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Peter Byrne, actor who played Andy Crawford in Dixon of Dock Green, has died aged 90 (14 May 2018)
Peter Byrne had joined Dixon of Dock Green at its inception, as a wet-behind-the-ears police constable. PC George Dixon had previously featured in The Blue Lamp, the most popular film in British cinemas in 1950. Although the character was shot dead little more than 20 minutes in, he was brought back to life in a 1952 stage version of The Blue Lamp that featured Gordon Harker as Dixon, Byrne as PC Andy Crawford and Warner as Chief Inspector Cherry. Ted Willis, co-writer of both the film and play, then turned it into the television series, with Warner as star and Byrne reprising his stage role.
In later years, Crawford married Dixon’s daughter, Mary (played successively by Billie Whitelaw, Jeanette Hutchinson and Anna Dawson), and moved to CID, rising to the rank of detective inspector, and gradually did more of the legwork for Dixon – astonishingly, Warner was 80 by the time the programme finally ended in 1976.
He had a guest role in a 1981 episode of the TV sci-fi serial Blake’s 7 as Justin, a scientist who genetically engineers animals as slaves for humans, and a run in the sitcom Bread as Derek (1988-91), a widower who befriends Nellie Boswell (Jean Boht). He played an ageing Tony Blair relocating to the Middle East in the satirical 2006 series Time Trumpet, set 25 years in the future, and appeared in episodes of Doctors (2006) and Holby City (2006 and 2012).
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Ronald Chesney, harmonica player and comedy writer, has died aged 97 (23 April 2018)
On leaving school at 16, Ronald Chesney became a professional harmonica player.
Exempted from serving in the forces during the second world war after having a TB-infected kidney removed, Chesney played his part by teaching musical skills to the troops and other listeners in the radio programme Let’s Play the Mouth-Organ (1940). His own eponymously titled show followed in 1941 and 1947, along with long runs in the radio series Variety Band-Box (1944-51) and Workers’ Playtime (1949-56).
While providing musical interludes with his "talking harmonica" during the entire run of the radio comedy Educating Archie (1950-60), featuring the ventriloquist Peter Brough and his doll, Chesney met Ronald Wolfe, who joined the show as a scriptwriter in 1955. They teamed up and, with Marty Feldman, wrote for the final two series, as well as a TV version (1958-59).
When Feldman left to team up with Barry Took, Chesney and Wolfe continued together – Chesney giving up his career as a harmonica player – and created the 1961 radio sitcom It’s a Deal, starring Sid James as a bungling property developer.
The Rag Trade then began 20 years of hit comedies for the pair on television.
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Zena Skinner, TV cook and author, has died aged 91 (4 April 2018)
Zena Skinner presented the popular BBC show 'Cookery Club' and had a television career that spanned nearly 30 years. She made her first appearance on 'Cookery Club' in 1959, showing viewers how to make brandy snaps.
She went on to present many programmes for the BBC, including 'Town And Around', 'Ask Zena Skinner' and 'Bon Appétit'. She even appeared on the BBC children's television show 'Crackerjack'. She was a regular contributor to the Radio Times and wrote several cookery books. Meanwhile she was brand ambassador for Tupperware, which distributed her cookery leaflets with women's magazines. Her popularity was in large part due to the fact that compared to other TV cooks of the time, Skinner's style was down-to-earth and accessible.
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Bill Maynard, comedy actor, has died aged 89 (30 March 2018)
In 1949, Bill Maynard appeared in talent shows for Bryan Michie and Carrol Levis as well as in an Opportunity Knocks! stage production and in 1953 he made his first TV appearance on the BBC show Face the Music.
He worked in local repertory companies and then went to Butlins holiday camp, Skegness, where he met the comedy actor Terry Scott. Maynard and Scott became stars when the BBC gave the pair their own television show, 'Great Scott, It’s Maynard' (1955), a sitcom in which their characters shared a flat. Maynard also had his own series, 'Mostly Maynard', but that proved less successful and his desire to switch to acting led to the break-up of the partnership with Scott.
In the 60s and 70s he found work in TV series such as Till Death Do Us Part (1969 and 1972), Up Pompeii (1970), Coronation Street (1970) and Love Thy Neighbour (1973). The Carry On films kept him occupied throughout the 70s, along with, on TV, Oh No, It’s Selwyn Froggitt! (1974) and The Life of Riley (1975).
