Date of Birth: 20 December 1932, Denison, Texas, USA
Birth Name: John Benedict Hillerman
Nickname: John Hillerman
John Hillerman was best known for his role in the television series Magnum PI, playing Jonathan Quayle Higgins III, the English caretaker of the Hawaiian complex in which Tom Selleck’s eponymous private investigator was based. It was the culmination of a series of supporting parts in TV series in which he played characters who displayed officious arrogance or a stuffed shirt’s cold superciliousness. He was a conniving radio detective competing with Jim Hutton in the title role of Ellery Queen (1975-76), Bonnie Franklin’s cold boss in One Day at a Time (1976-80) and Betty White’s ex-husband, “old pickle puss”, who winds up directing her in a TV series in The Betty White Show (1977-78).
But his eight seasons on Magnum from 1980-88 allowed Hillerman to stretch beyond sitcom. He studied recordings of Laurence Olivier doing Hamlet to put on his English accent, and approached the part by considering Higgins “the only sane character where everyone else is stark raving mad”. Playing against Selleck’s laid-back performance, the formula worked. Hillerman was nominated five times for a Golden Globe award as best supporting actor, winning in 1982, and four times for an Emmy in the same category, winning in 1987.
Having come to acting relatively late, Hillerman’s career took a long time to take off. He was born in Denison, Texas, where his father, Christopher, ran a petrol station and his mother, Leona, was a housewife. As a teenager John would drive himself 75 miles to Dallas to see opera, but after high school spent three years at the University of Texas studying journalism, before joining the US air force.
He began acting in an amateur production of Death of a Salesman while stationed in Fort Worth, and after his discharge in 1957 moved to New York to study at the American Theatre Wing. He played on stage, mostly in supporting parts, for 12 years, but was unable to make a steady living in the theatre, and so moved to Hollywood in 1969.
He got his first, uncredited, film role the next year in They Call Me Mister Tibbs!, the sequel to In the Heat of the Night, as much for his southern accent as anything. His first credit was in Michael Winner’s western Lawman (1971), with Burt Lancaster and Robert Ryan. Then he got lucky when the director Peter Bogdanovich, with whom he had been a struggling actor in New York, cast him as an English teacher in The Last Picture Show (1971). He would appear in three more films with Bogdanovich, including a dual role, as twins a sheriff and a bootlegger in Paper Moon (1973).
The sharp-eyed may have noticed Hillerman in acute character parts in a number of mid-1970s classics, most notably two 1974 films, Chinatown, where he is the water inspector Russell Yelburton, and Blazing Saddles, as Howard Johnson, but also in High Plains Drifter (1973), The Day of the Locust (1975) and Lucky Lady (1975). Then the television success of Ellery Queen propelled him not only into successive series, but frequent guest appearances and television films. By then he was looking for more serious parts; in 1977 he supported Alan Alda as Caryl Chessman in a TV movie, Kill Me If You Can.
Magnum made him rich and famous, and after the show ended, Hillerman wanted more serious work, but found himself being offered mostly sitcoms. However, in 1990 he played Dr Watson to Edward Woodward’s Sherlock Holmes in the Yorkshire TV/CBS co-production Hands of a Murderer. He joined the final series of Valerie Harper’s sitcom, retitled The Hogan Family, as the paterfamilias.
He played a character called Edgar Greenstreet in an episode of Murder, She Wrote in 1992, and a former spy turned bar owner in cold war West Berlin in the obscure 1993 series Berlin Break. His character was called Mac; also in the cast was Jeff MacKay, who had played Magnum’s friend Mac in that series. His final appearance was A Very Brady Sequel (1996), a Brady Bunch reunion.
Date of Birth: 9 April 1026, Chicago, Illinois, USA
Birth Name: Hugh Marston Hefner
Nickname: Hugh Hefner
One evening in 1967 Hugh Hefner appeared on a TV special broadcast from the Playboy Mansion’s library. Puffing on his customary pipe, and flanked by Harvard theologian Harvey Cox and conservative editor William F Buckley, the billionaire porn magazine magnate and American men’s titillator-in-chief argued that the religious basis for morality was obsolete.
If America was to fulfil its manifest destiny and its citizens were to genuinely enjoy life, it needed to be liberated sexually. This, he said, was what Playboy Enterprises, of which he was the CEO and visionary founder, was patriotically supplying. In this, arguably, Hefner was fulfilling his mother’s wish that he become a missionary. True, his work involved more pool parties, voluptuous women pillow-fighting and wearisome boasts about sexual prowess (“I have slept with thousands of women, and they all still like me,” he told Esquire magazine in 2002) than previous missionaries found necessary, but he always imagined himself to be a proselytiser for hedonistic anti-puritanism.
In the foreword to The Century of Sex: Playboy’s History of the Sexual Revolution, 1900-1999, he wrote: “Sex is the primary motivating factor in the course of human history, and in the 20th century it has emerged from the taboos and controversy that have surrounded it throughout the ages to claim its rightful place in society.” Others saw his impact on human flourishing somewhat differently. The feminist writer Gloria Steinem, who went undercover as a Playboy Bunny in 1963 to write an exposé of working conditions, said of her experience: “I learned what it’s like to be hung on a meat hook.”
Whatever Hefner’s missionary pretensions, he certainly had business acumen. In 1953 he founded what would become a multi-billion-dollar industry with a few nude photos of Marilyn Monroe. The first issue of Playboy sold 50,000 copies nationwide. When, in 1963, he was arrested finally for selling obscene literature (after publication of an issue featuring nude shots of Jayne Mansfield), the jury was unable to reach a verdict.
His initial success fulfilled an adolescent fantasy. At high school he had written an essay criticising America for avoiding frank discussions about sex, and in his college newspaper he had hailed a study written by Alfred Kinsey called Sexual Behaviour in the Human Male (aka the Kinsey Report, 1948), which shocked America for frankly discussing such issues as sadomasochism, homosexuality and the frequency of marital sex. By publishing a magazine with two transgressive breasts on its cover, Hefner started a revolution. “The magazine reflected hip, urban dissatisfaction with the stodgy conformism of the Eisenhower era,” wrote Steven Watts in the biography Mr Playboy: Hugh Hefner and the American Dream.
According to Salon.com’s Chris Colin: “America was seeing the advent of the urban single male who, lest his subversive departure from domestic norms suggest homosexuality, was now enjoying new photos of nude women every month.” That bachelor was seduced not just by nude women but Playboy’s post-austerity aura of sophistication. Not all of Playboy’s demographic had grotto hot tubs, nor could they be reasonably expected to be pawed hourly by scantily dressed Playmates like their favourite magazine’s publisher, but they could aspire. Hefner became a fantasy figure, a lucky guy who, unlike his readers, was probably having sex right now, possibly with four Playboy Bunnies on a revolving bed. His readers dreamed not just of emulating Hef sexually, but of the whole Playboy lifestyle, one premised on cashmere sweaters, good pipes, fancy cocktails, essays by Norman Mailer and crucially no balls and chains or bawling kids. The conservative group Concerned Women for America claimed Playboy “belittled marriage”. Naomi Wolf wrote: “A lot of men stay unmarried decade after decade because they bought the Hugh Hefner line that polygamist bachelorhood is ideal, and they lead largely empty lives.”
This irrepressible swinger and/or corrupter was born in Chicago, Illinois. He was raised by Grace and Glenn Hefner in what he later recalled as “a repressed midwestern Methodist home”. His father’s lineage was impeccably puritan: he was directly descended from the Plymouth governor William Bradford. Grace, whom the adult Hugh would describe as running an unimpeachably puritan household, instructed him and his friends on the facts of reproduction from an illustrated book. Hefner later complained she had only taught him about sexual biology, not its emotional aspects. But Grace had thereby done more than most of his friends’ parents dared to improve her child’s sexual education.
The primal scene of his adolescence came when his drums-playing girlfriend Betty Conklin invited someone else to a hay ride, after a perhaps steamy summer during which she and Hugh had jitterbugged together. Stung by rejection, he reinvented himself as “Hef”, becoming, as he wrote in 1942, “a Sinatra-like guy with loud flannel shirts and cords in the way of garb, and jive in the way of music a very original guy, he has his own style of jiving and slang expressions he calls everyone ‘slug’ or ‘fiend’.” Improbably, the makeover worked: classmates voted Hef “most likely to succeed”.
