Monday, 15 August 2022

Robin Hawdon

Actor Robert Hawdon in 'Zeta One' (1969)

Robin Hawdon:

Robin Hawdon is probably much better known as a writer than as an actor, with his witty comedies - don't say farces - still widely performed all around the world. 'The Mating Game' was his first hit play, a smash in the West End with Terry Scott as the playboy with the gadget-packed apartment. 'Don't Dress for Dinner' is a later and even bigger success, set in a wealthy couple's French farmhouse retreat.

But I'd like to just give a little salute to Mr Hawdon's acting career before all that, a brief arc from uncredited obscurity to the lower stratosphere of sex symbol stardom.

An early uncredited role in the UK sci-fi classic 'The Day
The Earth Caught Fire' (1961) with Leo McKern

With his effortless good looks, there were a few lightweight parts on offer, such as the the breezy 'We Joined the Navy' (1962) with Kenneth More, brooding crime stuff like 'Human Jungle', 'Suspense' and 'Armchair Mystery Theatre', and the semi-successful soap opera 'Compact'.     

With a very physical Eleanor Bron and a rather frustrated
Dudley Moore in the magisterial 'Bedazzled' (1967)

He plays Randolph the harp teacher in the millionaire segment of the fab 'Bedazzled' (1967), with whom Stanley Moon's beloved Margaret Spencer gets 'hot and sticky and.. Randy, we must have a swim'...        

Getting the drop on Jason King (Perer Wyngarde)
in an episode of 'Department S'

Robin Hawdon in a UFO episode from 1970 'The Psychobombs',
seen here in classic string-vest Skydiver uniform

Television work around this time included 'Department S', 'The Adventurer' and 'Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased)' with the added bonus (for TV cultists) of an appearance in Gerry Anderson's 'UFO' as a Skydiver pilot. The remainder of the 70s saw a mixture of comedy and drama, but by this time the playwright was enjoying more success than the actor. 

You can spot Robin Hawdon in dramas ranging from the BBC spy series 'The Man Who Was Hunting Himself'', to 'The Main Chance', the Victorian potboiler 'Wives & Daughters', and 'New Scotland Yard'. 
In the BBC spy drama 'The Man Who Was
unting Himself' (1972)

There was some comedy casting too, 'The Frankie Howerd Confessions', 'The Liver Birds', 'Robin's Nest', and a leading role in Alex Shearer's 'Spasms' and the ensuing slightly misfiring series 'Chalk and Cheese' with Michael Crawford, in which he played the straight man to Crawford's proto-slacker. Maybe audiences found it hard to buy into a cynical man-of-the-world who still sounded a bit like Frank Spencer.  It wasn't a big success and the series ended in 1979, with Hawdon soon to forsake acting to concentrate fully on his writing career.

'Robin's Nest' with Richard O'Sullivan

'Chalk and Cheese'

His later film career is also short but interesting. There was the shoddy and absurd 'sexy sci-fi' nonsense of 'Zeta One' (1969), with the unlikely mix of James Robertson-Justice and Charles Hawtrey and an invasion of alien pop-art dollybirds. Hawdon's turn as the male lead is workmanlike, given the circumstances, but also lacking in sparkle. The Hammer-produced prehistoric adventure 'When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (1970) is better, even with all its outrageous anachronisms, including immaculately coiffured and scantily furred cavewomen, never mind the Brontosauruses. At least there's Patrick Allen bellowing manfully and lots of primitive urges, even before you get to the stop-motion special effects of giant crabs and dinosaurs. These were good enough to see the film nominated for an Oscar, although it was beaten out in the end by 'Bedknobs and Broomsticks' (1970). Who knew?      

As the perfectly groomed 60s/70s caveman, in the Hammer
stop-motion romp 'When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth (1970)

Although it's his writing that has made his name and his money, that's an interesting CV of enjoyable performances. So, a salute, then. And well deserved.    

