Posted in films & DVD, Science fiction, Television

Jon Pertwee

Best known for portraying the Third Doctor in the science-fiction series Doctor Who between 1970 and 1974, and starring as Worzel Gummidge, the English actor, entertainer and cabaret performer John Pertwee was born 7 July 1919. Pertwee was educated at Frensham Heights School, an independent school in Rowledge, near Farnham in Surrey, at Sherborne School in Sherborne 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. He was also accused of writing graffiti about the tutors on the lavatory walls.

During the Second World War, Pertwee spent six years in the Royal Navy. He was a crew member of HMS Hood and was transferred off the ship for officer training shortly before she was sunk by the German battleship Bismarck, losing all but three men in May 1941. Later, he was attached to the highly-secretive Naval Intelligence Division, working alongside future James Bond author Ian Fleming, and reporting directly to Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, and Deputy Prime Minister, Clement Attlee. Teaching commandos how to use escapology equipment, compasses in brass buttons, secret maps in white cotton handkerchiefs, pipes you could smoke that also fired a .22 bullet.

After the war, he made a name for himself as a comedy actor on radio in Waterlogged Spa, alongside Eric Barker, and Puffney Post Office in which he played a hapless old postman with the catch-phrase “It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you tears them up.” On 15 November 1948, at the Wood Green Empire, he was billed as ‘The Most Versatile Voice in Radio. He also appeared in the Radio Shows “Merry-go-Round” and “Up the Pole”‘. From 1959 to 1977, he had a long-running role as the conniving Chief Petty Officer Pertwee in The Navy Lark on BBC Radio. He was known as a Danny Kaye look-alike, Whom he impersonated in the film Murder at the Windmill (1949).In 1953, he played Charlie Sterling in Will Any Gentleman…?. Alongside Future Doctor Who actor William Hartnell as Inspector Martin.

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 appeared as Sidney Tait in the comedy film Ladies Who Do (1963). In 1966, Pertwee starred alongside Donald Sinden in the West End production of There’s a Girl in My Soup and also appeared in four Carry On films: Carry On Cleo (1964, as the soothsayer), Carry On Cowboy (1965, as Sheriff Earp), Carry On Screaming! (1966, as Dr. Fettle), and Carry On Columbus (1992, as the Duke of Costa Brava). In 1967 Pertwee had been producer David Croft’s choice for the role of Captain George Mainwaring in Dad’s Army.

His television career had started off with small parts in children’s shows featuring Richard Hearne’s Mr Pastry character. Later he made an appearance in The Avengers episode ‘From Venus With Love’ (1967) as Brigadier Whitehead, and in the 1970s, he guest-starred as a vicar in The Goodies’ episode “Wacky Wales”. In 1969, Pertwee was selected by outgoing producer Peter Bryant and the series’ next producer Derrick Sherwin 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. 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, a longer stint than either of his predecessors in the role, William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton, although the Pertwee era of Doctor Who ‘only’ had 128 episodes compared to the Hartnell era having had 134 episodes, as the BBC relaxed its shooting schedule from 39–45 episodes per season to 25–26 episodes per season at the start of Pertwee’s tenure as Doctor Who. He stayed until 1974, When he retired as the Doctor to resume his stage career in The Bedwinner.

The main reason for his departure was the death of his good friend and co-star Roger Delgado (The Master) and the departures of co-star Katy Manning and producer Barry Letts. His last full-time appearance in the series was in the story Planet of the Spiders in June 1974, which finished with Tom Baker replacing him in the role. He also starred in The House That Dripped Blood (1971) as an arrogant horror film star named Paul Henderson, who meets his doom thanks to a genuine vampire cloak. In 1973, Pertwee endorsed the Co-op’s Baking Your Cake and Eating it, a recipe book written by Sarah Charles. Pertwee later reprised his role as The Doctor in the 20th anniversary story The Five Doctors and the Children in Need story Dimensions in Time, in two radio adventures and on stage in Doctor Who – The Ultimate Adventure. On 14 April 1971, Pertwee was the subject of Thames Television’s This Is Your Life.between 1974 and 1978 Pertwee was the host of the murder-mystery game show Whodunnit?,

Pertwee then 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, and continued until 1981. In 1987 Worzel Gummidge Down Under aired until 1989 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. Pertwee played the title character in Worzel Gummidge, the musical, book and lyrics by Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall, music by Denis King, which opened at London’s Cambridge Theatre in December 1981, co-starring Una Stubbs and Geoffrey Bayldon. Pertwee also recorded an album, Worzel Gummidge Sings, as well as a Christmas single. In 1976, Pertwee voiced and appeared in the television advertisement which promoted the Green Cross Code and also starred with Australian actress Julie Anthony in a West End production of the musical IRENE playing the camp fashion-designer “Madame Lucy”. Pertwee also features on the cast recording album. He also voiced the character of “Spotty” in the 1980s cartoon series SuperTed and in 1985 he starred in Do You Know The Milkyway? Portraying Dr. Neuross and another nine characters. In 1995 Pertwee also had the key voice of Death and other voice characterisations in the PC and PlayStation renditions of “Discworld”. And also played General Von Kramer in the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles episode “Attack of the Hawkmen”. In 1975 he portrayed The Colonel’ in “One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing .

