Wednesday, 28 July 2021

Sorry I missed you


Sorry I missed you...

One of the conditions I set myself with this blog is that all the actors I salute are still alive. Obviously I've had to amend quite a few of the 250+ posts on here, as the often-elderly actors inevitably pass on in the fullness of time.

Damaris Hayman, the subject of the first-ever post back in 2012, died quite recently, and a recent addition, Brian Osborne, was posted by me this month, not realising that he had died only 48 hours previously. 

The pictures above are of actors who slipped through my fingers, whose salutes from me never came, as their draft posts were languishing in my 'to-do' list over the past few years when I learned of their passing. 

(Clockwise from top left):
Sylvia Kay (d.2019), Frank Mills (d.2021), Patricia Healey (d.2021), Stephen Moore (d.2019), Meic Povey (d.2017), Mike Walling (d.2020), Anne Lynn (d.2020), and Michael Medwin (d.2020).          

Friday, 16 July 2021

Nick Brimble

Actor Nick Brimble in the BBC series 'Blakes 7'

Nick Brimble:

Broodingly malevolent-looking and an imposing 6'4", Nick Brimble has made more than a few appearances, mainly as villains and heavies, over the years. Starting in the early '70s he started racking up roles in the popular tough-guy shows of the time, notably 'The Sweeney' on TV and in the feature film, where he was a semi-regular as DS Burtonshaw, and the likes of 'Z-Cars', 'Softly Softly', 'The Professionals' and 'Quiller'.       

About to get a nasty shock in a 1971 public information film

He can also be found in sci-fi shows including 'Space:1999' and 'Blakes 7' and had recurring roles in major hits of the time such as 'Danger UXB' and 'Penmarric' and historical serials like 'John Silver's Return To Treasure Island' and the ambitious pan-European 'William Tell' (AKA Crossbow) which was too similar to the smash-hit 'Robin Of Sherwood' to get much traction in the UK.   

Getting his mind extracted by Brian Blessed's sinister
SodaStream machine in an episode of 'Space:1999'

This regular UK television work was punctuated with film offers, some of which were for pretty major movies. He is the bearded Little John in 'Robin Hood Prince Of Thieves' (1991), and before that he crops up in 'Lust For A Vampire' (1971), 'Silver Dream Racer' (1980), 'Who Dares Wins' (1982), and 'Roger Corman's Frankenstein Unbound' (1990) with John Hurt and Raul Julia. 

Classic villainous performance in 'Dempsey & Makepeace'

As the Monster in 'Roger Corman's Frankenstein 
Unbound' (1990) a time-travel riff on the original

Television work has continued into the 21st century and you're sure to have seen him if you've watched mainstream broadcast TV much at all in the last 30 years. He appeared in 'The Bill' no fewer than six times between 1988 and 2007, had a long story arc in 'Emmerdale', and appeared in the mini series 'House Of Cards' and its follow-ups 'To Play A King' and 'The Final Cut'. And that's before we get into the inevitable round of 'Midsomer Murders', 'Boon, 'Dempsey & Makepeace', 'Bergerac', 'Wycliffe', 'Doc Martin', 'New Tricks' and 'Heartbeat'. 

It's a fair cop. Bang to rights in 'The Famous Five'

In fact, so distinctive and talented is Nick Brimble that it's a surprise that fewer people know his name. As with all these little salutes to character actors, I hope more people will recognise and enjoy his performances when they spot him in future. I know I will. 

Public Information Film - click here

Nick Brimble-imdb

Tuesday, 13 July 2021

Vivian Pickles

Vivian Pickles in the film 'Sunday Bloody Sunday'

Vivian Pickles:

You may well say that here I am pushing the premise of 'Familiar Unknown' a little too far. After all, Vivian Pickles is something of a grand dame of the theatre and has worked with many of the greatest actors and directors of her generation, and yet I feel she is not so well known to recent generations as, say, Maggie Smith, Judi Dench or Vanessa Redgrave, and still able to sneak in under the radar in some rather surprising TV roles.

In the 1964 'Avengers' episode 'The Charmers'

Vivian Kay Pickles was born into that complicated Yorkshire dynasty that also gave us the actor and renowned broadcaster Wilfred Pickles (her uncle) and the controversial Judge Pickles (her brother). A child actor in the late '40s, she trained at the Aida Foster Drama School and began her adult career on the repertory stage of the fifties alongside a number of illustrious stars of the era. This was the time of the 'angry young man' and 'kitchen sink' in British drama and she was a hit in new plays by the likes of Willis Hall and John Osborne. As an attractive and talented young actress, it's unsurprising that she appeared in some of the new and popular programmes of the '60s: drama serials 'Emergency Ward-10', Harpers West One', 'Z-Cars' and the Honor Blackman-era 'Avengers' episode 'The Charmers'.

