Monday, 22 February 2016

Avril Elgar

Avril Elgar

A splendidly severe-looking actress, yet impressively versatile, her long career encompasses roles as varied as society ladies and exhausted servants, via a slew of nouveau riche harridans, cruel nurses, shy spinsters and nosy neighbours.     

In 'Ladies Who Do' (1963)
Although Imdb suggests that she is best known for three feature films, 'Room At The Top (1959), 'Betrayal' (1983) and 'Wilde' (1997), her contribution to these is worthy but minimally memorable. Better perhaps to remember her turn in 'Spring And Port Wine' (1969) as Mrs Duckworth next door, or even the slightly strained comedy 'Ladies Who Do' (1963) in which, with fellow City office cleaning ladies Peggy Mount, Miriam Carlin and Dandy Nicholls, she indulges in some lucrative insider dealing. She's also briefly in 'The Medusa Touch' (1978) with a cursed Richard Burton.

I don't know if it still exists but I would love to see the Ken Russell-directed silent movie version of 'Diary Of A Nobody' made for the BBC's 'Monitor' arts programme in 1964, which saw her play Mrs Pooter in a great little cast that also included Murray Melvin, Jonathan Cecil and Brian Murphy. Particularly as it has music by Ivor Cutler.    

As Lou Evans in the Nina Bawden adaptation 'Carrie's War'
a major BBC family drama success of 1974.
Publicity shot for 'The Three Sisters' with George Cole.
She's a highly respected stage actress with previous at the National Theatre, and a successful and widley publicised 1967 run of Chekhov's 'Three Sisters' at the Royal Court Theatre with Glenda Jackson and Marianne Faithfull. But it's probably in television that she's most familiar. Sitcom fans will immediately spot her as Yootha Joyce's social-climbing sister Ethel in the popular 'Man about The House' spin-off, 'George & Mildred'. She had a slightly similar role in one of Roy Clarke's gentle Northern comedies, 'Rosie', as the young copper's monstrously overbearing mother.  

In George & Mildred' as the social climbing Ethel with wealthy hubby
Humphrey, played by king of the sitcom bosses, the late Reginald Marsh.
Other television includes 'Campion', 'Agatha Christie: Poirot', 'Midsomer Murders', 'A Taste For Death', 'Shoestring', two episodes of 'Tales Of The Unexpected', 'Minder', 'New Tricks' and a good few more. Quite revealing as to her range is the fact that she has appeared in three episodes of 'Doctors' as three very different characters between 2004 and 2011. Sterling work.  

Trivia note: After 20 years, Avril Elgar appeared in 'The Moles', an episode of 'Tales Of The Unexpected', alongside Harry H Corbett, her co-star in the film 'Ladies Who Do'. It was to be his last role and was screened a month after his death in 1982.    

Avril Elgar-imdb

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Godfrey James

Godfrey James:

You've probably seen Godfrey James's face many times in films and television without realising it, as aside from his distinctive dimpled chin (often hidden by a beard), there's nothing particularly memorable about his broad, even-featured countenance. Quite possibly we fail to do justice to this ubiquitous actor for that very reason, despite his appearance in some of our most beloved cult favourites, from 'Department S', and 'The Strange Report' to 'UFO', 'Space: 1999' and 'Doctor Who'.    

A fleeting appeareance as the chauffeur in
'Séance On A Wet Afternoon' (1964)

Starting in the early '60s, he has had a varied acting career, kicking off with an interesting role in the first season of 'The Avengers'. He's in 'The Frighteners', the only episode to survive intact from that run. His powerful frame saw him grab a series of parts as intimidating heavies and brusque coppers, interspersed with prosperous businessmen, yeoman farmers and faithful retainers. His '60s and '70s TV work includes 'Z Cars', 'Softly Softly', 'Dixon Of Dock Green', The Forsyte Saga', 'Black Beauty', and 'The Onedin Line'.      

In 'Witchfinder General' (1968) 

In the cinema, he makes appearances in some classic Brit horror, including 'Witchfinder General' (1968), 'The Oblong Box' (1969), 'Cry Of A Banshee' (1970) and 'Blood On Satan's Claw' (1971). He's also in the '70s family adventures 'At The Earth's Core' (1976) and 'The Land That Time Forgot' (1975).

As the father of Angel Blake in 'Blood On Satan's Claw' (1971)
As the '70s rolled into the '80s, he proved popular with casting directors of primetime TV, leading to parts in 'The Sweeney', 'Minder', 'Bergerac', 'Dempsey & Makepeace' and 'Bulman'. He's also in the episode of 'Tales Of The Unexpected' in which John Gielgud's sneaky antique dealing vicar gets his comeuppance when he discovers a rare Chippendale sideboard.    

As Mr Bumble the beadle in the 1985 BBC adaptation of
Oliver Twist. With June Brown as Mrs Mann.
In slightly more recent times, you might have spotted him in anything from 'Agatha Christie: Poirot' or ''The Darling Buds Of May' to 'The Tripods' and 'The Return Of The Antelope'.  

