Monday 28 December 2015

George Costigan

George Costigan:

With a winning smile, tempered by a knack for portraying sarcasm and sleaziness, character actor George Costigan has a huge body of interesting work stretching back to the mid-'70s.

As the sinister Mr Kemp in an episode of the excellent Granada series
 'The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes' starring Jeremy Brett 
As 'Philip the Bastard' in the 1984 TV version of 'King John'. A dispute over inheritance is
judged by the king (Leonard Rossiter). His half brother (Edward Hibbert, right) loses out. 

A favourite for me might be his cheerfully caustic copper from Alan Plater's 'The Biederbecke Connection', and he sticks in the mind as the randy lead in the (now probably unwatchable) 'Rita Sue and Bob Too', that jolly comedy look at grooming impressionable teenagers for sex.  

Different times indeed. With Michelle Holmes and Siobhan Finneran in the
Bradford-based schoolgirl sex comedy 'Rita Sue & Bob Too' (1987).   
He has also enjoyed a longish run in several shows including 'Emmerdale', 'Happy Valley', 'Holby City' and 'City Central'. Police roles have been usefully forthcoming, in the likes of 'Ruth Rendell Mysteries', 'The Long Firm' and 'See No Evil: The Moors Murderers'. Other popular primetimers have included 'Hetty Wainthrop Investigates', 'Bergerac', 'Inspector Morse', 2nd-generation 'Minder', Tennant-era 'Doctor Who', and dear old 'Midsomer Murders'. He's also in the movie 'Calendar Girls' (2003) as Penelope Wilton's husband Eddie. 

In the Christmas Day episode of 'Doctor Who' from 2007,
'Voyage Of The Damned' as Max Capricorn
Comedy has included 'The Riff Raff Element', 'Coogan's Run', 'Murder Most Horrid' and the rather antiquated ghost comedy, 'So Haunt Me', in which he played the harassed dad of a family pestered by Miriam Karlin as a spectral Jewish grandmother.

With Sean Scanlon, as the cynically comedic coppers on an
overtime-generating stake out in 'The Beiderbecke Connection'  

George Costigan-imdb

Sunday 6 December 2015

Edward Kelsey

Edward Kelsey:

† Jun 4 1930 – Apr 23 2019

The voice of the rascally Joe Grundy on the BBC Radio 4 serial 'The Archers', Edward Kelsey is a stalwart actor with a list of TV and film credits stretching back to the late '50s. He appeared in several of those timeless series which we now like to call 'cult', including both 'The Avengers' and its '70s rehash 'The New Avengers', as well as 'Colditz', 'Doomwatch', 'The Saint', 'The Tripods' and three different Dr Who stories; the Hartnell-era 'Slave Traders', 'The Power Of The Daleks' with Patrick Troughton, and alongside Tom Baker in 'The Creature From The Pit'.         
 Colonel K in 'Danger Mouse'
A popular voice actor, he is also known for providing the bluster of Danger Mouse's boss Colonel K and his arch enemy Baron Greenback, and creating a pastiche of his own Joe Grundy role as Mr Growbag in the Wallace & Gromit film, 'The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit'. Other animations to benefit from his low growl include 'The Wind In The Willows', 'The Reluctant Dragon' and the Terry Pratchett-penned 'Truckers'.      
In an early (1962) episode of 'The Avengers'
In an episode of the Peter Davison cosy crime
favourite, 'Campion' from 1990
Not very much comedy, save for a spot in 'The Vicar Of Dibley' and 'Minder', but lots of mainstream TV drama over the past four decades. Highlights include 'The Plane Makers', 'Cranford' and 'Anna Of The Five Towns', with more everyday stuff like 'The Cedar Tree', 'Softly Softly', 'Penmarric', 'Z-Cars', 'Angels' and the ever-present 'Casualty'.  
It's not how I'd pictured Joe Grundy really, but that's him.