A decade later, though, success still eluded him. One bitter evening he stood on a bridge overlooking the Chicago river aged 26 and contemplated suicide to escape an unsatisfying marriage to Mildred Williams, whom he had wed in 1949 and a job that hardly fulfilled him. After a stint in the army and graduating with a BA in psychology from the University of Illinois, he had worked as a copywriter for Esquire. He quit in order to set up his own magazine, provisionally called Stag. Hefner took out a bank loan and raised $8,000 from 45 investors including $1,000 from his mother. “Not because she believed in the venture,” he told one interviewer. “But because she believed in her son.” Each issue featured nude photographs and a centrefold poster of the “playmate of the month”. But Playboy was not or not only what Tom Wolfe called a “one-hand magazine”. Hefner commissioned Lenny Bruce, John Updike and Jack Kerouac to write for him. Alex Haley’s Autobiography of Malcolm X was born from his interview with the leader in Playboy.
His marriage to Mildred, with whom he had two children, limped through a decade in which his career blossomed. Theirs became a proto-open marriage when she allowed him to sleep with other women. Mildred did so because she felt guilt over having an affair while he was away in the army and hoped that would preserve their marriage. They divorced in 1959. Hef’s swinging then began in earnest. He claimed to be “involved” with maybe “11 out of 12 months’ worth of Playmates” during the 60s and 70s. He also acknowledged that he experimented in bisexuality. His Playboy Mansion in Holmby Hills, Los Angeles, became a byword for sybaritic excess. He worked from his bed, often wearing silk pyjamas, happy to be, as he frequently was, distracted from running a global porn business by female employees.
Business boomed. Playboy Enterprises went public in 1971 at a time when the magazine was selling 7m copies worldwide each month. Hefner astutely diversified his brand: he hosted TV shows to proselytise for Playboy’s hedonistic male lifestyle, and ran a string of Playboy clubs staffed by that modern symbol of sexual infantilisation and female commodification, the Playboy Bunny. Each Bunny wore corset, bunny ears, collar, cuffs and fluffy cottontail. Clubs would have several sub-species of Bunny: Door Bunny, Cigarette Bunny, Floor Bunny, Playmate Bunny. There were even Jet Bunnies detailed to serve as flight attendants on the Playboy “Big Bunny” Jet. Clive James contended that “to make it as a Bunny, a girl needs more than just looks. She needs idiocy, too.”
“The training course was at your own expense,” recalled Steinem of the Playboy Bunny induction process. “It was horrible. There was nothing fun about it.” High heels and “costume so tight it would give a man a cleavage” were exhausting and demoralising, she reported. Steinem’s reportage helped make her a feminist: “In the sense that we’re all identified too much by our outsides instead of our insides and are mostly in underpaid service jobs, I realised we’re all Bunnies.”
Hefner, though, considered himself a proto-feminist. “In the 1950s and 60s, there were still states that outlawed birth control, so I started funding court cases to challenge that. At the same time, I helped sponsor the lower-court cases that eventually led to Roe v Wade. We were the amicus curiae [a friend of the court who volunteers information] in Roe v Wade [the 1973 US supreme court decision affirming a woman’s right to choose abortion]. I was a feminist before there was such a thing as feminism. That’s a part of history very few people know.” His feminism, if that’s what it was, stemmed from Hefner’s anti-puritanism. “Women,” he said, “were the major beneficiary of the sexual revolution. It permitted them to be natural sexual beings, as men are. That’s where feminism should have been all along. Unfortunately, within feminism, there has been a puritan, prohibitionist element that is antisexual. Playboy is the antidote to puritanism.”
That antidote to puritanism faced increasing competition from the 60s onwards. Magazines including Penthouse and Hustler battled for market share with Playboy. These were the years of the “pubic wars” in which rival porn magazines vied for how much skin and pubic hair they could get away with showing on their covers. Hefner, posturing as ever as putative sophisticate, declined to stoop to conquer in this battle.
In 1985 he suffered a minor stroke. His daughter Christie began to run the Playboy empire. In 1988 eight of his former lovers filed a $35m lawsuit against Hefner for that most Californian and thus costly of legal neologisims, palimony. The suit sought punitive damages to “dissuade him from maintaining long-enjoyed practice of seducing teenaged girls, supporting them for a few years and then discarding them”. Hefner told the press: “I’m the silliest possible target for a palimony suit, because I’m the most confirmed bachelor of the 20th century.”
In 1989, this confirmed bachelor married for the second time, wedding playmate of the year Kimberley Conrad. The couple had two sons, necessitating the transformation of the Playboy Mansion into a family-friendly home. After he and Conrad separated in 1998, she moved into a house next door. They divorced in 2010. During the couple’s separation, the Playboy Mansion and Hefner reverted to type. He kept a wide range of Playmates and became a devotee of viagra. The self-styled sex revolutionary was becoming a joke rather than a threat to American values.
In 2011 his planned wedding to Crystal Harris initially fell apart when his fiancee realised that “I wasn’t the only woman in Hef’s life.” She may have had a point. If he suffered after Crystal’s rejection, there were compensations: there always were for the oldest swinger in porn. He had once said: “I wake up every day and go to bed every night knowing I’m the luckiest guy on the fucking planet.” They reconciled and married in 2012.
At least half the planet’s population might have been excused for feeling less lucky. When he reopened a Playboy club in London in June 2011, 30 years after the original venue closed.
Date of Birth: 22 February 1928, Edmonton, Middlesex, UK
Birth Name: Bruce Joseph Forsyth-Johnson
Nickname: Bruce Forsyth
Sir Bruce Forsyth, the veteran entertainer and presenter of many successful TV shows. The former Strictly Come Dancing presenter had been unwell for some time and was in hospital earlier this year after a severe chest infection.
His long career in show business began when he was aged just 14.
He became Britain's best-paid TV star, famous for hosting game shows like The Generation Game, Play Your Cards Right and The Price is Right.
He also presented BBC One's Strictly with Tess Daly from 2004 to 2014.
He was what they used to call the triple threat, the full package: actor, singer, dancer. But he was actually so much more than that. He was the multiple threat. He didn’t just act, sing and dance, he could host, tell gags, play musical instruments, he could do anything.
He had this wonderful ability to make other people do what he wanted them to do. Without ever being malicious, he got them to be part of the gag, or to be the gag. They would laugh along with him because he didn’t make them feel uncomfortable, he made them feel included. That’s an incredible skill. Lots of hosts are able to do a funny line but often it’s a put-down to someone, so it feels unkind. Brucie was never like that. He made gags at other people’s expense but it always felt like they were in on it.
Forsyth met Puerto Rican beauty queen Wilnelia Merced, who was a fellow judge. They were married from 1983
Sir Bruce had not been seen in public recently, due to ill health. He was too frail to attend the funerals of close friends Ronnie Corbett and Sir Terry Wogan last year.
In 2015, the presenter underwent keyhole surgery after suffering two aneurysms, which were discovered following a fall at his Surrey home.
Date of Birth: 29 October 1925, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, UK
Birth Name: Thomas Sydney Robert Hardy
Nickname: Robert Hardy
To television audiences for more than 10 years, Robert Hardy was the cantankerous vet Siegfried Farnon in TV series All Creatures Great and Small. He was also the incarnation of Winston Churchill in eight different screen or stage productions over four decades and his talents were revealed to a younger generation when he played the bumbling, rule-enforcing Cornelius Fudge, Minister for Magic, in four Harry Potter films.
Hardy had spent 20 years acting authority figures on TV when the role of Siegfried Farnon came along. The character from Alf Wight’s semi-autobiographical novels, written under the penname James Herriot, was based on his senior partner in a North Yorkshire veterinary practice, Donald Sinclair.
Frustrated at some of the programme’s scriptwriters simply resorting to making the eccentric, temperamental Siegried volatile in certain scenarios, Hardy sometimes irked them by rewriting his lines. “Out of these battles comes, if you’re lucky, quality,” he said. “It needs steel and a stone to make a spark.”
Hardy played Churchill on TV again in The Woman He Loved (1988), the mini-series War and Remembrance (1988-9), Bomber Harris (1989), The Sittaford Mystery episode of the series Agatha Christie’s Marple (2006), and Churchill: 100 Days That Saved the World (2015). There were also two stage portrayals. As Cornelius Fudge in the Harry Potter films , Hardy said he was playing “high politics” again.
