Sunday 1 November 2020

David Sibley

British actor David Sibley

David Sibley: 

You will almost certainly have your familiar buttons pushed by British actor David Sibley. He  has appeared in a very solid set of UK television favourites over the years, starting with 'Survivors', the prescient disease drama of the '70s. Another important supporting role was in the very popular First World War series 'Wings', following the development of the Royal Flying Corps through a compelling narrative of character and class clashes, lost youth and authentic aerial sequences.   

As sickly hippie Kim in 'Survivors'

With the great Tom Baker in 'Dr Who: The Pirate Planet' 

Some of the big-name successes that he has been associated with more recently include 'Downton Abbey', 'Silent Witness', 'Broadchurch' and 'Wallander', alongside some choice period TV dramas such as the 1998 BBC 'Middlemarch', 2013's 'War and Peace' and the star-studded 2018 'Vanity Fair'.  

As flight mechanic Corporal Morgan in 'Wings'

As an RAF bar steward in the National Service 
comedy 'Get Some In' with the great Tony Selby

Feature film appearances are not extensive, but you might spot him in 'Gandhi' (1982), 'Willow (1988), and 'Great Balls Of Fire!' (1989), or possibly in '45 Years' (2013) with Tom Courtenay and Charlotte Rampling. 

In the reconstruction segments of the IRA drama documentary 
'The Year London Blew Up: 1974', as an unnamed police detective

In the acclaimed police drama 'Broadchurch' 
playing pathologist Dr Lovegood 

In his youth, his somewhat elfin combination of mysterious hooded eyes and perky chipmunk-ish smile led to a few interesting TV roles, and as he has matured, this appealingly ambiguous side to his appearance and performances has obviously caught the eye of casting directors. His characters turn up in many popular detective and light mystery programmes, such as 'Ruth Rendell Mysteries', 'Shoestring'(memorably playing a mild-mannered psycho), 'Midsomer Murders', 'Alleyn Mysteries', 'Frontiers' and 'Judge John Deed',  but he's also in some of our old favourites like 'Minder', 'Blakes 7' and 'Dr Who'.

With Geraldine James in '45 Years' (2013) playing the ukulele at the wedding anniversary 
party for the troubled couple played by Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay

Naturally, he has been ingested by the great long-running drama monsters; 'Holby City', 'Casualty', 'Doctors', The Bill' etc, but keep an eye out for him in the long-ignored LWT drama series 'Rooms', currently (late 2020) getting some airtime on the Talking Pictures channel on British TV.

All in all, a solid all-rounder and a bit more.       

David Sibley-imdb

Monday 26 October 2020

Michael Stainton


British actor Michael Stainton

Michael Stainton: 

A lot of policemen. Quite a few landlords. But a LOT of policemen. The perpetually unamused Michael Stainton must be familiar to anyone who had even a casual acquaintance with British television in the '70s and '80s. In comedy and in drama, this solidly imposing actor appeared frequently in blue as one of the quintessential portrayers of the uniformed plod. He's the  copper in 'Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads?', 'Rising Damp', Citizen Smith',  'Only Fools And Horses', 'Never The Twain' and 'Mind Your Language', but also in 'Juliet Bravo', 'The Ruth Rendell Mysteries', 'Lord Peter Wimsey', numerous television plays and even 'Brideshead Revisited'.       

Michael Stainton as the copper who brings an end to Terry's attempt
to give Bob a stag night in 'Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads?'


Michael Stainton's earliest roles were on TV back in the mid '50s, already stepping easily from historical dramas and crime shows into light entertainment and comedy such as 'Hancock', 'The Army Game', 'Benny Hill', 'Hugh & I' and Sid James's popular show 'Citizen James'.   

As the vicar in the pilot episode of 'Last Of The Summer Wine'

In the '60s and '70s, the mix of drama and comedy was still strong, with the likes of 'Softly Softly', The Plane Makers', and 'No Cloak-No Dagger' more than offset by 'The Liver Birds', 'All Gas And Gaiters', 'Dad's Army', Moody & Pegg', 'The Two Ronnies' and 'Steptoe & Son'. To these we can add old favourites of this blog, 'Shelley', 'A Sharp Intake Of Breath' and 'Ripping Yarns'. He was also a regular in Jimmy Edwards' school comedy 'Whack-O!', which seems more bizarre every time the recollection of it crops up these days.    

