craze waned at the end of the 1950s, Lonnie Donegan recorded new material, fun songs like Does Your Chewing Gum Lose its Flavour? and My Old Man's a Dustman. more....
Bill and Ben
author dies aged 88 (21 September 2002)
Hilda Brabban, who has died aged 88, wrote the first stories about children's characters Bill and Ben, the denizens of the potting shed who became popular favourites in the 1950s as part of BBC Television's Watch With Mother series.
Hilda Brabban wrote three Bill and Ben stories which were broadcast on the children's radio programme Listen with Mother in 1951. The television version, adapted by Frieda Lingstrom, appeared a year later.
She received only one guinea for each of her three original stories. more....
George Mitchell has died aged 85 (27 August 2002)
He was the driving musical talent behind The Black and White Minstrel Show, the most popular light entertainment television series of the 50s and 60s. The Mitchell Minstrels - the men blacked up, the women a winsome line-up of leggy showgirls - achieved record-breaking success under Mitchell's understated and unassuming direction. A fast-moving song and dance spectacular, the show featured George Mitchell's arrangements of 20th century song-book standards and show tunes, as well as traditional minstrel fare such as Oh Susanna or Camptown Races. more....
character actor Peter Bayliss has died aged 79 (2 August 2002)
He was one of the most original, charming and versatile actors on the post-war British stage. Never short of work, he appeared in numerous television programmes and series, and in films. Capable of playing characters considerably older than himself, Bayliss was noted for his be-whiskered manner, flowing moustaches or copious sideburns, which gave his wheezings and comic croakings an authority to which his patrician voice - humming, murmuring, hesitant, or breathing heavily - added depth. His television credits included appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show in New York in 1957, and Pc Codge in Dixon of Dock Green, as well as parts in successful series such as Crown Court, The Avengers, Lovejoy, Minder, and The Sweeney. more....
Denham has died aged 92 (26 July 2002)
After making his name on the wireless in the 1940s with comic voices in ITMA (It's That Man Again) and Much Binding in the Marsh, he went on to appear in all sorts of films, from Huggett comedies to horror melodrama, and to become a commanding presence on television.
His ear for accent and dialect, and his gift for inventing voices was astonishing. He used to say that this came from his days at the BBC with Tommy Handley in ITMA - as Lola Tickle, the char, and as the announcer on Radio Fakenberg - and with Kenneth Horne, Sam Costa and Richard Murdoch in Much Binding in the Marsh. "They were always playing themselves," he said, "so I played everyone else." more....
Campion whose career never quite recovered from the success he
enjoyed as TV's Billy Bunter has died at 81 (11 July 2002)
Gerald Campion was not the obvious choice to play the lead in the BBC series Billy Bunter of Greyfriars School. In 1952 he was 29, only 12 stone and a father of two. When offered the part Campion was very reluctant to take it, but his strained financial cicumstances meant that he couldn't refuse. The show ran for ten years and proved popular with adults and children alike and was transmitted twice each week with Campion performing the show live both times. He went on to run several restaurants and hotels in the UK and retired in 1991 to France. more....
comedy stalwart Pat Coombs dies, aged 75 (27 May 2002)
Miss Coombs, who never married, became one of the busiest actresses in the business after first appearing on TV in Hancock's Half Hour in 1956. She was working until two weeks ago when she starred with Roy Hudd and June Whitfield on the BBC Radio Four sitcom "Like they've Never Been Gone". Her most recent TV appearance was as Marge Green in EastEnders. more....
Johnny Hackett has died aged 71 (21 May 2002)
Johnny Hackett who made several appearances on Sunday Night at the London Palladium in the 1960's has died after a serious illness.
Vaughan dies at the age of 79 (18 May 2002)
Entertainer Norman Vaughan has died in hospital, where he was receiving treatment after being injured in a traffic accident. He will be remembered as a host of Sunday Night at the London Palladium where he coined the catchphrases "Swinging!" and "Dodgy!". He later also hosted The Golden Shot and was noted for his Cadbury's Roses ads. more....
