Wednesday 26 December 2018

Leslie Randall

Actor Leslie Randall, in character as Danny Boon in the film 'Billy Liar (1963) delivers his catchphrase: It's all happening

Leslie Randall:

† Oct 19 1924 – Aug 2 2020

I don't think I'd ever really mentally registered the name of Leslie Randall, despite his brief but memorable appearance as TV comedian Danny "It's All Happening" Boon in 'Billy Liar' (1963), one of my favourite films. At the time of shooting for John Schlesinger's classic version, Randall would probably be familiar as the co-star of ITV's first sitcom, 'Joan & Leslie' with his real-life wife Joan Reynolds, which ran to 71 episodes between 1956 and 1958 (although no footage survives). His portrayal of Boon, a ruthless professional behind a vapidly cheerful TV persona, sees him crush Billy's one and only daydream with any chance of coming true.              

In an episode of 'The Monkees' from 1967
A stalwart of the last years of music hall, he was regularly seen on panel games and variety shows during the '50s, but his pre-'Billy Liar' film and TV career is rather slight, he's in the war movie 'Mystery Submarine' (1963) and also stars in the light comedy 'Just Joe' (1960) again with his wife, and a cast including Anna Mae Wong and Jon Pertwee.

Perhaps finding opportunities a little slim in the UK, he headed for the states, where he pops up slightly unexpectedly in episodes of 'I Dream Of Jeannie' and 'The Monkees', before heading for Australia to revive the 'Joan & Leslie' concept, as newly-arrived British immigrants in Melbourne.           

In the Australian reboot of 'Joan & Leslie' from the late '60s
Later appearances are quite a hotchpotch, ranging from the lowly soap 'Emmerdale Farm' to Derek Jarman's painfully arty 'The Garden' (1990) via a corporate short for Abbey National with Patsy Rowlands. 

A one of the regular Vox Pops in 'According To Bex'
After numerous long gaps, he seems to have found a new lease of life in comedy, with regular small roles in 'My Family'  and Jessica (Hynes) Stevenson's 'According To Bex', before presumably settling into retirement around 2008. Born in 1924, he's now well into his '90s, so it's well deserved.      

With Emma Thompson in the Dustin Hoffman
movie 'Last Chance Harvey' (2008) 
Leslie Randall-imdb

Monday 3 December 2018

Moira Foot

Moira Foot: 

Very tall and slender, with a charmingly toothy smile and an eye-catching embonpoint, Moira Foot is one of the troupe of dollybird actresses who populated the fantasy landscape of the '70s: either the glory days of light entertainment or the nadir of casual universal sexism, depending on your viewpoint. A quick glance at her credits (that will do, Mr Lucas) immediately conjures another age and another set of comedy values from a problematic canon: 'The Benny Hill Show', 'The Dick Emery Show', the movie of 'On The Buses' (1972), 'Are You Being Served?', and 'Doctor At Large'.     

Benny Hill, as 'World Of Sport's Dickie Davies, delivers a line
that almost certainly has something to do with Bristol City.   

Getting the benefit of George Layton's best bedside
manner in 'Doctor At Large'. 
Her father, Alistair Foot, was a comedy writer and one of the authors of the great touchstone of British theatrical farce, 'No Sex Please, We're British', so perhaps it's not surprising that the attractive young actress should find her way into this particular stream of light entertainment. Her first appearances were in the comedies of Ronnie Barker, well-known for his obsession with saucy postcard humour - a genre from which the cartoonishly glamorous Miss Foot seems to have miraculously stepped. She appears as Effie the maid in 'Hark At Barker' and the follow-up 'His Lordship Entertains', in which she is the frequent cause of Lord Rustless's popped monocle.   

Effie the maid has been making (surprise surprise) some dumplings,
in which Ronnie Barker naturally takes a keen interest    
In addition to the comedy shows and skits, there were a few brief, decorative appearances in dramas, such as 'Quiller' and 'The New Avengers', and other oddments, like the sleuth panel game 'Whodunnit' and a made-for-America musical evening with Jackie Gleason and Julie Andrews. 

As Denise of the Resistance in the later episodes of 'Allo Allo'

Her most recent role was in the fifth series of 'Allo Allo' where she turns up as René's childhood sweetheart, now a member of the Resistance. The show was still very popular, even if it had long since exhausted it's original premise, and she gives an enthusiastic performance at what must have been rather a flat point in the programme's long history. 