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Katie Boyle, actress and presenter, has died aged 91 (20 March 2018)
A love of cinema pushed Boyle from an early modelling career towards the film world. As Catherine Carleton she played school secretary Miss Weston in the comedy Old Mother Riley Headmistress (1950), with music-hall stars Arthur Lucan and Kitty McShane.
Boyle also danced in the chorus at the Theatre Royal, Windsor, in the pantomime Dick Whittington (1949-50), starring Paul Scofield and Geraldine McEwen. Although she acted in another film, The House in the Square (1951), she then became a full-time model, still as Catherine Carleton, with catwalk jobs and work for Vogue.
Her growing fame led the BBC producer Richard Afton to feature Boyle in the "Beauty Spot" on his variety show Quite Contrary (1953). After one programme, he made her its presenter.
This introduction to television led to an appearance in the 1954 Royal Variety Performance and a return to acting. Billed as Catherine Boyle, she was in several films as well as a string of television plays.
She landed the starring role in the BBC adventure serial Golden Girl (1960). As Katie Johnson, she was the secretary who through an unexpected inheritance becomes the world’s richest woman.
However, the Eurovision Song Contest brought Boyle fame in her own right and she left acting behind. She presented the ITV advertising magazine Mayfair Merry-go-round and, over the years, was a panellist on Juke Box Jury (1960-1965), Call My Bluff (1967-1970), Punchlines (1981-1983), Blankety Blank (1979-1985) and the English, American and Italian versions of What’s My Line? She hosted her own BBC Radio 2 show, Katie & Friends in 1990.
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Peter Wyngarde, actor famous as the suave television sleuth Jason King, has died aged "around 90" (18 January 2018)
Following the War, Peter Wyngarde, who had endured the Japanese internment camp Lunghua due to his British diplomat father visiting China at the time that the Japanese invaded, returned to London and claimed to have read law at Oxford, but there is no record of him having studied there in the postwar years. His first acting credit was as a policeman at the Buxton Playhouse in May 1946, making nonsense of the 1933 birth date he claimed.
He supported Alec Guinness’s Hamlet at the New theatre in London in 1951, then played the soldier Dunois to Siobhán McKenna’s Saint Joan at the Arts in 1954. He appeared opposite Vivien Leigh in Duel of Angels at the Apollo in 1958, and said that the highlight of his career, at the Bristol Old Vic in 1959, had been playing Cyrano de Bergerac.
His burgeoning TV career brought him lead roles as Sydney Carton in A Tale of Two Cities (1957), Long John Silver in The Adventures of Ben Gunn (1958) and the title role in Rupert of Hentzau (1964). His appearance in The Avengers (1966), inducting Diana Rigg into the Hellfire Club, is well remembered.In The Innocents (1961), he did not have a single word of dialogue; his only film lead was as a psychology professor in a horror film, Night of the Eagle (1962).
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Jack Good, the man who put pop music on television, has died aged 86 (29 September 2017)
IIt was in 1957 that the BBC decided to abandon the “Toddlers’ Truce”, which required television to shut down for an hour each day between 6pm and 7pm to give mums time to put their young children to bed.
Jack Good was the producer who persuaded the BBC to accept the idea of a Saturday night TV pop show called Six-Five Special and then filled the studio floor with young listeners, creating the atmosphere of a teenage hop as they jived to the Vipers or Tommy Steele.
In 1958 he was on his way to ITV, where Cliff Richard was booked for Oh Boy!, as were Marty Wilde, Billy Fury. The show was recorded at Hackney Empire every Saturday morning and transmitted that evening, competing directly against Six-Five Special, which it swiftly rendered obsolete.
Oh Boy! lasted a year. Good followed it in 1959 with Boy Meets Girls, also for ITV, in which Marty Wilde and the Vernons Girls were the featured performers. In turn that show was succeeded in 1960 by the Good-produced Wham!, whose guests included Fury, Joe Brown and Jess Conrad.
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Sir Bruce Forsyth, entertainer who began his career in variety and became an enduringly popular TV host has died aged 89 (18 August 2017)
Bruce Forsyth made his BBC television debut in 1939 on the Jasmine Bligh talent show. He later launched his career as Boy Bruce, the Mighty Atom, at the Theatre Royal, Bilston, in Staffordshire, in 1942, wearing a satin suit made by his mother and playing the accordion, ukulele and banjo.
Forsyth led a busy and sometimes complicated private life with a penchant for showgirls, singers and beauty queens, made his Windmill theatre debut in 1953, performing impressions of Tommy Cooper.