The actor was born in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, son of Henry Harrison Hardy, headmaster of Cheltenham College, and Jocelyn (née Dugdale), and attended Rugby school. His studies at Magdalen College, Oxford, were interrupted by national service in the RAF, but he returned to complete a degree in English.
From 1949, he acted with the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon, then at the Old Vic (1953-1956) and in the West End. On TV, he took the title role in David Copperfield (1956) and played Henry V in An Age of Kings (1960), Coriolanus in The Spread of the Eagle (1963), ruthless oil industry executive Alec Stewart in the 1966-1970 series of The Troubleshooters, Dudley in Elizabeth R (1971), Prince Albert in Edward the Seventh (1975), Mussolini in Caesar and Claretta (1975), Caesar in The Cleopatras (1983) and Franklin D Roosevelt twice in Bertie and Elizabeth (2002) and De Gaulle (2006).
Date of Birth: 19 December 1942, Bridgewater, Somerset, UK
Birth Name: Carol Waterman
Nickname: Carol Lee Scott
Carol Lee Scott, the actress best known for her role as children’s TV favourite Grotbags
The entertainer appeared in several children's programmes in the 1980s and early 1990s, including the Rod Hull hit Emu's World.
The character Grotbags was a witch, whose distinctive costume comprised green make-up and a witch's cape and hat.
She originally appeared in Emu's World in the '80s. When that show was axed, she was given her own show in 1991, which revolved around Grotbags and her minions at Gloomy Fortress.
Created by Scott and puppeteer Richard Coombs, the show featured characters such as Colin the Bat, Doris the Dodo and Norman Nettle. It ran for three series.
Carol was a great lover of music and comedy and one of the songs she used to like was 'Ain't It Grand To Be Blooming Well Dead' by Leslie Sarony and it was Carol's request that there be no sadness but music and laughter!
The Somerset-born actress's early career saw stints as a cabaret performer touring clubs in the north of England, a London pub singer and as a Pontins Blue Coat.
She spent 19 years working for the holiday park company before collaborating with Hull on a series of programmes in the 1980s. The pair created Grotbags while performing a summer season in Cleethorpes.
Date of Birth: 1 February 1921, Twickenham, Middlesex, UK
Birth Name: Peter John Sallis
Nickname: Peter Sallis
Veteran actor best known for playing Norman ‘Cleggy’ Clegg in Last of the Summer Wine and voicing Wallace in Wallace and Gromit
Often self-effacing and meek, but with a sly smirk and a beady eye that hinted at mischief, the actor Peter Sallis, who has died aged 96, played the cloth-capped widower Norman Clegg for 37 years in the BBC TV comedy series Last of the Summer Wine, and was also the voice of Wallace in Nick Park’s acclaimed stop-motion animated films based around the adventures of a cheese-loving inventor and his pet dog, Gromit.
Running from 1973 to 2010, Roy Clarke’s meandering series about three childish old men getting into all kinds of scrapes in a small Yorkshire town was gentle and often poignant, and the character of “Cleggy” absolutely fitted Sallis’s nasal, hesitant and semi-apologetic speech patterns. In Clegg’s wry utterances there were many stereotypical British qualities: understatement, calmness in the face of adversity, self-deprecation and, above all, a willingness to see the funny side of life.
And it was that wonderfully evocative voice that made Sallis first choice for the Wallace and Gromit films. He recorded the lines for Aardman Animation’s short A Grand Day Out in 1983 for a smallish fee, forgot about it, and it was six years later that Park rang him to say the film had been completed. From such modest beginnings came an industry that, for Sallis, climaxed with his attending the Academy Awards ceremony in Hollywood, when the Aardman/Dreamworks full-length film The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005) won an Oscar for best animated feature.
Born in Twickenham, south-west London, he was the only child of Harry Sallis, a bank manager, and his wife, Dorothy (nee Bernard), and grew up in Palmers Green, in the north of the city. In his autobiography, Fading Into the Limelight (2007), he wrote that his parents did not get on at all well: “I had a little prayer that I used to say: ‘Please God, make Mummy and Daddy live happily together.’”
After his education at Minchenden grammar school in Southgate, he followed his father into banking, as a clerk, and during the second world war joined the RAF. Turned down in 1943 for aircrew because of a disorder that might cause him to black out at high altitudes, he became a wireless mechanic and taught radio procedures at RAF Cranwell.
One of his students was putting on a production of Noël Coward’s Hay Fever at a local YMCA, and Sallis agreed to play the leading male part, though he had never acted before. As he put it: “When I went on the stage and spoke the lines, people laughed that night, in my bunk, I couldn’t sleep. I just lay there going through the play over and over again. I knew everybody’s lines and after a while I thought to myself, yes, I know what it is: I’ve got what they call the acting bug.”
He appeared in various other amateur productions and still had the bug when the war ended. He was accepted by the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, London, on an Alexander Korda scholarship, and when he left was offered work in the theatre almost immediately he had been taken on by the Myron Selznick agency while still at Rada.
The 15 years that followed contained what Sallis considered to be his best creative achievements: in spite of his later fame as a TV and film performer he always saw himself primarily as a serious stage actor. His professional debut came in Sheridan’s The Scheming Lieutenant at the Arts theatre in 1946, and notable subsequent appearances included Orson Welles’s Moby Dick (1955) at the Duke of York’s theatre, Coward’s Look After Lulu (1959) with Vivien Leigh at the Royal Court, and Welles’s production of Ionesco’s Rhinoceros (1959) with Laurence Olivier, also at the Royal Court. He spent two seasons at the Lyric, Hammersmith with John Gielgud in 1953 and the Fifty Nine Theatre Company in 1959.
He married the actor Elaine Usher in 1957, but it was not a happy relationship and she divorced him in 1965. They were briefly reconciled but she left him for good in 1983, describing him in tabloid newspapers as a devious, serial adulterer. Reflecting on his marriage in 2004, Sallis told the Daily Express that he was “not ideal as a husband”. The couple had a son, Crispian, who went on to become an Oscar-nominated film set designer.
Sallis was also frank about his inadequacies as a parent, saying he was “not good father material”. “I don’t know what it was but I never saw myself as a father figure,” he went on. “I didn’t understand children. I don’t actually like children. There was a distance between me and my father and now there is a distance between me and my son.”
Sallis began his television career at the top, with the title role in the 14-part BBC serial Samuel Pepys in 1958, and he also appeared in smaller parts in shows such as Doctor Who, Catweazle and The Persuaders! He became a busy film actor, too, with smallish parts in The Scapegoat (1959), Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960), Doctor in Love (1960), The VIPs (1963) and many others. Able to look terrified very convincingly, he also carved something of a niche in horror films Curse of the Werewolf (1961), Scream and Scream Again (1970), Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970) and Frankenstein: The True Story (1973).
His was already a familiar face, and Last of the Summer Wine made Sallis a household name; he was the only actor to appear in all 295 episodes of what became the world’s longest-running comedy series. Clarke had already collaborated with him on various projects, and wrote Clegg with him in mind. Of the original trio of anarchic old men re-living their childhoods, Blamire (Michael Bates) was the figure of authority, the Nora Batty-besotted Compo (Bill Owen) was the funniest and most outrageous, and Clegg occupied a middle ground: a witty but timid little man who preferred to be observer and commentator on his friends’ follies but was invariably roped in to the stunts as a reluctant participant.
Bates died before the third series and was replaced first by Brian Wilde, as the ex-soldier “Foggy” Dewhurst, then Michael Aldridge as the former headteacher Seymour Utterthwaite and, finally, by Frank Thornton as the retired policeman Herbert “Truly” Truelove. Owen died in 2000, and was never really replaced, though Brian Murphy as Alvin Smedley became Nora’s new neighbour. In the final two series the physical action was undertaken by younger members of the cast and Thornton and Sallis appeared mainly in indoor or background sequences.
The first Wallace and Gromit short film, A Grand Day Out, was released in 1990 to tremendous acclaim. It was nominated for an Academy Award, and from the start the voice of Sallis was a vital ingredient in its success. The Wrong Trousers (1993), A Close Shave (1995) and the full-length The Curse of the Were-Rabbit followed. All three earned Academy Awards, and Sallis was awarded an Annie award for voice acting for Were-Rabbit.
