Tag Archives: Coronation Street

JON ROLLASON RIP, Doctor Who and Avengers actor dies

JON ROLLASON RIP

tve14908-98-19680210-0Jon Rollason, who played Harold Chorley in the recently recovered Doctor Who story The Web of Fear, has died at the age of 84. 

Born in Birmingham in 1931, he enrolled at the Old Vic theatre school in London after completing his National Service. In interviews he claimed that his early work in the theatre was somewhat disheartening, citing playing Henry V’s corpse at the beginning of Henry VI Part 1 at Birmingham Rep in 1952 as the low point of his career. He also played the small part of Woodville and the production (as well as Parts 2 and 3 in which he also appeared as various soldiers and attendants) transferred to London. He had also appeared at Birmingham the year before in The Boy David and The Critic. When Laurence Olivier played Archie in the original production of John Osborne’s The Entertainer, Rollason understudied the character before playing the role of William Rice after the production had transferred to the Palace Theatre in 1957. He was also busy in Rep, and starred alongside Richard Harris in Brendan Behan’s The Quare Fellow at The Comedy Theatre in 1956 (the two were lolling around in their underpants backstage when they were surprised to be visited by Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller) and eventually his smooth voice began to get him work on radio.

By the end of the decade he was playing leading roles on the Home Service and his credits included Arnold Yarrow’s play The Ivory Gates (1959), The Jago Line opposite Michael Bryant (1959), The Caine Mutiny Court Martial (1960), Hello Out There (1961), True Story: The Last Mistake (by Frederick Treves who had also been in Henry VI), and any number of Saturday Night Theatres, Sunday Plays, and Afternoon Theatres. One of the most notable was a 1960 production of the hitherto unperformed Harold Pinter play The Dwarfs. Rollason also leant his voice to readings and excerpts on variety shows and was generally very at home on the wireless throughout the 1960s. He also wrote for the medium, his plays including If I Were The Marrying Kind in 1969.

drkingHe had started appearing on television in 1955 in The Children of the New Forest but no roles especially stood out until he was cast as Dr Martin King in The Avengers in 1962. A short lived role, intended to fill the shoes of the swiftly exiting Ian Hendry and using scripts written for his character Dr Keel, Rollason nonetheless gets star billing after Patrick MacNee on the closing credits of his three episodes. Filling in for an established actor was never going to be a rewarding task but Rollason acquits himself well and has the looks and presence to make himself a convincing dramatic lead – but the show had other ideas and never again was Steed partnered with a male co-star.

His other bid for cult immortality is more of a character part and he certainly has fun hiding behind thick specs and phoney bonhomie as irritating reporter Harold Chorley in the Doctor Who classic The Web of Fear. Part Alan Whicker, part David Frost, when the going gets tough Chorley absconds and becomes a chief suspect in the Guess-Who’s-The-Traitor shenanigans in the story’s latter episodes. It’s a great turn – balancing his humorous pastiche of a conniving, patronising journalist with the requisite fear required as the character gets increasingly terrified when the story reaches its climax.

Dave_robbinsHe was an on-off contributor to Coronation Street, playing Dave Robbins at various intervals between 1963 and 1971. Robbins was a teaching colleague of Ken Barlow who lodged with him for a while. They campaigned for a school crossing together but not in time too prevent a pupil being run over and killed, much to Dave’s dismay. He moved away in 1964 after having an affair with Ken’s wife but returned for Barlow-centered storylines in 1969 and 1971. That wasn’t Rollason’s only brush with soap opera as he also wrote episodes of Crossroads (and claimed to have created the popular character Benny for actor Paul Henry). This was an addition to an eclectic writing CV that took in commercials, documentaries and the creation of the two-part series Special Project Air which starred Peter Barkworth in 1969 (it was produced by Doctor Who‘s Peter Bryant). He wrote speeches for the heads of major car companies to deliver at international conferences and his writing agent was Tony Hancock’s brother Roger who also represented Dalek creator Terry Nation.

As an actor his work on the small screen included Z-Cars (1963/65/69), No Hiding Place (1964), Swizzlewick (1964), The Baron (1966), Thirteen Against Fate (1966), Mogul (1967), Softly, Softly (1966/68), Julius Caesar (a BBC Play of the Month 1969), The Borderers (1970), Take Three Girls (1973), Barlow (1973), and Robin’s Nest (1979).

As a staff writer for ATV he realised that he could live wherever he liked and so moved to Wales – first to Rhydlanfair then Betws y Coed and finally Llanrwst where he became an active member of the community, culminating in his becoming Mayor. He also  facilitated a gallery which showcases the work of the artist John Horwell, helped to set up the local Almshouses Museum and was a member of the board of a youth project which enabled the Lallanrwst’s youngsters to learn skills and enjoy activities in a protected environment.