As Don the ever-sympathetic landlord in 'You Must Be
The Husband', with the late Tim Brooke-Taylor  

As the Beano-esque Father in the silly Mickey Dolenz-directed
kids series 'Metal Mickey', which at least featured Irene Handl

This momentum was carried into the '80s and he appears in a lot of popular shows. He was Sergeant Tipper in the genteel detective series 'Charters & Caldicott', and pops up in programmes as diverse as the TV comedy vehicles of Russ Abbott, Kenny Everett, Kelly Monteith, Les Dawson and Les Dennis and the drama potboilers of 'The Bill' and 'London's Burning'.   

 As Alleyn's implacable desk officer in 
an episode of 'The Ruth Rendell Mysteries'  

Big screen appearances have been scant, a few obscure films and an uncredited part in 'Carry On Dick' (1974). To view his TV track record though, is to scan lightly over the history of British middle-brow entertainment of five decades, and for that he is surely due a salute.     

Michael Stainton-imdb

Wednesday 16 September 2020

Paul Putner

Actor Paul Putner in Hitler costume as 'the worst man' for a wedding-themed segment in 'The Peter Serafinowicz Show'

 Paul Putner:

Expert comic foil Paul Putner is a somewhat familiar face, at least in the edgier realms of UK television comedy. You may have seen him in shows with the likes of Kevin Eldon, Peter Serafinowicz, Lee & Herring, Lucas & Walliams, and the Comedy Lab.     

In the 'Peter Serafinowicz Show'

In the early '90s, LAMDA graduate Paul Putner was part of the comedy team at London's easy-listening revival hotspot The Regency Rooms, with kitsch crooner Lenny Beige and Co. A meeting of minds with Richard Herring seems to have led to a rich seam of semi-straight-man roles in TV as the fringe comics were snaffled up by the networks. He's also a successful comedy writer with credits in TV and radio.

As Curious Orange on 'This Morning With Richard, Not Judy'

A disquieting vignette with Toby Jones in
the always excellent '15 Storeys High'  

He can be spotted in 'The Glam Metal Detectives', 'Murder Most Horrid', 'This Morning With Richard, Not Judy', '15 Storeys High' and 'Spaced', as well as Peter Serafinowicz's eponymous show and his cult hit 'Look Around You', not to mention 'Little Britain', 'It's Kevin', and 'Stewart Lee's Comedy Vehicle'.     

As the surreally practical Bob in 'It's Kevin'

With Nicholas Lyndhurst, getting the third 
degree from Mel Smith in 'Rock and Chips'

More conventional TV fare includes 'The Bill', 'Foyle's War', 'Midsomer Murders', 'Downton Abbey' and the '60s-set 'Only Fools and Horses' prequel 'Rock and Chips'. All in all, a pretty decent collection of comedy connections and a likeable screen presence - so hopefully this little salute has done something to elevate him above 'that bloke' status. 

Edit: And the more I find out about Mr Putner, the more I like him. Here's a link to a rummage through his excellent-looking record collection. 

Paul Putner-imdb

Sunday 30 August 2020

Liz Crowther

Actress Liz Crowther in 'Shoestring'

Liz Crowther:

Daughter of the late TV personality and presenter Leslie Crowther - but not the one that married Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy - Liz Crowther is an actress, albeit one who has generally concentrated on the stage. She has been a member of the RSC and involved with several theatre projects over the years, but has still found time to appear in a number of TV series.

In 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe', a 1967 production
over ten episodes, almost all of which are now lost.

As a child she appeared as Lucy in the 1967 ITV production of 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe' and the completely lost 'Queen Street Gang', but after studying drama in London and Paris she embarked on a career focused on the stage. She has nevertheless been seen in a number of very popular shows, including some longer stints as a main character. For example, she was Annie Hart, the matriarch in Channel 5's attempt to take on the soap opera market, although her character was written out in a reboot by notorious soap hatchet-man Brian Park.   

In the 1983 BBC production of 'Mansfield Park', playing Julia Bertram

As Sergeant Jane Kendall in 'The Bill'

She was also a regular in 'The Bill', 'London's Burning', 'Growing Pains', 'Doctors' and 'Shoestring', as well as making many other one-off drama appearances in the likes of 'Miss Marple', 'Lewis', 'The Cost Of Loving', 'A Year In Provence', 'Bergerac', 'Holby City' and  'EastEnders'.   

