Sunday 26 January 2014

Valerie Lilley

Valerie Lilley: 

Joan Littlewood’s Arts Workshop in London was a groundbreaking theatre in the early sixties, taking talented people from far outside the traditional drama-school system and setting them on careers on the stage. Northern Irish actress Valerie Lilley passed through those doors and worked with a number of budding actors including Stephen Rea.

After a few small roles on TV, she got a big break with Stewart Parker’s 'Iris in the Traffic, Ruby in the Rain', starring Frances Tomelty. Also in 1982, Lilley appeared in two other televised plays, 'Potato Head Blues' and the troubles rooted 'Billy Boy' with 'Z-Cars' star James Ellis. Lilley was also a regular in ITV's ill-fated soap opera 'Albion Market'. She went on to appear in a wide variety of television, from 'Minder', the 2009 adaptation of 'Emma' and 'Hetty Wainthrop Investigates', to 'Grange Hill', 'The Famous Five' and 'The Catherine Tate Show'.

In the 1983 Agatha Christie adaptation 'The Man in the Mist' 
In the young women offenders drama  'Scrubbers' (1983)

Film work has included 'Scrubbers' (1982), 'Ascendancy (1983), 'Priest' (1994), and 'The Terence Davies Trilogy' (1983). 

Her biggest recent TV role has been as Patty Croker in the Mancunian drama 'Shameless', but she was also excellent in my very good friend Vic Templar's 2006 radio play 'Good Morning Mr Borg' about the long hot summer of 1976 and a Wimbledon Championship played out in a suburban back garden.

Valerie Lilley - imdb

Wednesday 22 January 2014

Brian Grellis

Brian Grellis in 'The Good Life'

Brian Grellis:

A tall Northern actor with a distinctive, slightly crumpled face and often unruly hair, who pops up in quite a few small roles as coppers and servicemen, but making something of a speciality of the befuddled passer-by. You might recall him as the likeable, cricket-loving vegetable pilferer in 'The Good Life', or as the unfortunate stranger lured to Terry's surprise birthday party in 'Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads?'.

In the WWII actioner 'Submarine X-1' (1968)
In the Tom Baker era Doctor Who adventure 'The Invisible Enemy'
A stalwart character actor, appearing in a number of stalwarts of British television: 'Minder', 'Z-Cars', 'Softly Softly', 'Bergerac', 'The Gentle Touch', etc. The chances are you've never particularly noticed him, but he's been there all the same. Some middle-brow dramas too, 'Anna Karenina', 'War and Peace' and 'A Tale of Two Cities'. His cult TV tally includes 'Doctor Who' (two stories from the Tom Baker era, one with Peter Davison), plus 'Jason King', 'The Frighteners' and 'Survivors'. 
Waiting for the big bang in the nuclear bomb drama 'Threads'  
Sightings on the big screen are mostly in the war and spy genres, and often uncredited: 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service' (1969), the forgotten Len Deighton story 'Only When I Larf' (1968), and 'Submarine X-1' (1968), although he does get a speaking role in the latter. 
Get your hair cut... Working at the Ministry
in 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service' (1969). 
He doesn't seem to have done much since the late-'80s, but I trust he is alive and well.

Brian Grellis-imdb

Tuesday 14 January 2014

Kenneth Colley

Actor Kenneth Colley in 'The Empire Strikes Back'

Kenneth Colley:

A rather serious, flinty-looking character actor, verging on the hangdog at times, Ken Colley has been a highly accomplished TV and film fixture for three decades, without ever quite becoming a celebrity. His roles in big films include 'The Empire Strikes Back' (1980) and 'Return of the Jedi' (1983), Ken Russell's 'The Devils' (1971), 'Mahler' (1974) and 'Lisztomania' (1975). He was the contract killer in Ari Karausmaki's 'I Hired a Contract Killer' (1990), and he appears in the Slade movie 'Flame' 1975'. It's also him in the middle distance as the hardly-audible Jesus in 'The Life of Brian', surely one of the classic bit-part credits of all time.     

In the surprisingly gritty Slade rock saga, 'Flame' (1975) 
Getting his collar felt by Patrick Mower in 'Special Branch' in 1974
His impressive TV resumé includes some brilliant and varied work. In the '60s he went from
'The Avengers' - to playing Hitler in an 'Omnibus' special - to fronting children's programme 'Look and Read' as the quietly likeable Mr Moon. By the '70s he was to be spotted in 'The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes', 'The Sweeney', 'The Protectors',  'Ripping Yarns' and 'Arthur of the Britons', as well as paying the mortgage with the odd 'Crown Court', 'Z-Cars', 'Hazell' and 'Target'. And that's him as the haunted derelict accordion man in Dennis Potter's 'Pennies from Heaven'. 

