Web Page No 2184
11th August 2015
Top Picture: Richard Wattis
Third Picture: Harry Worth
Richard Cameron Wattis was one of that band of also ran actors and actresses who seemed to appear in practically everything in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s but ever made the big time.
A balding, bespectacled, bird-like British actor, he was an invaluable asset to any UK comedy film or TV programme for nearly thirty years. He was often seen in officious roles, such as snooty shop managers, secretaries and policemen. The difference was that, instead of playing them as frustrated and bumbling, he was drily cynical and always sharp.
Several years ago a fellow actor described Richard Wattis’s normal character part as follows:- “ He was the man who always began a sentence with a bored look and a rather disinterested “Can I help you? Sir”, he would listen to you explain your predicament and then frustrate you with an equally dispassionate “ I’m awfully sorry, Sir but there is absolutely nothing I can do to help you.” He was the man who would look down his nose at you, through his distinctive glasses, with an air of superiority and dismissiveness in the safe knowledge that whatever he said it would make no difference as the sluggish wheels of bureaucracy would always turn very slowly in his favour.”
He was born on 25th February 1912 in Wednesbury, Staffordshire and attended King Edward's School and Bromsgrove School, after which he worked for the electrical engineering firm William Sanders & Co (Wednesbury) Ltd. His uncle, William Preston (1874–1941), was the managing director of this company and he was also the Conservative Member of Parliament for Walsall for five years from 1924 until 1929.
After a time Richard left the family business and he became an actor making his debut was with the Croydon Repertory Theatre. His progressed and his first appearance in a film was in A Yank at Oxford (1938), but war service interrupted his career as an actor. He served as a second lieutenant with the Arms Section of Special Operations Executive at Station VI during World War II.
After the war he returned to acting and became best known for his appearances in British comedies of the 1950s and 1960s, typically as the "Man from the Ministry" or similar type of character, with his trademark thick-rimmed round spectacles.
Such appearances included the St Trinian's films (The Belles of St Trinian's, Blue Murder at St Trinian's, and The Great St Trinian's Train Robbery) as Manton Bassett, a civil servant who was the Deputy Director of Schools in the Ministry of Education, where he was often seen frowning and expressing indignation at the outrageous behaviour of other characters. To American audiences, Richard Wattis was probably best known for his performance as the British civil servant Northbrook in The Prince and the Showgirl (1957).
In fact he appeared in almost eighty films during his career. Most of us would know him from his appearances on television, including a long-running role as Mr Brown, the harassed, but snooty, next door neighbour in Sykes. He also appeared in episodes of Danger Man, The Prisoner, The Goodies, Hancock's Half Hour, and Father, Dear Father. From 1957 to 1958, he was in demand in the United States as the typical Englishman and appeared as Peter Jamison in three episodes of the American sitcom Dick and the Duchess.
Richard Wattis appeared alongside Harry Worth in Anyone for Golf where he played a gardener living next to a golf course having to contend with Harry Worth after he had played his ball into his garden.
He appeared in many theatrical productions but one of the most unusual being when he appeared, again with Harry Worth where he played Po Bah in a 1969 BBC version of TiTiPu, a version of the Gilbert and Sullivan classic The Mikado.
Richard Wattis was homosexual during a period when this was frowned upon and criminalised.
On 1st February 1975, he died of a heart attack in a restaurant in Kensington, London. He was just 62 years old. His Memorial Service was held at the actors church, St Paul’s in Covent Garden and a small residential development, Richard Wattis Drive is named in his honour in his home town of Wednesbury
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News and Views:
On this day 11th August 1960-1965
On 11/08/1960 the number one single was Shakin' All Over - Johnny Kidd & the Pirates and the number one album was South Pacific Soundtrack. The top rated TV show was Rawhide (ITV) and the box office smash was Psycho. A pound of today's money was worth £13.68 and Tottenham Hotspur were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.
On 11/08/1961 the number one single was You Don't Know - Helen Shapiro and the number one album was Black & White Minstrel Show - George Mitchell Minstrels. The top rated TV show was Top Secret (AR) and the box office smash was One Hundred and One Dalmations. A pound of today's money was worth £13.25 and Ipswich were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.The big news story of the day was Britain applies to join EEC.
On 11/08/1962 the number one single was I Remember You - Frank Ifield 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 Lawrence of Arabia. A pound of today's money was worth £12.89 and Everton were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.
On 11/08/1963 the number one single was Sweets For My Sweet - Searchers and the number one album was Please Please Me - The Beatles. 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 Liverpool were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.
On 11/08/1964 the number one single was A Hard Day's Night - Beatles and the number one album was A Hard Day's Night - Beatles. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was Dr Strangelove. A pound of today's money was worth £12.24 and Manchester United were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.
On 11/08/1965 the number one single was Help - The Beatles and the number one album was The Sound of Music Soundtrack. The top rated TV show was Riviera Police (AR) and the box office smash was The Sound of Music. A pound of today's money was worth £11.69 and Liverpool were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.