Tony Allen
Character & Episode: Third Ghost in The Trouble with Women

 

Tony worked as a bit part actor for a number of years, mainly in non-speaking roles. His earliest television appearance seems to have been in The Saint in 1964. In 1971 he played an irate driver in an episode of Please Sir! and the following year was one of the monks in Carry On Abroad. Later in 1977 he played Bill the driver in several episodes of the successful Seventies cop series The Sweeney alongside John Thaw and Dennis Waterman. His final screen appearance followed in 1979 when he played a removal man in an episode of Minder. As is common with TV and film 'extras' he was never credited on screen for his work.

 

However, his screen appearances were only a sideline for Tony, who was also a talented tailor. From the early Eighties, Tony worked in the costume and wardrobe department on feature films, starting with Chariots of Fire (1981, on which he was credited as a tailor). Often credited for such work as Anthony Allen, he worked as wardrobe assistant on several further films, including Return to Oz (1985) and High Spirits (1988), before moving into television, where he first worked as an assistant costume designer on Peak Practice (6 episodes, 1994). He was engaged as wardrobe assistant on an episode of the popular detective series Inspector Morse in 1987 and returned to the show two years later as wardrobe master, responsible for costumes on 24 episodes between 1989 and 2000. Another series that also starred Morse actor John Thaw, Kavanagh QC, a courtroom drama, also provided costume work for Tony between 1995 and 2001. He retired in 2002.

 
 

Neal Arden
Character & Episode: Second Poker Player in The Trouble with Women
Born: 27/12/1909, Fulham, London, England (as Arthur Neal Alston)
Died: 04/06/2014, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, England

 

It is believed Neal must be one of the oldest actors to have lived, as he was 104 when he died in 2014. He was a dependable character actor, well-known on radio and in theatre. He was born the son of a music hall comedian and a dancer. After joining his father in the variety halls as a child, he was educated at the Royal Masonic School in Bushey, Hertfordshire. He left school aged 16 to work in a factory making spectacles, and then spent three years as an officer in the British South Africa Mounted Police in Rhodesia.

 

He made his screen debut in the 1934 film Princess Charming. Other film credits over the years included the wartime anti-Nazi thriller Pimpernel Smith (1941, produced and directed by its star, Leslie Howard), John Wesley (1954) and The Shakedown (1960). His most substantial role was in Norman Walker's Life of St Paul (1938), in which he played the saint from beardless youth to bewhiskered old age. During the Second World War, Neal worked for the BBC's African Service, broadcasting on short wave from London. After the war, as well as Housewives' Choice, he ran his own musical radio show, Quiet Rhythm, which aired late on Sunday nights for 19 years. Though not so well-known as Housewives' Choice, it built up a loyal following. In the 1950s, Neal also wrote many scripts for the new Independent Television and record reviews for newspapers and magazines.

 

From 1968, he embarked on a new career as a hard-working charity fundraiser, first as appeals secretary for the Abbeyfield Society, then as appeals director for 13 years of the National Kidney Research Fund. Other charities with which he was involved included National Cancer Relief, the National Deaf Children's Society, Mencap and the National Autistic Society. Among other things, he raised more than £300,000 by compiling and selling recordings of songs and speeches by famous performers and musicians who agreed to forgo their royalties. In 2005, he published his autobiography, A Man of Many Parts. He was married twice and had a son and daughter, leading a rich and full life to the end. One of his last acting roles was in the popular series I, Claudius as Cestis in 1976. Over the course of his career he notched up just over fifty television and screen appearances.

 
 

Graham Armitage
Character & Episode: Young Stage Director in It's Supposed to be Thicker Than Water
Born: 24/04/1936, Manchester, Lancashire, England
Died: 06/03/1999, Johannesburg, South Africa

 

Although Graham made his debut in 1952 in the television play Without The Prince, it was not until 1964 that he became a regular supporting actor. For the next twenty years he appeared mainly on television, being a cast regular in a number of shows long forgotten, such as United! and Mr Rose. Other notable roles came in programmes including The Saint, The Avengers and several appearances on The Dick Emery Show. His last appearance was in 1999 in Alec to the Rescue, in which he played the part of a vicar.