During a summer season at Babbacombe in Devon in 1957, another dance act recommended Bruce to their agent, Billy Marsh, and this led to a booking on a television show, New Look, followed by the breakthrough Sunday Night at the London Palladium in September 1958; in black and white, and always broadcast “live” on ATV, Forsyth demonstrated his genius for improvisation and ad-libbing as he shuffled and chivvied the audience participants in physical competitions and word games in the show’s Beat the Clock segment.
He displayed a true vaudevillian’s talent for catchphrases; as Tommy Trinder (whom he succeeded on Sunday Night at the London Palladium) had “You lucky people”, or Arthur Askey “I thank-yeaow”, so Forsyth patented “I’m in charge” at the Palladium followed by “Nice to see you … to see you, nice!” and “Didn’t he do well?” on The Generation Game.
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Ty Hardin, actor who starred as Bronco Layne, has died aged 87 (3rd August 2017)
Ty Hardin was a blond beefcake actor who appeared in films such as Battle of the Bulge (1965) and Custer of the West (1967), after making his name on television as Bronco Layne in the popular Western series Bronco.
Broadcast by the BBC from 1958 to 1962, Bronco, in which Hardin played a former Confederate captain and adept horseman roaming the Old West and meeting such characters as Wild Bill Hickock, Billy the Kid and Jesse James, was an instant hit.
Hardin’s appeal for women viewers was obvious, and the catchy theme tune embedded itself in the British psyche. The most popular of several parodies, commencing “Bronco, Bronco, tearing across the dotted line” was a reference to a shiny, abrasive lavatory paper of the day.
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Sir Roger Moore, illustrious actor who starred as Ivanhoe in the 1950s TV series, has died aged 89 (22nd May 2017)
Roger Moore was born in London. Tagging along with friends in 1945 to auditions for film extras, Moore was picked to appear in a non-speaking role as a legionnaire in Caesar and Cleopatra, starring Vivien Leigh and Claude Rains. After three years in the army, Moore returned to acting, landing small roles in theatre and film, and moved to New York City in 1953 with his second wife, the singer Dorothy Squires and began getting acting work on US television. Returning to Britain, he took the lead in the 1958 television adventure series adapted from Walter Scott’s novel, Ivanhoe.
Other regular TV roles of increasing size followed, including two western series, The Alaskans and Maverick, before Moore finally became a bona fide star, playing the crime-fighter and playboy Simon Templar in the popular television crime series The Saint.
Two years after The Saint ended, Moore was cast once more as a playboy adventurer in The Persuaders!, in which he was teamed with Tony Curtis. The odd-couple pairing (Moore, as Lord Brett Sinclair, was dapper; Curtis, playing Danny Wilde, was a ruffian) and the action staged in glamorous locations made the series a hit.
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Moray Watson, actor, has died aged 88 (3 May 2017)
Following repertory theatre in Nottingham, Leatherhead and Liverpool, the West End beckoned. Moray Watson made his debut in Small Hotel (St Martin’s Theatre, 1955), then was seen as the novel-writing butler, Trevor Sellers, in the comedy The Grass Is Greener (St Martin’s, 1958). He reprised the character in the film version two years later, alongside Cary Grant, Deborah Kerr and Robert Mitchum. Then came rare starring roles, in The Bad Soldier Smith (Westminster Theatre, 1960-61) and The Public Eye (Broadway, 1963-4).
After his introduction to television audiences as assistant control engineer Peter Marsh in the landmark sci-fi serial The Quatermass Experiment (1953), Watson switched to soap opera, spending a year (1962-3) in the women’s magazine serial Compact as art editor Richard Lowe, then returning for the last month of its run in 1965.
He was cast to type in war films such as The Valiant (1962), Operation Crossbow (1965) and The Sea Wolves (1980) but was better utilised on television. His dozens of character roles included Godfrey Cass in Silas Marner (1964), Barrington Erle in the first series (1974) of The Pallisers, Angus Kinloch in Quiller (1975), Chief Constable Chubb in Murder Most English (1977), Mr Bennet in Pride and Prejudice (1980), Judge Frobisher (1978-88) in Rumpole of the Bailey and Wordsworth, the butler, in the sitcom Union Castle (1982).
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Veteran Saturday Club presenter Brian Matthew has died aged 88 (8 April 2017)
Brian Matthew was born to musical parents in Coventry in September 1928, it is unsurprising that he blossomed on the radio music scene, capturing the attention of BBC producers after his first appearance on the new 'Saturday Skiffle Club' - later renamed 'Saturday Club' - in 1957.
