Monday 15 August 2022

Robin Hawdon

Actor Robert Hawdon in 'Zeta One' (1969)

Robin Hawdon:

Robin Hawdon is probably much better known as a writer than as an actor, with his witty comedies - don't say farces - still widely performed all around the world. 'The Mating Game' was his first hit play, a smash in the West End with Terry Scott as the playboy with the gadget-packed apartment. 'Don't Dress for Dinner' is a later and even bigger success, set in a wealthy couple's French farmhouse retreat.

But I'd like to just give a little salute to Mr Hawdon's acting career before all that, a brief arc from uncredited obscurity to the lower stratosphere of sex symbol stardom.

An early uncredited role in the UK sci-fi classic 'The Day
The Earth Caught Fire' (1961) with Leo McKern

With his effortless good looks, there were a few lightweight parts on offer, such as the the breezy 'We Joined the Navy' (1962) with Kenneth More, brooding crime stuff like 'Human Jungle', 'Suspense' and 'Armchair Mystery Theatre', and the semi-successful soap opera 'Compact'.     

With a very physical Eleanor Bron and a rather frustrated
Dudley Moore in the magisterial 'Bedazzled' (1967)

He plays Randolph the harp teacher in the millionaire segment of the fab 'Bedazzled' (1967), with whom Stanley Moon's beloved Margaret Spencer gets 'hot and sticky and.. Randy, we must have a swim'...        

Getting the drop on Jason King (Perer Wyngarde)
in an episode of 'Department S'

Robin Hawdon in a UFO episode from 1970 'The Psychobombs',
seen here in classic string-vest Skydiver uniform

Television work around this time included 'Department S', 'The Adventurer' and 'Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased)' with the added bonus (for TV cultists) of an appearance in Gerry Anderson's 'UFO' as a Skydiver pilot. The remainder of the 70s saw a mixture of comedy and drama, but by this time the playwright was enjoying more success than the actor. 

You can spot Robin Hawdon in dramas ranging from the BBC spy series 'The Man Who Was Hunting Himself'', to 'The Main Chance', the Victorian potboiler 'Wives & Daughters', and 'New Scotland Yard'. 
In the BBC spy drama 'The Man Who Was
unting Himself' (1972)

There was some comedy casting too, 'The Frankie Howerd Confessions', 'The Liver Birds', 'Robin's Nest', and a leading role in Alex Shearer's 'Spasms' and the ensuing slightly misfiring series 'Chalk and Cheese' with Michael Crawford, in which he played the straight man to Crawford's proto-slacker. Maybe audiences found it hard to buy into a cynical man-of-the-world who still sounded a bit like Frank Spencer.  It wasn't a big success and the series ended in 1979, with Hawdon soon to forsake acting to concentrate fully on his writing career.

'Robin's Nest' with Richard O'Sullivan

'Chalk and Cheese'

His later film career is also short but interesting. There was the shoddy and absurd 'sexy sci-fi' nonsense of 'Zeta One' (1969), with the unlikely mix of James Robertson-Justice and Charles Hawtrey and an invasion of alien pop-art dollybirds. Hawdon's turn as the male lead is workmanlike, given the circumstances, but also lacking in sparkle. The Hammer-produced prehistoric adventure 'When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (1970) is better, even with all its outrageous anachronisms, including immaculately coiffured and scantily furred cavewomen, never mind the Brontosauruses. At least there's Patrick Allen bellowing manfully and lots of primitive urges, even before you get to the stop-motion special effects of giant crabs and dinosaurs. These were good enough to see the film nominated for an Oscar, although it was beaten out in the end by 'Bedknobs and Broomsticks' (1970). Who knew?      

As the perfectly groomed 60s/70s caveman, in the Hammer
stop-motion romp 'When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth (1970)

Although it's his writing that has made his name and his money, that's an interesting CV of enjoyable performances. So, a salute, then. And well deserved.    

Robin Hawdon-imdb

Thursday 24 March 2022

John Nettleton

John Nettleton: 

† Feb  5 1929 – July 12 2023

A stalwart interpreter for the viewing public of the blandly powerful faces of the establishment, John Nettleton is probably most associated with the role of Sir Arnold Robinson, the civil service grandee in 'Yes Minister', and he appeared as a Tory MP in the equally satirical (if rather broader) political comedy 'The New Statesman'. 

In 'The Avengers' episode, 'The See-Through Man'

Among his well-remembered roles in television are those in 'The Avengers' ('The See-Through Man', in the Diana Rigg era, and 'The Rotters' with Linda Thorson), and in several other cult adventure properties of the time such as 'The Champions', 'Department S' and later 'The Protectors'. 'Doctor Who' fans may remeber him as the Reverend Ernest Matthews in the 1989 story Ghost Light, while mystery TV obsessives might cite his turns in 'The Rivals Of Sherlock Holmes', 'Tales Of The Unexpected', 'Haunted', 'Shadows' and 'Out Of The Unknown. He also graced popular favourites from 'Minder' and 'The Professionals' to 'Rumpole Of The Bailey' and 'The Adventures Of Black Beauty'. And let us not forget the authoritative voiceovers for Valerie Singleton's 'Blue Peter: Special Assignment' historical and factual programmes.

With Celia Imrie in a religious skit on
'Victoria Wood: As Seen On TV' 

In middlebrow TV drama, he brought his patrician demeanour to the screen many times and can be seen as Francis Bacon in 'Elizabeth R', 'The Country Wife' , 'Brideshead Revisited', 'The Flame Trees of Thika', 'The Citadel', 'Martin Luther, Heretic', 'Longitude' and 'Kingdom'. Other smaller comedy turns, which rather pale beside his 'Yes, Minister' years, include 'Please Sir!', 'If It Moves File It', 'Doctor at Large' and 'Brass'. 

Production still from the ABC series 'Haunted' from 1968

Born in 1929, John Nettleton is now into his 90s and, I hope, enjoying a pleasant retirement.
[edit 12/7/23 - John Nettleton has sadly passed on since this salute was first uploaded. Guardian obit is here]

John Nettleton-imdb