Sunday 13 September 2015

Ian McNeice

Ian McNeice:
Over the years, Ian McNeice has physically expanded to something like Fred Emney proportions, but his cold, regarding eyes have kept him well supplied with roles on the slightly sinister side of the street. Graduating from LAMDA and joining the RSC in the early '70s, he made a breakthrough into TV with the newly-created Channel 4's star-studded 'Nicholas Nickleby'. There followed a role in the also ambitious, but now horribly dated 1983 mini-series 'The Cleopatras'.      
As Harcourt in  'Edge Of Darkness'
The mid-'80s saw him hit the big screen, in comedies like 'Top Secret!' (1984), 'Personal Services' (1987), and 'Whoops Apocalypse' (1988), but also in dramas such as '84 Charing Cross Road' (1987), Cry Freedom' (1987) and with Bob Hoskins in 'The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne' (1987) and 'The Raggedy Rawney' (1988).
As an antique dealer, straight from central casting in 'Lovejoy'
Television also beckoned, with light everyday fare ranging from 'Bergerac' and 'CATS Eyes' to 'Lovejoy' and 'Minder'. There's also a fair bit of detective doings, including 'Cadfael', 'Midsomer Murders', 'Murder Rooms: The Casebook Of The Real Sherlock Holmes' and Jonathan Creek. Perhaps more impressively, there was the memorable double act with Charles Kay in the acclaimed conspiracy drama 'Edge Of Darkness'.
In the Play For Today 'Miss Pym's Day Out' from 1991

The '90s and early '00s saw an increased demand from the cinema, both home-grown and in Hollywood, with roles in 'The Englishman Who Went Up A Hill And Came Down A Mountain (1995), 'Ace Ventura:When Nature Calls' (1995), 'From Hell' (2000), The Fourth Angel (2001), 'Town & Country' (2001), and 'Bridget Jones: The Edge Of Reason' (2004).  
He appears as Winston Churchill in several Matt Smith-era
'Doctor Who' episodes, including 'Victory Of The Daleks'
As the '00s and '10s have rolled on, there have been good parts in popular TV movies and shows including 'Longitude', the BBC/HBO series 'Rome', 'Doctor Who' - reprising his characterisation of Churchill - and the regular looming presence of Bert Large in 'Doc Martin'. 

Tuesday 1 September 2015

Carol MacReady

Actress Carol MacReady

Carol MacReady:

An adaptable actress with expressive eyes and a face made to convey every nuance of doubt and disapproval, Carol MacReady has been a regular presence on the small screen since the early '70s.

Some prestigious dramas include the 1968 Peter Cushing series of 'Sherlock Holmes', 'The Flame Trees Of Thika', 'Mapp And Lucia' 'The Six Wives of Henry VIII', the Michael Hordern 'Christmas Carol' from 1977, as Mrs Cratchitt, and a regular role in the 1975 Thames series 'Couples'.  

As the sister of Anne of Cleves (played by Elvi Hale, right) in
'The Six Wives of Henry VIII' 
There were also roles in sofa-filling favourites like 'The Sweeney', 'Tales Of The Unexpected', 'The Darling Buds Of May', 'Heartbeat', and more recently 'Doc Martin'. Outright comedy and sitcom shows have included 'Victoria Wood', 'Waiting For God', 'The Vicar Of Dibley', 'Birds Of A Feather' and the dreaded 'Never The Twain'. 

As Kath the Aussie barmaid in an episode of 'The Sweeney'

From 'Never The Twain' it's a short hop to children's television. A big success seems to have been the kids' series 'Bodger & Badger' which was a bit after my time, a patently low-budget slapstick affair that makes 'The Sooty Show' look like PG Wodehouse. Her other children's TV appearances include 'The Return Of The Psammead', 'Danger: Marmalade At Work', and feature films like '102 Dalmations' and 'A Feast At Midnight'.

In the kids' show 'Bodger & Badger', mid '90s.

Alongside comedy and children's TV, she seems to have made a speciality of crime drama, with roles in 'Poirot', 'Inspector Alleyn Mysteries', 'Midsomer Murders', Love Lies Bleeding', and the excellent Dorothy L Sayers adaptation 'Gaudy Night' with Harriet Walter. All good solid stuff.     

Carol MacReady-imdb

Saturday 15 August 2015

Robert Lee

A smartly dressed Japanese businessman raises a question in an English language night class.

Robert Lee:

† 1913 – Dec 1 1986*

A versatile veteran East Asian British character actor. I'd guess he is of Hong Kong Chinese descent, but he has been cast by British studios as Japanese and Korean almost as often. In any case, he is probably only second to the ubiquitous Burt Kwouk in cornering 'oriental' roles on British screens.

His early film work involves a few uncredited roles and non-speaking parts in budget adventure and soho detective movies, with titles like 'Outcast Of The Islands' (1951), 'The Desparate Woman' (1954), 'The World Of Suzie Wong' (1960), 'Visa To Canton' (1961), and 'The Sinister Man' (1961).