He had not been in the best of health for some time and though he showed an interest in my Who’s Round project the opportunity never arose. He passed away in hospital on the morning of February 20th and is survived by his second wife, Janet, and three children.

Jon Roger Rollinson, actor and writer, born April 9th 1931, died, February 20th 2016.

Richard Davies – Welsh Character Actor – RIP 1926-2015

RICHARD DAVIES RIP

Richard Davies
Richard Davies

The accomplished and much loved Welsh character actor Richard Davies has died at the age of 89. Balding, with a gap tooth and distinctive accent he was best known for his appearances as Mr Price in the ITV sitcom Please Sir! (starring John Alderton). That said, and despite an ever detectable twinkle, he was an actor of more skill and gravitas than a quick perusal of his comedy credits might initially suggest. Born in Merthyr Tydfil, Glamorgan he was destined for a life in the mines (which he entered aged 14) before packing his bags for London in order to try to make it as an actor. It’s fair to say that he did.

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Held hostage with Bonnie Langford in Delta and the Bannermen.

His one encounter with Doctor Who came in 1987 – the production team needed someone with a lightness of touch to play a genial Welshman in the Sylvester McCoy story Delta And The Bannermen. It’s unlikely that Davies was anywhere other than top of the list when it came to casting that particular role. It’s a story with an odd tone but whilst Don Henderson is a genuinely villainous presence it is Davies who best straddles the show’s mixture of comedy and drama. It is easy to believe that his character is an old soldier and his innate authority when he commands Henderson to spare Bonnie Langford’s Mel contrasts nicely with the humour with which he plays the scenes where he discovers the true nature of the TARDIS. It’s a skilful performance, perfectly judged.

Burton Burton – as his Doctor Who character was called – was just one small role in an illustrious roster of parts. He played real life Victoria Cross recipient Private Jones in the classic film Zulu (1964), bravely holding off the invading hordes alongside fellow actor Denys Graham (as another Private Jones!). This good, solid supporting role came after a number of small parts in films such as A Run For Your Money (1949) and The Lavender Hill Mob (1951). He subsequently turned up in Oh, What A Lovely War (1969) as the butcher in Steptoe And Son Ride Again (1973) and was, inevitably, in the 1972 film version of Under Milk Wood (and it would be impolite to have expected otherwise).

It was on the small screen, however, that he made the biggest impact, and he had an especial gift for comedy. As well as his stint throughout the entire run of Please Sir! he played the incompetent private eye Gimble in the first series of Bob Block children’s comedy Robert’s Robots (1973), Clive in three series of Bill Maynard vehicle Oh No, It’s Selwyn Froggitt (1973-1977), as the Chancellor Of The Exchequer – a desperately sane counterpart to Peter Jones’s bonkers wannabe superhero Prime Minister – in Whoops Apocalypse (1982) and as Stan Evans opposite Robin Askwith in Bottle Boys. He even managed to make a mark in one-off appearances including the harassed Mr White in the famous The Kipper And The Corpse episode of Fawlty Towers (1979), as a trade union official in Yes Minister (1980), as Clive Jenkins in the Not The Nine O’Clock News skit of Question Time, and as a man with horrible memories of Victor Meldrew in One Foot In The Grave (1992).

Coronation Street's Hopkins family.
Coronation Street’s Hopkins family.

It is worth mentioning that there was plenty of drama alongside the comedy, and he cropped up in many programmes – notably a semi-regular role in  Z-Cars (a memorably oily turn as the informant Sloan, 1963-65), as well meaning but frustrated teacher Mr Black in Dennis Potter’s Where The Buffalo Roam (a Wednesday Play in 1966), Angels (1975/80), To Serve Them All My Days (1981), mini series The Citadel (1981), Big Deal (1985) and And The Beat Goes On (1996) as well as a number of different one off roles in the same series that testified to his versatility : five in No Hiding Place (from 1964), and three each in Softly, Softly (from 1966) and Dixon Of Dock Green (from 1967). He was a series regular as Idris Hopkins (corner shop proprietor and husband to Kathy Staff’s Vera) in Coronation Street (1974-75) and as Max Johnson in Taff Acre (1981).

Private 593 Jones - not to be confused with Private 716 Jones (or any of the other ones). Zulu (1964).
Private 593 Jones – not to be confused with Private 716 Jones (or any of the other ones). Zulu (1964).

A perusal of the characters he played finds a number of Taffys,  an Owen Owen to go with his Burton Burton, many a Dai and a Jones or two, but if the roles he played were occasionally stereotypes he always brought something more to them than might have been on the page and his performances were never lazy. Indeed, for a generation or two of viewers he was part of the televisual furniture, a reliable and welcome performer whose appearances always put a smile on the face.