Ready to impress the driving examiner - if it were anyone
but Dick Emery's Hello Honky Tonks that is... 
Benny Hill sight gag No. 235. Short bald Jackie Wright is the man
forgetting bus queue etiquette next to the statuesque Moira Foot    
That was 1988, seemingly her last TV appearances for the time being, but she'll certainly be seared into the memories of many for her iconic comedy show legacy. She was understandably sought after by those elder statesmen of British vaudeville and nudge-nudge humour, and whether it was humiliating Benny Hill on a disco dance floor or helping young Mr Grace with his tablets, she played the gag. It was another time. 

Moira Foot-imdb

Tuesday 20 November 2018

Rachel Bell

Rachel Bell

Rachel Bell:  

John Sullivan's '80s lonely-hearts sitcom 'Dear John' had a pleasingly melancholy undertow that makes it more appealing - to me, anyway - than his poll-winning national treasure, 'Only Fools And Horses'. A lot of that can be put down to the downbeat performance of Ralph Bates, previously best known for playing dashing Hammer Horror leading men, but also to a strong ensemble cast. The encounter groups were led by the fearsomely helpful Louise, played strongly by Rachel Bell as a self-help dragon spouting lurid Freudian analysis and trite '80s motivational claptrap.       

Under tough questioning in a 'Crown Court' episode from 1978
With Ronnie Barker in 'The Magnificent Evans' 
Before 'Dear John' in 1987, a number of television productions had featured her talents, among them 'Disraeli' with Ian McShane, 'The Magnificent Evans', 'Alas Smith & Jones', 'Miss Marple', a couple of 'Play For Today' dramas, and the 'Only Fools...' episode 'To Hull And Back'. She was also a regular in a spoof chat show on the newly-created Channel 4 called 'For 4 Tonight', written by  a pre-fame Ruby Wax and directed by a post-fame Mickey Dolenz. Sounds interesting, maybe, but I can't find any archive video.      

The latter '80s and early '90s included some situation comedies: 'Home To Roost', The Upper Hand',  'Last Of The Summer Wine'; some drama 'We'll Meet Again', 'Goodbye Cruel World', and the very odd 'Doctor Who' story 'The Happiness Patrol', before she landed another plum role, as the snooty Edith Pilchester in 'The Darling Buds Of May'.        

In 'Dr Who: The Happiness Patrol'. The weird Sylvester McCoy
era story with the Bertie Bassett-esque alien, The Kandyman  

As Miss Pilchester in 'The Darling Buds Of May' 
'Grange Hill' gave her a long run as Deputy Head Mrs Holmes during its later few years, and the new millennium has brought a steady supply of work ranging from 'Chucklevision', 'Birds Of A Feather' and 'The Bill', to 'The Detectorists' and JK Rowling's low-key detective series 'Strike'.   

As a teacher in the post-Harry Potter reboot
of 'The Worst Witch' for CBBC   
She can be spotted in a few feature films: 'The Edge Of Love' (2008), 'Red Mercury' (2005), 'Mary' (2005), and 'Sweet William' (1980), and also stepped neatly into Patricia Routledge's shoes for the stage version of 'Keeping Up Appearances'  

Rachel Bell-imdb

Tuesday 13 November 2018

Christopher Sandford

Christopher Sandford:  

 The '60s were remarkable years, fizzing with possibilites, of sudden opportunities and lingering disappointments. Christopher Sandford's story is fascinating in the way it touches obliquely on some pivotal pop-culture moments. Without knowing it, I'd watched him in a number of my favourite films and television programmes, without a glimmer of recognition or connection.

'Coronation Street' Oct 1963, as would-be beat sensation Walter Potts   

Early roles as a teenager included a few TV shows, mostly now lost, and typical light comedies such as the inevitable cruise-ship romp 'Next To No Time' (1958) with Kenneth More and Sid James, and the equally inevitable schoolboy hi jinks of 'A French Mistress' (1960), with James Robertson Justice. But it was his role as Walter Potts, the gormless window cleaner of 'Coronation Street' that brought him to the public's attention. In 1963, as Beatlemania was gathering momentum, the primetime soap's storyline saw Walter transformed into "Brett Falcon" by would-be impresario Dennis Tanner. This neat TV-pop crossover even resulted in a flurry of real-life singles on Decca and Fontana. 
His solo album on Transatlantic from the mid-'60s. 