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. He made a guest appearance in the “Lords and Ladies” episode of the BBC Radio 4 comedy series Harry Hill’s Fruit Corner, playing a Time Lord and also spoofed the role in the Radio 4 comedy The Skivers. He also presented the Doctor Who video releases The Troughton Years. In 1993, Pertwee was featured in the unofficial 30th anniversary release of Doctor Who entitled 30 Years of Time Travel and Beyond. Pertwee portrayed the Third Doctor in two further audio productions for BBC Radio, The Paradise of Death and The Ghosts of N-Space. In April 1995, he appeared in Devious, an amateur video drama set between the second Doctor’s trial at the end of The War Games and before the start of Spearhead From Space. Pertwee’s final film role was in a short film entitled Cloud Cuckoo and also appeared on Cilla’s Surprise, Surprise.

Pertwee sadly died in his sleep from a heart attack in Connecticut on 20 May 1996, at the age of 76. He was survived by his wife Ingeborg Rhoesa, and two children who had followed him into the acting profession, Sean Pertwee and Dariel Pertwee. Many Doctor Who actors payed tribute including Tom Baker and Colin Baker His body was cremated at Putney Vale Crematorium with a toy Worzel Gummidge affixed to the coffin, following the instructions in his will. His death came six days after the American broadcast of the Doctor Who television film, which used a logo based on the one from his era of the television series and featured a dedication to Pertwee at its end. Pertwee’s voice was used in the 40th Anniversary Doctor Who audio drama, Zagreus, as the TARDIS helps a corrupted Eighth Doctor (voiced by Paul McGann). Pertwee also wrote two autobiographies: Moon Boots and Dinner Suits and the posthumously published Doctor Who: I Am the Doctor – Jon Pertwee’s Final Memoir. In 2000, Jon Pertwee: The Biography by Bernard Bale (was published by André Deutsch, and included a few chapters by Pertwee’s widow Ingeborg.

Archival footage of Pertwee has been used several times in the revived Doctor Who. Including “The Next Doctor” when the Tenth Doctor shows Jackson Lake an infostamp about himself, “The Eleventh Hour” when the Eleventh Doctor rhetorically asks the Atraxi how previous alien invasion attempts were stopped, “The Name of the Doctor” and “The Day of the Doctor” which shows the Third Doctor assisting his other incarnations in sending Gallifrey to an alternate universe to protect it from the Daleks.

Posted in films & DVD, Science fiction, Television

Jodie Whittaker, Arthur Darvil

Most famous for being in the science fiction television series Doctor Who, English Actors Jodie Whittaker and Arthur Darvil were both born 17 June 1982.

Jodie Whittaker came to prominence in her 2006 feature film debut Venus, for which she received British Independent Film Award and Satellite Award nominations. She was later praised for her roles in the cult science fiction filmAttack the Block (2011), the Black Mirror episode “The Entire History of You” (2011), and as grieving mother Beth Latimer in Broadchurch. On 16 July 2017, the BBC announced that Whittaker would become the thirteenth and first female incarnation of The Doctor in the British TV series Doctor Who. She formally assumed the role from Peter Capaldi in the 2017 Christmas special episode “Twice Upon a Time” when Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor regenerated into Whittaker’s Thirteenth Doctor. Whittaker appeared in her first full series as The Doctor in the eleventh series, which premiered in October 2018. She continued in the role in the twelfth series in 2020. Whittaker later announced that she would reprise her role as The Doctor into its thirteenth series.

British actor and musician Arthur Darvill is known for playing Rory Williams, one of the Eleventh Doctor’s companions in the Science fiction television series Doctor Who alongside Matt Smith and Karen Gillan between 2010 and 2012), Rip Hunter in Legends of Tomorrow (2016–2018) and as Rev. Paul Coates in Broadchurch (2013–2017). From 2013 to 2014 he appeared in the lead role in the theatre musical Once in the West End and on Broadway.

Posted in books, locomotives, steam locomotives, Television

Reverend W. Awdry OBE

English cleric, railway enthusiast and children’s author Wilbert Vere Awdry, OBE was born 15th June 1911 better known as the Reverend W. Awdry he created Thomas the Tank Engine, who starred in Awdry’s acclaimed Railway Series. Awdry was born at Ampfield vicarage near Romsey, Hampshire in 1911. In 1917 the family moved to Box, in Wiltshire, moving again in 1919, and 1920, still in Box, the third house being Journey’s End which remained the family home until August 1928. Journey’s End was only 200 yards (180 m) from the western end of Box Tunnel where the Great Western Railway main line climbs at a gradient of 1 in 100 for two miles, and a banking engine was kept there to assist freight trains up the hill.

