Monday 4 December 2023

Paul Chapman

British actor Paul Chapman

Paul Chapman:   

Tall and imposing with distinctively stern, almost Vulcan, eyebrows, it feels as if we've often seen Paul Chapman in the role of the antagonist in dramas and comedies stretching back to the 1960s. He's probably best remembered in several David Nobbs comedies, including 'A Fairly Secret Army' (as jaded mercenary Pegleg Pogson), 'A Bit Of A Do' and the rather less successful 'The Hello Goodbye Man'.   

An episode of 'Survivors' from 1975 

His officer's bearing saw him play a number of military types over the years - in 'Colditz', 'Wings', 'Warship' 'A Family At War' and others, including 'The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes'.         

In the role of Suffolk in the BBC Shakespeare
production of  'The First Part of Henry VI'

As the villainous Harwell Mincing in 'Return of the Antelope'

In a similar vein there is his Roman soldier Clodius Maximus in the historical drama 'Eagle Of The Ninth' and Nazi officer in the 'True Patriot', a Play For Today with Michael York. Another highbrow success was the impressive theatrical-style staging of 'Henry VI' in the 1983 BBC Shakespeare production.  

In David Nobbs' popular comedy series 'A Bit of a Do'

At time of writing Paul Chapman is in his mid-80s, and in well-earned retirement, so a salute is due. 

Paul Chapman-imdb

Friday 27 October 2023

Haydn Gwynne

Haydn Gwynne:
† March 21 1957 - October 20 2023

Edit, Oct 26 2023: I'm saddened to hear of the death of Haydn Gwynne, which has come while this salute was in preparation. I try to stick to actors who are still with us, but make an exception here 
Smart and classy roles have been the mainstay of Haydn Gwynne's acting career, utilising her rather forbidding aura of upper middle class confidence, feminine strength and intellect. Early roles in the '80s and '90s include 'Lovejoy', 'Poirot', and 'Kavanagh QC'. She then matured into some substantial parts, including 'Peak Practice', Calpurnia in the HBO series 'Rome', and cosy crime stuff like 'Lewis', 'Father Brown', and  'Midsomer Murders' as well as more contemporary/gritty stuff like 'Silent Witness', 'Ripper Street' and 'Sherlock'.       

As ruthlessly critical mum-in-law Joan in 'Uncle' 
TV comedy includes astute journo Alex in 'Drop The Dead Donkey', as well as 'A Very Peculiar Practice', 'Uncle', and playing Camilla to Harry Enfield's Charles in 'The Windsors'. 

In the 'Agatha Christie: Poirot' story 'The Third Girl'

Films include 'Car Trouble' (1986), 'The Pleasure Principle' (1992) with Peter Firth, and more recently, the much vaunted live-action 'Beauty & The Beast' (2017) with Emma Watson.

Haydn Gwynne - imdb

Friday 7 July 2023

Brian Croucher

Actor Brian Croucher in Out

Brian Croucher:

Tough looking customer Brian Croucher is probably best known as Ted Hills in the BBC soap EastEnders in the mid-90s, but you're almost certain to recognise him from many TV appearances before that. Very much in step with the gritty dramas of the late 60s and early 70s, you'll spot him on both sides of the law in 'Callan', 'Villains', 'Softly Softly: Task Force' and others, culminating in the relentless 'Out' in 1978, with Brian Cox.   

In the teen sci-fi adventure series, The Jensen Code.
Made in colour in 1973, it only survives in b&w. 

Things broaden out a bit as the '70s roll on. He is well known in Whovian circles for the Tom Baker-era 'Robots of Death' in which he plays Borg, complete with eye makeup and glitter costume. More space camp was to follow when he took over from Steven (Harry Fenning) Grief in the role of leather-clad baddie Travis in 'Blakes 7'. 

In the 'Dr Who' adventure 'Robots of Death'

Travis trains his rather Alvin Stardust ring weapon
on the crew of the Liberator in 'Blakes 7'  

Into the 80s with an entertaining mix of action and comedy favourites. We've got 'The Professionals', 'Shoestring', 'The New Avengers', 'Quatermass' and 'Blood Money' nicely balancing 'The Young Ones', 'The Lenny Henry Show', 'Filthy Rich & Catflap' and 'Chance In A Million' - with 'Minder'  somewhere in the middle. No 'Sweeney' though, which seems surprising.

'Out' - gritty, well written stuff from ITV

And more of the same into the 90s, with the EastEnders role ongoing for a couple of years or more. Around the same time you might notice him popping up all serious in 'Wycliffe', 'Rockliffe's Babies' or 'Fools' Gold' -  the Sean Bean drama based on the Brinks-Mat robberies. Or you might see him in some well-liked comedy including 'Bottom' and 'The Comic Strip Presents' (he must have got on well with that bunch), 'The Upper Hand', 'Birds Of A Feather', and spoofing some of his old roles in 'The Detectives'.   


