Saturday, January 28, 2006

In Thespian Praise of: Richard Beckinsale

(BBC Online)

One of television's actors from the 1970s who is still fondly remembered.
One of the location shots for the seventies sitcom, Porridge, was in Baldock, Herts (for the prison allotment scenes), which is literally just down the road from where I live (As a family, we seem to end up living near well-known location shoots, as I will mention later). The cast and crew were very popular with the locals, and as I mentioned a while back, one friend of mine is proud of the fact that she once spotted seeing Richard Beckinsale leave the George and Dragon pub!
His daughter Kate seems to be more well known, but throughout the 1970s, Richard Beckinsale was a young actor much in demand. His tragic and early death in 1979, seemed to add to his status as one of televisions most beloved actors.
Born in 1947, Richard Beckinsale wanted to be an actor from an early age, and after enrolling in an adult drama class at the age of sixteen, things moved rapidily and successfully for him.
He secured a place at RADA (where he met his second wife, Judy Loe. He married his first wife when he was in his late teens, with whom he had his daughter, Samantha ), before a cameo in Coronation Street, followed by being given a lead in his first sitcom, The Lovers. This was followed by senior roles in the two highly popular sitcoms, Porridge and Rising Damp, in the former, he managed, without seeming to try, to make his character, Lennie Godber, almost a significant a character as that of Norman Stanley Fletcher, played by Ronnie Barker. Porridge had a follow-up series called Going Straight (which followed Fletcher and Godber after their release from prison), and a moderatley successful film version of the original series (Beckinsale's last completed acting assingment).
As well as a no of sitcoms, Richard Beckinsale also appeared in a no of hit West End shows and appeared in a no of dramatic roles. What may have been his most succesful in that genre has never been seen, aside from some rushes in a documentary about him.
Immediately after completing the film version of Porridge, Beckinsale started work simultaenously on the film Bloody Kids, as well as taking the lead in a brand new BBC Sitcom called Bloomers.
In Bloody Kids (written by the then-unknown Stephen Poliakoff), Beckinsale played a detective who was trying to solve a series of violent assaults among teenagers. Anyone who has seen the film, will see just how far removed from Godber his role is!
It was halfway through filming this, and towards the end of filming Bloomers, that Beckinsale died suddenly of a heart attack at just thirty-one years old. Part of the shock was that he never had any major health problems before, although a few days before he died he mentioned in a conversation that he was worried about his cholesterol intake, which turned out to be the cause of his heart attack. Few people knew then about the abnormal levels of cholesterol that can exist in some people, and given his young age, no one, least of all Beckinsale, would have suspected what was about to happen. His role in Bloody Kids was recast and his scenes (apart from the distance shots), re-filmed and Bloomers was put on ice, and all five episodes shown later that year.
Richard Beckinsale was one of the most talented actors of his generation, but his support and contribution were subtle and considered. Had he lived, one speculates just how succesful he would have become, although the huge amount of work he packed into his career give testament to his skills.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Richard was a very popular and a fouvorite actor of many adoring fans before his short life was suddenlyt taken, I a sure if he had lived, he would have become famous throughout the World.

His natural acting ability was almost flawless, from The Lovers to Bloomers his ability to please audiences everywhere was perfection personified.

Long may his memory live on.