As annoying English neighbour Jill, in 'French Fields'

In a comedy vein, you'll see her in 'The Comic Strip presents: Funseekers', 'French Fields', and the flop supermarket sitcom 'Tripper's Day' with Leonard Rossiter, which became the even floppier 'Slinger's Day' with Bruce Forsyth after Rossiter's death.  

'Growing Pains' with Ray Brooks

Definitely a familiar face, perhaps all the more so for the faint family resemblance to her late father, and a talented actor who deserves to be better recognised. 

Liz Crowther-imdb       

Thursday 30 July 2020

Jeff Rawle

British actor Jeff Rawle

Jeff Rawle:

I first remember seeing Jeff Rawle in the 1970s TV series 'Billy Liar', the first version of Keith Waterhouse's kitchen-sink Walter Mitty that I ever encountered. With its budget studio-bound look and sitcom-hysterics live audience, it made somewhat underwhelming television, and was soon lost deep in the recesses of my memory. When I read the book and saw the 1963 film in the '80s, there was barely a flicker of brain cells to remind me of this incarnation, yet it turns out that Rawle and his Mr Shadrack (Colin Jeavons) - though forever in the giant shadows of Tom Courtenay and Leonard Rossiter - made an impact on me after all.

As Billy Fisher in the early '70s TV 'Billy Liar' 

With that pinched, underfed urchin look of '70s youth, Jeff Rawle played Billy with energy and verve, albeit with none of the nuance of the film version, which is understandable as it was virtually his first television acting role. The show was popular at the time, but didn't quite make him a household name. Roles on television that immediately followed tended to be rather slight, but included some variously serious dramas, such as Bertold Brecht's 'Baal', and the odd 'Play For Today' among the 'Van Der Valk', 'Crown Court' and 'Hammer House Of Horror'. 

In an episode of 'Remington Steele'

By the end of the '80s there were some more substantial recurring castings, in 'Angels', the 'Doctor Who' adventure 'Frontios', 'Fortunes Of War', and 'Vote For Them', before things started to brighten up with the odd 'Minder', 'Boon' and 'Wycliffe'. It was two comedy offerings that brought him more into the public eye once again: 'Faith In The Future' - a sequel to 'Second Thoughts', with Rawle replacing James Bolam as the foil to Lynda Bellingham, with Julia Sawalha and Simon Pegg in early roles; and more notably 'Drop The Dead Donkey' - the slightly topical newsroom comedy which featured him as the timid George Dent caught in a constant battle of egos and politics.                 

In the satirical journo-com 'Drop The Dead Donkey' 

Possibly, it was his affecting portrayal of retired rocker Roger Fenn in 'Doc Martin' that led to his casting in 'Harry Potter & The Goblet Of Fire', but whatever it was that led to the role, it certainly proved to be leg-up in terms of profile. Although not a large part, Amos Diggory plays into one of the crucial plot points of the film via his screen son, Cedric, (future star Robert Pattinson) and the emotional fall-out of his death. 

As tweedy ministerial wizard and 'port-key' guide Amos
Diggory in 'Harry Potter & The Goblet Of Fire' (2005)

This side of the Potter, Jeff Rawle has been in some interesting and worthwhile stuff, such as an enjoyable drama based on the early development of 'Doctor Who' - the Mark Gatiss-helmed 'An Adventure In Space And Time' - and several episodes of 'The Durrells', but perhaps got most attention as the 'Hollyoaks' serial killer Silas Blissett, investing the character with a level of depth that seems to have sent thrills racing through the soap-watching audience.          

A 'Doctor Who' veteran himself, seen here in the drama
about the birth of the show 'An Adventure In Space
And Time', with Sarah Winter as Delia Derbyshire.  

Perhaps the '70s TV 'Billy Liar' is due for a rewatch? It's been made available on DVD and features previous Familiar Unknown subjects George A Cooper and Colin Jeavons who are almost always worth a look. Whatever the verdict, Jeff Rawle certainly deserves my modest salute.    