Sallis was 84 when the film came out, and his sight was failing through macular degeneration. He had no immediate plans for retirement and adjusted his life to meet the challenges involved, moving from his cottage close to the Thames in Richmond to a central London apartment and using a talking portable typewriter with a specially illuminated scanner. With the aid of these devices he was able to voice Wallace in A Matter of Loaf and Death (2008) and the TV science show Wallace and Gromit’s World of Invention (2010), and then had to step back from the role. Since 2011 Wallace has been voiced by Ben Whitehead.
Sallis was also able to complete work on the final series of Last of the Summer Wine in 2010 and shortly afterwards he formally retired. Just before doing so, he became happily reconciled to the fact that his enduring global fame lay with Wallace. “I realise now, though it’s taken me nearly a hundred years, that my voice is distinctive,” he said. “I’m very lucky indeed.” In 2007 he was appointed OBE.
Date of Birth: 6 March 1934, Shelf, West Yorkshire, UK
Birth Name: John W Bottomley
Nickname: John Noakes
Children’s TV presenter whose can-do attitude marked him out from his more sensible Blue Peter co-hosts
In 1977, the television presenter John Noakes climbed Nelson’s Column without safety harness or insurance, for an episode of the BBC’s enduring children’s show Blue Peter. After shinning up one ladder, Noakes swung himself dauntlessly on to another, tilted 45 degrees from the vertical. “At this level,” said Noakes in a voiceover, “the plinth on which Nelson stands overhangs the column. I found myself literally hanging on from the ladder with nothing at all beneath me.” Nothing, that is, but a 52-metre drop to the slabs of Trafalgar Square. Truly, they don’t make television presenters like Noakes any more. “It’s a long way up, really,” he said as he stood on the plinth with Britain’s naval hero, a remark so refreshingly banal as to prove that Blue Peter was not always scripted.
During his 12 years as a Blue Peter presenter, Noakes often climbed things and, for a while, held the British civilian freefall parachuting record 25,000 feet. Soon after Noakes joined Blue Peter in December 1965, his then co-presenter Christopher Trace, who had no head for heights, had baulked at taking part in an outside broadcast that included climbing to the top of a tower crane. The show’s producer Edward Barnes asked Noakes if he would do it instead: “Aye, all right, I’ll have a go.”
That daredevil can-do attitude stood him in good stead and marked him out from his more sensible co-presenters, such as Valerie Singleton, Peter Purves and Lesley Judd. There are some fans of the show who will always remember the moment that Noakes bared his bruised bottom after coming off his bobsleigh as he shot down the Cresta Run.
And then there were the animals. Initially, Noakes was charged with looking after Patch, puppy of the first Blue Peter dog Petra, before being given stewardship of Shep, a border collie, after Patch’s death in 1971. Shep remained proverbially beyond his control. As the pop parodists the Barron Knights put it in their 1978 novelty song Get Down, Shep, about Noakes’s relationship with the dog he called his “straight man” “John could never be alone no matter where he went Because Shep would always sniff around and soon pick up his scent.” Decades after he left the show, and long after the dog’s death in 1987, people would stop Noakes in the street and ask: “Where’s Shep?”
There was also that incident with Lulu the baby elephant visiting the Blue Peter set in 1969. When Lulu urinated and defecated on the studio floor, and her handler slipped over in the mess, but Noakes went with the madness of the moment, embracing the chaos that ensued. “Ow, he’s trod on my foot,” yelled Noakes, adding, as Singleton and Purves tried vainly to restore order, “Oh dear I’ve trod right in it!”
It is hard to explain the significance of Blue Peter during the golden age in which Noakes was its lord of misrule. There were only three TV stations and no dedicated children’s network, so Blue Peter was culturally central to its viewers in a way no kids’ TV show could be now. At the peak of its popularity, eight million watched the show, savouring its time-honoured format: a live demonstration of an activity (usually involving making a model from plastic bottles held together with sticky-back plastic), and a music or dance performance, followed by an edifying filmed report with one of the presenters and some risky live turn with an animal. A thousand letters a day arrived from children keen to earn one of the coveted Blue Peter badges, which made them the envy of their classmates. “It was a bit like an overgrown schoolboy’s job,” Noakes told an interviewer many years later. “I was Peter Pan really. I sometimes think I still am.”
Noakes was born in the village of Shelf, between Bradford and Halifax, in West Yorkshire. He was an only child and loved playing by himself in the woods or in the rain. His mother, he once said, thought he was mad. His parents divorced when John was nine and he was sent as a boarder to Rishworth school, Sowerby Bridge, where he was the rebel of Remove B, the class for under-achievers.
Although he excelled in cross-country running and gymnastics, he left school without qualifications, as a result of which he was turned down as a pilot by the RAF. Instead he trained as an engine fitter for the RAF and the airline BOAC, before deciding he wanted to become an actor. He attended the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London, financing the lessons by working as a liftboy in a hotel and doing early morning cleaning work. After graduation, he joined a touring repertory company and was spotted by Blue Peter’s editor, Biddy Baxter, in a production of Hobson’s Choice at the Phoenix theatre in Leicester, where he was playing Willie Mossop, the gormless hero of Harold Brighouse’s play.
Baxter, who was on the lookout for a third Blue Peter presenter to join Singleton and Trace as the programme went twice weekly, recalled that Noakes was “incredibly fresh faced he looked about 14”. He was actually 29 at the time. His winning Yorkshire accent (refreshing at a time when received pronunciation was still de rigueur for TV presenters), smiling eyes and quizzical expression “all combined to make the most compelling personality and one we were sure would be right for Blue Peter even before we had seen him on camera,” said Baxter.
Noakes was later dismissive of those Peter Pan years, saying that playing Mossop on stage had given him more satisfaction than the entire Blue Peter experience. “Given my time again,” he told Radio Times in 1999, “I wouldn’t have done Blue Peter. I’d done theatre for six years and was tired. But the pressure was terrible. One year I did nine weeks with only one and a half days off. I collapsed and couldn’t go on. That’s the nearest I came to a breakdown.” Noakes even turned on the woman who had plucked him from obscurity. “Biddy Baxter was an awful woman. I don’t want to talk about her. It would upset my lunch.”
His falling out with Baxter revolved in part around Shep. On leaving Blue Peter in 1978, Noakes wanted to make money from adverts featuring him and the famous collie. “I think it would have been immoral,” Baxter told the Guardian. “How can you have a Blue Peter presenter on commercial television advertising dog food so children think ‘I must buy this’?”
But after Blue Peter, Noakes was not short of work. Since 1976, he had presented Go With Noakes, a BBC children’s show featuring him in various outdoor adventures, such as motor racing, rowing, aerobatics and painting, accompanied by Shep. It lasted for five series until 1980. In 1979 he published a book of stories for children, The Flight of the Magic Clog.
In 1982, with his wife, Vicky, Noakes set off for the Caribbean in his own boat, intending to live there. Sailing had become a passion ever since he bought a boat to use at weekends while he was working on Blue Peter. Somewhere along the voyage, however, the boat was hit by a 60ft wave; the couple were rescued by the crew of a passing tanker. Noakes broke two ribs and suffered a deep cut above one eye that left a permanent scar. The Caribbean plan was shelved and ultimately he and Vicky decided to settle in Majorca.
In 1983 he presented The Dinosaur Trail, a seven-part documentary for ITV. There followed a long period of estrangement from television. He was not invited to the 25th anniversary party of Blue Peter, it was said, because he had threatened to “knock the block off” one of the producers.
In 1998 he returned to Blue Peter for a programme celebrating 40 years of the show, and was back again in January 2000 when Singleton, Purves and Noakes dug up the Blue Peter time capsule they had buried in 1971. In 1999, he presented a LWT series, Mad About Pets, with a new sidekick, a Dalmatian called Sigh. He also made appearances on Pet Rescue (2003), Britain’s Worst Celebrity Drivers (2005) and, with Peter Purves, on the quiz show Pointless Celebrities (2013).
In later years, Noakes enjoyed tap dancing and gardening. He took up painting watercolours of the almond and carob trees near his Majorcan home. “I had one exhibition and made £150, so I was chuffed.”