He originally found employment as a news reader for the BBC Home Service, studying under the veteran broadcaster, John Snagge. He moved to the Light Programme and presented the occasional programme such as 'Housewives’ Choice' and was the announcer for the comedy programmes, 'Take It From Here' and 'Hancock’s Half Hour'.
His talents in front of a camera saw him take on television roles during the 1960s - including hosting shows 'Thank Your Lucky Stars' and 'Swinging UK' - before he cemented himself as a much-loved regular radio presenter.
And it was his 27-year stint as presenter of the Saturday morning show, 'Sounds Of The 60s', which kept him firmly in the hearts of radio listeners all the way into the 2000s. His broadcasting career spanned almost 70 years, but to many Brian Matthew's name will always be synonymous with the sounds of the 60s..
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Alan Simpson, scriptwriter, has died aged 87 (8 February 2017)
Alan Simpson was half of one of Britain's most successful comedy writing partnerships. Simpson, it is always said, patiently banged away at a manual typewriter while his partner, Ray Galton, strode up and down the room declaiming ideas or dialogue. They made an odd couple, but it worked. Together they wrote the scripts for Tony Hancock's radio and TV shows, and for many comedy plays, and they created Steptoe and Son, which ran for eight series.
With Ray Galton, in 1951 he supplied the well-known comic Derek Roy with jokes at five shillings a go for his Happy Go Lucky radio programme, after which the duo were put on the show's payroll at eight guineas a week. They ended up writing all the shows, an hour once a fortnight, for 20 guineas each.
They knew they had "arrived" when Hancock offered them 25 guineas. The comedian had made a name for himself in the BBC shows Educating Archie and Kaleidoscope and in 1954 he was given his own radio series, Hancock’s Half Hour, in which he played an exaggerated version of himself. Galton and Simpson wrote the scripts, establishing a form of comedy based on character and situation, rather than sketches and gags. They continued to script the show when it was adapted for television in 1956, altogether writing 160 radio and TV programmes for Hancock between 1954 and 1961.
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Desmond Carrington, actor and disc jockey, has died aged 90 (1 February 2017)
Desmond Carrington was a unique radio phenomenon: a veteran DJ for BBC Radio 2 whose weekly show of classical and popular music was broadcast from his home – a farm in Perthshire – using his personal collection of some 80,000 CDs, LPs and 78s.
Called up for second world war service in 1943, he joined the Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment and was sent to India. Later posted to Colombo, where he joined Radio SEAC, and discovered that radio was a natural medium for him.
On demob, he became a member of the BBC Drama Repertory Company, and was an independent producer for Radio Luxembourg as well as the BBC. He also began to appear on TV, including in a very lucrative Daz commercial.
It was this growing experience of TV, together with his good looks, that landed him the part of Dr Chris Anderson, the new house physician at the fictional Oxbridge General hospital, in Emergency – Ward 10, a year after the series started in 1957. His original contract was for three weeks; he stayed for more than 200 episodes.
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Barbara Hale, actress, Della Street in Perry Mason, has died aged 94 (27 January 2017)
Barbara Hale was best known as Della Street, the super-reliable secretary of Perry Mason (Raymond Burr), the criminal defence attorney in the popular CBS television series (1957-66), a role for which she won a best supporting actress Emmy; two decades later, the pair reunited to make more than two dozen television movies for NBC.
After appearing in such films as The First Yank in Tokyo (1945), The Boy With the Green Hair (1948), The Window (1949) and The Clay Pigeon (1949), Hale delivered perhaps her most notable movie performance in the Columbia sequel Jolson Sings Again (1949), playing a nurse and the singer's new wife.
Hale then appeared often as the female lead in a number of top-level movies, including Lorna Doone (1951) with Richard Greene, The First Time (1952) with Robert Cummings, Seminole (1953) with Rock Hudson and Hugh O’Brian, The Lone Hand (1953) and The Oklahoman (1957) with Joel McCrea, A Lion Is in the Streets (1953) with James Cagney, 7th Cavalry (1956) with Randolph Scott and The Houston Story (1956) with Gene Barry.
After the Perry Mason series ended, Hale appeared in the star-studded Airport (1970), in the lamentable The Giant Spider Invasion (1975) and alongside her son in the John Milius surfing picture Big Wednesday (1978). She also played Katt's mom on a 1982 episode of The Greatest American Hero.