These trains usually ran at night and the young Wilbert could hear them from his bed, listening to the coded whistle signals between the train engine and the banker, and the sharp bark from the locomotive exhausts as they fought their way up the incline. Awdry related: “There was no doubt in my mind that steam engines all had definite personalities. I would hear them snorting up the grade and little imagination was needed to hear in the puffings and pantings of the two engines the conversation they were having with one another: ‘I can’t do it! I can’t do it! I can’t do it!’ ‘Yes, you can! Yes, you can! Yes, you can!’” Here was the inspiration for the story of Edward helping Gordon’s train up the hill, a story that Wilbert first told his son Christopher some 25 years later, and which appeared in the first of the Railway Series books

The characters that would make Awdry famous and the first stories featuring them were invented in 1943 to amuse his son Christopher during a bout of measles. After Awdry wrote The Three Railway Engines, he built Christopher a model of Edward, and some wagons and coaches, out of a broomstick and scraps of wood. Christopher also wanted a model of Gordon; however, as that was too difficult Awdry made a model of a little 0-6-0 tank engine. Awdry said: “The natural name was Thomas – Thomas the Tank Engine”. Then Christopher requested stories about Thomas and these duly followed and were published in the famous book Thomas the Tank Engine, released in 1946. The first book (The Three Railway Engines) was published in 1945, and by the time Awdry stopped writing in 1972, The Railway Series numbered 26 books.

Christopher subsequently added further books to the series.In 1952, Awdry volunteered as a guard on the Talyllyn Railway in Wales, then in its second year of preservation. The railway inspired Awdry to create the Skarloey Railway, based on the Talyllyn, with some of his exploits being written into the stories.Awdry’s enthusiasm for railways did not stop at his publications. He was involved in railway preservation, and built model railways, which he took to exhibitions around the country. Awdry wrote other books besides those of The Railway Series, both fiction and non-fiction. The story Belinda the Beetle was about a red car (it became a Volkswagen Beetle only in the illustrations to the paperback editions).Awdry was awarded an OBE in the 1996 New Year’s Honours List, but by that time his health had deteriorated and he was unable to travel to London. He died peacefully in Stroud, Gloucestershire, on 21 March 1997, at the age of 85. His ashes are interred at Gloucester Crematorium.

Posted in nature, Television

Jacques Cousteau

The late great pioneering French naval oficer, explorer conservationist, filmmaker, innovator, scientist, photographer, author and researcher Jacques-Yves Cousteau was born 11 June 1910. He studied the sea and aquatic life And co-developed the Aqua-Lung. He was also a member of the Académie Français and studied at the Collège Stanislas in Paris. In 1930, he entered the École Navale and graduated as a gunnery officer. After a car accident cut short his career in naval aviation, Cousteau indulged his interest in the sea.In Toulon, where he was serving on the Condorcet, Cousteau carried out his first underwater experiments, thanks to his friend Philippe Tailliez who in 1936 lent him some Fernez underwater goggles. Cousteau also worked for the information service of the French Navy, and was sent on missions to Shanghai and Japan (1935–1938) and in the USSR in 1939.

After the armistice of 1940, his family took refuge in Megève, where he became a friend of the Ichac family who also lived there. Jacques-Yves Cousteau and Marcel Ichac shared the same desire to reveal to the general public unknown and inaccessible places — for Cousteau the underwater world and for Ichac the high mountains. The to neighbors took the first ex-aequo prize of the Congress of Documentary Film in 1943, for the first French underwater film: Par dix-huit mètres de fond (18 meters deep), made without breathing apparatus the previous year in the Embiez islands with Philippe Tailliez and Frédéric Dumas, using a depth-pressure-proof camera case developed by mechanical engineer Léon Vèche (engineer of Arts and Métiers and the Naval College). In 1943, they made the film Épaves (Shipwrecks), in which they used two of the very first Aqua-Lung prototypes. These prototypes were made in Boulogne-Billancourt by the Air Liquide company, following instructions from Cousteau and Émile. Having kept bonds with the English speakers (he spent part of his childhood in the United States and usually spoke English) and with French soldiers in North Africa ( Jacques-Yves Cousteau , helped the French Navy to join again with the Allies and assembled a commando operation against the Italian espionage services in France, for which he received several military decorations for his deeds. At that time, he kept his distance from his brother Pierre-Antoine Cousteau, a “pen anti-semite” who wrote the collaborationist newspaper Je suis partout (I am everywhere) and who received the death sentence in 1946. However, this was later commuted to a life sentence, and Pierre-Antoine was released in 1954.

During the 1940s, Cousteau worked on the aqua-lung design the forerunner of open-circuit scuba technology used today. Cousteau started diving with Fernez goggles in 1936, and in 1939 used the self-contained underwater breathing apparatus invented in 1926 by Commander Yves le Prieur but dissatisfied with its performance so he improved it to extend underwater duration by adding a demand regulator, invented in 1942 by Émile Gagnan. In 1943 Cousteau tried out the first prototype aqua-lung which made extended underwater exploration possible. In 1946, Cousteau and Tailliez showed the film “Épaves”and set up the Groupement de Recherches Sous-marines (GRS) (Underwater Research Group) of the French Navy in Toulon. A little later it became the GERS (Groupe d’Études et de Recherches Sous-Marines, = Underwater Studies and Research Group), then the COMISMER (“COMmandement des Interventions Sous la MER”, = “Undersea Interventions Command”), and finally more recently the CEPHISMER. In 1947, Chief Petty Officer Maurice Fargues became the first diver to die using an aqualung while attempting a new depth record with the GERS near Toulon.