 
 

Judith Arthy

Character & Episodes: Jennifer in The House on Haunted Hill and A Disturbing Case
Born: 12/11/1940, Brisbane, Australia (as Judith Anne Arthy)

 

Judith made her professional debut at the age of 16 at the Brisbane Repertory Theatre, while also working in teaching, and would later appear on stage in Sydney in the play The Fanatasticks. She first appeared on Australian television in Consider Your Verdict, after which she featured in a number of TV movies.

 

She came to Britain in 1966 and appeared immediately in an episode of The Baron with Steve Forrest. She gained a few other roles before being cast in 1969 as the sister of Jean Hopkirk in Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), covering for the unexpected absence of actress Annette Andre (also an Australian). She played this character in two consecutive episodes (in terms of production). Other guest appearances followed, most notably in Budgie, Z Cars and The Protectors. She also was a regular in the short-lived series Battle of the Sexes. As well as appearing on television, she played opposite Kenneth More in The Secretary Bird at the Savoy Theatre, and also had minor roles in the films The Shattered Room and Arthur? Arthur?

 

By the mid-Seventies, she returned to Australia and appeared in the television series Case For The Defence in 1978. This would prove to be her last screen appearance. She later taught English and Drama in a school in Brisbane, and went on to write two novels. Judith made a return to the theatre in 2002. She has been twice married, firstly to actor Kerry Francis and then to Australian croquet champion and film maker Aggy Read (until his death in 1998).

 
 

Robin Askwith
Character & Episode: Pageboy in That's How Murder Snowballs
Born: 20/10/1950, Southport, Lancashire, England

 

As a boy, Robin overcame polio and attended Merchants Taylor School in Rickmansworth, though he was expelled after jokingly trying to rob a post office. Whilst at school Robin learned to play the drums and appeared in several school productions. He later took a place at Bristol University to study English and drama. He first appeared on television in a margarine advert and his film career began in 1968 with Otley, in which he played one of the children. His first proper acting role was in If..., made in the same year and starring Malcolm McDowell. The film has attained cult status for its attack on the upper-class society and its violent ending.

 

Other work followed and in 1969 he appeared in That's How Murder Snowballs. Over the next few years he steadily gained more work, including the childrenís series Here Come The Double Deckers! (1970), Father, Dear Father (1971), The Fenn Street Gang (1971) and Bless This House (1972). In 1973 he appeared in Carry On Girls as a photographer called Larry Prodworthy who photographs Margaret Nolan topless on Brighton beach (doubling for its single entendre film equivalent, Fircombe). It would be his only work in the famous comedy series.

 

In 1974 he landed the role of Timothy Lea in the Confessions film series, which remains his most famous work. Robin was not the first choice as Richard Beckinsale (of Rising Damp), Richard O'Sullivan (Man About the House) and Dennis Waterman (The Sweeney) had already turned the role down. He made four of these comedy sex romps: Confessions of a Window Cleaner (1974), Confessions of a Pop Performer (1975), Confessions of a Driving Instructor (1976) and Confessions from a Holiday Camp (1977). In each film, he co-starred with Anthony Booth, famed for his 1966 to 1975 turn as Alf Garnett's "Scouse git" son-in-law in Till Death Us Do Part. Robin's longtime girlfriend actress Linda Hayden (1953- ) also appeared in two of the Confessions films. Due to the popularity of these films, Robin recorded a single record called Confessions which reached number 39 in the charts in 1977 and he even sang this song on Marc Bolan's television show, Marc.

 

The Confessions films made Robin a cult figure, though in the long term they arguably did his career more harm than good, as he became typecast. He appeared in other bawdy sex comedies that were less successful, such as Queen Kong (1976), Leslie Thomas' Stand Up, Virgin Soldiers (1977) and Letís Get Laid (with glamour model Fiona Richmond, 1982). His later works include 13 episodes as Dave Deacon in Bottle Boys (1984 to 85) and in 2007 he even appeared in several episodes of Coronation Street.

