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Posts tagged “Worzel Gummidge

Geoffrey Bayldon R.I.P

Geoffrey-Bayldon_CatweazleThe actor Geoffrey Bayldon has died aged 93. The actor who starred in the much-loved 1970’s television series Catweazle, was partly brought to his most famous role by the chastening experience of rejecting the chance to be the first  Doctor Who. Bayldon, was approached to play the Doctor in 1963. But the Time Lord was scripted as an eccentric old man, and Bayldon, then in his late 30’s, was wary of being typecast in such roles, even though he was exceptionally good at them. With no inkling of the success Doctor Who would turn out to be, and put off by the punishing filming schedule, he turned the offer down after only 10 minutes’ consideration.

He later admitted to regretting the decision, and when another high-profile TV role – to play the even older and markedly more eccentric Catweazle – came his way in 1969, he had no second thoughts. The character of Catweazle – a wild-eyed 11th-century magician transported into the modern world – suited Bayldon to a T, and in fact the creator of the series, Richard Carpenter, had written the script with him in mind. Bayldon took on the part enthusiastically, creating one of the most instantly recognisable and enchanting TV characters of the era.

In a Sunday afternoon slot on ITV, Catweazle’s 26 episodes drew audiences of many millions as they charted the light-hearted adventures of the ragged-cloaked, pointy-bearded hero and his “familiar’, the toad Touchwood. Inadvertently thrown through time by his own inept sorcery into the bewildering landscape of 20th-century England – where he saw magic in everything, including the “electrickery” of lightbulbs and the amazing “tellingbone” that allowed people to communicate with each other – Catweazle muddled his way through misunderstandings and escapades as he attempted to find the magic spell that would return him to his own era.

The programme ran from February 1970 to April 1971, and its gentle humour and Bayldon’s star quality made it immensely popular with children and adults alike. It generated spin-offs such as Christmas annuals, books and a series of comic strips. The two series, preserved on DVD, still have a cult following and even today there is a large and active Catweazle fanclub… I still have a Catweazle Annual from he early 70’s.

Bayldon put his heart and soul into the series, not least in the makeup department, where he would spend an hour and a half each day transforming his appearance. He invested Catweazle with much of his own engaging personality and animated him with mannerisms, tics and catchphrases.

Catweazle became Bayldon’s lead into dozens of other TV roles, including the equally crusty Crowman in the late 1970’s Worzel Gummidge series, alongside Jon Pertwee and Una Stubbs. But he had originally set out as a theatre actor and initially paid little attention to the small screen.

Bayldon was born in Leeds, his father a tailor and his mother a head teacher. Although neither parent had any noticeable acting talent, Bayldon inherited his mother’s flair for narration, and traced his love of the stage to a debut at the age of four in a school play, in which he portrayed a robin.

After spending three quiet second world war years stationed at Yorkshire airfields with the RAF, during which time he appeared in many revues, he began training as a professional actor in 1947 at the Old Vic theatre school in London.

Bayldon spent two seasons as a successful Shakespearean actor at Stratford, playing alongside John Gielgud in Measure for Measure and Julius Caesar (both in 1950). For a further two years, he was with the Birmingham repertory theatre, with whom he appeared as Caesar at the Old Vic and, to rave reviews, in Paris.

Eventually, however, he felt he should be making concessions to the popular new medium of television, and he moved to London. There he took roles in a number of live BBC Wednesday plays, and began to appear in episodes of series including The Avengers and The Saint.

His triumph as Catweazle sealed his TV reputation, drawing him into countless series and dramas including All Creatures Great and Small, The Tomorrow People, Tales of the Unexpected, Blott on the Landscape and Rumpole of the Bailey. In three 1979 episodes of Doctor Who he was Organon the astrologer – during the Tom Baker era – and even played an alternative version of the Time Lord in two audio versions of Doctor Who stories released in 2003 and 2005.

Bayldon made numerous film appearances, rubbing shoulders with greats such as Sidney Poitier (To Sir With Love, 1967), Peter Sellers (Casino Royale, 1967, and The Pink Panther Strikes Again, 1976), Albert Finney (Scrooge, 1970) and Vincent Price (The Monster Club, 1981).