Date of Birth: 14 October 1927, Stockwell, London, UK
Birth Name: Roger George Moore
Nickname: Roger Moore
Sir Roger Moore who brought humour, panache and suavity to his starring roles in The Saint, The Persuaders! and seven James Bond films
He considered himself to be only the fourth best actor to have played Ian Fleming’s secret-service agent James Bond on screen: in his estimation, he came in behind Daniel Craig (whom he called “the Bond”), Sean Connery and George Lazenby. Though Moore was rarely regarded as the best or most definitive Bond, his inimitable humour and panache made him many viewers’ favourite. His tally of seven films beginning with Live and Let Die (1973) and ending with A View to a Kill (1985).
Irreverence and knowingness were integral to his interpretation. But he also seemed far more plausibly endangered as Bond than Connery had ever been. Part of the viewer’s affection and even concern for him could be attributed to his advanced age: Moore was already 45 when he was cast as Bond, whereas Connery made his debut at 32 and Craig was 37. This contributed to the sense that Moore’s wellbeing was actively at risk on screen. Subjected to punishing levels of G-force on a flight simulator in Moonraker (1979) or dismantling a bomb while dressed as a clown in Octopussy (1983), he looked uniquely vulnerable. Clambering up the Eiffel Tower and the Golden Gate Bridge in A View to a Kill seemed inadvisable behaviour for a man of 56.
His range was modest, as he was the first to admit. He credited his success to “99% luck”, and singled out the 1970 supernatural thriller The Man Who Haunted Himself, in which he played a businessman who appears to be living two lives, as “the only film I was allowed to act in”. Such self-deprecation only encouraged critics to contribute their own jibes: Anthony Lane of the New Yorker said that Moore “needed a stunt double for his acting scenes” in the Bond films.
Moore became an object of mild mockery after the 1980s satirical TV show Spitting Image featured a puppet of him that expressed its emotions solely through its eyebrows
He was born in London, to Lily (nee Pope), a housewife, and George Moore, a police constable whose responsibilities included drawing accident scenes to be used in evidence in court. Roger himself had artistic ambitions early in life. He left school at 15 to accept a job as a trainee animator at Publicity Picture Productions, but was sacked a few months later when he neglected to collect a can of film.
Tagging along with friends in 1945 to auditions for film extras, Moore was picked to appear in a non-speaking role as a legionnaire in Caesar and Cleopatra, starring Vivien Leigh and Claude Rains. The film’s first assistant director, Brian Desmond Hurst, took Moore under his wing and encouraged him to audition for Rada. When Moore was accepted, Hurst paid his fees. He left at 18 to become a supporting player in the repertory company of the Arts theatre, Cambridge, before he was called up for military service. Posted to Germany, he succeeded in getting a transfer to the Combined Services Entertainment unit. In 1946, he had married Doorn Van Steyn, a fellow Rada student.
After three years in the army, Moore returned to acting, landing small roles in theatre and film, as well as appearing as a model for knitting patterns and in photo stories. He moved to New York City in 1953 with his second wife, the singer Dorothy Squires (Moore and Van Steyn had divorced earlier that year), and began getting acting work on US television. He signed a contract with MGM and was cast in a series of unmemorable films, including The Last Time I Saw Paris (1954) and Interrupted Melody (1955). Returning to Britain, he took the lead in a 1958 television adventure series adapted from Walter Scott’s novel Ivanhoe.
Other regular TV roles of increasing size followed, including two western series, The Alaskans and Maverick, before Moore finally became a bona fide star, playing the crime-fighter and playboy Simon Templar in the popular television crime series The Saint. Produced by Lew Grade, it ran from 1962 until 1969. Moore, who also directed nine episodes, brought a suavity to the part which makes it a clear precursor of his work as James Bond; even his habit in early episodes of looking directly at the camera prefigures the later Bonds, where he all but winks at the audience.
Two years after The Saint ended, Moore was cast once more as a playboy adventurer in another Grade TV series, The Persuaders!, in which he was teamed with Tony Curtis. The odd-couple pairing (Moore, as Lord Brett Sinclair, was dapper; Curtis, playing Danny Wilde, was a ruffian) and the action staged in glamorous locations made the series a hit. Moore also directed two episodes. During this period, he was appointed the head of Brut Films, an offshoot of the cologne manufacturer. He tried unsuccessfully to entice Cary Grant to make his acting comeback in a Brut production, but succeeded in recruiting him as one of the company’s advisers. Moore was also instrumental in the making of A Touch of Class, the 1973 romantic comedy for which Glenda Jackson won her second Oscar.
His brief tenure as a mogul was abbreviated when he signed a three-film contract to play James Bond, a part which demanded no adjustment to the persona he had already established. Live and Let Die, an attempt to modernise the series with gritty blaxploitation trappings, still had its share of daftness; in one scene, Bond escapes across water using a row of alligators as stepping stones. Moore’s performance here and in his second outing, The Man with the Golden Gun (1974), was cool and confident.
But it is his third Bond film, The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), which is rightly considered his pinnacle. The writing, direction and production design were impressive, the action more than usually taut, and the balance of comedy and suspense acutely judged as in the iconic opening sequence in which Bond escapes falling to his death by opening a parachute emblazoned with the Union Jack. (The film was released in the Queen’s silver jubilee year.) Moore appeared relaxed but never complacent. He even came up with some of the movie’s nicest touches, such as the moment when Bond, emerging from an underwater drive, deposits a small fish out of his car window.
In between the Bond films, Moore moonlighted in other roles, including Gold (1974), a mining adventure shot in Johannesburg, the romantic comedy That Lucky Touch (1975) and the war movie Shout at the Devil (1975), co-starring Lee Marvin. But nothing came close to eclipsing his day job.
Outside the Bond series, he rarely deviated from action, appearing in quick succession in Escape to Athena (1979), North Sea Hijack and The Sea Wolves (both 1980). The Wild Geese (1978), a clunky, crypto-racist thriller about ageing mercenaries, was unusual in showcasing a more brutal side to Moore. Though he was seen pushing villains to their deaths in The Spy Who Loved Me and For Your Eyes Only (1981), nothing compared to the opening scene of The Wild Geese, in which he kills a drug dealer by forcing him to ingest large quantities of cocaine at gunpoint.
Moore devoted much of his time to being a goodwill ambassador for Unicef; it was for this humanitarian work that he was knighted in 2003.
Date of Birth: 18 October 1960, Burbank, California, USA
Birth Name: Erin Marie Moran
Nickname: Erin Moran
Erin Moran was already a seasoned child star when she was cast in the role that made her recognised worldwide as Joanie Cunningham in the American sitcom Happy Days. Joanie is the feisty kid sister of the clean-cut teenager Richie Cunningham, around whom much of the show’s action revolves, and takes a great interest in his attempts to attract girls.
Moran was only seven when she joined the children’s TV drama Daktari in 1968 for its final two runs, as Jenny Jones, an orphan given a home by the vet and conservationist Dr Marsh Tracy (played by Marshall Thompson) at his Wameru Study Center for Animal Behaviour in east Africa. The popular adventure series was based on the 1965 film Clarence, the Cross-Eyed Lion.
Ron Howard, who had appeared in the film, landed the starring role as Richie, with Tom Bosley and Marion Ross as his parents, Howard and Marion Cunningham, and Moran as his sister. However, this wholesome American family in 50s Milwaukee was upstaged by Henry Winkler’s cool, leather jacket-wearing Italian biker Arthur Fonzarelli, aka the Fonz, who liked to refer to Joanie as “shortcake”.
The programme’s creator, Garry Marshall, recognised that Howard and Winkler played off each other and resisted attempts to spin the Fonz off into his own series. Nevertheless, there were spin-offs. Laverne and Shirley and Mork & Mindy featured characters only briefly seen in Happy Days, but Joanie Loves Chachi (1982-83) gave Moran her own sitcom to reflect her character entering adulthood. Scott Baio played Joanie’s rock musician boyfriend, Chachi Arcola, Fonzie’s cousin in Happy Days, with the diner owner Al Delvecchio (Chachi’s stepfather), played by Al Molinaro.
All three stars continued to appear in Happy Days until the end of its 10-year run. On screen, Joanie and Chachi married, and Moran and Baio were in a relationship off screen for a while.