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Sabrina (Norma Ann Sykes), glamour model and actress, has died aged 80 (24 November 2016)
In 1955 Sabrina was chosen to play a dumb blonde sidekick in Arthur Askey's new television series, Before Your Very Eyes (BBC 1952–56, ITV 1956–58) which soon made her a household name.
She made her motion-picture debut in Stock Car, in 1955. She then appeared in a small role in the 1956 film, Ramsbottom Rides Again. In her third movie, Blue Murder at St Trinian's (1957) she had a non-speaking role in which, despite sharing equal billing with the star Alastair Sim on posters and appearing in many publicity stills in school uniform, she was required only to sit up in bed wearing a nightdress, reading a book whilst the action took place around her.
Other TV appearances included Double Your Money (1955), Make Mine a Million (1959), Tarzan (1967), This Is Your Life - (Arthur Askey, 1974).
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Hugh O'Brian, actor who played Wyatt Earp, has died aged 91 (5 September 2016)
Hugh O’Brian was one of the first American actors to achieve television celebrity in 1950s Britain as the marshal of Dodge City in The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp.
More than 200 black-and-white episodes of the series were shown on the fledgling ITV network between 1956 and 1962. Handsome and square-jawed, O’Brian landed the starring title role because he resembled the real Wyatt Earp (1848-1929) as a young lawman in late 19th-century Kansas and later in Tombstone, Arizona.
It was the first television western to be aimed specifically at adults. Series appealing to children such as The Cisco Kid and The Lone Ranger had been scheduled for late afternoon slots. Inspired by the legendary events of the real-life frontier marshal, Earp played in after-dinner prime time and transformed O’Brian into one of television’s first sex symbols.
O'Brian was a one of the founders of the Thalians, a show-business charitable organization formed in 1955 to raise money for children with mental health problems. In 1964, he established the Hugh O'Brian Acting Awards competition at UCLA.
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Sir Antony Jay, writer, broadcaster and director, has died aged 86 (23 August 2016)
After National Service in the Royal Signals, Antony Jay joined BBC Television in 1955, and was a member of the team that launched the current affairs programme Tonight, which he edited from 1962 to 1963. After a further year as head of Television Talk Features, he left the BBC to work as a freelance writer and producer.
From 1981, Jay was co-author, with Jonathan Lynn, of Yes Minister and Yes, Prime Minister, the political comedies which kept the nation laughing through the Thatcherite 1980s. Yes, Minister ran for three series, before the advancement of Jim Hacker’s career (due to his valiant defiance of a new Euro directive redefining the British banger as an “emulsified offal tube”), led to its relaunch as Yes, Prime Minister, with the same cast (Sir Humphrey promoted to Cabinet Secretary), in 1986. The series ran until 1988. However, not many, perhaps, were aware that the serial was commissioned with a serious political purpose: to popularise public choice theory. It is because it succeeded spectacularly that Jay received a knighthood in 1988.
Jay also wrote the BBC TV documentaries Royal Family and Elizabeth R, for which he was appointed CVO in 1993 for personal services to the Royal Family.
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Brian Rix, Lord Rix, brilliant comic actor, manager and dedicated campaigner for people with learning disabilities, has died aged 92 (20 August 2016)
Brian Rix devoted his life almost equally to stage farce – as one of the most brilliant comic actors in the postwar years – and to campaigning for people with learning disabilities. He was successful at both. In the theatre, both in management and on stage, his name became synonymous with the “Whitehall farces”, named after the London venue and with plotlines usually involving a lie, a comic deception and someone being caught with his trousers around his ankles. Rix also ran repertory companies and presented more than 90 farces on television in the 1960s – to huge audiences – starring the big names of the day, such as Dora Bryan, Sid James, Sheila Hancock and John Le Mesurier.
In 1952 Reluctant Heroes became one of the first West End plays to be partly televised. As a result, there were huge queues outside the Whitehall. Rix negotiated a contract with the BBC that lasted 17 years. The TV work included a number of Sunday Night Theatre productions under the Brian Rix Presents banner in the late 50s and early 60s.
Management was the art that mattered to him. For years he put on and appeared in the most noted farces of the West End, including Dry Rot by John Chapman, who had understudied him in Reluctant Heroes. Rix also appeared in the film of Dry Rot (1956), one of 11 film credits.
In 1949 he had married the actor Elspet Gray; the first of their four children, Shelley, was born with Down’s syndrome.
