Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Nicholas Smith

Actor Nicholas Smith, Are You Being Served, Mr Rumbold

Nicholas Smith:

 5 March 1934 – 6 December 2015*

Some actors are so strongly associated with one character that their own name becomes almost irrelevant. Such is the case with Nicholas Smith, or Mr Rumbold, as you almost certainly said when you opened this page. As the ineffectual menswear department manager of Grace Bros, he was the stooge and feed man for the endless innuendo and banter of the cast of 'Are You Being Served?'. The pilot episode was originally rejected by the BBC, but was screened as filler during the 1972 Olympics following the Black September terrorist attack. A series followed and it ran for ten seasons until finally getting the axe in 1985. He also showed up for the dreary spin-off, 'Grace and Favour'. Perhaps he gets the last laugh though, as he is the only regular member of the cast still with us in 2014.

An unlikely bad guy in 'The Avengers'

He's done other stuff, of course. He appears in the early 'Doctor Who' story 'Dalek Invasion of Earth' with William Hartnell, and he had a regular mid-'70s stint in 'Z-Cars' as  PC Yates. He's in a couple of classic 'Avengers' (the Mrs Peel era 'Escape in Time' and the Tara King episode 'The Super Secret Cypher Snatch'), as well as 'The Champions' and 'The Saint' (including the long-forgotten, low-budget 1968 movie spin-off 'The Fiction Makers').

Coming a cropper after failing to assassinate Alexandra Bastedo
in an episode of 'The Champions'  
To that we can add, 'The Frost Report', 'The Freewheelers', 'Ace Of Wands', 'The Sweeney', 'The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes' and 'Budgie'. Recently he has provided voices for the 'Wallace & Gromit' movies, but earlier on there were a few visible cinema roles, including 'The Twelve Chairs (1970), John Huston's 'A Walk with Love and Death' (1969), and the Sammy Davis Jr/Peter Lawford romp 'Salt & Pepper' (1968), although perhaps after the success of 'Are You Being Served?' it became difficult to cast him against type, ie Rumbold.  

In the Mel Brooks comedy 'The Twelve Chairs' (1970)

'Revolver', an obscure sketch series on BBC Digital only, with
a unique mix of vintage comedy stars and edgy new writers   

*update Dec 7, 2015: Really very sad to mark the passing of Nicholas Smith. He was one of the most fascinatingly underrated of the actors I researched for this blog. 

Nicholas Smith - imdb

1 comment:

  1. Thanks to you in this the most unlikely of places. Good to know you are / were out there, speaking of wine, I've just had a bottle, sadly the only effects are on my waistline (or where it used to be) I shall be in touch,
    Watch the skies...