Moran was born in Burbank, California, to Edward, a finance manager, and his wife, Sharon. One of six children five sisters and a brother she appeared in a TV commercial for a bank at the age of five and made her film debut, uncredited, as a girl on a tricycle, in the comedy Who’s Minding the Mint? (1967). Then, she was seen alongside James Garner and Debbie Reynolds in How Sweet It Is! (1967). While pursuing her acting career, she was educated at Walter Reed junior high school and North Hollywood high school. After Happy Days finished, Moran had guest roles in The Love Boat (1980-85) and Murder, She Wrote (1986), and appeared in the reality TV series Celebrity Fit Club USA (2008), but she struggled to find acting work. Her last credited screen role was in the horror-film spoof Not Another B Movie (2010).
Date of Birth: 17 May 1955, Fort Worth, Texas, USA
Birth Name: William Paxton
Nickname: Bill Paxton
Bill Paxton was a lively and endearing character actor. Stocky, with a knack for conveying bareknuckle vitality as well as a more considered intelligence and tenderness, he cropped up initially in some of the sparkiest pulp films of the 1980s, including Kathryn Bigelow’s highly original vampire movie Near Dark (1987).
After James Cameron had an unexpected hit with The Terminator (1984), in which Paxton appeared briefly as a blue-haired thug, he took the actor with him on to future projects, casting him as one of a band of rough and ready deep-space marines in Aliens (1986), as a dopey car salesman in True Lies (1994) and as a treasure hunter in the framing story that bookends Titanic (1997). As one of the beleaguered astronauts in Apollo 13 (1995) and the chief tornado-chaser in Twister (1996), Paxton was for a time Hollywood’s favourite down to earth good ol’ boy.
Such parts would on their own have been enough for a career. However, Paxton landed several demanding lead roles – two of them in emotionally weighty thrillers, the other in an offbeat television series which proved not only that he was capable of bringing subtle shadings to trickier material, but also that the industry had been remiss in not putting more of that sort of work his way.
In Carl Franklin’s One False Move (1992), he was Dale “Hurricane” Dixon, a goofy, garrulous Star City sheriff whose fate is inextricably linked to the vicious killers heading his way. For all that film’s suspense, it had a gentle side personified by Paxton, who played with delicacy several pointedly crushing scenes, such as the moment when Dale overhears the visiting LAPD detectives discussing what they really think of him.
Even better was Sam Raimi’s A Simple Plan (1998), in which he played an ordinary Joe who stumbles upon $4m in a small plane crashed in the woods, only for the loot to have a pernicious effect on his life. It was a joy to see the subtleties of anguish, guilt and resentment played out in Paxton’s clenched performance as a man haunted by the suspicion that he has been dealt a rum hand. In the HBO series Big Love (2006-11), he was Bill Henrickson, another character who feels he should be enjoying life far more than he is. As a polygamist in a fundamentalist Mormon community in Utah, he spends most of his time refereeing between his three wives, his parents and the town elders.
Born in Fort Worth, Texas, Bill was the son of Mary Lou (nee Gray), a fashion director, and John Paxton, a lumber salesman who later followed his son into the acting business. (Paxton Sr had roles in six of Raimi’s films, including A Simple Plan and the Spider-Man trilogy.) Bill’s earliest brush with fame arrived when he was eight years old and was hoisted above the crowd outside John F Kennedy’s hotel only a few hours before the president was assassinated; a photograph of the moment is on display in the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, Texas.
As a teenager, Paxton became interested in film-making when he and his friends began shooting Super 8 shorts for which they built their own sets. He moved to Los Angeles and found work in various prop and art departments. He was hired by Cameron, who was then a production designer and second-unit director, on the no-budget horror Galaxy of Terror (1981). Together they created the interiors of spaceships out of everything from Winnebago parts to dishwasher racks.
When Paxton was rejected by film schools in southern California, he moved into acting; he had a walk-on part as a soldier in the Bill Murray hit Stripes (1981) and played a flat-topped bully in the bawdy comedy Weird Science (1985). He had more chance to shine in Aliens as the comically macho Hudson. “Being the hysteric of the group, I was always yelling and screaming,” he recalled. “I was worried the audience would think, ‘Oh God, when is this guy going to get killed?’” In fact, his character was a crowd-pleaser.
Subsequent film work included another horror sequel, Predator 2 (1990), the western Tombstone (1993), the black comedy The Last Supper (1995), the Terms of Endearment sequel The Evening Star (1996) and the enjoyable mountaineering adventure Vertical Limit (2000). But even after receiving acclaim for A Simple Plan, Paxton never really got his due as an actor. “I thought that one might be the role that put it all together for me, that connected the dots,” he lamented in 2002.
He made good on his directing ambitions with Frailty (2001), in which he also starred as a man who entreats his sons to join him in following God’s orders by murdering demons in human form. This disturbing film about religious fanaticism, adroitly handled by Paxton, was sadly overlooked, and he directed only one more, the golfing drama The Greatest Game Ever Played (2005). In recent years, he enjoyed success on television in the historical miniseries Hatfields & McCoys (2012) and the Marvel adventure Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, while returning to supporting roles in films such as the Tom Cruise action fantasy Edge of Tomorrow and the drama Nightcrawler (all 2014).
Date of Birth: 23 December 1971, Basingstoke, Hampshire, UK
Birth Name: Tara Claire Palmer Tomkinson
Nickname: Tara Palmer Tomkinson
As a schoolgirl Tara Palmer-Tomkinson dreamed so she would later tell an interviewer of riding in the Grand National or becoming a concert pianist. Instead she became a 1990s version of the “It girl” (the original was the silent movie star Clara Bow), famous for being famous.
Partying frenetically throughout the period, affluent and well-connected to the royal family, Palmer-Tomkinson rapidly became a gift for the media, and not just the tabloids. She was glamorous but friendly, accessible and witty with journalists: usually good for a quote and always willing to pose, usually in designer outfits, for photographers, however undignified they made her look.
Her celebrity won her regular appearances in gossip columns during the 90s, a ghosted column in the Sunday Times Style section, headlined “Yah!” for a time, free sports cars and designer clothes from manufacturers keen to promote their brands, appearances on TV shows and confessional interviews with newspapers. There were also a couple of jokey books containing advice such as: “I would never go out with a man who turned right when boarding an aircraft.” Bizarrely, hers was even the face selling Walker’s Celebration crisps for a while and also Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Yet Palmer-Tomkinson, who has been found dead in her Kensington flat at the age of 45, insisted in more recent interviews that her brittle gaucheness hid deeper insecurities and a lack of self-confidence disguised through the greatest period of fame 20 years ago by the intake of copious quantities of champagne and a £400-a-day cocaine habit.
“They wanted a real Ab Fab person,” she told the Daily Mail in 2011. “That was only a small part of who I was.”
Palmer-Tomkinson was the youngest of three children of Charles Palmer-Tomkinson, a Hampshire landowner and former British Olympic skier, and his wife, Patti Dawson, an Anglo Argentin a former model who met her husband while working as a “chalet girl” in Switzerland. Tara’s father taught the Prince of Wales to ski in the 70s and the family have remained regular skiing and holidaying partners of the prince and his sons ever since. Patti was severely injured when during a holiday in 1988 the royal party was engulfed by an avalanche that killed Major Hugh Lindsay, an equerry, and injured the prince.
Tara’s first brush with celebrity came when she was photographed by the paparazzi while giving the prince a chaste kiss at Klosters in 1995. She later boasted, inaccurately: “I have kissed Prince Charles every day since I was four,” but she was a friend to his sons and counselled Kate Middleton during her temporary separation from Prince William in 2008 before their marriage.
Tara grew up on the family’s 1,200 acre Dummer Grange estate near Basingstoke, Hampshire, and was educated like her older sister, Santa, at Sherborne school for girls, Dorset, where she obtained nine O-levels and A-levels in English, art and ancient history. She was regarded as a talented pianist, though she never reached Grade 8, telling the Daily Mail last year that: “I couldn’t be bothered with all the boring technicalities of scales and arpeggios.”
Instead of university, she enrolled for a dance and drama course at the London Studio Centre and worked, briefly, for Rothschild’s bank before becoming a model and, increasingly, as her celebrity blossomed, a fashionable woman about town. Flitting between parties and nightclubs on the arms of a succession of wealthy but transient boyfriends, she caught the eyes of the tabloid photographers waiting outside and was soon given a column to chronicle her activities in the Sunday Times, staff on the paper crafting her words each week into usable copy. The Style section’s then editor, Jeremy Langmead, said: “She was amusing and self-deprecating in a bonkers way.”