He threw himself into fundraising for learning disability charities, and in 1978 he began the Let’s Go! TV programmes for people with learning disabilities – he made 40 of them.
In 1979 a job advert in the Guardian caught Rix’s eye, for the position of Mencap’s secretary general. He applied and was initially turned down, but was later accepted and started work in 1980.
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Sylvia Peters, actress and BBC continuity announcer, has died aged 90 (26 July 2016)
Sylvia Peters, who has died aged 90, was one of the faces of BBC Television during the 1950s; having introduced the historic broadcast of the Queen’s Coronation in 1953, she later helped to teach the Queen the skills she needed for the annual royal Christmas message.
As well as becoming the youngest of three in-vision announcers (Mary Malcolm and McDonald Hobley were the others), she presented Come Dancing between 1954 and 1958. She also fronted the BBC Television programme For Deaf Children in 1956. With her refined accent and crisp, elegant manner, she became one of Britain’s first big television stars.
The turning point for television came in 1953 with the Coronation. At 10?am on Coronation Day, Sylvia Peters went on the air live and continued to provide linking material until 11.30 that night.
In 1954, Peters was chosen to host Come Dancing and was also the compere for Television Dancing Club, which featured the bandleader Victor Silvester.
After leaving the staff of the BBC in 1958, she became a freelance, and covered such events as Lady's Day at Royal Ascot and Come Dancing, and made less frequent appearances on screen and fronted Jim’s Inn, an advertisement magazine for the ITV.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/obituaries/2016/07/29/sylvia-peters-bbc-television-presenter--obituary/
https://www.theguardian.com/media/2016/jul/29/sylvia-peters-obituary
William Lucas, television actor, has died aged 91 (8 July 2016)
William Lucas' big television break came with the part of the blackmailing car dealer Reg Dorking in Portrait of Alison (1955), a crime thriller serial written by Francis Durbridge.
He was a regular as David Graham in The Strange World of Planet X (1956), Charlton Bradbury in The Crime of the Century (1956-57), Jim Pereira in the second series (1958) of the hotel saga The Royalty, Jonathan Briggs in the serialisation of Frank Tilsley’s novel Champion Road (1958) and Durea in the London underworld thriller Solo for Canary (1958).
He starred in The Infamous John Friend (1959), in the title role of the smuggler and spy for Napoleon, and was Detective Inspector Mitchell in the crime dramas The Days of Vengeance (1960) and Flower of Evil (1961), and Eddie Prior in the thriller serial The Prior Commitment (1969).
He even took the title role in a TV production of Rigoletto (1958), recalling: “Happily, the singing was dubbed.”
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Ray Lakeland, outside broadcasting pioneer, has died aged 95 (8 July 2016)
After the war Ray lakeland joined the British Forces Network, and on demobilisation transferred to BBC North, initially as a freelance reporter. He joined its radio studios in Newcastle full-time in 1947.
It was with his move to television in 1956 that Ray found his natural creative home, producing a wide range of programmes, including the first televised coverage of the launching of a liner – RMS Windsor Castle, named in 1959 by the Queen Mother – a broadcast from Blackpool illuminations, the BBC’s first pop programme, Six-Five Special, and the ballroom contest Come Dancing.
He is perhaps best remembered for his innovative coverage of the 1960 Grand National, for which he developed the system, still used today, of attaching a camera to the top of a vehicle to keep pace with the runners and riders and give viewers a greater sense of the speed and noise of the race.
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Noel Neill, actress, has died aged 95 (5 July 2016)
Neill was the original big screen Lois Lane, the crack investigative reporter on the Metropolis Daily Planet who never quite figures out that that the “Man of Steel” who keeps rescuing her from the jaws of death – or worse – is really her slightly nerdy colleague Clark Kent. She took the role in two movie serials and 78 episodes of the hit television series, between 1948 and 1958.
Neill remained with Superman until the programme was cancelled in 1958 after Reeves’s death.
Her last film role was in Lawless Rider (1954), and she played in many of the early TV programmes that were extensions of the B-movie and serial factories, including The Lone Ranger and The Cisco Kid.
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Gordon Murray, producer and puppeteer, has died aged 95 (1 July 2016)
Gordon Murray created Camberwick Green, Chigley and Trumpton, three of the best-loved series for younger children on BBC Television, first screened in the 1960s.
In 1953 he launched his own professional puppet company, Murray Marionettes in Broadstairs.