Classic mid-90s 'EastEnders'

On the big screen, he can chalk up a few interesting oddities, such as the kitchen sink Roy Harper vehicle 'Made' (1972), 'Burke & Hare' (1972), 'O Lucky Man' (1973), that delightful short with Leonard Rossiter, 'The Waterloo Bridge Handicap' (1978), 'Scrubbers' (1982), 'I'll Sleep When I'm Dead' (2003), and 'Big Fat Gypsy Gangster' (2011). 

He does a few 'Casualty', 'Doctors' and 'The Bill', like most working character actors will these days, and he's an excellent interview subject and a popular raconteur among 'Dr Who' and 'Blakes 7' fans. A broader salute is due.               

Brian Croucher-imdb

Wednesday 17 May 2023

Zuleika Robson


Zuleika Robson in Young Sherlock, BBC 1982

 Zuleika Robson:

Not a stage name, it seems, but one presumably given in honour of the titular femme fatale 'Zuleika Dobson' of Sir Max Beerbohm's 1911 satire on the absurdities of Oxford undergraduates. In any case, the wistfully pretty Zuleika Robson began her acting career as a child in the 1960s. With her winsome Victorian doll-like looks, she excelled in roles in children's classics such as the BBC's 1967 production of 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe', 'Heidi', 'Anne of Green Gables' and its sequel 'Anne of Avonlea'

As Susan in a publicity shot for the BBC's
'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe', 1967
In Anne of Green Gables

On the cover of TV Times promoting  the ITV
drama 'A Man of Our Times'

That slightly other-worldly prettiness also translated well into oddball art films, thrillers and horror, including 'Isadora' (1968) 'The Blood on Satan's Claw' (1971), 'Revenge' (1971, AKA 'Inn of the Frightened People'). 

With Roberta Tovey in 'The Blood on Satan's Claw' (1971)

'Revenge' (1971)

With young womanhood came a slew of appearances in TV dramas, from the excellent 'The Changes' to moderate primetime successes 'Bouquet of Barbed Wire', 'The Lady Killers', RF Delderfield's 'People Like Us', and lower-brow fare such as 'Return of the Saint' and the quotidian 'Crown Court'. Film roles seem to dry up, with the exception of the typical Robin Askwith sex comedy 'Let's Get Laid' (1978).    

A minor role in 'Melissa', a Francis Durbridge
mystery thriller from 1974

In the fine 1981 childrens' drama 'Break in the Sun'

 The trail goes cold after 1982's enjoyable 'Young Sherlock' series from Granada TV, so any information on her career after this would be very welcome. I hope she didn't leave the acting profession entirely. But in any case, for now, here's our small salute.   

Zuleika Robson-imdb


Monday 15 May 2023

Sarah Bullen


 Sarah Bullen: 

A member of a dynasty of prominent English equestrians - famous in show jumping and eventing circles - Sarah Bullen also had a brief but fascinating acting career, mostly during the 70s and 80s.   

The Bullens at home, Sarah at left.

In fact, she appears in many episodes of 'Space: 1999', sometimes as crew member Kate, but also often uncredited. This seems to have catapulted her into a number of roles, including the horsey drama 'International Velvet' (1978) with Tatum O'Neal and Christopher Plummer, for which she must have been a shoo-in.  The same year saw her in a couple of bigger parts, in the  spy dramas 'The XYY Man' with the great Don Henderson, and 'The Sandbaggers' with Roy Marsden.   

One of many 'Space:1999' appearances 

With Chris Jenkinston in 'The XYY Man' 

Publicity still as agent Jill Ferris in 'The Sandbaggers'

A sort of peak could have come with a starring role in the auction-room drama, 'The House Of Caradus', however, despite the impressive sounding title it turned out that drama in auction-rooms is thin on the ground, in Chester anyway, and the family wrangles were not sufficient to keep audiences tuning in.  Things taper off a little from here, with appearances in 'Dick Turpin', 'Solo', and 'A Perfect Spy' and a fleeting moment in 'The Fourth Protocol (1987).   

The wholesome face of '70s cigarette advertising

A charming presence through a period of excellent British TV, and well deserving of our salute.  

Bonus: Sarah Bullen was co-presenter of a PBS part-animated documentary based on David Macaulay's book 'Castle' which explores the design of medieval fortifications in a way which was apparently much admired by early Dungeons & Dragons enthusiasts. You can see the whole thing here.

Sarah Bullen-imdb

Friday 10 March 2023

Tim Wylton


Tim Wylton

Tim Wylton:  

In some ways the epitome of the ubiquitous character actor, but Welsh-born Tim Wylton is a respected thesp with a long line of successes behind him. Often portraying a likeable duffer, Wylton's open expression and precise comedic timing has seen him appear in some large-scale productions.