The Army Game
showing on Granada Plus (29 April 2002)
Episodes of "The Army Game" along with "Mr Digby Darling" are being transmitted on Granada Plus on Sunday mornings.
Dave King has
died at the age of 72 (17 April 2002)
Dave King, one of the most popular UK television performers of the 1950s and early 60s, has died after a short illness. In 1955, the BBC gave him his own show, in which he performed sketches and spoofs of Hollywood films. In 1959, he tried his luck as an entertainer in the US, but the experiment came to nothing. On returning to the UK, he found his style of comedy had fallen out of favour, and turned to straight acting. He has appeared in many popular TV series since. more....
writer Barry Took dies at the age of 73 (31 March 2002)
Barry Took wrote for TV and radio during the 1950s and '60s. He co-wrote many of the episodes of the TV series "The Army Game" with Marty Feldman which ran from 1957-61. He also co-wrote "Beyond Our Ken" for the radio with Eric Merriman and later "Round the Horne" which starred Kenneth Horne and Kenneth Williams. more....
returns this week in a new animated series (31 March 2002)
The new series starts on Thursday 4th. April on CBeebies channel at 08:55 with repeats on BBC 2 at 10:00 and 13:00
Jack Whitehead has died aged 88 (28
After the war he founded a travelling show, the Whitehead Puppets, for which he designed and carved the puppets himself. He performed in the early days of BBC Television on such programmes as Muffin the Mule, and in the puppet cowboy series called Four Feather Falls. He also made scenery and sets, and branched out into special effects, working on series such as The Invisible Man. more....
Wolstenholme has died aged 81 (26
He was the voice of football on the BBC for almost a quarter of a century. He entered broadcasting in Manchester and commentated on his first televised match in 1948 and contributed to TV's Sports Special in the 1950's, although he was far better known as a radio reporter at the time. more...
director dies at 86 (18 March 2002)
William Witney, an influential director of dozens of Westerns, has died in California. He directed hundreds of TV shows such as The Lone Ranger, Lassie, Wagon Train and Bonanza. more....
Milligan, Last of the Goons, dies at 83 (27 February 2002)
One of Britain's most respected performers, he was known to millions as one of the founding members of The Goons. Together with Peter Sellers, Michael Bentine and Harry Secombe, the quartet helped redefine comedy programmes for a generation. He went on to star in the Q series of television shows and also wrote several books, including Adolf Hitler, My Part In His Downfall. more....
follows Potter's success with TV return (24 February 2002)
Talkback Productions is negotiating to serialise the adventures of the fictional schoolboy who first surfaced on a BBC Children's Hour radio play in 1948. For decades Jennings was Britain's most popular scholboy and became a successful TV series in the 1960's. The author of the Jennings books, Anthony Buckeridge now 89, is said to be delighted.
cartoonist Chuck Jones dies (23 February 2002)
Chuck Jones, the Oscar-winning animator who penned such cartoon classics as Bugs Bunny, Wile E Coyote and Road Runner, has died, aged 89. Film studio Warner Brothers announced that he had died yesterday. Mr Jones died from heart failure at his home in Corona del Mar, near Los Angeles, his family added.
His work encompassed some 300 films and many cartoons of his own creation such as the amorous French skunk Pepe Le Pew. more....
has died aged 83 (25 January 2002)
Jeremy Hawk had an acting career that spanned more than 60 years and his face was familiar to millions of television viewers for his role in comedy sketches as the straight man to Benny Hill. Later he fulfilled a similar role for Arthur Askey, Norman Wisdom and Sid Caesar. On television, he first found fame on Granada's Criss Cross Quiz, for which he was quizmaster on three shows a week from 1957 to 1962. more....
Stanley Unwin passy-way age ninety-fold (14
Comedian Stanley Unwin, who won fans with his own zany language, has died aged 90.