The column was popular but her unreliability was problematic. Celebrity came at a price, advances against the column were used to fuel her cocaine habit, her credit cards were removed because of mounting debts, and in 1999 her parents paid for her to go into rehab in Arizona for a month. Later the drug habit would require the surgical reconstruction of her nose after the septum collapsed. “Every time I come out of a loo cubicle people ask what she’s been doing in there,” Palmer-Tomkinson observed later, insisting she had not taken drugs for 10 years.
The partying was gradually replaced by other media appearances on tele- vision, in which she displayed feistiness and wit. She was the runner-up in the inaugural series of I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here in 2002 and two years later she co-presented ITV2’s spinoff show with Mark Durden-Smith. She appeared on other popular TV shows such as Blind Date, Cold Turkey (about her attempt to give up smoking), Loose Women, Top of the Pops and Bognor or Bust. She was a patron of charities for the young bereaved and for autistic children helped by music.
There were still occasional appearances in the gossip columns, as in 2014 when she was temporarily arrested after creating a scene at Heathrow airport and having to be restrained, but last November she revealed characteristically in the Mail that she had been diagnosed with a brain tumour and a growth on her pituitary gland and was scared of dying. She had become frail and reclusive and said: “I am not the person I was. I’m much calmer… the party world scares me. I am a very quiet person now. I have a better perspective on life.”
Date of Birth: 21 May 1945, Santa Monica, California, USA
Birth Name: Richard Lawrence Hatch
Nickname: Richard Hatch
In the rush to emulate the success of Star Wars, there were many imitations and rip-offs. The 1978 television series Battlestar Galactica was one of the most charming, thanks in no small part to the actor Richard Hatch. He was the dashing and clean-cut Captain Apollo, the show’s equivalent to Luke Skywalker, opposite the more roguish Han Solo figure, Lt Starbuck, played by Dirk Benedict. When Hatch first read the script, Apollo was named Skyler; other echoes of Star Wars were not so easily muted, however, and it was hardly surprising when 20th Century Fox, the studio behind George Lucas’s hit, sued Universal, the makers of Battlestar Galactica, citing 34 similarities between the two properties. The case was settled before reaching court in 1980, though by that point the series had already been cancelled.
With his dazzlingly bright teeth, glossy locks and boyish handsomeness, Hatch was almost ridiculously good-looking. Asked in 2012 if he thought his appearance had hurt his career, he said: “I think so. I had to prove myself over and over. When you’re good-looking, you struggle to prove that you can act.” There was a reassuringly uncomplicated air about him in Battlestar Galactica: he was essentially the boy next door in space. The limitations of playing the squeaky-clean hero, though, were immediately apparent to him. “I love Apollo he’s amazing but they weren’t challenging him enough,” he said. “He’s the true blue hero and the good guy never gets his due.”
The original show, in which some of the last remaining humans are pursued across the universe by an evil robot race known as the Cylons, ran for only one series but generated a sizeable fan base and considerable affection, with Hatch nominated for a Golden Globe. The extravagant cost of the show, rather than any lack of ratings, was said to have hastened its demise. British audiences got their first taste of it in cinemas when Universal re-edited the three-part pilot episode, Saga of a Star World, to create the feature film Battlestar Galactica (1978) as a way of recouping some of the show’s costs.
Although Hatch declined to take part in a short-lived follow-up series, Galactica 1980, he did accept a different role in the franchise when it was finally revived by the Syfy channel as a mini-series in 2003 followed by four series; the show ended in 2009. Hatch had spent many years trying to generate enough money and interest for a new Battlestar Galactica, even making his own trailers at great expense to try to convince Universal to give the show another shot, and writing spin-off novels continuing the saga.
He was initially sceptical of the writer and producer Ronald D Moore’s decision to discard the old Galactica characters entirely, but changed his tune when he was offered the role of Tom Zarek, a former rebel turned politician, which Moore pitched to him as “a political revolutionary, à la Nelson Mandela but a little bit darker”. The character appeared in 22 episodes, introducing Hatch to a new generation of fans and providing him with exactly the sort of texture that had been lacking in Apollo.
He was born in Santa Monica, California and attended Harbor College, San Pedro. He showed an early interest in ballet and in pole-vaulting, but traced his liking for acting back to a class at college during which he overcame his shyness to read aloud a report about the assassination of President John F Kennedy. He got his first acting experiences in Chicago and Los Angeles repertory theatre groups and in off-Broadway shows, before he became a regular on the US soap opera All My Children from 1970 until 1972.
His subsequent TV appearances included Hawaii Five-O, The Waltons, Dynasty and The Love Boat. In 1976 he replaced Michael Douglas for the final series of the cop show The Streets of San Francisco. “Even my girlfriend at the time liked Michael Douglas and missed [his] character,” he noted.
His best performance was as Jan Berry, one half of the pop duo Jan and Dean, in the above-par TV biopic Deadman’s Curve (1978). The most impressive scene shows Jan performing on stage for the first time seven years after the car accident that nearly killed him. A technical malfunction reveals that he has been miming along to a backing tape. After pleading for clemency from the braying crowd, he begins falteringly to sing on his own again. Hatch and his co-star Bruce Davison, as Dean, turned what could have been a purely cloying moment into something sincere and electrifying.
Hatch’s film appearances were infrequent, though in the wake of his Battlestar Galactica success he landed a starring role in Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen (1981), in which he was the grandson of the famous sleuth (played on this occasion by Peter Ustinov). But there were usually TV opportunities for him in guest spots on established series (Baywatch, Santa Barbara) or as the star of his own reality show, Who the Frak (2011), which followed him around as he worked as a life coach and motivational speaker. He also played a part in establishing SoulGeek.com, a dating website for science-fiction fans.
Date of Birth: 22 January 1940, Chesterfield, Derbyshire, UK
Birth Name: John Vincent Hurt
Nickname: John Hurt
Few British actors of recent years have been held in as much affection as Sir John Hurt. That affection is not just because of his unruly lifestyle he was a hell-raising chum of Oliver Reed, Peter O’Toole and Richard Harris, and was married four times or even his string of performances as damaged, frail or vulnerable characters, though that was certainly a factor. There was something about his innocence, open-heartedness and his beautiful speaking voice that made him instantly attractive.
As he aged, his face developed more creases and folds than the old map of the Indies, inviting comparisons with the famous “lived-in” faces of WH Auden and Samuel Beckett, in whose reminiscent Krapp’s Last Tape he gave a definitive solo performance towards the end of his career. One critic said he could pack a whole emotional universe into the twitch of an eyebrow, a sardonic slackening of the mouth. Hurt himself said: “What I am now, the man, the actor, is a blend of all that has happened.”
For theatregoers of my generation, his pulverising, hysterically funny performance as Malcolm Scrawdyke, leader of the Party of Dynamic Erection at a Yorkshire art college, in David Halliwell’s Little Malcolm and His Struggle Against the Eunuchs, was a totemic performance of the mid-1960s; another was David Warner’s Hamlet, and both actors appeared in the 1974 film version of Little Malcolm. The play lasted only two weeks at the Garrick Theatre (I saw the final Saturday matinée), but Hurt’s performance was already a minor cult, and one collected by the Beatles and Laurence Olivier.
He became an overnight sensation with the public at large as Quentin Crisp the self-confessed “stately homo of England” in the 1975 television film The Naked Civil Servant, directed by Jack Gold, playing the outrageous, original and defiant aesthete whom Hurt had first encountered as a nude model in his painting classes at St Martin’s School of Art, before he trained as an actor.
Crisp called Hurt “my representative here on Earth”, ironically claiming a divinity at odds with his low-life louche-ness and poverty. But Hurt, a radiant vision of ginger quiffs and curls, with a voice kippered in gin and as studiously inflected as a deadpan mix of Noël Coward, Coral Browne and Julian Clary, in a way propelled Crisp to the stars, and certainly to his transatlantic fame, a journey summarised when Hurt recapped Crisp’s life in An Englishman in New York (2009), 10 years after his death.