Audiences were disappointingly small but he invited Freda Lingstrom, head of BBC children’s television, to see the show and so impressed her that she offered him a job pulling the strings of Spotty Dog in a new series for toddlers called The Woodentops.
In 1955, Murray took a BBC production course and was officially taken on as a contract producer in children’s television. As well as The Woodentops he worked on The Flowerpot Men before creating a television version of the radio series Toytown.
Initially his shows were broadcast live, but Murray became frustrated by the hazards of live transmission and he developed his own film studio to record his films. In 1958 he created The Rubovian Legends, an early collaboration with Bura and Hardwick.
Murray devised new puppet techniques for television, wrote scripts, built puppets and trained a team of puppeteers to use rod and glove puppets as well as marionettes worked by strings. He worked with John Ryan on the popular Captain Pugwash series, and also produced the Sketch Club series with the artist Adrian Hill.
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Ronnie Corbett, comedian, has died aged 85 (1 April 2016)
Ronnie Corbett achieved such fame as one of the Two Ronnies that his solo career was often eclipsed; as his fans knew well, he worked on his own for many years, exploiting to the full both his lack of height – he was only 5ft 1in – and his undoubted talent as a comic performer.
After National Service with the RAF, Corbett moved to London, he endured eight lean years, taking occasional engagements but mostly living on his earnings as a caretaker, house-sitter, tennis-court superintendent and advertising salesman.
For some years he lived in grimy digs, working in nightclubs or on the halls, and teamed up with Anne Hart, a singer whom he met at a club, who became his stooge and whom he later married.
He appeared with Eamonn Andrews on the children's TV programme, Crackerjack, as its resident comedian for many episodes.
But Corbett's big chance came when he was spotted by David Frost at Winston's, Danny La Rue's West End night club, and cast in his BBC show The Frost Report (1966-67), followed by Frost on Sunday for ITV (1968-69).
It was with Frost that he first teamed up with Ronnie Barker. Television extended Corbett’s appeal. Although he had become a star in his own right before meeting Ronnie Barker, The Two Ronnies (1971-1987) remained the zenith of a television career that lasted more than 40 years.
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Adrienne Corri, actress, has died aged 85 (28 March 2016)
Adrienne Corri was an actor of considerable range and versatility whose career ranged from the high – with Shakespearean roles alongside Ralph Richardson and Alec Guinness – to the decidedly low, including appearances in many quota quickies and low-budget horror movies that showcased her striking red-haired beauty.
Among her dozens of television parts were Milady de Winter in the BBC series of The Three Musketeers (1954) and various appearances in episodes of ABC’s Armchair Theatre (1956-60). She featured in several BBC Plays of the Month, in one of which she was Violet in George Bernard Shaw’s Man and Superman (1968), alongside Maggie Smith, and she played Olivia in ITV’s Twelfth Night (1969). In Measure for Measure (1979) she was the cheroot-smoking bawdy-house keeper Mistress Overdone, and she was last seen in two episodes of Lovejoy (1992).
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Robert Horton, star of the Wagon Train western series, has died aged 91 (20 March 2016)
Robert Horton won legions of female fans in the role of frontier scout Flint McCullough on Wagon Train (1957-65), a television western series that became a massive hit on both sides of the Atlantic.
In 1945 a chance encounter with a talent scout led to an uncredited part in the Second World War film A Walk in the Sun. After taking a degree in Theatre Arts at the University of California, Los Angeles, he appeared in (among others) Apache War Smoke (1952) and on television shows such as The Lone Ranger and The Public Defender before winning his part on Wagon Train.
The role turned him into an international idol and he was especially popular in Britain, where Wagon Train was shown on ITV’s Monday teatime slot. When he appeared at the London Palladium, a reviewer reported that he had drawn “squeals and shrieks’’ from his mainly female audience.
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Cliff Michelmore, television and radio broadcaster, has died aged 96 (17 March 2016)
Cliff Michelmore was one of the most familiar faces on British television in the 1950s and 1960s, notably as presenter of Tonight, which ran for some 1,800 editions between 1957 and 1965. In the late 1950s and early 1960s he was appearing in as many as 300 programmes a year and on screen he invariably appeared confident, calm, unhurried and unflappable.
In 1935 he joined the RAF and underwent initial training at RAF Halton, in Buckinghamshire. Having survived the war and on the strength of having done some radio commentaries on inter-service games, he was sent to Hamburg as Officer Commanding Royal Airforce Element, the British Forces Network in Germany. His rank was, by now, squadron leader.