Jeff Rawle -imdb

Tuesday 28 July 2020

Pip Torrens

Pip Torrens, British actor

Pip Torrens: 

Bromley-born actor Philip 'Pip' Torrens has a really very extensive body of work in his résumé, stretching back to the mid-'80s, with literally dozens of roles in a range of films and television, including some pretty big titles. Despite this, you'll probably recognise his suave good looks, but perhaps not be able to come up with the name. Early casting made much of his classic young Englishman vibe, while latterly this has transformed into something of the wry sophisticate, with a plethora of professional, military, or villainous complexions.    

As newbie copper PC Monkhouse, with his well-crucial
nemesis Delbert Wilkins in the 'Lenny Henry Show'

His cinema career seems to begin with the horribly-clichéd Rob Lowe teen movie 'Oxford Blues' (1987), but continues with the likes of the epic 'Little Dorrit' (1987), 'A Handful Of Dust' (1988), 'Eminent Domain' (1990), Patriot Games (1992), War Horse (2011), The Iron Lady' (2011), 'Tomorrow Never Dies' (1997), 'How To Get Ahead In Advertising' (1989), 'Remains Of The Day' (1993), 'Longitude' (2000), the Keira Knightley 'Pride & Prejudice' (2005), 'My Week With Marilyn' (2011), 'Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens' (2015), and 'Darkest Hour' (2017). A fair cross section of a few decades there.  

As Egyptologist Howard Carter  in the enjoyably far-fetched
'Young Indiana Jones: Treasure Of The Peacock's Eye' TV movie,
seen here with William Osborne playing EM Forster   

Although his CV is heavier on the serious, literary, and historical material, there are a few light comedy and comedy-drama roles on television. For example, 'The Lenny Henry Show', 'Murder Most Horrid', 'Yes, Prime Minister', 'Up The Women', 'Jeeves & Wooster', latterday 'Minder', and 'The Brittas Empire' among the comedies. Add to that some gentle detective/mystery fare such as 'Rosemary & Thyme', 'Lovejoy', 'Marple', 'Ruth Rendell Mysteries', 'Midsomer Murders', 'Van Der Valk ' and 'Maigret'. Not to mention the generally well-liked David Tennant era 'Doctor Who' stories 'The Family Of Blood' and 'Human Nature'.       

Back-lit and inscrutable as the royal adviser, Sir Alan 'Tommy'
Lascelles, a stern presence in the TV series 'The Crown'    

There are a few potboilers too, parts in the sort of shows that make up many actors' bread and butter. Among these we might consider popular schedule-filler such as 'Heartbeat', 'The Bill' (five roles, all different), 'Casualty' and a courtroom lawyer stint in 'Coronation Street'. 

As Colonel Kaplan in 'Star Wars: Episode VII -
The Force Awakens' (2015), somewhat in the
tradition of Michael Culver as Captain Needa.    

But it's in the semi-heavyweight division that Pip Torrens has been most notable. See, for example, his strong role in 'The Crown', and several other historical dramas such as 'Shackleton', 'Versailles', 'Fleming', and 'War & Peace'.

As the amusingly evil and perverse Herr Starr in the 
extreme comic-book TV adaptation 'Preacher'

Recent appearances of interest include 'Deep State', 'Black Mirror', and the playfully OTT comic book-based 'Preacher' in which he achieves the difficult job of stealing the show from a cast of fallen angels, saintly superheroes and God himself, with his portrayal of the hilariously ruthless Herr Starr.

To judge by his record thus far, there are many excellent roles in store for this accomplished actor, so hopefully this small salute will mean that a few more people will be able instantly to put a name to the face.

 Pip Torrens-imdb     

Sunday 31 May 2020

David Cann

David Cann: 

Distinctive actor, with a combination of tough-guy and strangely elfin looks - thanks perhaps to his expressively pointy eyebrows - yet equally adaptable to everyday everyman roles. He first caught my attention from cropping up in a lot of modern comedy of the oddball sort, (being one of Chris Morris's development team for the radio show 'Blue Jam' and his later TV output), and also popular with the likes of Kevin Eldon and Reece Shearsmith. 

A typical role in a 'Brass Eye' interview sequence 

Trained at RADA in the mid 70s, his early television jobs saw him tackling some extra and bit-parts in low budget sci-fi faves, such as 'Tomorrow People', 'Sapphire & Steel' and 'Blakes 7', though seemingly never 'Doctor Who'.     

