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Obituary: Bryan Marshall – ‘Permanent presence on British TV screens for more than 40 years’

Bryan Marshall

Bryan Marshall seemed to be a permanent presence on British television screens for more than 40 years, remembered still as the steely and steady Commander Glenn of Warship (1976) and dashing charter airline pilot Tony Blair in Buccaneer (1980).

In the late 1970s, Marshall was also in his prime on film, notably as another naval commander in the 1977 James Bond movie The Spy Who Loved Me and as a corrupt councillor in the British gangland thriller The Long Good Friday (1980).

Although his stage career never matched his television profile, after graduating from RADA he went straight to work at the Bristol Old Vic, making his West End debut with the company in Laurence Dobie and Robert Sloman’s The Golden Rivet at the Phoenix Theatre in 1964.

Marshall proved himself adept in the comedies of George Bernard Shaw, as Bluntschli in Arms and the Man in the inaugural production at the newly opened Chester Playhouse in 1964, and as Richard Dudgeon in The Devil’s Disciple for Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum the following year.

In Edinburgh, he took the lead in David Halliwell’s Little Malcolm and His Struggle Against the Eunuchs in 1966. Directed by Richard Eyre, Marshall won praise from The Stage for “bringing out both the aggressive and pitiable weaknesses of [Malcolm] with powerful effect”.

Marshall was a suave and agile Petruchio to Prunella Scales’ Katherine in The Taming of the Shrew and was seen in John McGrath’s rock musical-comedy Soft Or a Girl at Nottingham Playhouse in 1973.

Although he took lead roles in two other West End outings – Willie Rushton and Cliff Adams’ musical adaptation of Somerset Maugham’s Liza of Lambeth (Shaftesbury Theatre, 1976) and Gordon Honeycombe’s reworking of Malory’s Lancelot and Guinevere (Old Vic Theatre, 1980), television remained Marshall’s most successful medium.

He spent an extended period in Australia, quickly establishing himself there on stage, in film and in the country’s burgeoning television soap opera industry, while continuing to return regularly to work in the UK.

Having made his small-screen breakthrough at home as the team captain of a struggling second-division football team in the BBC soap opera United! (1965-66), he spent the next decade moving easily between classic serials – The Forsyte Saga and Vanity Fair (1967), Persuasion (1971) – and popular dramas including The Avengers, The Onedin Line, Dixon of Dock Green and Robin of Sherwood.

There was new work, too, in Tom Clarke’s Jack Gold-directed period drama Stocker’s Copper (1972), and classics including George Farquhar’s The Recruiting Officer alongside Ian McKellen (1973) and Orsino in Twelfth Night (1974).

On film, Marshall made an uncredited appearance in Alfie (1966) and was seen in four Hammer Studios films, including the 1967 remake of Quatermass and the Pit, Blake Edwards’ The Tamarind Seed with Julie Andrews and Omar Sharif (1974), and the cult BMX Bandits (1983).

Bryan Marshall was born in Battersea, south London, on May 19, 1938, and died on June 25, aged 81. He is survived by his wife and three sons.

Obituary: Douglas Fielding – LAMDA-trained star of stage and screen

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