Professor Unwin, as he was affectionately known, found fame by twisting words into a nonsense language, which he called Unwinese, on radio and later TV in the 1940s and 1950s. more....
Vintage TV writer
slams alleged 'covert ban' on old-style 'British' sit-coms (10 January 2002)
Veteran comedy writer, Vince Powell - once the king of the TV sit-coms, and famous for blockbuster TV shows, like 'Never Mind The Quality, Feel The Width', and 'Nearest And Dearest' - is furious that the funny-business, typical of writers of his genre, has been given the elbow, by today's new breed of TV executive. more...
"Dad" dies (20 December 2001)
One of Britain's earliest television soap stars, Edward Evans who played Dad in The Grove Family has died aged 87. When the BBC producer John Warrington originally considered Evans for The Grove Family (1954-57), he thought that the actor would be perfect in the role of a nosy neighbour but, after auditioning him, Warrington realised that he had his lead character and built the rest of the new television family around him. He also appeared later in many television programmes including Compact and Coronation Street. more....
Pugwash Theme Tune
composer dies (13 December 2001)
The man who provided the theme tune for the classic children's television programme Captain Pugwash, has died nearly 50 years after being paid 30 shillings for his work. more....
Peggy Mount has died
aged 85 (14 November 2001)
She specialised in playing grotesquely comic harridans such as the tough cockney matriarch Ada Larkin in the early ITV sitcom, The Larkins, who was constantly fighting with her husband, Alf (David Kossoff). But although the battleaxe became her forte, she gave strong performances in a number of classical roles, which suggested that beneath the brazen, brawny exterior was an actress of some subtlety and tenderness. more....
Andy Pandy's coming to
play again! (28 October 2001)
The Blue and white striped outfit and floppy hat are the same, but when Andy Pandy returns to TV in Spring 2002 viewers will notice a few changes. Gone are the strings, and Andy and his friends Looby Loo and Teddy will no longer live in a wicker basket but will have their own houses. The 26 x 10 min. shows will be narrated by Tom Conti.
Elton Hayes has died
aged 86 (29 September 2001)
On television Elton Hayes appeared in The Minstrel Show (forerunner of The Black and White Minstrel Show) and BBC Caravan Time, and sang and acted in several television plays. more....
Sooty is on his way to
the Antarctic (10 September 2001)
A Sooty glove puppet, which has already travelled around the world as a mascot with the Whitbread Round the World Race in 1989/90, is now reported as being on his way to the Antarctic with the current British Army Antarctic Expedition. more....
Arthur Worsley the
ventriloquist has died aged 80 (20 July 2001)
Arthur Worsley was, in his heyday, described as the greatest ventriloquist in the world.
Worsley and his talkative dummy Charlie Brown appeared regularly on British television from the 1950s to the 1970s. more....
Arthur Worsley Sound Clip
dies at 80 (16 July 2001)
Eleanor Summerfield, who has died aged 80, was an intelligent and subtle comedy actress. With her arched eyebrows and irrepressibly cheerful nature, Eleanor Summerfield was widely in demand, not merely as an actress, but also on radio and television panel games. more....
The 100 Greatest Kids
TV Shows (21 August 2001)
On Monday 27th August 2001 at 20:30 on Channel 4, Jamie Theakson presents a nostalgic journey back into the recesses of youth with this run-down of the best kids' TV entertainment over the years - as voted for by the British viewing public. As well as being a roll-call of the kiddies' classics, the programme recounts the stories behind the shows, including all those rumours about hidden 'adult' references and behind-the-scenes bust-ups.
is Coming to Play! (5 July 2001)
A re-make of the classic children's programme Andy Pandy will include rag doll Looby Loo, it was confirmed today. A BBC spokesman dismissed speculation that Looby Loo would be missing from the line-up of the 1 million pound animated version. Andy Pandy's comeback after 31 years follows the successful return of another Watch with Mother favourite, Bill and Ben. more....
