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Thursday, 15 January 2015

Web Page  No 2124

18th  January 2015

Top Picture: Donald Sinden

Middle Picture: Bill Kerr

Lower Middle Picture: Dora Bryan

Bottom Picture: James Garner (Maverick)

 Gone but not Forgotten

What a year 2014 was for loosing celebrities, some names we have known most of our lives. Going back from December, here are a few.

Sir Donald Sinden died aged 90 on 12th September. He joined the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre at Stratford-on-Avon for the 1946-47 season. In October 1947 he made his West End debut in Richard II and in 1948 he joined the Bristol Old Vic. He left Bristol to appear in The Heiress, an adaptation of Henry James’s Washington Square. He had nine lines and appeared in all 644 performances of the show.  During the 1950s, he immersed himself in cinema work, appearing in more than 20 films, including The Cruel Sea (1953) with Jack Hawkins, and Mogambo (1954), a huge safari epic in which he received fourth billing after Clark Gable, Ava Gardner and Grace Kelly. After playing Tony Benskin, a womanising medical student in Doctor in the House (1954), He began to find himself being typecast in comic roles and played Benskin and characters like him for the next eight years. When the British film industry began to falter in the early Sixties, his film career ended so he went on to make a name for himself as a comedian appearing in There’s a Girl in My Soup at the Aldwych in 1966 and won Best Actor awards for his appearances in the Not Now, Darling (1967), Two into One (1984) and Out of Order (1990). In 1976 he was nominated for a Best Actor Tony Award for his performance on Broadway as Arthur Wicksteed in Alan Bennett’s Habeas Corpus.

Bill Kerr, Australian actor died aged 92 on 30th August. Bill Kerr made his name on the radio in Britain in the 1950s, alongside Sid James and Hattie Jacques as one of Tony Hancock’s three cronies in Hancock’s Half Hour. He was also a character actor of distinction, giving memorable performances as a racketeer in My Death is a Mockery (1952); as the bomber pilot Micky Martin in The Dam Busters (1955) and as a mentally disturbed crook in Port of Escape (1956). His other films included Appointment in London (1952), You Know What Sailors Are (1954) and The Night My Number Came Up (1955).  In 1954 he joined Hancock’s Half Hour, which ran on the radio for six series and later moved on to television. As Hancock’s Australian lodger at the dilapidated 23 Railway Cuttings, East Cheam, Bill Kerr appeared as the gormless, slow-on-the-uptake butt of his landlord’s humour. The role made Kerr a household name in Britain, and he later resumed his partnership with Sid James in the first series of the television comedy Citizen James (1960).

Lord Attenborough, actor and director died aged 90 on 24th August. Richard Attenborough was one of the pillars of British cinema, originally an actor and subsequently as an Oscar-winning director; his 1982, Gandhi, won best film of the year in the Academy Awards, Lord Attenborough himself being named best director and Ben Kingsley best actor in the title role. Having first made his name on screen in his student days, playing a Navy stoker, terrified under fire, in the war film In Which We Serve (1942), Richard Attenborough was 24 years old at the time of filming his role as Pinkie Brown, the adolescent gangster of Brighton Rock. In later years his warmth of personality came to the fore, and with Jurassic Park (1993) he endeared himself to a whole new generation of fans, playing a professor whose naivety almost proves fatal when things go awry. But it was Gandhi that was the apex of Richard Attenborough’s career and displayed a facility, unsuspected in his acting days, for handling large casts and epic, sweeping narratives.

Juno Alexander, actress, broadcaster and local politician died aged 88 2nd August. She was the older sister of Lord St John of Fawsley (Norman St John Stevas) and the first wife of the actor Terence Alexander; she made a name in her own right as an actress, broadcaster and local politician. During the war she joined the Free French and worked with the Resistance; later she served as a Conservative councillor on Richmond council. From the late 1940s to the 1960s, she made frequent appearances on television, in programmes such as The Alfred Marks Show, The Max Miller Show and The Eamonn Andrews Show. After the births of her children, she did less work, but still had small parts in films and in several television series; she also appeared on TV and radio panel shows including Petticoat Line, with Anona Wynn, Just A Minute and Going for a Song.