Demonstrating a radio tracking device to
Patrick McGoohan in 'Danger Man'  
He appears in several episodes of 'Danger Man', notably as a Arthur the departmental boffin and as a DJ/agent on a pirate radio station in 'Not So Jolly Roger'. He seems to have been ticking along nicely with the odd part in popular shows of the time, including 'Z-Cars', 'No Hiding Place', 'Public Eye' and 'The Saint'. He also appears in 'Half A Sixpence' (1967) as Tommy Steele's mate Sid, and the BBC adaptation of Dickens's 'Dombey & Son' from 1969.   

Flash bang wallop what a picture.  In 'Half A Sixpence' (1967)
with Tommy Steele (and the late great Julian Orchard). 
As Brett Sinclair's tuneless cousin Onslow, about to get electrocuted in a
'Kind Hearts & Coronets'-influenced episode of 'The Persuaders'    
The '70s presented a new landscape. Sandford's swinging London pop-persona was in demand, but looking increasingly outré in the new decade. He appears in full comedy-mode in 'The Persuaders' Ealing-esque episode 'A Death In The Family' as Roger Moore's groovy duffer of a cousin. On the darker side, he turns up as the brilliantly-named depraved pornographer David Thing  in "Cool It Carol' (1970) a rather grimy, if moralistic, sexploiter with Robin Askwith.        

Great character name. With a curious mix of guest stars in the
Robin Askwith sexploitation movie 'Cool It Carol' (1970)  
Darker still is his slightly chilly turn as Sue's fiancé in the marvellous 'Deep End' (1971), and another rather grim gooseberry role in the obscure Giallo-style 'Die Screaming Marianne' (1971).       

As the fiancé of Sue (Jane Asher) in 'Deep End' (1971)
'Die Screaming Marianne' (1971)
The remainder of the '70s saw relatively few highlights, and in fact there are only six entries on imdb covering the period from 1975 to 2006. He also returned to music with a couple of pastiche comedy records. A modest claim to fame comes from his appearance in the 'Dad's Army' episode 'Time On My Hands' as the German airman dangling from the Walmington-on-Sea town hall clock.  

A mixed bag, but some real gems, some terrific oddball stuff and a fascinating story.   

Christopher Sandford-imdb

Thursday 8 November 2018

Leon Lissek

Actor Leon Lissek as a taxi driver in the 1968 'Avengers' episode 'The Forget-Me-Knot'

Leon Lissek: 

Although born in Australia, Leon Lissek has spent the majority of his long acting career in the UK where his mobile features and expressive eyes have made him a memorable face in a range of supporting roles. Which isn't to say that he is simply a master of the shrug, gape or head-shake, as a series of slightly more substantial acting successes makes clear.     

In the Hammer horror 'Countess Dracula' (1971)
A few major films have featured his talents, such as 'Nicholas & Alexandra' (1971) which featured a Tom Baker as Rasputin, and alongside Albert Finney's Poirot in 'Murder On The Orient Express' (1974, ), as well as 'Sweeney 2' (1978), 'Time Bandits' (1981), 'Personal Services' (1987), and 'The Unbearable Lightness Of Being' (1988). There's also an early role in the revered 'Marat/Sade' (1967). It's in television though, that he has really made the bigger impression.   

In the dock in a 'Crown Court' story from 1973 

With equal aplomb, Leon Lissek has met with television's casting demands for Jewish rabbis, businessmen and revolutionaries, Spanish priests and waiters, Arab sheikhs, French maitre d's, and various Greeks, Russians, Hungarians and Mexicans. You could have spotted him in police and adventure shows ranging from 'Softly Softly', 'Special Branch', 'Z-Cars' and 'Van Der Valk' to 'The Avengers', 'The Protectors', 'The Return Of The Saint' and 'The Professionals'.       

Continental shenanigans in 'Return Of The Saint'
He seems to have returned to Australia for a spell in the mid-'70s, to appear as a regular in 'The Sullivans', and several other Australian programmes. In the UK, lighter fare included low-brow comedies 'Not On Your Nellie' and 'Take A Letter Mr Jones', and kids TV 'Tottering Towers', 'Robert's Robots' and 'The Famous Five.' Better things were around the corner though, with his performance in the big-budget TV drama 'Shogun' as Father Sebastio.    

Waiting for the bathroom in an episode of
the BBC sitcom 'Ever Decreasing Circles'    
The '80s and '90s saw a sprinkling of quality drama - 'Our Friends In The North', 'The Final Cut', 'Cambridge Spies' - and occasional small roles in some popular productions such as 'Ever Decreasing Circles', 'A Fine Romance' and so on, culminating in a stint on 'EastEnders' with the legendary Stella Tanner, as Bruno and Luisa Di Marco, before the cast was dramatically pruned in late 1998.       