Robin Hawdon-imdb

Thursday, 24 March 2022

John Nettleton

John Nettleton: 

A stalwart interpreter for the viewing public of the blandly powerful faces of the establishment, John Nettleton is probably most associated with the role of Sir Arnold Robinson, the civil service grandee in 'Yes Minister', and he appeared as a Tory MP in the equally satirical (if rather broader) political comedy 'The New Statesman'. 

In 'The Avengers' episode, 'The See-Through Man'

Among his well-remembered roles in television are those in 'The Avengers' ('The See-Through Man', in the Diana Rigg era, and 'The Rotters' with Linda Thorson), and in several other cult adventure properties of the time such as 'The Champions', 'Department S' and later 'The Protectors'. 'Doctor Who' fans may remeber him as the Reverend Ernest Matthews in the 1989 story Ghost Light, while mystery TV obsessives might cite his turns in 'The Rivals Of Sherlock Holmes', 'Tales Of The Unexpected', 'Haunted', 'Shadows' and 'Out Of The Unknown. He also graced popular favourites from 'Minder' and 'The Professionals' to 'Rumpole Of The Bailey' and 'The Adventures Of Black Beauty'. And let us not forget the authoritative voiceovers for Valerie Singleton's 'Blue Peter: Special Assignment' historical and factual programmes.

With Celia Imrie in a religious skit on
'Victoria Wood: As Seen On TV' 

In middlebrow TV drama, he brought his patrician demeanour to the screen many times and can be seen as Francis Bacon in 'Elizabeth R', 'The Country Wife' , 'Brideshead Revisited', 'The Flame Trees of Thika', 'The Citadel', 'Martin Luther, Heretic', 'Longitude' and 'Kingdom'. Other smaller comedy turns, which rather pale beside his 'Yes, Minister' years, include 'Please Sir!', 'If It Moves File It', 'Doctor at Large' and 'Brass'. 

Production still from the ABC series 'Haunted' from 1968

Born in 1929, John Nettleton is now into his 90s and, I hope, enjoying a pleasant retirement.   

John Nettleton-imdb

Friday, 24 December 2021

David Wood

Actor David Wood in the ITV drama 'Crown Court'


David Wood:

David Wood's innocent schoolboy looks, deployed so notably in Lindsay Anderson's remarkable 'If..' (1968), have stayed with him for his whole career. Which certainly isn't to say that he has been typecast, with an amazingly broad range of roles under his belt that show him hopping nimbly from outright menace to disarming sweetness with apparent ease.

With Malcolm McDowell in 'If..' (1968)

 In fact, it's in the field of children's drama and literature that he has made his most lasting impression: writing his own play for children, 'The Gingerbread Man', which he later adapted for television, and adapting a number of classic children's books for the stage. He proved a gifted storyteller on the much-loved BBC institution 'Jackanory' for  many years, and can be seen in episodes of schools programmes such as 'Watch' and 'Seeing & Doing' as well as tots' shows like 'Playaway'. He's also in the well-made children's serial, 'Huntingtower' from the late '70s.
Alongside Bernard Cribbins, Maurice Denham and
Jan Francis for 'Jackanory's' take on 'The Hobbit'.

While all this wholesome fare very much suited the David Wood who would later come to be dubbed Britain's Children's Dramatist, the darker side of '70s television drama also proved to be in search of his talents. He can be seen in the the Wednesday Play 'Mad Jack' about Siegfried Sassoon and the horrors of the trenches, in the feverish adventures of the Pre-Raphaelites in 'The Love School', and he's in episodes of those cult-favourite collections of the uncanny: 'Out Of The Unknown' and 'Menace'.  