In the 1963 'Avengers' story, 'The Golden Fleece'

In the 1978 TV series 'Hammer House Of Mystery And Suspense'

The burgeoning world of television in the early '60s offered a steady stream of work, in primetime favourites ranging from 'The Avengers', 'Danger Man' and Dixon Of Dock Green' to comedy like 'The Arthur Askey Show' and 'Hugh & I' with Terry Scott and Hugh Lloyd.


In a science fiction-y episode of the weird detective
gameshow 'Whodunnit' hosted by Jon Pertwee

As the '70s rolled into the '80s, Mr Lee made his big leap into the nation's consciousness with his role as Japanese businessman Mr Nagazumi in the problematic but popular sitcom 'Mind Your Language'. Other work that came his way included 'The Bill', 'Reilly Ace Of Spies' and predictable appearances in 'Tenko' and 'The Chinese Detective'. There were also various movie bit-parts such as Harry Grout's tailor in 'Porridge' (1979), the Chinese Ambassador in 'Half Moon Street' with Michael Caine and Sigourney Weaver, and Mr Banzai in Lindsay Anderson's scattergun 'Britannia Hospital' (1982). 
Portraying Japanese Admiral Togo in 'Reilly Ace Of Spies'

I don't know when he was born, but he must be getting on a bit now, having made his uncredited film debut in 1944, and his last recorded appearance is from 2010.

Whatever he's doing now, he deserves this small bow of honour.

* The news of Robert Lee's death had not found its way to the imdb or the larger internet when I added this post in 2015. In general, my intention with this blog is to salute living, British, actors whose faces are more familiar than their names. Although Mr Lee didn't perhaps qualify on either count, I would like to leave the entry here to acknowledge his contribution to UK film and television.     

Robert Lee-imdb

Sunday 5 July 2015

Nicholas McArdle

Nicholas McArdle:

As a regularly recurring sight on the TV screens of the UK during the '70s-'90s, Nicholas McArdle's trademark drooping moustache and bald pate are so much more familiar than his name. His perennially middle-aged image has been lent to roles as politicians, council functionaries and dignitaries, accountants, army officers and a vast swathe of policemen of every rank from cloddish constable to chief inspector. See, for example, various coppers in 'Z-Cars', 'Crown Court', 'The Sweeney', 'The Professionals', 'Taggart' and 'Softly, Softly Task Force'.        

In 'The Sweeney' episode 'Hearts and Minds'
In the last series of  'It Aint Half Hot Mum'
It hasn't all been flashing lights and blue serge drama though. He is an accomplished comedy actor, with sitcom appearances in the likes of 'Happy Ever After' and 'Terry & June', 'To The Manor Born', 'It Ain't Half Hot Mum', 'No Place Like Home', 'Are You Being Served?', 'Butterflies', 'Time Of My Life' and 'Citizen Smith' - although he was actually playing a policemen in the last three of those. He also crops up in various comedians' light entertainment shows: see 'Kelly Monteith', 'The Mike Reid Show', 'Marty Amok', and 'The Howerd Confessions'. 

'Porridge' (1979) giving Mr McKay a hard time in the movie version
In the cinema, his name has appeared in the lower credits for movies such as 'Porridge' (1979), 'Dance With A Stranger' (1985), 'Sir Henry At Rawlinson End' (1980), and the sex comedy 'Can You Keep It Up For A Week?' (1975) - not as saucy as it sounds, it's about an accident-prone young chap trying to keep a job for seven days so that he can get married. Valerie Leon and Richard O'Sullivan also feature.     

'Can You Keep It Up For A Week?' (1975)
Fans of cult TV may recall seeing him in the 1978 'Doctor Who' adventure 'The Stones Of Blood'. He is also in the anthology chiller series 'The Supernatural', the sci fi drama 'The Flipside Of Dominick Hyde' and both 'The Goodies' and its forgotten 1968 forerunner 'Broaden Your Mind'. 

Does a lot of voiceover work these days. Check out the commercial sound clips at this site for a hint of his range.  