Bringing information to the cunning and unscrupulous private detective,
Dorrington (Peter Vaughan) in 'The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes'
In more recent years, there are fewer highlights, perhaps, beyond the mini-series 'I Remember Nelson', ironically now little-remembered, in which he played the great hero of Trafalgar. For the most part it's a lot of 'Holby City', 'Midsomer Murders', 'Peak Practice', etc, and a stint on 'EastEnders'.

Here's an interesting oddity though, Ray Davies of the Kinks puts his nostalgic daydreamer's view of London on to celluloid as the director of this hour-long movie: 'Return to Waterloo' (1984). Clichéd to the point of self-parody, but Ken Colley is good.

Kenneth Colley-imdb

Saturday 11 January 2014

Pauline Challoner

Pauline Challoner in 'The House that Screamed'

Pauline Challoner:

Slightly ashen and spooky doll-faced actress with a high forehead and expressive eyebrows, unmemorable except perhaps as the spoilt Catalina in 'The House that Screamed' (1970), where she got on the wrong side of sadistic finishing school head Lilli Palmer in full-on Joan Crawford mode. She was another bratty type in 'The Gates of Paradise' (19  ), with a young Jenny Agutter as her put-upon counterpart. In 'Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush' (1968) she was in more conventional dolly-bird territory as Gloria, one of Barry Evans's passing fancies. 

Whining again, in the Crusades drama 'The Gates of Paradise' (1968)
As the daughter of Violette Szabo (Virginia McKenna) in
'Carve Her Name With Pride' (1958) 
After a few cherubic child roles in the late '50s (her sister Carla was also a child actor), Pauline seems to have found jobs a little thin on the ground. Perhaps her slightly disconcerting good looks were a bit out of step with the fun-loving mini skirted girls who populate the swinging output of the following decade, although she does appear in 'Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush' (1968) with the cheeky, pre-'Mind Your Language' Barry Evans. But rather as Barbara Steele found success in the Italian horror market, Pauline Challoner seems to have appealed to the makers of lurid thrillers in Spain, and her last f'ilm appearances include the aforementioned 'The House That Screamed' (aka 'La Residencia', 1969), 'La Ultima Viage' (1974), and 'Tocata Y Fuga de Lolita' (1974). After that, she appears to have given up acting altogether.  

'The House That Screamed' (1974)

Pauline Challoner-imdb

Thursday 9 January 2014

Gary Watson

Gary Watson in 'Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased)'

Gary Watson:

The cool, calculating and slightly malevolent gaze of Gary Watson was memorably employed in 'The Avengers' - in four different stories between 1961 and 1968: 'Death on the Slipway', 'Immortal Clay', 'Lobster Quadrille' and 'Wish You Were Here'.

As an army officer, indignant at his investigation
by a young John Thaw in a 1965 episode of 'Redcap'

He also shows up in other ITC favourites of the '60s such as 'The Saint' and 'Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased)', and the 1967 Doctor Who adventure 'The Evil of the Daleks'. Other high-end TV productions include the Anthony Hopkins 1972 version of 'War And Peace', the crime thriller series 'The Hanged Man' and 'The Pallisers'.

The police arrive to find suspicion thrown on Watson's 
character, Dr Dunn, in 'The Human Jungle'

In 'Murder Most English: The Flaxborough Chronicles'

He played the inscrutable Mr Ross in the BBC version of Colin Watson's 'Murder Most English' and took the role of Aramis in 'The Three Musketeers' with Brian Blessed and Jeremy Young. 

In the 'Thriller' drama series episode 'Once the Killing Starts''

In impressive whiskers for a UK/Canadian TV version of
the Sherlock Holmes story 'Silver Blaze'

Gary Watson-imdb

Wednesday 8 January 2014

Pauline Yates

Pauline Yates in 'The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin'

Pauline Yates: 

June 16, 1929 - January 21, 2015

Perhaps the ultimate sitcom housewife, an unobtrusive foil to comic turns from the late great Leonard Rossiter in 'The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin' and, to a lesser extent, Robert Gillespie in 'Keep it in the Family'. Pauline Yates became something of a middle aged pin-up during the '70s (unbelievably, she was born in 1929) for her combination of sweet wifely loyalty and brisk, unflappable sexiness.   

In 'The Strange Report'

Earlier TV includes 'Emergency Ward 10' and 'My Honourable Mrs' – an unlamented sitcom with Derek Nimmo as a man whose wife enters Parliament. Ha ha, imagine that. She also had the lead role in 'Harriet's Back in Town', a daytime soap made by Thames TV back in the early '70s.  She was in some old favourites of the time, like 'Bootsie and Snudge', 'The Strange Report', 'The Human Jungle', 'Maigret', and some comedy like 'Hark at Barker' and 'Hancock' ('The Eye-Witness').

About to get the heave-ho from Dirk Bogarde in favour of
Julie Christie in 'Darling' (1965)
In the '80s and '90s she was seen in 'Rumpole' and the usual second-string dramas of 'Casualty', 'Kavanagh QC' and 'Doctors' as well as the strangely redundant post-Leonard Rossiter series 'The Legacy of Reginald Perrin' in 1996, in which the original cast members seem to wander aimlessly around in search of their lost star.  