With Ann Morrish and Patrick Troughton in
the 'Out Of The Unknown' episode 'The Chopper'

 On the movie front, David Wood crops up in a few interesting titles, starting with the aforementioned 'If..' (1968), and including the psychological portmanteau horror 'Tales That Witness Madness' (1973) with Donald Pleasance, Robert Powell and Joan Collins. He's reunited with Malcolm McDowell in the 'Journey's End' adaptation, 'Aces High' (1976), and plays one of the baddies in 'North Sea Hijack' (1980) pitted against a bearded Roger Moore, throwing the kitchen sink at escaping his Bond persona with more bizarre quirks than he can realistically manage to pull off.          
 'Tales That Witness Madness' (1973)

In the First World War flying movie, 'Aces High' (1976)

There's a smattering of period dramas, including Turgenev's 'Fathers And Sons' and Goldoni's 'The Venetian Twins' from the BBC, and the ambitious but slightly awkward 'Disraeli' with Ian McShane. He's in some old sepia-toned TV favourites such as 'Danger UXB', 'Enemy At The Door', and 'When The Boat Comes In'. A memorable moment for me is his tap-dancing martial arts duel with Purdey in 'The New Avengers', one of the few times when the series approached the surreal heights of its '60s ancestor.

In the ATV historical drama 'Disraeli' in which he portrayed
Lord Derby. Here w
ith Ian McShane in the title role.

 His last listed performing role was in the star-studded TV movie 'Longitude' in 2000, but David Wood is still seemingly busy with his work in children's drama, adapting Roald Dahl and other writers for the stage, publishing plays and books, and lecturing school drama classes. An engaging actor and a dedicated educator, deserving of this little salute and more.   

David Wood-imdb

Sunday, 5 December 2021

Anthony O'Donnell

Welsh actor Anthony O'Donnell in Mike Leigh's 'Nuts In May'

Anthony O'Donnell:  

I thought I only knew Anthony O'Donnell as Ray, the camper unfortunate enough to pitch next to Keith and Candice-Marie in Mike Leigh's 'Nuts In May'. As is often the case, I came to realise that I had seen the compact Welsh actor in quite a lot more than that. And that's without taking into account his long and successful stage career with the National Theatre, the RSC and many other prestigious theatrical institutions, largely as I am not much of a theatre-goer. 

'Nuts In May' in 1976

'Nuts in May' in 1976 was, it seems, his first foray into television, and the remainder of the '70s saw only a few appearances, in 'The Onedin Line', 'Crown Court' and 'The Sweeney' for example, and you don't get much more '70s than that. There was also an attempt to launch him as a sitcom star in LWT's rather pedestrian 'Lovely Couple', penned by the screenwriter of the 'Confessions...' films, but I don't have any memory of seeing it, despite it reuniting him with 'Nuts In May' star Roger Sloman in several episodes. 

The short-lived 1979 sitcom that didn't quite
make Anthony O'Donnell a household name.

Into the '80s and '90s and he was balancing an increasingly successful theatre career with the odd TV role. Memorable among these was the small but sinister gangster Big Dai in 'Minder', and some others such as the revived 'Tomorrow People', the vet series 'Noah's Ark', the Higson and Whitehouse one-off 'Dead At Thirty', and 'A Very Peculiar Practice'.

As Big Dai in the 'Minder' episode 'The Cruel Canal'

Cinema roles from this period include 'Santa Claus The Movie' (1985), 'Robin Hood' (1991), and a reconnection with Mike Leigh for 'Secrets & Lies' (1996). 

With Brazilian star Joaquin De Almeida in
'Xango From Baker Street' (2001)

 With the arrival of the 21st century, and now in his fifties, he appeared in Kenneth Branagh's 'Love's Labours Lost' (2001), and as Watson in a Brazilian twist on Sherlock Holmes, 'Xango From Baker Street' (2001), 'Vera Drake' (2004), 'The Baker' (2005), 'Death Defying Acts' (2007) and 'Skyfall' (2012).

The menacing looking (but ultimately played-for-laughs) Sontaran,
Kaagh, in 'The Sarah Jane Adventures', a spin-off of 'Doctor Who' 

Meanwhile, back on the small screen, came appearances in 'The Sarah Jane Adventures' as the humorously belligerent alien, Kaagh, and a turn in 'Gavin & Stacey', as well as Ruth Jones's 'Stella', the period drama 'Twenty Thousand Streets Under The Sky', 'The Suspicions Of Mr Whicher', and the Jeremy Thorpe drama 'A Very English Scandal'. All good stuff.  