In 1948, between missions of mine clearance, underwater exploration and technological and physiological tests, Cousteau undertook a first campaign in the Mediterranean on board the sloop Élie Monnier, with Philippe Tailliez, Frédéric Dumas, Jean Alinat and the scenario writer Marcel Ichac. The small team also undertook the exploration of the Roman wreck of Mahdia (Tunisia). It was the first underwater archaeology operation using autonomous diving, opening the way for scientific underwater archaeology. Cousteau and Marcel Ichac brought back from there the Carnets diving film (presented and preceded with the Cannes Film Festival 1951).Cousteau and the Élie Monnier then took part in the rescue of Professor Jacques Piccard’s bathyscaphe, the FNRS-2, during the 1949 expedition to Dakar. Thanks to this rescue, the French Navy was able to reuse the sphere of the bathyscaphe to construct the FNRS-3.The adventures of this period are told in the two books The Silent World (1953, by Cousteau and Dumas) and Plongées sans câble(1954, by Philippe Tailliez)

.In 1949, Cousteau left the French Navy.In 1950, he founded the French Oceanographic Campaigns (FOC), and leased a ship called Calypso from Thomas Loel Guinness for a symbolic one franc a year. Cousteau refitted the Calypso as a mobile laboratory for field research and as his principal vessel for diving and filming. He also carried out underwater archaeological excavations in the Mediterranean, in particular at Grand-Congloué (1952).With the publication of his first book in 1953, The Silent World, he correctly predicted the existence of the echolocation abilities ofporpoises. He reported that his research vessel, the Élie Monier, was heading to the Straits of Gibraltar and noticed a group of porpoises following them. Cousteau changed course a few degrees off the optimal course to the center of the strait, and the porpoises followed for a few minutes, then diverged toward mid-channel again. It was evident that they knew where the optimal course lay, even if the humans did not. Cousteau concluded that the cetaceans had something like sonar, which was a relatively new feature on submarines.

Cousteau won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1956 for The Silent World co-produced with Louis Malle. With the assistance of Jean Mollard, he made a “diving saucer” SP-350, an experimental underwater vehicle which could reach a depth of 350 meters. The successful experiment was quickly repeated in 1965 with two vehicles which reached 500 meters.In 1957, he was elected as director of the Oceanographical Museum of Monaco. He directed Précontinent, about the experiments of diving in saturation (long-duration immersion, houses under the sea), and was admitted to the United States National Academy of Sciences.He was involved in the creation of Confédération Mondiale des Activités Subaquatiques and served as its inaugural president from 1959 to 1973. In October 1960, a large amount of radioactive waste was going to be discarded in the Mediterranean Sea by the Commissariat à l’énergie atomique (CEA). The CEA argued that the dumps were experimental in nature, and that French oceanographers such asVsevelod Romanovsky had recommended it. Romanovsky and other French scientists, including Louis Fage and Jacques Cousteau, repudiated the claim, saying that Romanovsky had in mind a much smaller amount. The CEA claimed that there was little circulation (and hence little need for concern) at the dump site between Nice and Corsica, but French public opinion sided with the oceanographers rather than with the CEA atomic energy scientists. The CEA chief, Francis Perrin, decided to postpone the dump. Cousteau organized a publicity campaign which in less than two weeks gained wide popular support. The train carrying the waste was stopped by women and children sitting on the railway tracks, and it was sent back to its origin.

A meeting with American television companies (ABC, Métromédia, NBC) created the series The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau, with the character of the commander in the red bonnet inherited from standard diving dress) intended to give the films a “personalized adventure” style. This documentary television series ran for ten years from 1966 to 1976. A second documentary series, The Cousteau Odyssey, ran from 1977 to 1982, among others.In 1970, he wrote the book The Shark: Splendid Savage of the Sea with Philippe, his son. In this book, Costeau described the oceanic whitetip shark as “the most dangerous of all sharks”.In 1973, along with his two sons and Frederick Hyman, he created the Cousteau Society for the Protection of Ocean Life, Frederick Hyman being its first President; it now has more than 300,000 members.On December 1975, two years after the volcano’s last eruption, The Cousteau Society was filming Voyage au bout du monde on Deception Island, Antarctica, when Michel Laval, Calypso’s second in command, was struck and killed by a propeller of the helicopter that was ferrying between Calypso and the island.

in 1976, Cousteau uncovered the wreck of HMHS Britannic. He also found the wreck of the French 17th-century ship-of-the-line La Therese in coastal waters of Crete. In 1977 he received the UN International Environment prize together with Peter Scott. On 28 June 1979, while the Calypso was on an expedition to Portugal, his second son, Philippe, his preferred and designated successor and with whom he had co-produced all his films since 1969, died in a PBY Catalina flying boat crash in the Tagus river near Lisbon. Cousteau was deeply affected. He called his then eldest son, the architect Jean-Michel Cousteau, to his side. This collaboration lasted 14 years. During 1975 John Denver released the tribute song “Calypso” on his album “Windsong”, and on the B-side of his hit song “I’m Sorry”. “Calypso” became a hit on its own and was later considered the new A-side, reaching #2 on the charts.

Between 1980 and 1981, he was a regular on the animal reality show Those Amazing Animals, along with Burgess Meredith, Priscilla Presley, and Jim Stafford. In 1980, Cousteau traveled to Canada to make two films on the Saint Lawrence River and the Great Lakes, Cries from the Deep and St. Lawrence: Stairway to the Sea. In 1985, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Ronald Reagan.On 24 November 1988, he was elected to the Académie française, chair 17, succeeding Jean Delay. His official reception under the Cupola took place on 22 June 1989, the response to his speech of reception being given by Bertrand Poirot-Delpech. After his death, he was replaced under the Cupola by Érik Orsenna on 28 May 1998.In June 1990, the composer Jean Michel Jarre paid homage to the commander by entitling his new album Waiting for Cousteau. He also composed the music for Cousteau’s documentary “Palawan, the last refuge. On 2 December 1990, his wife Simone Cousteau died of cancer .