Askwith continues to act, with stage roles accounting for the greater part of his work in recent years, including a spin-off from the Confessions films, called The Further Confessions of a Window Cleaner. He did however feature in the 2013 film adaptation of Ray Cooney's stage farce Run for Your Wife. He has also performed in several pantomimes. In 1999 he wrote an entertaining biography called The Confessions of Robin Askwith. For several years, Robin has lived on the island of Gozo in Malta. He has been married twice, firstly to actress Leonie Mellinger (1959-) and latterly to Mary Wilson.

 
 

Roger Avon
Character & Episode: Uniformed Policeman in Money to Burn
Born: 23/11/1914, Jarrow, Durham, England
Died: 21/12/1998, London, England

 

A busy and well respected supporting actor, Roger notched up nearly one hundred and fifty film and television appearances and worked right up to his death in 1998 at the age of 84. Roger started his career as a film projectionist in 1928 when  aged just 14. Originally starting in theatre, he made his screen debut in 1955 in the comedy film Fun at St. Fannyís, with the film also featuring a very young Ronnie Corbett. Roger appeared in many television shows including Hancockís Half Hour, Dadís Army, Bless This House, When the Boat Comes In. Department S, Doctor Who, Our Friends in the North and latterly Blackadder the Third.

 

Amongst his numerous film credits contributions include Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150 A.D., The Likely Lads, Mutiny on the Buses, Quatermass and the Pit and Curse of the Crimson Altar.

 

In his personal life, Roger was married to dancer Rhoda Oatway from 1955 until his death in 1998, and the couple had a son, Crispin (born 1961) and a daughter, Melanie (born 1965). In 1984 Roger had a triple heart bypass operation and took two years to recover before returning to work, his last project being the TV series Grafters, which featured Robson Green - Roger died suddenly, shortly after finishing filming.

 
 

Felix Aylmer OBE

Character & Episode: Joshua Crackan in It's Supposed to be Thicker Than Water
Born: 21/02/1889, Corsham, Wiltshire, England (as Felix Edward Aylmer Jones)
Died: 02/09/1979, Pyrford, Woking, Surrey, England

 

Felix Aylmer was born in Wiltshire the son of Lilian (Cookworthy) and Thomas Edward Aylmer Jones. Felix was educated at King James' Grammar School, Almondbury, where he was a boarder from 1897 to 1900. He then went to Oxford and was educated at Magdalen College. It was while at Oxford that Felix started his acting career, becoming a member of the Oxford University Dramatic Society. He trained under the Victorian-era actress and director Rosina Filippi before securing his first professional engagement at the London Coliseum in 1911. His career was interrupted by the First World War in which he served in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. After the war he resumed his stage career and made his screen debut in 1930. He would remain a popular character actor for the next forty years, notching up well over one hundred and fifty film and television appearances and remaining busy in theatre throughout his career.

 

He is fondly remembered for playing doddering old characters, his turn as Joshua Crackan being a typical example. One of his most notable film appearances was in 1944 when he played the Archbishop of Canterbury in The Chronicle History of King Henry the Fift with His Battell Fought at Agincourt in France, Laurence Olivier's Shakespeare adaptation that is more commonly known as Henry V. He would later work again with Olivier and "the Bard" on Hamlet (1948) and would portray the Archbishop of Canterbury once more in Becket (1964). In 1950 he was awarded an OBE and then in 1965 he was appointed a Knight Bachelor for his services to drama. By the Sixties he had started to become more prominent on television, and he is well remembered for his role as Father Anselm in Oh! Brother (1968-1970), an ecclesiastical comedy series that featured Derek Nimmo. Felix often played wise old men, such as Merlin in Knights of the Round Table (1953). He even gave elocution lessons to the young Audrey Hepburn. His voice was frequently mimicked by comedians such as Peter Sellers and Kenneth Williams.

 

Felix was President of Equity from 1950 to 1969. In his personal life, Felix was married for fifty years to actress Cecily Byrne (1889-1975). The couple had two children, Jennifer and David. Their son David (1929-1964) was also an actor, and, tragically, committed suicide.

 

Section compiled by Darren Senior

Additional research and presentation by Alan Hayes and Denis Kirsanov

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