I think this is our chap... An early role as the 'chaircreature'
of a galactic committee in 'The Tomorrow People', played
in a rather jolly Python-esque falsetto.  

Uncredited role in 'Blakes 7' (on right).  

He proved extremely versatile, with small roles gradually giving way to better things in an ever-widening range of genres. He was in 'Shine On Harvey Moon', had a prolonged stint on a later series of 'Grange Hill' as Mr Bentley, and appeared as several characters on both sides of the law in 'The Bill'. He was also in 'EastEnders', 'Bad Girls', 'Silent Witness' and 'Doctors', as well as an episode of 'Killing Eve'.

In the 1981 TV reboot of 'Callan'

Vintage menace in an episode of 'Campion'

But it's in comedy that he's been most visible and memorable, with appearances in Chris Morris's 'Brass Eye' and 'Jam', 'Black Books', 'Saxondale', 'It's Kevin', 'Psychoville', 'Benidorm' and most recently, 'Sex Education'.

More 'Brass Eye'. This time as an astronaut. 

Films have been a mixture of comedies: 'Dog Eat Dog' (2001), 'Run Fatboy Run' (2007), 'Attack The Block' (2011), and more serious fare '1984' (1984), Chromophobia (2005), Les Miserables (2012) and 'Dead Eyes' (2007).

Mostly pretty interesting stuff. One of those actors that it's almost reassuring to see appear, giving the impression of being in good hands. I salute you.      

Saturday 16 May 2020

Jeannette Charles

British actress Jeannette Charles portraying the Queen in the German sex film 'Leos Leiden'

Jeannette Charles: 
† October 15 1927 – June 2 2024

The ultimate type-cast actress may be Jeannette Charles, who for several decades has been film and TV's default lookalike for the Queen. Does she really look like her? I'm not too sure, there might be something of the Princess Annes about her long upper lip, but to me she's nothing much like the real item. Her own face has become so familiar, though, that she is virtually a national institution herself - the official stunt queen. 


'Q6' with Spike Milligan

Though not really an actress as such - she's rarely given any lines - apparently she was involved in theatre as a young woman, but rarely cast because of her 'uncanny likeness' to the royal princess, and later the young queen, in an age of greater deference. The similarity was again remarked by her local paper in Essex in the early '70s, and with the coming of the irreverent era of post-Python comedy, she's been constantly in demand, usually as a simple sight-gag, and has been seen in a number of productions of wildly variable quality. 

With German comedy legend Loriot, aka Vicco von Bulows in 1974

Spike Milligan's establishment-baiting silliness made great use of her in series including 'Q6', 'Q7' and 'There's A lot Of It About', and she's seen in contemporary comedies such as 'Rutland Weekend Television', 'The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash', and later 'Not The Nine O'Clock News' and 'Never The Twain'. In an episode of 'Mind Your Language' with a little twist, she plays a woman who is mistaken for the queen. Kids 'TV was also a regular earner, with appearances on 'The Sooty Show', 'On Safari', 'Ratman' and the like.       

I wonder whose idea this was? Queen looking less than thrilled. 

On the cinema screen, after a few low-budget '70s porn/sex comedies (non-sexy roles obviously, but the Germans, it seems, love a throwaway royal joke), including 'Leos Leiden, aka 'Born Erect' (1976), 'Secrets Of A Superstud' (1976), and 'Queen Kong' (1977), she pops up in 'National Lampoon's European Vacation' (1985), 'The Naked Gun: From The Files Of Police Squad' (1988),  'Austin Powers In Goldmember' (2002). I have no idea what part she plays in the bizarre sounding Israeli topless prank comedy 'Nipagesh Bachof' (1987) but it's there on her CV. 

With Leslie Neilsen in the 'The Naked Gun' (1988) 

Born in 1927 (a year later than the real deal), she is now in her nineties and in retirement in her native Essex. Hopefully she will receive her telegram at the appropriate juncture - I wonder if any additional comment will follow the centennial good wishes?  

Edit: June 2024 - Sadly, Jeannette Charles did not quite make it to 100, but did a good job of matching Her Majesty, who also died aged 96.

Jeannette Charles-imdb