Neal Arden, actor and one of the voices behind Housewives’ Choice died aged 104  on 1st  August. He was for more than 20 years one of the presenters on Housewives’ Choice, the record request programme broadcast every morning, six days a week, from 1946 to 1967 on the BBC Light Programme.  In a long and varied career in theatre, film, radio and television, he worked with many of the leading stars from Richard Tauber, Leslie Henson, Trevor Howard and Dulcie Gray to Roger Moore, Harry Secombe, Prunella Scales, Donald Sinden and Doris Day. He was an assiduous fundraiser for charity and as an actor, took numerous supporting roles both on stage and in television series such as Maigret, Ivanhoe, Z Cars, Dixon of Dock Green and I, Claudius. He also wrote songs, plays and film and television scripts. He made his screen debut in the 1934 film Princess Charming. Other film credits over the years included the wartime anti-Nazi thriller “Pimpernel” Smith (1941); John Wesley (1954); and The Shakedown (1960). His most substantial role was in Norman Walker’s Life of St Paul (1938), in which he played the saint from beardless youth to bewhiskered old age. His early theatrical credits included Toad of Toad Hall (1933); Blossom Time (1942, with Richard Tauber); Night of the Garter (1942); and The Lilac Domino (1944). In the 1950s he wrote many scripts for the new Independent Television and record reviews for newspapers and magazines.

Dora Bryan, actress and comedienne, died aged 91 on 23rd July. She was one of Britain’s most versatile performers; she was at home in revues, restoration comedies and musicals and equally comfortable in dramatic roles, most notably in the film A Taste of Honey (1961) in which she played Rita Tushingham’s mother and for which she won a Bafta award for best actress. With her tiny frame, round, friendly and mobile face, her warm-hearted grin and Lancashire gurgle, Dora Bryan had the gift of appealing to every audience as soon as she appeared. To all her work she was able to bring a breezily adaptable and engaging personality. She starred in several television series designed to showcase her talents, including Our Dora (1968), According to Dora (1968) and Dora (1972), in all of which she played various hapless, apparently simple-minded characters. She made her screen debut in the late Forties, appearing in a variety of films, including Odd Man Out (1947), The Fallen Idol (1948) and in The Cure for Love (1949), in which she co-starred with Robert Donat. Her versatility was demonstrated by her taking roles in films as diverse as the old-fashioned police thriller The Blue Lamp (1950) and the madcap comedy Mad About Men (1954)....

James Garner, actor and producer died aged 86 on 20th  July 2014.James Garner made his reputation in the late 1950s as the shrewd gambler Bret Maverick in the series of the same name and followed it as the 1970s private investigator Jim Rockford in The Rockford Files. In 1955, Warner Brothers hired him for small roles in Cheyenne. Then, after appearing in Towards the Unknown in 1957, he was offered the lead in a new television Western series, Maverick. He said “At that time all cowboys were tough and spent their time shooting one another. Maverick was different because he avoided trouble wherever possible. He hardly shot anyone and he was always on the look-out for a fast buck.” The series was an immediate success. Maverick was the hottest show from 1957 to 1959; it reinforced ABC when the network was struggling, and won a 1959 Emmy.

Francis Matthews the star of the BBC's Paul Temple and voice of Captain Scarlet died aged 86 on 14th June. His television debut in the single-channel days was in Prelude to Glory (1954). Tall, slender and with a quietly amused expression, Francis Matthews was ideally suited to play Francis Durbridge's gentleman sleuth Paul Temple, in the popular television adaptations of the 1960s and 70s. But his 60-year career also spanned horror films, comedy and modern classics, and as the voice of Captain Scarlet he reached a new generation of admirers. His first film was the Raj tale Bhowani Junction (1956). He was an eager assistant to Peter Cushing in Hammer's The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958), then played Boris Karloff's son in Corridors of Blood (1958), with Christopher Lee. He grappled with Christopher Lee in Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1965) and Rasputin the Mad Monk (1966). Paul Temple, which started in 1969 and ran for 64 episodes, was one of BBC1's first colour series and co-starred Ros Drinkwater, playing his wife, Steve. The couple appeared almost impossibly elegant to television audiences of the day, George Sewell as their down-at-heel sidekick helping to underline their suavity. Overhearing an interview in which he did a jokey impression of Cary Grant, the puppet producer Gerry Anderson cast him in his puppet saga Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons (1967-68).
Sir Jack Brabham, World champion racing driver and racing car constructor died aged 88 on 19th  May. Jack Brabham was three-time Formula One World Champion and two-time Formula One World Champion Constructor, becoming the first driver to win the title in a car of his own making. “Black Jack” Brabham, an Australian was past 30 when he started to race Formula One cars, making his debut at the British Grand Prix in 1955 driving a Cooper that he had built himself, before returning home where he won the Australian Grand Prix. The next season, he was signed by John Cooper for his Cooper Car Company team. Over the next few years he shone in minor formula races while gaining experience in Formula One. He won his first three World Championship points in 1958 and then in 1959 won the Monaco Grand Prix in a “works” Cooper car, setting a new course record. He followed this with a second place in Holland, a third in France and Italy and victory in the British Grand Prix. In his 34th year in 1959, he first won the World Championship and when, the next year, he won the World Championship again, he told his family that he might give the sport a further two years. However, he was still racing after becoming World Champion for a third time in 1966 when he had turned 40.