In June 1991, Jacques-Yves Cousteau remarried, to Francine Triplet, with whom he had (before this marriage) two children, Diane and Pierre-Yves. Francine Cousteau currently continues her husband’s work as the head of the Cousteau Foundation and Cousteau Society. From that point, the relations between Jacques-Yves and his elder son worsened. In November 1991, Cousteau gave an interview to the UNESCO Courier, in which he stated that he was in favour of human population control and population decrease and in 1992, he was invited to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for the United Nations’ International Conference on Environment and Development, and then he became a regular consultant for the UN and the World Bank. In 1996, he sued his son who wished to open a holiday centre named “Cousteau” in the Fiji Islands. On 11 January 1996, Calypso was rammed and sunk in Singapore Harbour by a barge. The Calypso was refloated and towed home to France. Jacques-Yves Cousteau sadly passed away after a heart attack on 25 June 1997 in Paris, aged 87, and was buried in a Roman Catholic Christian funeral in the family vault at Saint-André-de-f in France. A street was renamed “rue du Commandant Cousteau”, in his honour and a commemorative plaque was affixed to his house.

Posted in books, films & DVD, Television

Adam West (Batman)

Most famous for playing Batman in the 1960 Television show, the American actor Adam West sadly passed away 9 June 2017. Adam West (William West Anderson) was born September 19, 1928 West in Walla Walla, Washington. His father was a farmer; his mother was an opera singer and concert pianist who was forced to abandon her own Hollywood dreams to care for her family. Following her example, West stated to his father as a youth that he intended after school to go to Hollywood. He moved to Seattle when he was 15 with his mother following his parents’ divorce. West attended Walla Walla High School during his freshman and sophomore years, and later enrolled in Lakeside School in Seattle. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in literature and a minor in psychology from Whitman College in Walla Walla, where he was a member of the Gamma Zeta Chapter of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity. He also participated on the speech and debate team. Drafted into the United States Army, he served as an announcer on American Forces Network television. After his discharge, he worked as a milkman before moving to Hawaii to pursue television.

While in Hawaii, West was picked for a role as the sidekick on a children’s show called El Kini Popo Show, which featured a chimp. West later took over as star of the show. In 1959, West moved with his wife and two children to Hollywood, where he took the stage name Adam West. He appeared in the film The Young Philadelphians with Paul Newman, and guest-starred in a number of television Westerns Including Sugarfoot, Colt .45, and Lawman, in which West played the role of Doc Holliday, the frontier dentist and gunfighter. He portrayed Wild Bill Hickok in the episode “Westbound Stage” of the 1960 Western series Overland Trail, with William Bendix and Doug McClure. He guest-starred on the crime drama Johnny Midnight, as police sergeant Steve Nelson and also starred in the crime drama, The Detectives Starring Robert Taylor. He made a few guest appearances on the sitcom, The Real McCoys. In 1961, West appeared as a young, ambitious deputy who foolishly confronts a gunfighter named Clay Jackson, portrayed by Jock Mahoney, in the episode “The Man from Kansas” in the series Laramie and made two guest appearances on Perry Mason in 1961 first as small-town journalist Dan Southern in “The Case of the Barefaced Witness” then as folk singer Pete Norland in “The Case of the Bogus Books”. West starred in the Outer Limits episode “The Invisible Enemy” and made a brief appearance in the film Soldier in the Rain starring Jackie Gleason and Steve McQueen. He also starred as Major Dan McCready, the ill-fated mission commander of ‘Mars Gravity Probe 1’ in the 1964 film Robinson Crusoe on Mars. He also appeared in the comedy Western The Outlaws Is Coming in 1965, the last feature film starring The Three Stooges. He played Christopher Rolf in the episode “Stopover” in The Rifleman,
In 1965 Producer William Dozier cast West as Bruce Wayne and his crime fighting superhero alter ego, Batman, in the television series Batman, which ran from 1966 to 1968; and included afeature-length film version. In his Batman character, West appeared in a public service announcement where he encouraged schoolchildren to heed then-President Lyndon B. Johnson’s call for them to buy U.S. Savings stamps, a children’s version of U.S. Savings bonds, to support the Vietnam War. In 1970, West was offered the role of James Bond by Cubby Broccoli for the film Diamonds Are Forever.