'The Dustbinmen' L-R Tim Wylton, Trevor
Bannister, Bryan Pringle, Graham Haberfield

Starting out in the '60s with roles in various television plays, his first big break was as Eric in 'The Dustbinmen', a now largely forgotten Granada sitcom but one that was popular at the time. Apart from this regular role, he settled into a steady stream of small one-off parts through the late '60s and '70s, including 'The Strange Report', 'The Liver Birds', and the domestic bliss sitcom triumvirate of 'My Good Woman', 'Now, Take My Wife' and 'His and Hers'. He was also a regular stooge to veteran comedian Harry Worth in his series 'Half and Hour's Worth'.  

As postman Willy Nilly in 'Under Milk Wood (1972)

Around this time he also found himself in a pair of interesting feature films: the Richard Burton-helmed 'Under Milk Wood' (1972) and the school-drama oddity Melody (1971). And, although he never lost his knack for comedy, casting directors now started to find him invaluable for small but memorable drama roles, including 'The Strauss Family', 'Thriller', 'Special Branch', 'Telford's Change' and 'The Sweeney'.  

In 'The Colour of Blood', an episode of Brian Clemens'
popular 'Thriller' drama thread from the '70s

Into the '80s, and period drama became a bigger part of his skill set, with appearances in 'To Serve Them All My Days', 'The Citadel', and 'The Good Companions' while keeping his hand in with the comedies, such as 'Bit Of A Do', 'Cockles', Whoops Apocalypse' and  the previously discussed 'Mog' with Enn Reitel. Other popular shows that he appears would include: 'Juliet Bravo', 'Strangers' and 'Bulman', 'A Very Peculiar Practice', 'C.A.T.S Eyes', 'The Bretts' and the Peter Davison 'Campion' series.    

In David Nobbs' comedy of northern manners,
'A Bit Of A Do' 

In the later phases of his career he has done some good comedy: 'French & Saunders', 'Absolutely Fabulous', Haryy Enfield & Chums', and so on, while keeping his hand in with the likes of primetime stuff like 'Poirot', 'Lovejoy', 'Boon', 'Wycliffe', 'Cadfael', 'Rumpole Of The Bailey', 'A Touch Of Frost', and some fodder such as 'The Bill', 'Heartbeat', 'Doctors' and forays into soaps  - 'Coronation Street' and 'Emmerdale'. 

As Mr Gardiner in the 1995 BBC production of 'Pride
 and Prejudice' with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.

All in all, an interesting collection, so a salute is long overdue.   

Tim Wylton-imdb

Wednesday 22 February 2023

Jean Marsh


Actress Jean Marsh in Edwardian maid's costume, portraying Rose in the 1970s ITV television series 'Upstairs Downstairs'

Jean Marsh 

Well, yes, another not-so-unknown face. In fact, if you were watching television in the 1970s, the image at the top of this post will be very recognisable, almost iconic. 'Upstairs, Downstairs' was an award-winning television sensation, and Jean Marsh was its co-creator and star, in the role of put-upon housemaid, Rose Buck. A precursor to, and undoubted influence on, 'Downton Abbey' and other period social dramas, it was a massive hit in the UK and abroad, particularly on PBS in America. Although it helped lift her and many of her fellow cast-members to stardom, (Anthony Andrews, Pauline Collins and Jon Alderton for example), she was not a producer of the programme and received only a small residual payment for developing the original concept with fellow actress Eileen Atkins.

Just about recognisable in this press shot from the Laurence Olivier 
movie for television, 'The Moon & Sixpence' (1959)

Before 'Upstairs, Downstairs', Jean Marsh had been a successful actress as a child and starlet. Her elegant figure and pert, yet slightly disconcerting, good looks led to her appearing in several films in the '50s and early '60s, such as 'The Rebel' (1961) - as one of the Juliette Greco-clone beatniks, and as a South Seas beauty in 'The Moon & Sixpence (1959) with Lawrence Olivier. She also crossed the Atlantic to play a uncanny companion android in an excellent episode of 'The Twilight Zone', 'The Lonely'.            

As Alicia the realistic robot, a moral dilemma for Jack Warden
in a classic episode of 'The Twilight Zone' from 1959    

As the '60s progressed Marsh's sophisticated style was in demand for the new wave of slick spy and cop shows of the era, including 'Edgar Wallace Mystery Theatre', 'Danger Man', 'The Saint', 'Department S', 'Adam Adamant Lives!' and another trip over the ocean to appear in NBC's 'I Spy'. She also appeared in the increasingly popular 'Doctor Who', first in the crusades adventure 'The Knight Of Jaffa', and later as quasi-companion Sara Kingdom. She would make a further return as sorceress Morgaine in the 1989 story, 'Battlefield'. (Trivia: In real life, she was married to the third Doctor, Jon Pertwee, from 1955-1960.)    