Hurt said some people had advised him that playing Crisp would end his career. Instead, it made everything possible. Within five years he had appeared in four of the most extraordinary films of the late 1970s: Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979), the brilliantly acted sci-fi horror movie in which Hurt from whose stomach the creature exploded was the first victim; Alan Parker’s Midnight Express, for which he won his first Bafta award as a drug-addicted convict in a Turkish torture prison; Michael Cimino’s controversial western Heaven’s Gate (1980), now a cult classic in its fully restored format; and David Lynch’s The Elephant Man (1980), with Anthony Hopkins and Anne Bancroft.
In the last-named, as John Merrick, the deformed circus attraction who becomes a celebrity in Victorian society and medicine, Hurt won a second Bafta award and Lynch’s opinion that he was “the greatest actor in the world”. He infused a hideous outer appearance there were 27 moving pieces in his face mask; he spent nine hours a day in make-up with a deeply moving, humane quality. He followed up with a small role Jesus, in Mel Brooks’s History of the World: Part 1 (1981), the movie where the waiter at the Last Supper says, “Are you all together, or is it separate checks?”
Hurt was an actor freed of all convention in his choice of roles, and he lived his life accordingly. Born in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, he was the youngest of three children of a Church of England vicar and mathematician, the Reverend Arnould Herbert Hurt, and his wife, Phyllis (née Massey), an engineer with an enthusiasm for amateur dramatics.
After a miserable schooling at St Michael’s in Sevenoaks, Kent (where he said he was sexually abused), and the Lincoln grammar school (where he played Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest), he rebelled as an art student, first at the Grimsby art school where, in 1959, he won a scholarship to St Martin’s, before training at Rada for two years from 1960.
He made a stage debut that same year with the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Arts, playing a semi-psychotic teenage thug in Fred Watson’s Infanticide in the House of Fred Ginger and then joined the cast of Arnold Wesker’s national service play, Chips With Everything, at the Vaudeville. Still at the Arts, he was Len in Harold Pinter’s The Dwarfs (1963) before playing the title role in John Wilson’s Hamp (1964) at the Edinburgh Festival, where the critic Caryl Brahms noted his unusual ability and “blessed quality of simplicity”.
This was a more relaxed, free-spirited time in the theatre. Hurt recalled rehearsing with Pinter when silver salvers stacked with gins and tonics, ice and lemon, would arrive at 11.30 each morning as part of the stage management routine. On receiving a rude notice from the distinguished Daily Mail critic Peter Lewis, he wrote, “Dear Mr Lewis, Whooooops! Yours sincerely, John Hurt” and received the reply, “Dear Mr Hurt, Thank you for short but tedious letter. Yours sincerely, Peter Lewis.”
After Little Malcolm, he played leading roles with the RSC at the Aldwych notably in David Mercer’s Belcher’s Luck (1966) and as the madcap dadaist Tristan Tzara in Tom Stoppard’s Travesties (1974) as well as Octavius in Shaw’s Man and Superman in Dublin in 1969 and an important 1972 revival of Pinter’s The Caretaker at the Mermaid. But his stage work over the next 10 years was virtually non-existent as he followed The Naked Civil Servant with another pyrotechnical television performance as Caligula in I, Claudius; Raskolnikov in Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment and the Fool to Olivier’s King Lear in Michael Elliott’s 1983 television film.
His first big movie had been Fred Zinnemann’s A Man for All Seasons (1966) with Paul Scofield (Hurt played Richard Rich), but his first big screen performance was an unforgettable Timothy Evans, the innocent framed victim in Richard Fleischer’s 10 Rillington Place (1970), with Richard Attenborough as the sinister landlord and killer John Christie. He claimed to have made 150 movies and persisted in playing those he called “the unloved people like us, the inside-out people, who live their lives as an experiment, not as a formula”. Even his Ben Gunn-like professor in Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) fitted into this category, though not as resoundingly, perhaps, as his quivering Winston Smith in Michael Radford’s terrific Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984); or as a prissy weakling, Stephen Ward, in Michael Caton-Jones’s Scandal (1989), about the Profumo affair; or again as the lonely writer Giles De’Ath in Richard Kwietniowski’s Love and Death on Long Island.
His later, sporadic theatre performances included a wonderful Trigorin in Chekhov’s The Seagull at the Lyric, Hammersmith, in 1985 (with Natasha Richardson as Nina); Turgenev’s incandescent idler Rakitin in a 1994 West End production by Bill Bryden of A Month in the Country, playing a superb duet with Helen Mirren’s Natalya Petrovna; and another memorable match with Penelope Wilton in Brian Friel’s exquisite 70-minute doodle Afterplay (2002), in which two lonely Chekhov characters Andrei from Three Sisters, Sonya from Uncle Vanya find mutual consolation in a Moscow café in the 1920s. The play originated, as did that late Krapp’s Last Tape, at the Gate theatre in Dublin.
His last screen work included, in the Harry Potter franchise, the first, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001), and last two, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Parts One and Two (2010, 2011), as the kindly wand-maker Mr Ollivander; Rowan Joffé’s 1960s remake of Brighton Rock (2010); and the 50th anniversary television edition of Dr Who (2013), playing a forgotten incarnation of the title character.
Because of his distinctive, virtuosic vocal attributes was that what a brandy-injected fruitcake sounds like, or peanut butter spread thickly with a serrated knife? He was always in demand for voiceover gigs in animated movies: the heroic rabbit leader, Hazel, in Watership Down (1978), Aragorn/Strider in Lord of the Rings (1978) and the Narrator in Lars von Trier’s Dogville (2004). In 2015 he took the Peter O’Toole stage role in Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell for BBC Radio 4. He had foresworn alcohol for a few years not for health reasons, he said, but because he was bored with it.
Hurt’s sister was a teacher in Australia, his brother a convert to Roman Catholicism and a monk and writer. After his first marriage to the actor Annette Robinson (1960, divorced 1962) he lived for 15 years in London with the French model Marie-Lise Volpeliere Pierrot. She died in a riding accident in 1983.
In 1984 he married, secondly, a Texan, Donna Peacock, living with her for a time in Nairobi until the relationship came under strain from his drinking: they divorced in 1990. With his third wife, Jo Dalton, whom he married in the same year, he had two sons, Nick and Alexander (“Sasha”); they divorced in 1995. In 2005 he married the actor and producer Anwen Rees-Myers, with whom he lived in Cromer, Norfolk. Hurt was made CBE in 2004, given a Bafta lifetime achievement award in 2012 and knighted in the New Year’s honours list of 2015.
Date of Birth: 7 April 1941, Huddersfield, UK
Birth Name: Gordon Fitzgerald Kaye
Nickname: Gordon Kaye
Kaye’s most memorable role was as the owner of Cafe René in the hit BBC1 comedy, which made light of the German occupation of France during the second world war.
The series, which ran from 1982 to 1992, was based around his character’s struggle with daily life in the French town of Nouvion: maintaining a friendly face for the German soldiers, getting dragged into the French resistance and having numerous affairs with his waiting staff.
Kaye appeared in all 84 episodes of the popular series and was nominated for a Bafta. He appeared more than 1,000 times in the stage version.
Vicki Michelle, who played Yvette Carte-Blanche, paid tribute to her co-star. “So sad to hear news of Gorden Kaye. A brilliantly talented actor, consummate professional, loved the world over,” she said. “There’ll never be another René.”
Shane Allen, the controller of BBC comedy commissioning, said Kaye was a “terrific comic actor whose signature role, René Artois, earned his place in the comedy hall of fame”, adding: “He was instrumental in making ‘Allo ‘Allo! such a long-running and well-loved series.”
Born in Huddersfield in 1941, Kaye described himself in his autobiography as a “shy, gay and overweight boy” who turned to acting to help his self-confidence. He began with small film roles, including The Party’s Over in 1965 starring Oliver Reed, but he found his true calling in television, first landing a role in Coronation Street. In 1982, he was cast as the lead character in ‘Allo ‘Allo.
Kaye suffered serious injuries in the Burns’ Day storm of January 1990 when a plank smashed through his windscreen and knocked him unconscious. During his stay in hospital following five hours of brain surgery, two journalists from the Sunday Sport posed as doctors to sneak into his room, an incident that caused national uproar and was described by the appeal court as a “monstrous invasion of privacy”.
Despite the severity of his injuries, Kaye went on to film two more series of ‘Allo ‘Allo after the accident.
Kaye’s last television role was in the BBC sketch show Revolver, but he returned to the screen in 2007 for a one-off revival of ‘Allo ‘Allo to reprise his best known role.