After Batman finished Adam West’s first post-Caped Crusader role was in the film The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1969) as a cynical tough guy named Johnny Cain. West also made personal appearances as Batman. However In 1974, when Ward and Craig reprised their Batman roles for a TV public-service announcement about equal pay for women, West was absent. Instead, Dick Gautier filled in as Batman. He also made a memorable appearance in the Memphis, Tennessee-based United States Wrestling Association to engage in a war of words with Jerry “The King” Lawler while wearing the cowl and a track suit. West subsequently appeared in the theatrical films The Marriage of a Young Stockbrocker (1971), The Curse of the Moon Child (1972), The Specialist (1975), Hooper (as himself; 1978), The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood (1980) and One Dark Night (1983 and appeared in such television films as The Eyes of Charles Sand (1972), Poor Devil (1973), Nevada Smith (1975), For the Love of It (1980) and I Take These Men (1983). He also did guest shots on the television series Maverick, Diagnosis: Murder, Love, American Style, Bonanza, The Big Valley, Night Gallery, Alias Smith and Jones, Mannix, Emergency!, Alice, Police Woman, Operation Petticoat, The American Girls, Vega$, Big Shamus Little Shamus, Laverne & Shirley, Bewitched, Fantasy Island, The Love Boat, Hart to Hart, Zorro, The King of Queens and George Lopez. West also made several guest appearances as himself on Family Feud and In 1986, West starred in the comedy police series titled The Last Precinct.

West often reprised his role as Batman/Bruce Wayne, first in the short-lived animated series, The New Adventures of Batman, and in other shows such as The Batman/ Tarzan Adventure Hour, Tarzan and the Super 7, Super Friends: The Legendary Super Powers Show, and The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians. In 1979, West once again donned the Batsuit for the live-action TV special Legends of the Superheroes. In 1985, DC Comics named West as one of the honorees in the company’s 50th-anniversary publication Fifty Who Made DC Great for his work on the Batman series. West was considered to play Thomas Wayne in Tim Burton’s Batman. Originally, he wanted to play Batman. So far neither West nor Burt Ward (Robin, from the TV series) has appeared in any of the modern Batman films. West made an appearance in a 1992 episode of Batman: The Animated Series portraying Simon Trent, a washed-up actor who used to play a superhero in a TV series called The Gray Ghost and who now has difficulty finding work.

West later had a recurring role as the voice of Mayor Grange in the WB animated series The Batman. And also voiced as Batman in the animated short film Batman: New Times. He co-starred with Mark Hamill, who vocally portrayed The Joker and had originally played the role on Batman: The Animated Series. West also voiced Thomas Wayne, Bruce Wayne’s father, in an episode of the cartoon series Batman: The Brave and the Bold. He also voiced Batman’s prototype robot “Protobot”. West appeared as himself in the film Drop Dead Gorgeous and in several TV series, including NewsRadio, Murphy Brown, The Adventures of Pete and Pete, The Ben Stiller Show, and The Drew Carey Sho He also portrayed “Dr. Wayne” in the 1990 Zorro episode “The Wizard”. In 1991, he starred in the pilot episode of Lookwell, playing a has-been TV action hero who falsely believes he can solve mysteries in real life. In 1994, West played a non-comedic role as the father of Peter Weller’s character in The New Age. He played a washed-up superhero named Galloping Gazelle in the Goosebumps TV series episode “Attack of the Mutant”. In 1994, West, with Jeff Rovin, wrote his autobiography, Back to the Batcave and also appeared as a guest in the animated talk show Space Ghost Coast to Coast in an episode titled “Batmantis”, where he displayed his book. That episode was essentially a parody to his Batman TV series, where Zorak dressed himself as “Batmantis”, a praying mantis version of Batman.
In 1996, Adam West appeared in video cut scenes of the “Chaos Mystery” in the gambling simulation game Golden Nugget.

In 2001, he played the super-villain Breathtaker in the TV series Black Scorpion. In 2003, West and Burt Ward starred in the TV movie Return to the Batcave: The Misadventures of Adam and Burt, alongside Frank Gorshin, Julie Newmar, and Lee Meriwether. In 2005, West appeared in the show The King of Queens. West appears in the 2006 video for California band STEFY’s song “Chelsea” as “Judge Adam West”, presiding over the courtroom scene. In 2007, Adam West played an attorney for Benny on the show George Lopez, and starred as “The Boss” in the movie comedy Sexina: Popstar PI. In 2009, West played himself in the episode “Apollo, Apollo” of 30 Rock. In 2010, a Golden Palm Star was dedicated to him on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars And West also received the 2,468th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, located at 6764 Hollywood Boulevard in front of the Guinness Museum in Hollywood, California. He appeared in Pioneers of Television in the episode “Superheroes” and was the subject of the documentary Starring Adam West. West is among the interview subjects in Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle, a three-hour documentary narrated by Liev Schreiber.

Adam West has also done voice-over work for many cartoons including the American cartoon series Futurama (10.9, and American Dad and voiced himself, and the 1960s version of Batman, in the video game Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham. In 2016, West guest-starred as himself on the 200th episode of The Big Bang Theory. West has also voiced The Simpsons, Futurama, Rugrats, The Critic, Histeria!, Kim Possible, Johnny Bravo, and even in an episode of Batman: The Animated Series called “Beware the Gray Ghost”, and has appeared onThe Fairly OddParents numerous timeS. Since 2000, West has made regular appearances on the animated series Family Guy, portraying Mayor Adam West, the lunatic mayor of Quahog, Rhode Island. He portrayed Uncle Art in the Disney Animation film Meet the Robinsons, and voicing the young Mermaid Man (along with Burt Ward, who voiced the young Barnacle Boy) in The SpongeBob SquarePants episode “Back to the Past” asThe Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy characters are sea parodies of both Batman and Robin, respectively. West also voiced General Carrington in the video game XIII, and has voiced other video games such as Marc Ecko’s Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure, Chicken Little: Ace in Action, Scooby Doo! Unmasked, and Goosebumps: Attack of the Mutant.