When the regular Hamburg presenter of Two-Way Family Favourites, the Sunday lunchtime link between the forces in Germany and their families in Britain, was taken ill, Michelmore was drafted in to replace him. Before the programme began he used to chat on the closed line to the presenter at the London end, Jean Metcalfe, in whom he detected a distinctly flirtatious tone. She helped him through the early programmes, and when, in the spring of 1949, he came to London and met her, romance immediately blossomed. They married in 1950.
Michelmore’s breakthrough to evening television came in 1955 when Donald Baverstock asked him to join his topical programme Highlight, which pioneered a grittier style of interviewing. Michelmore also worked for Panorama and as a reporter on Saturday Sport. He had therefore served a thorough apprenticeship by time he was offered his big chance on Tonight.
In no time, Michelmore was rivalling Richard Dimbleby as the BBC’s leading current affairs specialist, less heavyweight no doubt, but still scrupulously well informed, and a good deal less pompous.
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Sylvia Anderson, co-creator of Thunderbirds, has died aged 88 (16 March 2016)
With her then husband, Gerry, Sylvia Anderson brought to television some of the best-loved children’s puppet series of the 1960s, remembered for their groundbreaking animation and spectacular special effects. While he produced the programmes, she was responsible for character development, storylines, costume design, providing voices and directing other voice actors’ dialogue. Her most famous creation was Lady Penelope, International Rescue’s London agent in Thunderbirds (1965-66), whom she gave “not only the daring and panache of a secret agent, but also the poise of a cool and beautiful aristocrat”.
They had established AP Films in 1957, with Sylvia as a company director and production assistant, and were commissioned by ITV to make The Adventures of Twizzle (1957-59), from Roberta Leigh’s children’s stories, followed by the first run of Leigh’s Torchy the Battery Boy (1958-59). Both featured traditional marionettes, but Gerry devised innovative filming and puppetry techniques.
Sylvia and Gerry married in 1960 while making the western puppet series Four Feather Falls. Supermarionation began with Supercar (1961-62) and Fireball XL5 (1962-63), then Stingray, the Andersons’ first effort to be filmed in colour.
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Vlasta Dalibor, puppeteer, has died aged 94 (21 February 2016)
Vlasta Dalibor, who has died aged 94, was the co-creator, with her husband Jan, of the unmelodious porcine puppets Pinky and Perky.
The couple began performing during the 1956 summer season at Heysham, for £25 a week. Trevor Hill (producer of The Sooty Show) saw them there and gave them their own BBC television series, featuring the pigs in both string and glove puppet form, manipulated by Jan and Vlasta.
Their debut was in “Pinky and Perky’s Pop Parade” in October 1958, set in the mythical radio station POP (later “PPC TV”), with Roger Moffat as the station announcer.
The BBC granted the Dalibors the light entertainment slot before the six o’clock news, and grown-up audiences warmed to the pigs’ gently subversive humour and high-pitched renditions of speeded-up pop songs (with opening theme We Belong Together).
Pinky and Perky joined The Beatles and Marlene Dietrich onstage for the 1963 Royal Variety performance, and the following year they appeared in America on The Ed Sullivan Show alongside Morecambe and Wise.
In 1968 the Dalibors accepted an offer from Thames Television, but in the event only two more series made it to air, though they were frequently repeated. The Dalibors retired from the small screen in 1973.
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Conrad Phillips, stage and screen actor, has died aged 90 (13 January 2016)
One of ITV’s first action heroes, notable for his expertise with a crossbow, was William Tell, played by Conrad Phillips. Swashbucklers were hugely popular in ITV’s early years and William Tell (1958-59), set in 14th-century Switzerland under the tyrannical rule of Emperor Rudolph of Austria, was one of the most memorable series.
He had worked in repertory theatre, and acted in more than 30 films, including The Battle of the River Plate (1956), Sons and Lovers (1960) and Heavens Above! (1963). Phillips was often cast as police officers and military types.
The role of Tell came after the actor made guest appearances in other swashbuckling television series, such as The Scarlet Pimpernel (1956), The Count of Monte Cristo (1956), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1957) and The Buccaneers (1957). Apart from the detectives he played in the crime dramas Silent Evidence (1962) and A Game of Murder (1966), most of his subsequent television roles were one-offs. However, Phillips had runs as Robert Malcolm in the final year of the BBC soap opera The Newcomers (1969) and the NY Estates managing director Christopher Meadows in Emmerdale Farm (on and off between 1981 and 1986).
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