Nicholas McArdle-imdb

Thursday 26 March 2015

Michael Cochrane

British actor Michael Cochrane in 'Downton Abbey'

Michael Cochrane:

Another familiar face, equally often seen with a villainous sneer as with a cheerful grin. Michael Cochrane's expressive mouth and narrow eyes, combined with his suave manner, have seen him cast in a range of upper-class roles over the years. Seemingly able to convincingly embody the quick-tempered brooding bully or the likeable silly ass, he has appeared in a long list of popular British TV dramas over the years, from 'The Pallisers' in the early '70s, to its modern counterpart 'Downton Abbey'.          
In an episode of the dogfight drama 'Wings' from 1977
After 'The Pallisers', another early success came with the popular WW1 drama 'Wings' following the early days of the Royal Flying Corps, in which he played young officer Charles Gaylion. Throughout the '80s and beyond, he was ubiquitous in quality TV drama such as 'The Life & Times Of David Lloyd George', 'The Citadel', 'The Far Pavilions', 'Nancherrow', and 'Holy Flying Circus' in which he played Malcolm Muggeridge. Cult TV fans will clock him in two 'Doctor Who' stories from the '80s - and Radio 4 stalwarts will know his voice as that of permanently exasperated country gent Oliver Sterling from 'The Archers'.
Well played Doctor! As a cricketing aristo congratulating Peter Davison
in the 1982 'Doctor Who' story 'Black Orchid'
More 'Doctor Who'. Proposing to blow Sylveste McCoy's head off
with an elephant gun in the 1989 story 'Ghost Light' 
More lightweight fare includes 'Jonathan Creek', 'Spooks', 'Pie In The Sky' and a briefcase-full of police procedurals, whodunnits and courtroom dramas. The comedy strand is a decently varied collection stretching from 'The Two Ronnies', 'Shelley' and 'To The Manor Born' to 'Keeping Up Appearances', the Ardal O'Hanlon sitcom 'Big Bad World' and even an episode of 'Love Thy Neighbour'.         

As the ever-unpleasant Sir Henry Simmerson in 'Sharpe' 
Movie work has been regular, but there isn't a career-defining role among his appearances in 'Escape To Victory' (1981), 'Return Of The Soldier' (1982) and 'Iron Lady' (2011), or a host of forgettable titles like 'Ascendancy' (1983), 'Real Life'(1984), spy spoof 'Number One Gun' (1991) and the Val Kilmer take on 'The Saint' (1997).

His most recent recognition has come through 'Downton Abbey' in which he plays the enthusiastically Anglican village vicar, Reverend Travis.

Tuesday 17 March 2015

Peter Elliott

Peter Elliott:
In the David Hughes pseudo-documentary 'Missing Link' (1988)

The go-to guy for gorillas in the British film industry, Peter Elliott is one of the world's most accomplished animal actors, specialising in the movements of apes and ape-like creatures.   

Putting his face on, in 'Buddy' (1997)
And if he's done anything, he's done apes – donning the monkey suit for 'Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord Of The Apes' (1984), Gorillas In The Mist' (1988), 'Congo' (1995), The Island Of Doctor Moreau (1996), Fierce Creatures (1997), and 'King Kong Lives' (1986).

On all fours again, but no fun-fur this time. As one of
the sinister Wheelers in 'Return To Oz' (1985)  
In the days before CGI, this is how you did scenes of utter devastation and carnage.
A man in a gorilla suit treading on a model Lamborghini in 'King Kong Lives' (1986)

He's also been in Red Dwarf as a chimp and he played Bollo the gorilla, from 'The Mighty Boosh' - but only in the episodes set in Dixon Bainbridge's zoo.

The more domesticated Bollo from the later series of 'The Mighty Boosh'
isn't played by Elliott, but by Dave Brown 

Peter Elliott-imdb

Monday 9 March 2015

Denis Lawson

British actor Denis Lawson as Wedge Antilles in 'Star Wars'

Denis Lawson:

Compact and suavely handsome in a slightly weasely way, Scottish actor Denis Lawson is a stalwart of British television, but probably known only to the wider world - or the nerdier portion of it - as Wedge Antilles, one of the heroic X-Wing pilots of the original 'Star Wars' trilogy. Extra galactic trivia points are doubtless also accrued by being the uncle of Obi Wan Kenobi, Ewan McGregor. 

British actor Dennis Lawson in the 'Merchant of Venice'
As Launcelot Gobbo in the 1973 ITV version of
'The Merchant of Venice'
'Survivors': an episode called 'The Future Hour' from 1975
Up until 'Star Wars' (1977) or whatever they call it now, he had been in an interesting grab-bag of serious drama, typified by the televised version of the NT 'Merchant of Venice' with Laurence Olivier, late night plays like 'Ms Jill or Jack' and 'The Paradise Run', and middle-brow TV hits like 'Survivors', and 'Rock Follies'.