In the supernatural comedy-drama, 'Being Human'

With Hugh Grant in 'A Very British Scandal'

Anthony O'Donnell-imdb

Tuesday, 2 November 2021

Malcolm Storry


British actor Malcolm Storry as Bishop Talbot in the 2014 BBC series 'Father Brown'

Malcolm Storry:

Craggy 6'2" actor Malcolm Storry is something of a stayer. Since the '70s he has loomed over the cast of an impressive collection of popular TV shows and appeared on the big screen in some big films, yet his is another of those names you might find harder to recall.   

With Lynn Redgrave in the 1985 BBC
drama 'Death Of A Son'

His height makes him an imposing casting for a policeman, and he has played them in a wide range of settings; from the gas-lit streets of the Jeremy Brett 'Return Of Sherlock Holmes', to the more recent cases of 'Rumpole Of The Bailey'. 'The Singing Detective',  'The Chief' (with Tim Piggott-Smith), 'Inspector Morse', and the Bill Murray spy-comedy film, 'The Man Who Knew Too Little (1997).  

As the comically ruthless Peterson in the 
excellent 1987 series 'The Biederbecke Tapes' 

His comedy performances are also splendidly varied. He crops up in various roles in the David Jason vehicle 'A Sharp Intake Of Breath', and is the conventionally intimidating agent Peterson in 'The Biederbecke Tapes', failing to intimidate the show's cynical teacher duo. There was also the David Nobbs farce 'Dogfood Dan & The Carmarthen Cowboy' about truck driving pals unknowingly having affairs with each other's wives.    

With Peter Blake in 'Dogfood Dan & The
Carmarthen Cowboy' 

In the world of drama, he impresses in 'The Death Of A Son', 'Bread Or Blood', 'The Shadow Line', and is memorable in green wig and beard in the 1991 'Gawain & The Green Knight'. A lot of decent middle-brow stuff is also in there: 'Wycliffe' and 'Doc Martin' for example, depending on your tastes, and a ton of popular/populist shows from 'Pie In The Sky', 'Ruth Rendell Mysteries' and 'Midsomer Murders' to 'Boon' and 'The Professionals'. On the whole it's all quality stuff, recent primetime hits having included 'Father Brown' and 'Doc Martin'     

In 'Father Brown'

The big box office films he's been in: 'The Princess Bride' (1987), 'Last Of The Mohicans' (1992) and 'Firefox' (1987), and 'The Scarlet Letter' (1995) are probably not the best benchmarks of his career, in my opinion, but a wander through some of his TV outings cannot fail to entertain.     

Malcolm Storry-imdb

Friday, 15 October 2021

Judy Matheson


Judy Matheson in 'Twins Of Evil'

Judy Matheson: 

One of the classic beauties of the golden era of Hammer horror films, Judy Matheson's most celebrated roles are in the saucy 1971 double-bill of 'Twins Of Evil' and 'Lust For A Vampire'. Other cult favourites of the era include 'Crucible Of Terror' (1971) and 'The Flesh & Blood Show' (1972), non-Hammer and more in the contemporary shocker mould than the gothic excesses of the former.

'The Emergence of Anthony Purdy, Esq, Farmer's
Labourer' a curious 1970 short film made by HTV  

After drama school and some early stage successes she found herself cast, 
alongside Euro superstar Capucine, in a Spanish giallo-style psychodrama, 'The Exquisite Cadaver', AKA 'Las Crueles' (1969). Although obscure at the time in the UK, it now seems to be partially eclipsing the traditional horrors as her stand-out performance. It's certainly a stylish piece, with the expected giallo tropes of lurid colours, modish fashion-house photography, mild nudity and outlandishly playful shocks. Matheson is very watchable in it, a screen presence not overshadowed by her more senior co-stars.      


'The Exquisite Cadaver' 1969

With the always brilliantly loathsome Ronald Lacey
in the lacklustre 'Crucible Of Terror' (1971) 

She made another little-known gem in 'The Emergence of Anthony Purdy, Esq, Farmer's
Labourer' with the great Freddie Jones, a 1970 exercise in rural conjugal awkwardness in grainy black and white. The same year she appeared on television in a documentary about the RSC featuring her friend, a talented young actress called Helen Mirren. Shortly before this,  she was shortlisted for a lead role in the TV sensation of 1969, 'Take Three Girls'. 

