Friday 30 November 2012

John Rapley

John Rapley in 'The Onedin Line'

John Rapley: 
† Apr 18 1935 – Apr 18 2016*

A ubiquitous character actor with a hangdog expression and the definitive British comb-over, usually seen representing the stolid middle-aged old-school type. Rarely given a really memorable part or much in the way of dialogue, yet he's been a stalwart of British TV since the '60s.  He pops up in fare as varied as 'Blott on the  Landscape', 'Grange Hill', 'Murder Most English', ''The Avengers', 'Colditz', and in particular, a good bit of period drama, from 'Jeeves and Wooster', 'The Onedin Line', and 'The Duchess of Duke Street' to 'David Copperfield', 'Dombey & Son', and 'The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes'

With a face for comedy, it's also likely that you'll see him in things like 'Black Adder', 'The New Statesman', 'Terry & June', 'Goodnight Sweetheart', as well as the Jim Broadbent flop vehicle 'The Peter Principle', and with Robert Lindsay in 'My Family'.

John Rapley in 'Blott on the Landscape'

Fairly limited work in the cinema includes roles in 'Elephant Man' (1980), Clint Eastwood's 'White Hunter Black Heart' (1990), and the silly silk-undies romp 'Jane and the Lost City' (1987).

*Edit: Mar 31 2017. I was sorry to read recently that John Rapley passed away on his 81st birthday last year.

John Rapley - imdb

Monday 26 November 2012

Tony Aitken

Tony Aitken:

With its permanently nervous, pinched expression, the face of actor Tony Aitken has been a small pale dot in the television firmament for some 40 years. Appearing in dozens of roles, almost always as a comically unassuming clerk, curate or scoutmaster, he is another of those semi-familiar TV fixtures. Early '70s appearances include: 'Porridge', 'Z-Cars', 'Love Thy Neighbour', and naturally, 'The Sweeney'. He gained a little more visibility by the early '80s, featuring as Norman Straightman in the hit and miss sketch show 'End of Part One' and in the not-classic 1977 TV remake of the classic film 'London Belongs to Me' (1948). He was also Fred the Postman in the TVS Saturday morning titting-about show 'No.73' where he longed in vain for the embraces of Ethel, as played by Sandi Toksvig. He was also seen as a lawyer in 'Coronation Street' during 2011's convoluted Fiz and John Fishwick machinations, and as a real-ale obsessed potential manager for the Queen Vic in 'EastEnders'.  

Tony Aitken as Fred the Postman in 'No.73' 

Despite all that, the thing you probably do know him from is playing the lute while being booted around by Rowan Atkinson in the closing credits of 'Black Adder II'. I always found the minstrel's appearance confusingly similar to Baldrick's, but that's probably just me.

Tony Aitken - imdb

Thursday 15 November 2012

Bob Goody

British actor Bob Goody, pictured in street

Bob Goody

Apr 16 1951 – March 5 2023

The extremely lanky frame and gaunt features of actor Bob Goody first came to my attention as a marked comedy contrast to the energetically tubby Mel Smith in their kids show, 'Smith and Goody' back in 1980. The show was knockabout, but educational, trying to counteract the 'weedy kid' image of libraries and getting working class kids interested in reading books.  

His old drama school and Edinburgh Fringe pal Smith had already gained instant fame from the wildly popular 'Not The Nine O'Clock News', while Goody slid slightly into the comparative hinterlands of acting and writing – even though his CV still has some interesting high-points. There was 'Lovejoy', 'Porterhouse Blue', 'The Kenny Everett Show', and the usual soap and drama factory-circuit of the '90s an '00s: 'The Bill', 'Doctors' and a stint as drugs counselor Gavin in 'EastEnders'.                

Actor Bob Goody photographed by Keith Morris for the cover of Dr Feelgood's 'Private Practice'
I'm also pretty sure this is Bob Goody (orig pic Keith Morris),
although I haven't been able to find mention of him in relation
to this sleeve artwork. 'Private Practice' - Doctor Feelgood. 

He also shows up in minor roles in a couple of biggish movies; 'Flash Gordon' (1980), The Cook, the Thief his Wife and her Lover' (1989) 'The Borrowers' (1997).

I gather he has also done a fair bit of workshop theatre and a few interesting independent films.
Including a delightfully seedy turn in this one: 'Curtains' directed by Julian Barratt. It can be found among the extras on the DVD 'The Mighty Boosh on Tour: Journey of the Childmen'.

Edit Mar 2023: Very sad to hear of Bob Goody's passing.
There's a lovely YouTube video of an evening with Bob here: Bob Goody & Friends  

Bob Goody - imdb

Friday 2 November 2012

Helen Fraser

Helen Fraser in 'Billy Liar'

Helen Fraser:

A much loved actress and a very famous face (though, inexplicably, not a household name) for British audiences, on the strength of her peerlessly frumpy fusspot, Barbara, in 'Billy Liar' (1962), numerous sitcoms, and a semi-regular role in 'The Dick Emery Show' (as the daughter of his gurgling old codger, Lampwick). Other TV roles include 'Rising Damp' (playing the bride in the episode 'The Newlyweds'), and 'The Likely Lads', carrying on into the '80s and '90s in the likes of 'Duty Free' and 'One Foot in the Grave'.      

Her biggest role in later years has been as the tough-as-old-boots prison warder Sylvia Hollamby in nearly a hundred episodes of the semi-gritty behind-bars drama, 'Bad Girls', which ran from 1999-2006. 

A character-actor star, and a suitable subject for Familiar Unknown's 100th blog post.


Catherine Deneuve and Helen Fraser in 'Repulsion'

(In Roman Polanski's 1965 classic 'Repulsion', with Catherine Deneuve; and dolled up in the 1968 Harold Pinter misery-fest 'The Birthday Party')

By way of an aside – Ms Fraser met her late husband, Peter Handford, on the set of 'Billy Liar'. He was a film and television sound recordist but had a hobby/sideline in recording the sounds of steam engines. Some of his archive was released on the Argo label in the '50s and '60s in the form of 7''EPs, which I now collect.


Helen Fraser -imdb