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

Sunday 13 April 2014

Sally Geeson

Sally Geeson in 'Carry On Abroad'

Sally Geeson:

Ah yes. The almost impossibly pert Sally Geeson, always giving Sid James attacks of fatherly apoplexy in 'Bless This House' with her mini skirts and innocent entendres. Perhaps of all the dolly-bird era stars, Sally Geeson has most consciously elected to preserve her image in amber, having vanished from our screens in 1976.   

In 'Man In A Suitcase'

The younger sister of Judy Geeson, she was in three Carry On films - although just a nameless extra in Carry On Regardless (1963) - being more memorable in 'Carry On Girls' (1974) and 'Carry On Abroad' (1972), two of the coarser late efforts in which she shines as the wholesome variety of 'crumpet'. I can hardly bring myself to recall the dreadful Norman Wisdom vehicle 'What's Good for the Goose' (1967), with the middle-aged star as a supposedly urbane married businessman who is drawn into the 'bewildering amoral world of free love'. The period detail is interesting - including R&B wildmen The Pretty Things in a club scene - but you still expect him to start shouting 'Mr Grimsdale!' despite the ponderous soul-searching and Carnaby Street clobber. Hats off to Miss Geeson for her gleeful performance in the face of such a challenge. And while we're on the subject of horrors, she also appears in 'The Oblong Box' (1969) and more fleetingly in 'The Cry of the Banshee' (1970), both featuring Vincent Price.     

One of the excruciating bedroom scenes in the painfully awkward Norman Wisdom
meets Swinging London comedy 'What's Good for the Goose' (1967)
As the rather reckless maid in 'The Oblong Box (1969)
On the small screen, it's mostly sunny smiles and hot pants to the fore in 'Bless This House', after a few roles in things like 'Man In A Suitcase', The Strange Report' 'Z-Cars', and 'Softly, Softly'.  She still looks lovely and, according to her website, she's planning a comeback - hopefully something even more substantial than her current role as the face of Anglian Home Improvements. Let's hope so.    

A sweet young thing in 'The Strange Report'

Sally Geeson-imdb

Friday 11 April 2014

Tony Caunter

Tony Caunter, British actor

Tony Caunter:

Broad and brawny actor, now most familiar as Roy Evans in 'EastEnders' - the genial car salesman who stepped into the shoes of his rogueish counterpart Frank Butcher (Mike Reid) - in fact Tony Caunter has played his small part in some of the best of British cinema and television.

Tony Caunter in 'The Likely Lads': a classic tragicomic moment. Terry reluctantly
joins the Army to stick with his mate Bob, who is sent home because of his flat feet.    

You could, for example, have seen him in a host of cult classics, from 'The Avengers', 'The Saint' and 'The Champions' in the '60s, through to 'The Professionals', 'The Sweeney' and 'Minder', not to mention fanboy favourites like 'Catweazle', 'Blakes 7', and of course 'Doctor Who' (in three stories: 'The Crusade', 'Colony in Space' and 'Enlightenment') .

As Kenneth Cope's exasperated site manager in 'Catweazle'.
'He that moves the Wogle Stone, all alone shall moan and groan.'  
He's in some well-regarded drama, including 'Pennies From Heaven',  as well as more humdrum stuff  such as 'London's Burning', 'Home to Roost', 'Queenie's Castle', 'Howards' Way', 'Lovejoy', 'May to December', 'Boon', 'Heartbeat', 'Z-Cars',  'Juliet Bravo', 'Holby City', 'The Main Chance', and the short-lived BBC seaside family-feud 'Westbeach'.

Keeping an eye on Harry Palmer in 'The Ipcress File' (1965)
In the cinema, he crops up in the harrowing military prison drama 'The Hill' (1965) with Sean Connery and Ian Hendry, and has an appropriately blink-and-you'll-miss-it role as a surveillance man in 'The Ipcress File' (1965). All pretty cosy compared with life in Albert Square with Pat Butcher and family.
'EastEnders' with Pam St Clement.

Tony Caunter - imdb

Wednesday 9 April 2014

Jennifer Daniel

Jennifer Daniel in 'Thriller'

Jennifer Daniel:

† May 23 1936 – Aug 16 2017

In the era of the dolly-bird actress, Jennifer Daniel radiated a seriousness and intensity that set her aside from other attractive blondes of the period. She was often cast in roles in thrillers and horrors that required a lot more reaction to disquieting situations and creeping paranoia than swinging a plastic bag down fun-loving, fancy-free Carnaby Street.

Early television roles included literary fare such as her portrayal of Ophelia in the 1961 ITV version of 'Hamlet' opposite Barry Foster, and as Dolly Varden in the previous year's 'Barnaby Rudge'. Her dignified good looks also found her playing Beauty in 'Beauty and the Beast' and Lady Edith in 'Richard the Lionheart'. As the '60s rolled on, there were more cop shows and ITC action series like the almost forgotten 'Ghost Squad' as well as 'Gideon's Way', 'Adam Adamant Lives!' and 'The Mask of Janus' with her then-husband Dinsdale Landen. She was also the female lead in the Francis Durbridge-penned detective serial, 'A Man Called Harry Brent' of which nothing seems to have survived*.

In the 'Thriller' episode 'Spell of Evil'

The British film industry's mini-boom of the '60s saw her appear in Hammer favourites like 'The Kiss of the Vampire' (1963) and 'The Reptile' (1966) in which she represented the opposite of her sensually dangerous co-star Jacqueline Pearce. As often seems to be the case with Hammer's female stars, a long period in the film wilderness followed, and perhaps persists, despite recent roles in the Juliette Binoche 'Wuthering Heights' (1992) and the film version of Ray Cooney's farce 'Run for Your Wife' (2012) with (shudder) Danny Dyer and Denise van Outen.

As Mrs Lennox, bewildered by Hyacinth in 'Keeping Up Appearances'.
As the '60s gave way to the '70s, a slew of middlebrow and mid-table TV appearances came and went, including: 'Doomwatch', 'Softly, Softly'-spinoff 'Barlow', 'Duchess of Duke Street', the interesting boarding-house drama 'Rooms', and the RF Delderfield's wartime saga 'People Like Us'. Less prestigious were her regular role in the medical soap 'General Hospital' and hectic kid's favourite 'Here Come the Double Deckers!'

More recently she's been seen in the Customs & Excise drama 'The Collectors', 'Keeing Up Appearances' and 'Rumpole of the Bailey'. She still seems to be working and I'm surprised she hasn't been snapped up by the 'Game of Thrones' or 'Downton Abbey' machines for her diamond-edged gravitas. Maybe that will come. 

Jennifer Daniel - imdb

(* update, Feb 2023, these stories are available on DVD. See comments below.)