Efrem Zimbalist jnr the star of 77 Sunset Strip died aged 95 on 2nd  May .He played leading roles in two of American television’s crime dramas, 77 Sunset Strip (1958-64) and The FBI (1965-74). The first of these featured a pair of former government agents who set up as private detectives with an office on Sunset Boulevard in LA. They were assisted in their investigations by “Kookie” (played by Edd Byrnes), a car-parking valet. Introduced by a catchy theme song, the series had a light-hearted edge that would become popular throughout the Sixties. During summer breaks between 77 Sunset Strip and The FBI, Warner Bros cast him in several films, including Too Much Too Soon, Home Before Dark, The Crowded Sky, The Chapman Report and Wait Until Dark in which he appeared with Audrey Hepburn. His other films included By Love Possessed and Airport 1975. In the 1990s he recorded the voice of Alfred, the butler, in the cartoon Batman series.

Sir Christopher Chataway the record-breaking athlete, broadcaster and government minister died aged 82 on 19th January. In the 1952 Helsinki Olympics he tripped going for the lead in the 5,000 metres, recovering to finish fifth, 12 seconds behind Emil Zatopek. In his last year at Oxford he ran his best time for the mile, 4 mins 8.4 sec, then the third fastest by a Briton. In May 1953 Roger Bannister set his record of 4 mins 3.6 sec, paced by Christopher Chataway. For him the bridge from athletics to politics was television. He  joined ITN two months before ITV went live. The reader of ITN’s first bulletin on 11th October in 1955, in 1956 he moved to the BBC as an interviewer with Panorama. After winning the June 1970 election, Edward Heath made him, not yet 40, Minister for Posts and Telecommunications. He came under immediate pressure from Mary Whitehouse to "clean up" programmes, and from colleagues to stop jamming pirate stations and to legalise commercial radio. Setting up commercial radio as Minister for Posts and Telecommunications, he spent 12 years with the medium as chairman of LBC.

Geoffrey Wheeler was the presenter of Songs of Praise and Top of the Form, and died aged 83 on 2nd  January 2014. Geoffrey Wheeler began making radio programmes for the BBC while studying Law at Manchester University and in 1954 he was appointed the Corporation’s radio producer for the northern region. He also worked with such entertainers as Ken Dodd, Benny Hill and Morcambe and Wise. As the smartly-blazered he was the question master on Top of the Form from the early 1960s to 1975. The show began in 1948 on the BBC’s Light Programme and he joined as co-question master with Paddy Feeny. Each would present his half of the show from a different school hall, the two being connected by a then state-of-the– art landline. In 1962 the show transferred to television, slimmed down to a single location and with Geoffrey Wheeler as its sole presenter. He went freelance in 1963 and as well as presenting Top of the Form, appeared as a panellist on Call my Bluff, as a story teller on Jackanory and spent 21 years as a presenter of Songs of Praise, now the world’s longest-running television religious programme.

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It was a surprise to hear of the death of Donna Douglas this week aged 82, to me she will always be Ellie May Clampett.

On this day 18th January 1960-1965

On 18/01/1960 the number one single was Why - Anthony Newley and the number one album was South Pacific Soundtrack. The top rated TV show was not listed and the box office smash was North by Northwest. A pound of today's money was worth £13.68 and Burnley were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions. The big news story of the day was price of large eggs cut to 3/- a dozen.

On 18/01/1961 the number one single was Poetry in Motion - Johnny Tillotson and the number one album was GI Blues - Elvis Presley. The top rated TV show was Sunday Night at the London Palladium (ATV) and the box office smash was One Hundred and One Dalmations. A pound of today's money was worth £13.25 and Tottenham Hotspur were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.

On 18/01/1962 the number one single was The Young Ones - Cliff Richard & the Shadows and the number one album was The Young Ones - Cliff Richard. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was Lawrence of Arabia. A pound of today's money was worth £12.89 and Ipswich Town were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions. The big news story of the day was Van Doren guilty in US quiz show fix.

On 18/01/1963 the number one single was The Next Time/Bachelor Boy - Cliff Richard & the Shadows and the number one album was West Side Story Soundtrack. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was The Great Escape. A pound of today's money was worth £12.64 and Everton were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.

On 18/01/1964 the number one single was Glad All Over - Dave Clark Five and the number one album was With the Beatles - The Beatles. The top rated TV show was Steptoe & Son (BBC) and the box office smash was Dr Strangelove. A pound of today's money was worth £12.24 and Liverpool were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.

On 18/01/1965 the number one single was Yeh Yeh - Georgie Fame and the number one album was Beatles For Sale - The Beatles. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was The Sound of Music. A pound of today's money was worth £11.69 and Manchester United were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.

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