'Harriet's Back in Town' with William Russell
There were a few film roles,  but the only notable production was 'Darling' (1965). Pauline Yates's finest professional moments have almost all been on the small screen and almost all in 'Reggie Perrin', but it's a measure of that programme's lasting appeal that she is such a well-loved actress. In real life, her husband was the respected actor Donald Churchill, who died in 1991, and their daughter Jemma Churchill is also an actress. 

Update Jan 2015: Sad to hear that Pauline Yates died earlier this week.  

Pauline Yates-imdb

Monday 6 January 2014

Roy Dotrice

Roy Dotrice

A venerable and serious actor, but for some reason, not quite a superstar, despite an acting CV that goes back to WWII and a who's who of co-stars. Although a member of the RSC since it was called the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford, he is now probably better known in the US, after moving there in the late '70s. As a result, he can be seen cropping up in the likes of 'Remington Steele', 'Babylon 5', 'The A-Team', 'Hart to Hart', 'Magnum P.I.' and 'Murder She Wrote'. He was also in 'The Equalizer' with Edward Woodward - his real-life son-in-law, husband of his daughter Michelle Dotrice of 'Some Mother's Do 'Ave 'Em' fame. A recent boost has come through his portrayal of Hallyne in 'Game of Thrones'.

In 'Game of Thrones'

In earlier years, he was a regular on British screens, playing Charles Dickens in the much admired 1976 TV series 'Dickens of London' and appearing in quality stuff like 'Clochemerle', 'The Wars of the Roses' and 'The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes' as Guy Boothby's raffish burglar Simon Carne. As well as a steady stream of television plays, he also found time to appear in fluffier stuff like 'Sykes', 'Space:1999' and even 'Jackanory'.

As the irascible Commissioner Simmonds in 'Space:1999'
As Israel Tonge in the strange 1978 BBC2 Play of the Week,
'Stargazy on Zummerdown' with Toni Arthur
In the execrable 'Cheech & Chong's The Corsican Brothers' (1984)

His film credits also fall into two periods, the Pinewood and the Hollywood. He appears in 'The Criminal' (1960), 'The Heroes of Telemark' (1965), Lionel Bart's 'Lock Up Your Daughters' (1969), and the groovy sci-fi romp 'Toomorrow' (1970), with a bubblegum pop soundtrack by Mark Barkan who wrote the Banana Splits theme. After heading to the states, he lends his gravitas to some big (but not always classy) productions ranging from 'Amadeus (1984) and 'The Scarlet Letter' (1996) to 'Cheech & Chong's The Corsican Brothers' (1984), 'Hellboy II' (2008) and of course the Hulk Hogan classic, 'Suburban Commando' (1991).

Roy Dotrice - imdb

Saturday 4 January 2014

Tim Barlow

Actor Tim Barlow in 'Hot Fuzz'

Tim Barlow:
† Jan 18 1936 – Jan 20 2023

Somewhat ogre-ish in appearance with his deep-set eyes, heavy brows and broken nose, Tim Barlow was, for a long time, one of the few profoundly deaf actors on our screens. His deafness, caused while testing a rifle in the army during the '50s, leant his speech a distinctive hollow timbre while his careful diction added a menacing, other-worldly element to his characters when required. He must have been a shoo-in for the part of 'The BFG' in the stage version produced at Wimbledon's Polka Dot Theatre, for example.

'Destiny of the Daleks'

That facility was put to use in some of his TV appearances, notably 'Doctor Who' (as Engineer Tyssan in the Tom Baker-era story 'Destiny of the Daleks') and in television dramas from 'The Nearly Man', 'Wire in the Blood' and 'Secret Army' to 'Gormengast', 'Cracker' and 'My Uncle Silas'. More lightweight fare includes 'Grange Hill', 'Crown Court' and 'Mike Bassett: Manager'. His comedy roles include 'Inside Victor Lewis Smith', 'In Loving Memory' and Ricky Gervais's slightly misjudged sitcom effort 'Derek'.

In the cinema, you might have seen him in 'The Tall Guy' (1989) where he played a blind man allergic to his guide-dog. Or more recently in 'Hot Fuzz' (2007) playing Mr Treacher, the innocent-seeming old chap strolling the streets of Sandford. He also appears in 'The Eagle Has Landed' (1976), the Liam Neeson version of 'Les Miserables' (1998) and a classic bit-part as 'samurai head slice zombie' in the comedy horror 'Cockneys vs Zombies' (2012).

As the landlord in 'The Eagle has Landed' (1976) with Donald Sutherland

I first saw him performing his one-man show 'My Army' while I was working at the Old Bull Arts Centre in Barnet, North London. He was slightly intimidating at first, but turned out to be thoroughly charming. As an aside, it's interesting to note that his hearing was partially restored by cochlear implant in 2008.

Here's his showreel.

Tim Barlow-imdb