Very sound stuff in general, but here he is in full silly alien splendour in 'Space: 1999'. They don't make 'em like that any more.

The 'Space: 1999' episode 'The Rules Of Luton'. Yes, really.

Godfrey James-imdb

Friday, 22 January 2016

Rosemarie Dunham

Two men armed with guns, and a woman in a dressing gown, by the yard gate of a Newcastle terraced house.

Rosemarie Dunham

† Dec 13 1924 – Dec 5 2016*

Probably best known for her portrayal of Edna, the sensual, if slightly careworn, landlady in 'Get Carter' (1971), Scottish-born actress Rosemarie Dunham had previously appeared in a smattering of TV dramas, such as 'The Avengers', 'Z-Cars', 'No Hiding Place' and 'Gideon's Way', as well as a less-expected 'Benny Hill Show'.       

Rosemarie Dunham (left) with Mary Kenton in a 1964
episode of the Victorian detective series 'Sergeant Cork'    

Vamping it up with Benny Hill in 1965

As a no-nonsense waitress in the first episode of  'Budgie'
After 'Get Carter' there were a few more feature films, such as 'The Divine Sarah' (1976) and 'Croupier' (1999), but more often straight-to-video stuff like 'Tai-Pan' (1986) and 'Lady Oscar' (1979).

Getting a little frisky with Jack Regan (John Thaw) deep
undercover as a hard-of-hearing chauffeur, in 'The Sweeney'

In an episode of the Kenneth More TV series of 'Father Brown'

Her later TV roles were a mixed bag too. From 'The Sweeney', 'The Return Of The Saint', 'Father Brown', 'Shoestring' and 'Bergerac', to soaps and daytime serials like 'Coronation Street', 'Crown Court', and 'The Cedar Tree'. Mostly she seems to have played tough, confident types, but in an impressive sweep from dowds to duchesses, including an impressively realist 'Play For Today' performance in 1973's 'Kisses At Fifty' with Bill Maynard.    

As boutique owner Sylvia in 'Coronation Street', dealing with
nightmare customer Hilda Ogden (Jean Alexander) in 1976
*Edit: Having heard of Rosemarie Dunham's death from her son, I've adjusted her dates to match the information he provided, including date of birth which must have been earlier than usually quoted.    

Rosemarie Dunham - imdb

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Peter Martin

Peter Martin:

Distinctive, spud-nosed actor. Played the gaffer looking for building supplies in those 'They've got the Jewson lot!' TV ads from the '90s. Born in Accrington, he has cornered a small part of the market for playing Northerners of various sorts, from canny barmen and no-nonsense farmers to daft ha'porths and confused customers.

In fact, a run through his CV takes you on a whistle-stop tour of Northern comedy and drama since the late '70s. 

He's got a list.
Take for instance: 'The Liver Birds', 'A Bit Of A Do', 'The Gaffer', 'First/Last Of The Summer Wine', 'Dinnerladies' and various other Victoria Wood shows, plus 'The Royle Family', 'Rosie', 'In Loving Memory' and the 'Beiderbecke' trilogy.

Enjoying Christmas with 'The Royle Family'

To this, add a smattering of soaps and light dramas, to whit: 'Emmerdale', 'Coronation Street', 'Bergerac', Dalziel & Pascoe', 'Strangers', and so on...  

Peter Martin-imdb

Monday, 4 January 2016

Rosalind Ayres

Rosalind Ayres:

She probably doesn't relish being referred to as Mrs Martin Jarvis, but Rosalind Ayres, despite being in some of Britain's best loved drama series and a few interesting comedies is less of a household name than her husband, who is something of a fixture on TV and especially BBC Radio 4.   

In the quirky 'Little Malcolm & His Battle Against The Eunochs' (1974) with
John Hurt and David Warner. An Apple film, financed by George Harrison

As the innocent Clarissa, daughter of Dick Emery's vicar
For one thing, she appears in the famous Dick Emery sketch with Emery as the vicar who has made up his own words for 'crumpet' ("the word, in this house, is dibble"), 'tart' and 'boob'. The '80s and '90s saw roles in 'Agony', 'The Bounder', 'Juliet Bravo' and 'Casualty'.     

In 'That'll Be The Day' (1973) with David Essex 
Film appearances include 'That'll Be The Day' (1973) and 'Stardust' (1974) as the slightly wan poppet, Jeanette. There's the star-studded curiosity, 'Little Malcolm and his Struggle Against the Eunochs' (1974), the portmanteau horror 'From Beyond The Grave (1974), then rather a long quiet period until Hollywood beckoned for 'Titanic' (1997) and 'Gods & Monsters' (1998). This also led to some US TV work, in 'Sabrina The Teenage Witch' and 'Chicago Hope'.

