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Obits round-up

Patrick Newley pays tribute to some leading names in entertainment who have recently died.

Writer of plays and musicals John Gardiner was also the founder and principal of the Hertfordshire Theatre School. Together with John Parr, he created a host of adult and youth shows, including The Dracula Spectacular, Big Al, Rockasocka and Dazzle. His many plays included Unity (the story of Unity Mitford), The Worst Journey in the World, The Life and Times of George Chapman and Put That Light Out. He was born on August 13, 1936 and died on July 2.

Leading actor Peter Tuddenham gained fame as the voice of all the computers in the BBC sci-fi series Blake’s 7, which ran from 1978-81.

He began his career on stage in Ivor Novello’s The Dancing Years and during the fifties was rarely off the West End stage, playing a variety of leading and character roles in revues and musical comedies. A prolific radio actor, he was Ted Thurston in Waggoners’ Walk. His TV credits included Nearest and Dearest, Lord Peter Wimsey, The Lost Boys and The Trial of Lady Chatterley. He was born on November 27, 1918 and died on July 9.

Theatrical press agent Peter Wright co-formed the famous PR company Cue Consultants in the sixties and went on to become the publicist for the Greenwich Theatre, under the direction of Ewan Hooper. Among the Greenwich shows he promoted were A Voyage Round My Father, The Feydeau Farce Festival, A Day in the Death of Joe Egg and Underneath the Arches. In the West End, Cue Consultants promoted many top musicals including Jesus Christ Superstar, Hair, Grease, The Dirtiest Show in Town and Pippin. Wright died on July 12, aged 69.

Character actress Ruth Kettlewell appeared in a host of West End plays and musicals, including The Music Man (as Mrs Paroo opposite Van Johnson), Paris Match, The Killing of Sister George and Bed.

She acted in many films, notably Oh! What a Lovely War, Sons and Lovers (Mrs Bonner), Zepplin (Mrs Parker) and her TV credits included On the Buses, The Onedin Line, The Dick Emery Show, The Good Life and many others. A dedicated churchgoer, she was an active members of the Actors’ Church Union, and in the sixties she created the St Augustine Players, a drama group specialising in religious themes. She was born on April 13, 1913 and died on July 17.

Australian entertainer Lucky Grills was best known for playing the role of TV detective Bluey in the seventies series of the same name. A club comedian and singer, he had also appeared in several stage plays.

He acquired a large UK fanbase when Bluey was shown on television here. He died on July 28, aged 79.

Chief executive of the Independent Television Commission, David Glencross was noted for steering the Independent TV companies through the aftermath of the 1990 Broadcasting Act. He began his career with the BBC as a radio producer and in the sixties worked as a senior producer at Bush House, home of the BBC External Services. In 1968, he moved to the Independent Television Authority, ITV’s regulator. His rise to fame was swift, from senior programme officer to deputy director of television. With Colin Shaw he oversaw the birth of Channel 4 in 1982, and a year later took over as director. He was appointed a CBE in 1994. He was born on March 3, 1936 and died on August 6.

Aida Young was a leading producer with the Hammer Film company at the height of their popularity in the sixties and seventies. She produced such horror classics as Dracula Has Risen From the Grave (1968) and Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970), both starring Christopher Lee. She went on to produce several commercially successful TV spin-off films including Steptoe and Son (1972) and The Likely Lads (1976) and in her later career switched to producing American TV films. She was born on August 14, 1920 and died on August 12.

Versatile stage and screen actor Geoffrey Wilkinson appeared in rep at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield and had a long career on television playing cameo roles in Coronation Street, Only Fools and Horses, Heartbeat and Last of the Summer Wine. In 2002 he played Conservative MP Anthony Meyer in Ian Curteis’ The Falklands Play.

Films included Calendar Girls and Brideshead Revisited, to be released next year. He was born on October 5, 1942 and died on August 13.

Stephen Marshall was the former secretary and later president of the famous Gallery First Nighter’s Club. He was responsible for arranging their annual dinners, notably one for Noel Coward in 1962. He also worked as an actor and appeared in productions of The Dresser and La Cage aux Folles. In recent years, he was a valued committee member of the Noel Coward Society. He died on August 16, aged 82.

Former actor Clive Exton was one of British television’s most respected and prolific scriptwriters. His first TV play (No Fixed Abode) was broadcast by Granada TV in 1959 and over his long career he wrote many single TV dramas, as well as most of the episodes of Agatha Christie’s Poirot, all of the episodes of Jeeves and Wooster and many of those of Rosemary and Thyme. He also wrote the screenplays for 10 Rillington Place, Night Must Fall, Entertaining Mr Sloane and Isadora. He was born on April 11, 1930 and died on August 16.

Character actress Eunice Black appeared in repertory, film and TV where she worked with many leading comedians. She began her career at the left wing Unity Theatre in London and later qualified as a teacher of English and drama, teaching both subjects during the Second World War. She made her film debut in A Taste of Honey (1961) and other films included Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) and On the Buses (1973). She wrote an autobiography, Nine Lives of a Free Spirit (2007). She died on August 27, aged 92.

Popular musician Bert Cooper played the trombone and won renown as a music arranger and composer. He worked on several films including Melody and Romance (1937), Floodtide (1949) and from the forties, had a long spell with bandleader Lew Stone on Decca recordings. He also worked with the Ron Cooper Big Band and later became a music teacher.

He was born on June 25 1915 and died on September 5.

Former actor Richard Hatton became one of Britain’s leading theatrical agents, creating Richard Hatton Ltd in 1954. He discovered Sean Connery and among his other clients were Robert Shaw, Leo McKern, Michael Crawford, Wendy Craig and writer Lukas Heller. He went on to develop many film projects including The Hill and The Anderson Tapes and later formed a new agency, Hatton and Baker, with Terence Baker. He died on September 18.

Patrick Newley

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