Starring in the DJ sitcom 'The Kit Curran Radio Show'
made by Thames Television in 1984.
The '80s were a bit of a boom time and he appeared in memorable stuff like the quirky time-travel TV play 'The Flipside of Dominick Hyde' and the prescient neo-noir conspiracy crime serial 'Dead Head' as well as getting the starring role in the lightweight sitcom 'The Kit Curran Radio Show'.    

As a jet-setting assassin in 'Bergerac' 
There was also some day-to-day drama and comedy to fill the diary too, 'Boon' and 'Bergerac', 'Robin Hood' and 'Miss Marple', and 'The Good Companions' and 'Victoria Wood: As Seen On TV'. More recently, he had the key role of Jarndyce in the BBC's adaptation of 'Bleak House', as well as major parts in the ghost tale 'Marchlands', 'Criminal Justice' and now 'New Tricks'. I also enjoyed the bleak slapstick of the 'Inside No 9' episode where he played the victim of Shearsmith and Pemberton's hapless art thieves.

Aside from the George Lucas gigs, his film credits include a rare Scottish part in 'Local Hero' (1983) and Jack Rosenthal's clever class vignette, 'The Chain' (1984). He also appears alongside his nephew in 'Perfect Sense' (2011), an example of that under-represented genre, romantic Scottish epidemic-apocalypse sci fi. 

Saturday 14 February 2015

Patricia Brake

Patricia Brake. UK actress

Patricia Brake:
† Jun 25 1942 – May 28 2022

A British perennial with that winning mix of dolly-bird prettiness and an ear for comic dialogue, Patricia Brake might be familiar from the sitcom classic 'Porridge' as Fletcher's daughter Ingrid. She made an impression in one episode for her bra-less visit to Slade Prison, and later when she proves that she is wearing a bra by lifting her top up. She also appeared in the spin-off series 'Going Straight', but despite Barker and Beckinsale's best efforts the magic was noticeably absent.
In the forgotten US TV comedy 'The Ugliest Girl in Town'
As a sweet young British actress, she had been cast in the strange 1968 ABC sitcom, 'The Ugliest Girl in Town', the American network's attempt to tap into the swinging London phenomenon with Peter Kastner in drag following a London model over the pond. I don't think it was ever shown in the UK and it has come high in some 'worst TV shows of all time' lists, none of which is the fault of Patricia Brake who is glamorous and fun in it.
British actress Patricia Brake. As Ingrid in BBC sitcom 'Going Straight'
As Ingrid in 'Going Straight' with Ronnie Barker
 Very busy throughout the '60s and '70s, she appeared in dramas ranging from 'Lorna Doone' and 'Nicholas Nickleby' to the now lost David Hemmings serial 'Home Tonight' and 'No Hiding Place'. On the comedy front, she's in some you don't hear much about these days like 'Second Time Around' and 'Forget Me Not', as well as the more memorable; 'A Sharp Intake of Breath', 'Life Begins at Forty', the 1979 reboot of 'The Glums' and the aforementioned 'Porridge' and 'Going Straight'. I'm also intrigued by the sound of 'Mann's Best Friends' from 1985, with an impressive cast that features Fulton McKay, Bernard Bresslaw and Liz Smith, but I can't find anything much out about it.      

As Eth in the 1979 TV revival of the '50s favourite 'The Glums'.
Ian Lavender plays her ever-gormless beloved, Ron 
As the '80s progressed, she moved toward soap opera and potboiler dramas with roles in 'Emmerdale', 'EastEnders' and 'Coronation Street' (as Mike Baldwin's old flame/sister-in-law), also getting one of the main parts in the BBC's shortlived 'Eldorado'. After that, there's the predictable round of 'Midsomer Murders', 'Casualty', 'Holby City', 'Doctors' and 'The Bill', but also 'The Bounder'.

In a 2005 episode of 'Coronation Street' with Johnny Briggs

Movie roles include the oddball Peter Sellers piece 'The Optimists of Nine Elms' (1973) and the wrinkly romance 'Love/Loss' (2010). In  'My Lover My Son' (1970), she played the girlfriend of an unusually timid Dennis Waterman (she seems more comfortable with her fully nude scenes than Dennis does in his y-fronts), who is trying to escape the cloying influence of his mother, played by Romy Schneider. 
Dennis Waterman needs a bit of encouragement
for a change in 'My Lover My Son' (1970)