An iconic shot with the late great Peter Cushing
from the opening sequence of 'Twins Of Evil' (1971) 

That didn't happen though, and instead the early '70s saw a string of less-than-stellar film and TV offers. She's in a couple of typical Brit sex comedies, 'Confessions Of A Window Cleaner' (1974) and 'Percy's Progress' (1974), and adds some glamour to episodes of 'The Adventurer',  'The Sweeney' and 'The Professionals' before landing a longish stint on the teatime soap 'Crossroads' and a tiny role in a weird costume in 'Blakes 7'. 

A 'mutoid' apparently. 'Blakes 7'

From this point she seems to have moved focus to voiceover and continuity announcement work. She was a regular face on my local ITV region, TVS, in the '80s. In fact, she was out of the TV and film loop for 37 years, between 1980 and 2017, with the exception of personal appearances at Hammer fan conventions.

TVS continuity announcer in 1984

Roll on 2017 however, and it seems she's been lured back into the limelight by David Barry, better known as mummy's little soldier Frankie Abbott from 'Please Sir!'. Initially, he created a Fenn Street-meets-Vampires concoction called 'Frankula', followed in 2021 by 'The Lives Of Frankie Abbott'. There's also 'The Haunting of Margam Castle' which, like 'Frankula', features fellow cult horror star Caroline Munro, and 'What Did You Do In The War Mama?' with the similarly celebrated Madeline Smith. An intriguing development that seems likely to get the attention of the Hammer fanbase.

So, a salute then, but watch this space for updates.         

Judy Matheson-imdb

Monday, 11 October 2021

Michael Deeks


Michael Deeks:   

An angelic jack-the-lad type of the '70s variety, Michael Deeks got a taste of the big time playing Swiftnick in the well-crafted and very popular teatime series 'Dick Turpin', an excellent comic foil and sidekick to Richard O'Sullivan in the lead role. Prior to that he had been seen in a few small roles in the early and mid-'70s, including 'The Tomorrow People', 'Within These Walls' and the original BBC version of the Borstal drama 'Scum', although not the film remake.  

Young highwayman Swiftnick meets his hero Dick Turpin
for the first time, under rather trying circumstances
With his mixture of wide-eyed innocence and puckish delinquency, Michael Deeks was cast in a variety of contemporary and period dramas, one of the more substantial of these was the intricate six-part Armchair Thriller story, 'The Circe Complex'. He plays prisoner Cat Devlin, persuaded to extract information from a fellow inmate, a canny jewel thief. He was also in a TV 'Hammer House Of Horror' and in the quite atmospheric TV play 'Tarry Dan Tarry Dan Spooky Old Man', which survives as a blurry YouTube video here.         

With an avuncular Arthur Daley (George Cole) in 'Minder' 

Perhaps inevitably, with the passing of these twinkly teenage years, he found himself as just one of many young male actors competing for jobs, and the plum roles dried up. A definite prune was the annoyingly silly (even for an '80s  kids' show) 'Galloping Galaxies' in which he appears as a dim robot amid the usual slapstick and feeble jokes. Rather better were roles in 'Juliet Bravo' and that episode of 'Minder' where Mel Smith plays an unscrupulous pop manager faking his star's death.   

Slightly channelling Dudley Sutton's Tinker Dill 
in the kids' show 'Bad Boyes' from the late '80s  

He's in one of those star-studded corporate training videos made by John Cleese's Video Arts Ltd, but sadly it's rather hard to see these unless you're a corporation. And an amusing episode of the always decent 'Strangers', dealing with modern day highwaymen. But, after a single episode of 'The Bill', it seems that he retired from acting and became landlord of a pub in the home counties for a time.

In any case, a salute is due. Cheers and your very good health.             

Michael Deeks-imdb