Playing Lavoisier in 'Marat/Sade' (1967)

Leon Lissek-imdb

Wednesday 31 October 2018

Roy Evans

Actor Roy Evans in 'Vault Of Horror'

Roy Evans: 

With his hangdog demeanour and baleful gaze, we seem to often see Roy Evans in either roles of brooding menace or slight gormlessness. He's a minor Doctor Who favourite, having appeared in several stories: as the sinister razor-toothed Trantis from the long 1965 adventure 'The Dalek's Master Plan', and two Pertwee-era classics, 'The Green Death' and 'The Monster Of Peladon'.      

Roy Evans as Trantis in the 1965 'Dr Who'
story, 'The Daleks' Master Plan'
A skim through his film roles shows up a lot of incidental characters, the sort that appear in the credits as 'coachman', 'tall undertaker', 'sewerman', blind beggar', etc, but he's been in some interesting productions. He's in a lot of cult horror: 'The Fearless Vampire Killers' (1967), The Blood Beast Terror' (1968),'The House That Dripped Blood' (1971), and 'Dr Jeckyll & Sister Hyde' (1971). And in the cult favourite 'Psychomania' (1973), he's the unfortunate motorist who first encounters Nicky Henson's resurrected ton-up zombie as he roars out of his stone-circle grave. On the lighter side, he shows up in  'Oliver!' (1968) - he plays one of the workhouse inmates chasing Oliver around the dining hall after he asks for more - and he's in the Albert Finney 'Scrooge' (1970), and interesting bigger budget fare like the space western 'Moon Two Zero' (1969), 'Jabberwocky' (1977), 'The Elephant Man' (1980) and 'The Company Of Wolves' (1984).     

In 'Dr Who: The Green Death'  
Television work has included semi-classic stuff ranging from 'Doctor Who', 'Minder', 'The Protectors', 'Return Of The Saint', 'Budgie', 'Adam Adamant Lives!', 'The Changes', 'Cribb', 'Blakes 7' and David Bowie's 'Baal', to better kids' programmes such as 'Dramarama', 'Worzel Gummidge' and er, 'Here Come The Double Deckers'. Comedy appearances include: 'The Black Adder', 'Murder Most Horrid', 'Only Fools And Horses', as well as popular dramas such as 'Porterhouse Blue', 'Poldark', 'Secret Army', 'Campion' and the 1977 TV adaptation of 'Treasure Island'.     
Spooked by undead motorbike noises in 'Psychomania' (1973) 

In another cult classic, 'The Blood Beast Terror' (1968)

All round, an interesting CV. He seems to be retired since the early 2000s, but there's a good chance of spotting him in something from that long back catalogue.   

Roy Evans-imdb

Saturday 29 September 2018

Richard Ridings

Richard Ridings:

The recent death of Liz Fraser led me to revisit a few of her later roles, one of which was her gleeful portrayal of Doris Entwhistle in 'Fairly Secret Army'. She charms as the cheerfully racist other half of Sergeant Major Throttle (the marvellous Michael Robbins) in David Nobbs' prescient '80s satire of the politely seething fascism of the little Englander. Geoffrey Palmer enlarges on his ex-army suburban agitator character from 'Reggie Perrin', railing against: "Communists, Maoists, Trotskyists, neo-Trotskyists, crypto-Trotskyists, 
union leaders, Communist union leaders, atheists, agnostics, long-haired weirdos, short-haired weirdos, vandals, hooligans, football supporters, namby-pamby probation officers, rapists, papists, papist rapists, foreign surgeons, headshrinkers – who ought to be locked up, Wedgwood Benn, keg bitter, punk rockers, glue-sniffers, 'Play For Today', squatters, ...etc". Anyway, also spotted in the great cast was a suited and booted Ray Winstone with thug in-tow: Ron Boat, played by Richard Ridings.

In 'Fairly Secret Army' with the great Geoffrey Palmer.
(Note our old friend John Owens in the background)   
He was in the role of the sine qua non '80s yobbo, slack gumby jawed, comically quizzical, bulky in stature and light on wits. His face was immediately familiar from a host of similar small parts in shows including the Comic Strip episode 'The Yob', and a mixture of hardcases and tough coppers in 'Boon', 'Minder', 'The Bill', and 'Heartbeat' and as Mad Mick in 'The Ritz'.

