Monday 22 February 2016

Avril Elgar

Avril Elgar

April 1 1932 - Sept 17 2021

A splendidly severe-looking actress, yet impressively versatile, sympathetic and  compelling. Her long career encompasses roles as varied as society ladies and exhausted servants, via a slew of nouveau riche harridans, cruel nurses, shy spinsters and nosy neighbours.     

In 'Ladies Who Do' (1963)
Although Imdb suggests that she is best known for three feature films, 'Room At The Top (1959), 'Betrayal' (1983) and 'Wilde' (1997), her contribution to these is worthy but minimally memorable. Better perhaps to remember her turn in 'Spring And Port Wine' (1969) as Mrs Duckworth next door, or even the slightly strained comedy 'Ladies Who Do' (1963) in which, with fellow City office cleaning ladies Peggy Mount, Miriam Carlin and Dandy Nicholls, she indulges in some lucrative insider dealing. She's also briefly in 'The Medusa Touch' (1978) with a cursed Richard Burton.

The Ken Russell-directed silent movie version of 'Diary Of A Nobody' made for the BBC's 'Monitor' arts programme in 1964, which saw her play Mrs Pooter in a great cast that also included Bryan Pringle, Murray Melvin, Jonathan Cecil and Brian Murphy. It also has a harmonium score by Ivor Cutler.    

As Lou Evans in the Nina Bawden adaptation 'Carrie's War'
a major BBC family drama success of 1974.
Publicity shot for 'The Three Sisters' with George Cole.
She's a highly respected stage actress with previous at the National Theatre, and a successful and widely publicised 1967 run of Chekhov's 'Three Sisters' at the Royal Court Theatre with Glenda Jackson and Marianne Faithfull. But it's probably in television that she's most familiar. Sitcom fans will immediately spot her as Yootha Joyce's social-climbing sister Ethel in the popular 'Man about The House' spin-off, 'George & Mildred'. She had a slightly similar role in one of Roy Clarke's gentle Northern comedies, 'Rosie', as the young copper's monstrously overbearing mother.  

In George & Mildred' as the social climbing Ethel with wealthy hubby
Humphrey, played by king of the sitcom bosses, the late Reginald Marsh.

Other television includes 'Campion', 'Agatha Christie: Poirot', 'Midsomer Murders', 'A Taste For Death', 'Shoestring', two episodes of 'Tales Of The Unexpected', 'Minder', 'New Tricks' and a good few more. Quite revealing as to her range is the fact that she has appeared in three episodes of 'Doctors' as three very different characters between 2004 and 2011. Sterling work.  

Trivia note: After 20 years, Avril Elgar appeared in 'The Moles', an episode of 'Tales Of The Unexpected', alongside Harry H Corbett, her co-star in the film 'Ladies Who Do'. It was to be his last role and was screened a month after his death in 1982.    

Avril Elgar-imdb

Wednesday 10 February 2016

Godfrey James

Godfrey James:

You've probably seen Godfrey James's face many times in films and television without realising it, as aside from his distinctive dimpled chin (often hidden by a beard), there's nothing particularly memorable about his broad, even-featured countenance. Quite possibly we fail to do justice to this ubiquitous actor for that very reason, despite his appearance in some of our most beloved cult favourites, from 'Department S', and 'The Strange Report' to 'UFO', 'Space: 1999' and 'Doctor Who'.    

A fleeting appeareance as the chauffeur in
'Séance On A Wet Afternoon' (1964)

Starting in the early '60s, he has had a varied acting career, kicking off with an interesting role in the first season of 'The Avengers'. He's in 'The Frighteners', the only episode to survive intact from that run. His powerful frame saw him grab a series of parts as intimidating heavies and brusque coppers, interspersed with prosperous businessmen, yeoman farmers and faithful retainers. His '60s and '70s TV work includes 'Z Cars', 'Softly Softly', 'Dixon Of Dock Green', The Forsyte Saga', 'Black Beauty', and 'The Onedin Line'.      

In 'Witchfinder General' (1968) 

In the cinema, he makes appearances in some classic Brit horror, including 'Witchfinder General' (1968), 'The Oblong Box' (1969), 'Cry Of A Banshee' (1970) and 'Blood On Satan's Claw' (1971). He's also in the '70s family adventures 'At The Earth's Core' (1976) and 'The Land That Time Forgot' (1975).

As the father of Angel Blake in 'Blood On Satan's Claw' (1971)
As the '70s rolled into the '80s, he proved popular with casting directors of primetime TV, leading to parts in 'The Sweeney', 'Minder', 'Bergerac', 'Dempsey & Makepeace' and 'Bulman'. He's also in the episode of 'Tales Of The Unexpected' in which John Gielgud's sneaky antique dealing vicar gets his comeuppance when he discovers a rare Chippendale sideboard.    

As Mr Bumble the beadle in the 1985 BBC adaptation of
Oliver Twist. With June Brown as Mrs Mann.
In slightly more recent times, you might have spotted him in anything from 'Agatha Christie: Poirot' or ''The Darling Buds Of May' to 'The Tripods' and 'The Return Of The Antelope'.  

Very sound stuff in general, but here he is in full silly alien splendour in 'Space: 1999'. They don't make 'em like that any more.

The 'Space: 1999' episode 'The Rules Of Luton'. Yes, really.

Godfrey James-imdb