Posted in books, Television

Ken Follett

Prolific Welsh author Ken Follett was born 5 June 1949. He has written some great thrillers and historical novels and has sold more than 100 million copies of his works. Four of his books have reached the number 1 ranking on the New York Times best-seller list: The Key to Rebecca, Lie Down with Lions,Triple, and World Without End. After graduation in the autumn of 1970, Follett took a three-month post-graduate course in journalism and went to work as a trainee reporter in Cardiff on the South Wales Echo. After three years in Cardiff, he returned to London as a general-assignment reporter for the Evening News. Finding the work unchallenging, he eventually left journalism for publishing and became, by the late 1970s, deputy managing director of the small London publisher Everest Books.He also began writing fiction during evenings and weekends as a hobby. Later, he said he began writing books when he needed extra money to fix his car, and the publisher’s advance a fellow journalist had been paid for a thriller was the sum required for the repairs. Success came gradually at first, but the publication of Eye of the Needle in 1978 made him both wealthy and internationally famous. Each of Follett’s subsequent novels has also become a best-seller, ranking high on the New York Times Best Seller list; a number have been adapted for the screen. He is also featured in Making Music Magazine.

During the 1970’s Follett became involved, in the activities of Britain’s Labour Party. In the course of his political activities, he met the former Barbara Broer, a Labour official, who became his second wife in 1984. She was elected as a Member of Parliament in 1997, representing Stevenage. She was re-elected in both 2001 and in 2005, but did not run in the 2010 general election after becoming embroiled in the United Kingdom Parliamentary expenses scandal, where she was among the MPs found to have overclaimed the highest amount of expenses Follett himself remains a prominent Labour supporter.

During his prolific career Follett Has written many great novels including the Apples Carstairs series (as Simon Myles), The Big Needle (1974) (aka The Big Apple – U.S.), the Big Black (1974), The Big Hit (1975), Piers Roper series, The Shakeout (1975)The Bear Raid (1976), The Pillars of the Earth, World Without End (2007), Fall of Giants (2010), Winter of the World (2012) and Edge of Eternity (2014). Follett latest novel A Column of Fire continues the Kingsbridge story and begins in 1558. It sees young Ned Willard returning home to Kingsbridge to find much has changed. Europe is in turmoil and Ned soon finds himself on the opposite side from the girl he longs to marry, Margery Fitzgerald. Then Elizabeth Tudor becomes queen and all of Europe turns against England including the alluring, headstrong Mary Queen of Scots who lies in wait in Paris after having been proclaimed the rightful ruler of England with her followers scheming to get rid of Elizabeth. So Elizabeth sets up the country’s first secret service to give her early warning of assassination plots, rebellions and invasion plans And it becomes clear that the real enemies – then as now – are not the rival religions but Those who believe in tyranny.

Standalone Novels which Follett has written include Amok: King of Legend (1976) (as Bernard L. Ross)The Modigliani Scandal (1976) (as Zachary Stone)The Mystery Hideout (1976) (as Martin Martinsen) (apa The Secret of Kellerman’s Studio)The Power Twins (1976) (as Martin Martinsen)Paper Money (1977) (as Zachary Stone)Capricorn One (1978) (as Bernard L. Ross) (based on screenplay by Peter Hyams)Eye of the Needle (1978) (apa Storm Island) (Edgar Award, 1979, Best Novel)Triple (1979)The Key to Rebecca (1980)The Man from St. Petersburg (1982)Lie Down with Lions (1986)Night Over Water (1991)A Dangerous Fortune (1993)A Place Called Freedom, The Third Twin, The Hammer of Eden (1998), Code to Zero. Jackdaws (2001)Hornet Flight and Whiteout. Follet has also written an number of non-fiction novels including The Heist of the Century (1978) (with René Louis Maurice, others) (apa The Gentleman of 16 July – U.S.) (apa Under the Stars of Nice) (apa Robery Under the Streets of Nice) (apa Cinq Milliards au bout de l’égout and On Wings of Eagles. Some of Follett’s novels have also been adapted for screen and Television including Pillars of the Earth and World Without End.

Posted in books, films & DVD, Television

Dracula by Bram Stoker

The classic gothic horror novel Dracula by Bram Stoker was first published 26th May 1897. it features an Estate Agent named Jonathan Harker who is dispatched to Transylvania to finalize the move of a mysterious and enigmatic and charismatic Romanian nobleman called Count Dracula, who is intending to move to England. Unfortunately this proves to rather dangerous. Meanwhile the Count leaves Transylvania and travels to England aboard the vessel Dimeter, and all the crew mysteriously vanish and the ship runs aground at Whitby. Having arrived in England Dracula successfully purchases multiple estates under the alias ‘Count De Ville’ throughout London. Whilst in Whitby Dracula then encounters Lucy Westenra, who also lives in Whitby, and who soon begins suffering from mysterious episodes of sleepwalking and dementia which baffle every doctor. Then Lucy begins to waste away suspiciously for no apparent reason. Meanwhile Dracula communicates with Seward’s mentally unstable patient Renfield, who also worked as as an Estate Agent and was also sent to Transylvania before Harker but has never been the same since he returned.