He passed away of the 8th October after a battle with Alzheimers but, according to his daughter Nerissa, he “lived with fun to the end”.

Lines that could only have been said by Richard Davies (and were):

“At times like this, I often wonder what Nye Bevan would have done, and I’m convinced he would have shat in his pants.” – as Clive Jenkins on Question Time (Not The Nine O’Clock News)

“Yes, and if that’s no good, we’ll try the one up by the prophylactic emporium.” – as Mr White in Fawlty Towers

“Meldrew… Victor Meldrew! God, he was a pillock eh? There’s a big drawing of him on the wall of the girls toilets. Oh yes, you’d remember him Steve… he was a right bastard… I gave him my hamster to look after one holiday and when I got home his cat had eaten it. Tried to palm it off as a suicide.” – as Billy in One Foot In The Grave.

“Now, let me try and get this right. Now, are you telling me that you are not the Happy Hearts Holiday Club from Bolton, but instead are spacemen in fear of an attack from some other spacemen, and because of the danger, you want me to evacuate the entire camp?”
and
“Oh, by the way, can we have space buns and tea afterwards? Or don’t they drink tea on Mars?” – as Burton in Doctor Who – Delta And the Bannermen

He is survived by his actress wife Jill whom he met in Rep (it would have been their 60th wedding anniversary on October 28th), their children Nerissa and Glen and four grandchildren.

RICHARD DAVIES – 25th January 1926 – 8th October 2015

With thanks to Nerissa Davies.

Bernard Kay 1928-2014

Myself and Bernard at the CAA last month.
Myself and Bernard at the CAA last month.

I am very sad to report the death of that fine actor Bernard Kay.

I’ll add something personal later but for now:

The actor Bernard Kay, who starred in Dr Zhivago and was a recognisable TV face in over 100 programmes ranging from the very first episode of Z-Cars to Jonathan Creek via Doctor Who and The Professionals, has died aged 86.

Born in Bolton in Lancashire, the son of a journalist, he initially worked as a reporter for the Bolton Evening News and a stringer for the Manchester Guardian. Educated at Manchester’s Chetham’s School, when he completed National Service he studied at the Old Vic Theatre School on Waterloo Road, London (having also been accepted by the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and the Guildhall School of Music And Drama). He used his army experience whilst making his first film, Carry On Sergeant: helpfully correcting its star Willliam Hartnell regarding drill procedure. Hartnell was not impressed and unsuccessfully tried to get him fired.

Hartnell had forgotten the incident when Kay was the lead guest star in one of the early Doctor Who adventures The Dalek Invasion Of Earth (1964). He returned to the series the following year to give a dignified turn as a war weary Saladin in the highly regarded adventure The Crusade (1965) and crossed the paths of later Doctors Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee in, respectively, The Faceless Ones (1967) and Colony In Space (1971).

Bernard in Doctor Who.
Bernard in Doctor Who.

His most notable film role was as the Bolshevik in Dr Zhivago, a part written by Robert Bolt with Kay in mind. Other film credits included Sinbad And the Eye Of The Tiger (1977) and Psychosis (2010) but he was more at home on the small screen. One of his most acclaimed roles was as the german Korporal Hartwig in the famous Tweedledum episode of Colditz (1972) in which Michael Bryant’s Wing Commander Marsh attempts to fake insanity in order to be repatriated. Hartwig is charged with ascertaining the truth and after an antagonistic start the two develop a touching friendship as Marsh genuinely begins to lose his mind.

He was given six weeks paid leave and told to keep a low profile by the Coronation Street producers after the angry public reaction to his killing of Ida Barlow in 1961.

On stage he learnt the role of Macbeth in 24 hours to save the opening night of a production at the Nottingham Playhouse in 1952, he performed in Baghdad as Shylock as part of a British Council tour of The Merchant Of Venice and he received critical acclaim for his last stage performance in Dream Of the Dog at the Finborough Theatre. At the start of his career he had played small parts for the Royal Shakespeare Company in its early days and returned there to play Glendower in Henry IV Part 1 in 1991 but he was most proud of his performance as Danny (the Pete Postlethwaite part) in the stage tour of Brassed Off, for which he had to conduct genuine brass bands.

He won an award for the first chapter of his memoirs, describing his torrid childhood in pre-war Bolton. One of the judges for the New Writing ventures panel, which awarded him first prize, was novelist Ali Smith who described it as “wise, taut, gripping and a perfect piece of explication”.

He was married to the actress Patricia Haines who died aged just 45 in 1977. Her daughter Niki (by her first husband, the actor Michael Caine) survives him. He was found dead at his home on December 29th, although cause of death and exact date are yet to be determined.