As the not-so-dumb Warren in the '90s reboot of 'Minder'
As time progressed, there followed a new vein of casting and some interesting roles: he's in the unlikely comedy vehicle for the not-very-comical Edward Woodward, 'Common As Muck', but also in the fabulously star-studded 1997 BBC adaptation of 'The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling' as Reverend Thwackum, which must have led in part to his recent memorable role as the Beadle in 2016's underrated gaslight noir novelty 'Dickensian'.

In 'Dickensian', as the devoted and frustrated Beadle, seen here with 
his ambitious and manipulative wife played by Caroline Quentin 
         His feature-film career contains appearances in a few big productions: Polanski's 'The Pianist' (2002), 'The Fourth Protocol' (1987), 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit?' (1988), 'Erik The Viking' (1989) Fierce Creatures' (1997), and he plays Buck in 'Rise Of The Planet Of the Apes' (2011).
As Henry VIII in 'Six Wives with Lucy Worsley'.
Alice Patten plays Catherine Parr. 
His voice features in a lot of video game soundtracks, usually of the battle axe and dragon variety, but he's also done a fair bit of kids' TV, such as providing the voice of Daddy Pig in the ever-popular 'Peppa Pig'. 

Richard Ridings-imdb 

Saturday 15 September 2018

Robin Parkinson

Actor Robin Parkinson in the BBC show 'Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads?'

Robin Parkinson: 
† Oct 25 1929 – May 7 2022

One of the great skills of the character actor is to invest a peripheral role with enough personality to convince as a real individual in a real situation, without interfering with the main action. In British film and television there exists the recurring figure of the dignified but inconsequential little Englander, a small man who may display any blend of timidity, doggedness, thwarted genius, cheerful dullness, determined helpfulness and ennui. Robin Parkinson is something of a master of these roles.

Desmond pledges to help Miss Jones (Frances De La Tour) with her
drink problem, after a 'word-to-the wise' from a jealous Mr Rigsby

It was recalling his appearance as Desmond, the ardent and poetic librarian suitor of Miss Jones in 'Rising Damp' that got me researching Robin Parkinson, whose name I could not have told you before, and which uncovered a long CV of interesting work stretching back to the '50s.        

In the odd espionage caper 'Catch Me A Spy' (1971) 

On the big screen, you might have spotted him as the jeweller in the ring fiasco of 'Billy Liar' (1963), or in 'The Family Way' (1966), the Clements/La Frenais spy spoof 'Catch Me A Spy' (1971), 'Alfie Darling' (1975), or in the movie spin-off of 'George & Mildred' (1980), but it's probably unlikely.

Assisting Terry (James Bolam) with his suit for Bob's wedding
in 'Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads?'

It's almost certain, though, that you've seen him in television comedy. Apart from the aforementioned 'Rising Damp', he has been in a panoply of vintage sitcoms, ranging from 'Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads?', 'Dad's Army', 'Shelley', 'Moody & Pegg' and 'The Young Ones', to 'The Liver Birds', 'Love Thy Neighbour', 'The Brittas Empire', 'Bless This House', 
'It Ain't Half Hot Mum', 'Beryl's Lot' and 'Terry & June'. There are lots more, including taking over the role of Monsieur (It is I...) Le Clerc in the later series of 'Allo Allo', although this was after it had gone from feeble to desperate.

As a chatty cabbie in 'The Professionals'

He also turns up in a lot of sketch comedy and light entertainment. You'll see him in the shows of the Two Ronnies, Dick Emery, Kenny Everett, Kelly Monteith, Harry Worth, and Peter Serafinovicz. Light dramas, middle-brow classics, cop shows and cosy crime favourites are also his stock in trade. See for instance, 'Clochemerle', 'The Pickwick Papers', 'The Good Companions', Whodunnit', 'All Creatures Great & Small', 'Van Der Valk', 'Softly Softly', 'The Professionals', 'Rosemary & Thyme', to name but a few.

Presenting the face of respectability to be subjected to the cynical
mordant wit of 'Shelley', as played by the late Hywel Bennet  

Then there's children's television, with 'Danger: Marmalade at Work', 'The Tommorow People', and a long-running stint as the soothingly-voiced narrator of the spoon-puppet show for tinies, 'Button Moon'.

Robin Parkinson narrated all the episodes of 'Button Moon'

The 'little man with spectacles' is, or at least was, a mainstay of British entertainment culture, and Robin Parkinson is a maestro at portraying the many nuances of the type. He's also the man forever perplexed by a bunged-up Peter Cleal in the timeless and iconic Tunes commercial

Robin Parkinson-imdb