His TV acting continued well into his 80s, when he noted that he was still well qualified to play old men, and he had credits in Midsomer Murders, Heartbeat, Casualty, New Tricks and My Family in more recent years. He would attend the annual gathering of the Catweazle fanclub with enthusiasm, and in 2005 revealed that he had finally been able to watch the show with a sense of detachment. “I turned it on and I was sitting back watching myself without being conscious at all that it was me,” he said. ‘“And I was jaw-dropped. I suddenly thought: ‘This fella’s bloody good.’”

I also thought he was great in Born to Boogie (1972) but that may be because I was a huge T-Rex fan as a kid.

Rest in Peace Geoffrey.

 


Jon Pertwee

John Devon Roland Pertwee (7 July 1919 – 20 May 1996) was an English actor. Pertwee is best known for his role in the BBC science fiction television series Doctor Who, in which he played the third incarnation of the Doctor from 1970 to 1974, and as the title character in the series Worzel Gummidge.

Born in Chelsea, London, Pertwee was educated at Frensham Heights School in Surrey, at Sherborne School in Dorset, and at some other schools from which he was expelled. After school, he went to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), from which he was also expelled after he refused to play a Greek “wind” during one of the lessons, feeling it was a waste of both his time and his father’s money.

Pertwee was an officer in the Royal Navy, spending some time working in naval intelligence during the Second World War. He was a crew member of HMS Hood and was transferred off the ship shortly before she was sunk, losing all but three men.

After the war he made a name for himself as a comedy actor, notably on radio at the BBC.  On stage, he played the part of Lycus in the 1963 London production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum with Frankie Howerd and appeared in the smaller role of Crassus in the 1966 film version. He also appeared in four Carry On films: Carry On Cleo (1964, as the soothsayer), Carry On Screaming (1966, as Dr. Fettle), Carry On Cowboy (1965, as Sheriff Earp) and Carry On Columbus (1992, as the Duke of Costa Brava).

He had one of his most memorable film roles in the 1971 Amicus horror compendium The House That Dripped Blood. Filmed in the summer of 1970, between his first and second Doctor Who seasons, Pertwee played the lead in the last segment of the film as Paul Henderson, a deliciously arrogant horror film star who meets his quasi-comedic doom thanks to a genuine vampire cloak.

In 1969, Pertwee was selected by producer Peter Bryant to take over as the Doctor from Patrick Troughton in the television series Doctor Who. Pertwee had asked his agent to apply for the role for him and was surprised to find he was already on the shortlist for the role. In a departure from the Doctor’s first two incarnations, Pertwee played the character as an active crusader with a penchant for action and fancy clothes, even while the character was exiled on Earth and serving with UNIT. He played the Doctor for five seasons from early 1970 to mid-1974, at the time the longest stint of any of the actors who played the part, surpassing predecessors William Hartnell’s and Patrick Troughton’s three years each in the role, although due to shortened broadcast seasons, he appeared in fewer episodes than Hartnell. Of the eleven actors to portray the role, only three would play the Doctor for longer chronological time: Pertwee’s immediate successor, Tom Baker (seven years from 1974 to 1981), Sylvester McCoy (eight years from 1987–1996) and David Tennant (four years and six and a half months from June 2005 to January 2010, thus longer by a month). In early 1974, Pertwee announced he would step down as the Doctor in order to resume his stage career in The Bedwinner, also citing typecasting in the role as the reason for leaving. His last fulltime appearance in the series was in the story Planet of the Spiders in June 1974.

In 1978 Pertwee took the starring role in Worzel Gummidge, based on the books written by Barbara Euphan Todd. First aired in 1979 on ITV, the series saw Pertwee as a scarecrow, as well as utilising several comedic voices. The show was an immediate hit and ran on the channel until 1981. Keen to continue beyond this, Pertwee campaigned for the series and it was picked up by a New Zealand network in 1987. Worzel Gummidge Down Under aired for the next two years and was screened in the UK on Channel 4. In 1995, Pertwee played the role one last time in a one-off special for ITV, which celebrated 40 years of the channel.

He returned to the role of the Doctor in the 1983 20th anniversary television special The Five Doctors and in the 1993 charity special Dimensions in Time for Children in Need. He also portrayed the Doctor in the stage play Doctor Who – The Ultimate Adventure which toured theatres in the United Kingdom from March to June 1989.

Pertwee died from a heart attack on 20 May 1996, two months before his 77th birthday. He was cremated at Putney Vale Crematorium with a toy Worzel Gummidge affixed to the coffin, following the instructions in his will.