As the doomed artistic free-spirit Isadora Duncan
in Ken Russell's acclaimed 'Isadora' (1966)

A big break comes with the Ken Russell-directed 'Isadora' a remarkable tour-de-force biopic in stark monochrome which boosted her career and that of Russell who was afterward propelled beyond the realm of BBC shorts and into the art-cinema boom of the '70s. For the actress, now in her mid-thirties, it heralded a purple patch of quality roles, beginning with her casting as Mrs Bennett in the BBC's admired 1967 adaptation of 'Pride And Prejudice', and leading to a brief arc of interesting cinema parts: she's in 'Play Dirty' (1969) - a war story penned by her BBC Arts connection Melvyn Bragg - before 'The Looking Glass War' (1970), 'Sunday Bloody Sunday' (1971), 'Nicholas & Alexandra' (1971), and 'O Lucky Man!' (1973).         

A bravura turn as Harold's exasperated mother in the 
cult classic 'Harold And Maude' (1971)

It was also during this period that she made her only appearance in a Hollywood movie, Hal Ashby's 'Harold And Maude' (1971) in which she plays the remote and bewildered mother of the troubled Harold (Bud Cort). Although not a big grossing success at the time, the film is now considered a cult classic. 

As Mary Queen Of Scots in 'Elizabeth R'
Her television presence also peaked during these years, with solid drama including 'Vile Bodies', 'The Great Inimitable Mr Dickens' and the high profile 'Elizabeth R' in which her Mary Queen Of Scots squared up fatally to Glenda Jackson's terrifying virgin queen. It's here though that her profile begins to lower a little, at least as far as film and television are concerned.
As the vain Lady Montdore in 'Love In A Cold Climate'

Bertie's redoubtable Aunt Dahlia in 'Jeeves & Wooster'

From the middle-'70s we see Vivian Pickles in such varied TV output as 'Love In A Cold Climate', 'Rebecca', and the excellent 'Velvet Glove' episode about Marie Stopes, while largely steering clear of the primetime potboilers other than 'Bergerac' and 'Midsomer Murders'. Big screen parts, meanwhile are limited to the Disney romp 'Candleshoe' (1977) with David Niven and Jodie Foster and, by way of contrast, the chaotic satire 'Britannia Hospital' (1982).  

As a sidenote, she was a very prolific story reader on 'Jackanory' which I always consider a badge of honour, and turns up as a fun bag-lady in the Brixton barbershop comedy 'Desmonds'. She was also my favourite of the actresses that portrayed Aunt Dahlia in 'Jeeves & Wooster'.     

Saturday, 10 July 2021

Brian Osborne

British actor Brian Osborne

Brian Osborne: 

† 1940 – July 8 2021*

Even among the staunchest of enthusiasts, the later 'Carry On' films are generally held in lower regard than the early and mid-period examples, which in some ways is a shame as the supporting cast of the '70s films often had some great character actors of the period. An example of this is the redoubtable Brian Osborne, who had already gathered a few modest credits in TV shows such as 'Softly Softly' and  'Redcap' before he appears as an ambulance driver in 'Carry On Matron' (1972). He can also be seen in 'Carry On Abroad' (1972),  'Carry On Girls' (1973), 'Carry On Dick' (1974),  'Carry On Behind' (1975) and 'Carry On England' (1976). He was also a regular in the same period's generally unfunny TV spin-off 'Carry On Laughing'. 

Vendor of the notorious love potion liqueur in
'Carry On Abroad' (1972) 

This raised profile may well have led to an increasing number of TV roles in the early '70s, in such popular fare as 'Follyfoot', 'Pardon My Genie', 'Some Mothers Do Ave Em' and, more substantially, 'Upstairs Downstairs' in which he played Pearce the chauffeur.   

The latter '70s saw appearances in 'Space:1999', 'Are You Being Served?', 'The Sandbaggers' and 'Secret Army', but perhaps surprisingly not 'The Sweeney' or 'The Professionals'.

In the film version of the popular TV series 'Bless This
House' (1972), here with Robin Askwith in the role of Mike

In 'Space:1999', and about to fall victim to some 
floral foul play by the young lady with her alien plant    

During the '80s you might have spotted Brian Osborne in 'Moonfleet', 'Minder', 'Shine On Harvey Moon', 'Juliet Bravo', 'Sorry!' and 'A Dorothy L Sayers Mystery: Have His Carcase', while the '90s offered the likes of 'London's Burning' and 'The Bill'.  

In the excellent BBC production of the Dorothy L
Sayers mystery 'Have His Carcase' from 1987  

Beyond his 'Carry On' shenanigans, he does appear in a few big screen productions, including 'Women In Love (1969), 'Under Milk Wood' (1971), 'Bless This House' (1972), Nighthawks (1981), 'Haunters Of The Deep' (1984) and 'Last Orders' (2001). It seems that he hasn't been in anything since 2003, so I hope he is enjoying a happy retirement.  

* (Edit 21/7/21: I'm sad to learn that Brian Osborne has died, in the Canary Islands, aged 81,  just a couple of days before I published this little salute.)