As Gran in 'Outnumbered'
More recent TV has seen her appear in the Hugh Dennis and Claire Skinner family improv-sitcom, 'Outnumbered', and the Adult Swim doctor-comedy 'Childrens Hospital'.

Rosalind Ayres - imdb

Sunday, 3 January 2016

David Calder

David Calder:

Super-familiar, classically-trained, all-purpose character actor, perhaps bearing a resemblance to the late Iain Cuthbertson. You might have seen him - in fact it would have been hard to avoid him - in a raft of popular light-middleweight cop and spy dramas over the last four decades. Consider the likes of 'Bergerac', 'Midsomer Murders', 'Dalziel & Pascoe', 'Spooks', 'Heartbeat', 'Boon', 'Widows', 'Widows 2', 'New Tricks', etc, and perhaps better stuff such as 'Cracker', 'Waking The Dead', the oddball sci-fi drama 'Utopia', and the 1981 precursor to the Alan Plater's Beiderbecke trilogy, 'Get Lost', with Alun Armstrong.      

He also had the lead role in the late-'80s sci-fi serial 'Star Cops' which has become a minor cult phenomenon in some corners of the internet, although it failed to catch on with a wider audience. He's never done a 'Doctor Who' though, something of a rarity for these pages.

On the cover of the Radio Times in the guise of Nathan Spring
from the 1987 sci fi series 'Star Cops'  
Other fertile areas include period drama, with appearances in 'Bramwell', 'Mr Selfridge', 'Houdini' (as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle), 'The Mayor Of Casterbridge', 'Beethoven', 'Miss Marple', the recent 'Father Brown Mysteries' and commanding the ill fated liner in the 2012 TV mini-series 'Titanic'.   

In 'Hitler: The Rise Of Evil (2003)
As a TV comedy fan, you might have spotted him in the supermarket-set 'Trollied' or in the Greg Davies vehicle 'Cuckoo', or perhaps 'The New Statesman' or 'The Wrong Mans', but that seems like a minor section of his CV.

In 'Waking The Dead: Cold Fusion II'
On the big screen he has some mildly impressive credits, such as 'The World Is Not Enough' (1999), 'Perfume: The Story Of A Murderer' (2006), 'The Lady In The Van' (2015), and the Chinese addition to the Mummy franchise, 'The Mummy: Tomb Of The Emperor' (2008). He's also in the Hunt-Lauda F1 movie 'Rush' (2013). But, despite what imdb seems to claim, I'm pretty sure it's not him in the little-known US gay exploitation flick 'The Meat Rack' (1970)... 
A typical role, tweeded up in 'Midsomer Murders'

By way of consolation, here he is brazenly impersonating a Crime Prevention Officer in a Public Information Film, using an intermittent all-purpose reassuring Northern accent.

David Calder-imdb

Monday, 28 December 2015

George Costigan

George Costigan:

With a winning smile, tempered by a knack for portraying sarcasm and sleaziness, character actor George Costigan has a huge body of interesting work stretching back to the mid-'70s.

Behind pebble specs, but about to be rumbled by Jeremy Brett in
the mid-'80s Granada series 'The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes'
As 'Philip the Bastard' in the 1984 TV version of 'King John'. A dispute over inheritance is
judged by the king (Leonard Rossiter). His half brother (Edward Hibbert, right) loses out. 

A favourite for me might be his cheerfully caustic copper from Alan Plater's 'The Biederbecke Connection', and he sticks in the mind as the randy lead in the (now probably unwatchable) 'Rita Sue and Bob Too', that jolly comedy look at grooming impressionable teenagers for sex.  

Different times indeed. With Michelle Holmes and Siobhan Finneran in the
Bradford-based schoolgirl sex comedy 'Rita Sue & Bob Too' (1987).   
He has also enjoyed a longish run in several shows including 'Emmerdale', 'Happy Valley', 'Holby City' and 'City Central'. Police roles have been usefully forthcoming, in the likes of 'Ruth Rendell Mysteries', 'The Long Firm' and 'See No Evil: The Moors Murderers'. Other popular primetimers have included 'Hetty Wainthrop Investigates', 'Bergerac', 'Inspector Morse', 2nd-generation 'Minder', Tennant-era 'Doctor Who', and dear old 'Midsomer Murders'. He's also in the movie 'Calendar Girls' (2003) as Penelope Wilton's husband Eddie. 

In the Christmas Day episode of 'Doctor Who' from 2007,
'Voyage Of The Damned' as Max Capricorn
Comedy has included 'The Riff Raff Element', 'Coogan's Run', 'Murder Most Horrid' and the rather antiquated ghost comedy, 'So Haunt Me', in which he played the harassed dad of a family pestered by Miriam Karlin as a spectral Jewish grandmother.

With Sean Scanlon, as the cynically comedic coppers on an
overtime-generating stake out in 'The Beiderbecke Connection'  

George Costigan-imdb