† Oct 25 1929 – May 7 2022
One of the great skills of the character actor is to invest a peripheral role with enough personality to convince as a real individual in a real situation, without interfering with the main action. In British film and television there exists the recurring figure of the dignified but inconsequential little Englander, a small man who may display any blend of timidity, doggedness, thwarted genius, cheerful dullness, determined helpfulness and ennui. Robin Parkinson is something of a master of these roles.
|Desmond pledges to help Miss Jones (Frances De La Tour) with her |
drink problem, after a 'word-to-the wise' from a jealous Mr Rigsby
It was recalling his appearance as Desmond, the ardent and poetic librarian suitor of Miss Jones in 'Rising Damp' that got me researching Robin Parkinson, whose name I could not have told you before, and which uncovered a long CV of interesting work stretching back to the '50s.
|In the odd espionage caper 'Catch Me A Spy' (1971)|
On the big screen, you might have spotted him as the jeweller in the ring fiasco of 'Billy Liar' (1963), or in 'The Family Way' (1966), the Clements/La Frenais spy spoof 'Catch Me A Spy' (1971), 'Alfie Darling' (1975), or in the movie spin-off of 'George & Mildred' (1980), but it's probably unlikely.
|Assisting Terry (James Bolam) with his suit for Bob's wedding |
in 'Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads?'
It's almost certain, though, that you've seen him in television comedy. Apart from the aforementioned 'Rising Damp', he has been in a panoply of vintage sitcoms, ranging from 'Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads?', 'Dad's Army', 'Shelley', 'Moody & Pegg' and 'The Young Ones', to 'The Liver Birds', 'Love Thy Neighbour', 'The Brittas Empire', 'Bless This House', 'It Ain't Half Hot Mum', 'Beryl's Lot' and 'Terry & June'. There are lots more, including taking over the role of Monsieur (It is I...) Le Clerc in the later series of 'Allo Allo', although this was after it had gone from feeble to desperate.
|As a chatty cabbie in 'The Professionals'|
He also turns up in a lot of sketch comedy and light entertainment. You'll see him in the shows of the Two Ronnies, Dick Emery, Kenny Everett, Kelly Monteith, Harry Worth, and Peter Serafinovicz. Light dramas, middle-brow classics, cop shows and cosy crime favourites are also his stock in trade. See for instance, 'Clochemerle', 'The Pickwick Papers', 'The Good Companions', Whodunnit', 'All Creatures Great & Small', 'Van Der Valk', 'Softly Softly', 'The Professionals', 'Rosemary & Thyme', to name but a few.
|Presenting the face of respectability to be subjected to the cynical|
mordant wit of 'Shelley', as played by the late Hywel Bennet
Then there's children's television, with 'Danger: Marmalade at Work', 'The Tommorow People', and a long-running stint as the soothingly-voiced narrator of the spoon-puppet show for tinies, 'Button Moon'.
|Robin Parkinson narrated all the episodes of 'Button Moon'|
The 'little man with spectacles' is, or at least was, a mainstay of British entertainment culture, and Robin Parkinson is a maestro at portraying the many nuances of the type. He's also the man forever perplexed by a bunged-up Peter Cleal in the timeless and iconic Tunes commercial.