Anderson awarded MBE in Queen's Birthday Honours (16 June 2001)
Gerry Anderson has been awarded an MBE (Member of the British Empire) in the Queen's Birthday Honours list which was announced today. The award comes in recognition of his 55 year career in the British film and television industry, and his immense contribution to popular British culture through his Supermarionation and live-action television creations. more....
Perry Como dies at 88
(13 May 2001)
US crooner Perry Como has died in his sleep at his Florida home after a long illness. Como's songs, including Catch a Falling Star and Magic Moments, helped pioneer TV musical variety shows in the '50s. more....
BBC to close its
visitor centre (4 May 2001)
The BBC Experience, which allows people to try their hand in front of the camera by presenting the weather forecast or reading the news, is to shut despite visitor numbers going up. Since opening as part of the BBC's 75th. anniversary in 1997, it has attracted more than 300,000 visitors. The attraction has never broken even, despite an admission charge and the prospect of an expensive refurbishment and pressure on space at Broadcasting House has made the BBC decide on its closure.
Jimmy Logan dies (13 April 2001)
Tributes have been paid to veteran Scottish entertainer Jimmy Logan following his death from cancer at the age of 73. more....
Sir Harry Secombe has
(11 April 2001)
Sir Harry Secombe, the entertainer from Swansea famed for his work with The Goon Show, has died aged 79. more....
Bill and Ben
to go on show (25 March 2001)
The original string puppets for the Fifties children's TV series Bill and Ben, the Flowerpot Men go on display today at the Museum of London until 17 April. Alongside them will be the new Flowerpot Men, made of steel and Latex. This is expected to be the last public appearance of the originals.
Muriel Young, presenter of TV children's programmes such as Small Time in the 1950s and 60s, has died aged 77.
last... 70 Years of British Television (23 Feb 2001)
BBC Radio 2 are currently transmitting this series on Tuesday evenings at 2100-2200
The series traces the evolution of television in six parts presented by Alan Whicker.
Dale Evans dies (7 Feb
Dale Evans, wife of Roy Rogers, has died aged 88. She appeared in many Western shows with her husband and her horse Buttermilk. more....
Peter Haigh dies
(18 Jan 2001)
The announcer and broadcaster Peter Haigh has died. He will be fondly remembered as a BBC announcer and the presenter of the Movie-go-Round programme on BBC Radio and also Come Dancing and Picture Parade on television in the 1950's. more....
Jimmy Shand dies (23 Dec 2000)
The Scots bandleader Jimmy Shand has died aged 92. Amongst his many television appearances with his Band, he will be remembered for the BBC series "The White Heather Club" in the 1950's. more....
of our Television Heritage (12 Dec 2000)
On Friday 8th December Haringey Council (owners of Alexandra Palace), published a document setting out its intention to have the Alexandra Park & Palace Acts 1900 - 1985 revised in order to grant a lease on the building as a whole or in part. This does not sound very dramatic but the outcome will result in the destruction of the television studios.
Follow this link to read the full details. more....
to return to BBC1 on 4 Jan 2001 at 15:45 (22 Oct 2000)
Bill and Ben, the Flowerpot Men, who first charmed young television viewers almost half a century ago, are returning to our screens with a new look and without puppet strings. Updated for the 21st century, the pair, who spoke in gibberish known as "flobbadob", have been redesigned by the BBC for a 26-episode series beginning on 4th. January 2001. It will be accompanied by merchandising spin-offs including toys, games, videos and a Bill and Ben magazine. John Thompson narrates the new version.
Ivan Owen dies (19 Oct 2000)
The man who provided the voices of several puppet characters in the 1950's, including Yoo Hoo the Cuckoo in Billy Bean and his Funny Machine and also Fred Barker from Smalltime, has died after a long battle with cancer. Ivan Owen, who was 73, later created Basil Brush along with Peter Firmin, for a children's puppet show in 1964. more....
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