As Sara Kingdom in mid-'60s 'Doctor Who',
she would return in another role in the '80s   

The '70s, we now know, was the decade of 'Upstairs, Downstairs' and it's enormous popularity and success. This parlayed into a plethora of higher profile roles for Jean Marsh. There's Hichcock's 'Frenzy' (1972) and she has a shrilly neurotic performance in the schlocker 'Dark Places' (1973) with its surprisingly starry cast of Joan Collins, Christopher Lee, Robert Hardy, Jane Birkin and Herbert Lom. And then there's 'The Eagle Has Landed' (1976), a proper star-studded wartime caper, with Michael Caine and Robert Duvall. 

In an episode of 'UFO'

By the '80s Jean Marsh was much in demand on both sides of the Atlantic. Hollywood beckoned with a run of evil-queen roles that begins with Mombi the Witch in 'Return To Oz' (1985), Bavmorda in 'Willow' (1988) and Morgana in 'A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court' (1989), while the US small screen saw her in episodes of 'Hawaii 5-0', The Waltons' and 'The Love Boat', with a regular role in the TV '9 to 5'. 

More UK productions feature as we move into the '90s and 2000s: the villainous Dr Culex in the rebooted 'Tomorrow People'; a return to the Who-niverse in 'An Adventure In Space And Time'; classic serials 'The Mayor Of Casterbridge' and (the BBC 2008) 'Sense & Sensibility'; and as the portmanteau ghost of all Henry VIII's wives in 'Monarch' with TP McKenna.

As Mrs Ferrars in 'Sense & Sensibility'

Sadly, a mild stroke in 2011 affected her ability to work. Although not completely unable to act, she was only able to appear in a few scenes of the new 1930s-set 'Upstairs, Downstairs', which also had the misfortune to coincide with its mega-budget clone 'Downton Abbey'.         

Jean Marsh-imdb

Arthur White


Actor Arthur White in an episode of Thriller

Arthur White: 

The elder brother of national treasure David Jason, Arthur has kept the family name and had his own long career in acting, albeit in a far less celebrated way than his little brother. His earliest forays into acting were while he was still in his teens, in a couple of budget post-war comedies 'Let's Have A Murder' (1950) with Jimmy Jewel, and 'It's A Grand Life' (1953) with Diana Dors and music hall veteran Harry Randle. He's also very briefly in 'The War Lover' (1962) a Yanks in England WWII potboiler with Steve McQueen and Robert Wagner, and the influential kitchen sink drama 'The L-Shaped Room' (1962). 

'The War Lover' (1962)  

Another news vendor role, this time in
'The Prisoner' episode 'It's Your Funeral'

Television roles take over from film in the '60s, when he appears in popular franchises such as 'The Plane Makers', 'Redcap', 'Emergency Ward 10' and 'No Hiding Place', as well as the Rediffusion sci-fi series 'Object Z' and 'Object Z Returns'. There's an episode of 'The Prisoner' with him in it, but he doesn't appear in any of the other big cult TV favourites, at least until a 'Space:1999' episode ten years later.       

Replacing Hugh Paddick in the second series
of the kids TV show 'Pardon My Genie'

The '70s saw his young brother rise to stardom, but Arthur's own star stayed relatively low in the entertainment firmament. He can be spotted in a fair bit of comedy; 'For The Love Of Ada', You're Only Young Once', 'Hark At Barker', 'The Squirrels', 'Bless This House' etc, and his younger sibling's own sitcom vehicle, 'A Sharp Intake Of Breath'.  

With the late Bernard Kay in an
episode of 'The Professionals'

Drama roles in the '70s and '80s would include a sprinkling across the likes of 'The Duchess Of Duke Street', 'The Professionals', 'Warship', 'Secret Army', the nuclear thriller 'The Brack Report' and the freaky BBC costume drama 'The Cleopatras'.  

With George Costigan in the opening scenes of the 
misfiring Miriam Carlin sitcom 'So Haunt Me'

The latter half of his 60-year career is a roll-call of the middle-brow entertainment of those decades, though, unusually, not dipping into the soaps. It's almost impossible for a character actor to avoid the multi-episode machines: the likes of 'Casualty', 'Holby City', The Bill', and the unending flow of 'Doctors'. Better things might include the 'Ruth Rendell Mysteries', 'Wycliffe' and 'The Darling Buds Of May' with little bruv. And of course, his best known role in recent years has probably been as PC Trigg, playing opposite David Jason again, as Inspector Morse's uniformed confidant and sounding board.

He must have been an inspiration to the young fella and I'm glad they've shared an obvious love of the business, so here's a salute to a big brother.