Mystified, by his daughter’s illness Seward invites his old teacher, Abraham Van Helsing, who immediately determines the true cause of Lucy’s condition. He diagnoses inexplicable blood loss. Helsing prescribes numerous blood transfusions to which Dr. Seward, Helsing, Quincy and Arthur all contribute over time. Helsing also prescribes flowers to be placed throughout her room and weaves a necklace of withered Garlic Blossoms for her to wear as well. She however continues to waste away – appearing to lose blood every night. Then Lucy and her mother are attacked by a wolf; Mrs. Westenra, dies of fright. Van Helsing attempts to protect her with garlic. The doctors find two small puncture marks about her neck, which Dr Seward is at a loss to understand. Helsing then places a crucifix around her neck, but soon after she is discovered dead with the crucifix missing.

Following Lucy’s death, the newspapers report children being stalked in the night. Van Helsing, knowing Lucy has become a vampire, confides in Seward, Lord Godalming, and Morris. The suitors and Van Helsing track her down and confront her. Meanwhile Jonathan Harker arrives from Budapest, where Mina marries him after his escape. They team up to clobber Dracula however Dracula learns of the group’s plot against him, and attacks Mina on three occasions, and feeds Mina his own blood to control her. This curses Mina with vampirism but does not completely turn her into a vampire. Van Helsing attempts to cure Mina and hypnotized her into revealing Dracula’s whereabouts. Having discovered their actions Dracula flees back to his castle in Transylvania and They pursue him under the guidance of Mina leading to an exciting final showdown.

Bram Stoker

Bram Stoker was born 8 November 1847 in Clontarf, Dublin Ireland and was bed-ridden until he started school at the age of seven, when he made a complete recovery. Of this time, Stoker wrote, “I was naturally thoughtful, and the leisure of long illness gave opportunity for many thoughts which were fruitful according to their kind in later years.” He was educated in a private school run by the Rev. William Woods.After his recovery, he grew up without further major health issues, even excelling as an athlete (he was named University Athlete) at Trinity College, Dublin, which he attended from 1864 to 1870. He graduated with honours in mathematics. He was auditor of the College Historical Society and president of the University Philosophical Society, where his first paper was on “Sensationalism in Fiction and Society”.

Stoker became interested in the theatre while a student through a friend, Dr. Maunsell. He became the theatre critic for the Dublin Evening Mail, co-owned by the author of Gothic tales Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. Stoker also wrote stories, and in 1872 “The Crystal Cup” was published by the London Society, followed by “The Chain of Destiny” in four parts in The Shamrock. In 1876, while a civil servant in Dublin, Stoker wrote a non-fiction book (The Duties of Clerks of Petty Sessions in Ireland, published 1879), which remained a standard work . Furthermore, he possessed an interest in art, and was a founder of the Dublin Sketching Club in 1874. On 31 December 1879, Stoker became acting manager and then business manager of Irving’s Lyceum Theatre, London, he became involved in London’s high society, and met Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (to whom he was distantly related)

Managing one of the most successful theatres in London made Stoker a notable if busy man. In London Stoker also met Hall Caine who became one of his closest friends – he dedicated Dracula to him. Although Stoker travelled the world, he never visited Eastern Europe, a setting for his most famous novel. Stoker enjoyed the United States,While working as a manager, secretary and director of London’s Lyceum Theatre, he began writing novels beginning with The Snake’s Pass in 1890 and Dracula in 1897. During this period, Stoker was also part of the literary staff of the London Daily Telegraph and wrote other fiction, including the horror novels The Lady of the Shroud (1909) and The Lair of the White Worm (1911). In 1906, he managed productions at the Prince of Wales Theatre. Before writing Dracula, Stoker spent several years researching European folklore and mythological stories of vampires. At the time of its publication, Dracula was considered a “straightforward horror novel” based on imaginary creations of supernatural life. “It gave form to a universal fantasy and became a part of popular culture.” Stoker’s inspirations for the story, in addition to Whitby, may have included a visit to Slains Castle in Aberdeenshire, a visit to the crypts of St. Michan’s Church in Dublin and the novella Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu.

Posted in films & DVD, Humour, music, Television

Matt Stone

Best known for being the co-creator of South Park along with his creative partner and best friend Trey Parker, the American actor, voice artist,animator, screenwriter, director, producer and musician, Matthew Richard “Matt” Stone was born May 26, 1972 in Houston, Texas, he attended Heritage High School and graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder,becoming their first student to double major in film and mathematics. Matt Stone and and his friend Trey Parker launched their largely collaborative careers in 1992, making a holiday short titled Jesus vs. Frosty. Their first success came from Alferd Packer: The Musical, subsequently distributed as Cannibal! The Musical. From there he made another short entitled Jesus vs. Santa, leading him and college friend Parker to create South Park. He has four Emmy Awards for his role in South Park, winning “Outstanding Programming More Than One Hour” and “Outstanding Programming Less Than One Hour”

In 1992, Stone and Parker created the short film Jesus vs. Frosty, which included four boys, two resembling Stan Marsh and Kyle Broflovski, one called Kenny who looked likeCartman, and a fourth unnamed boy who looked like Kenny. Both Jesus and Cannibal! The Musical were made while they were students at the University of Colorado film school, studying under both Stan Brakhage and Jerry Aronson. After the duo released Cannibal! The Musical, they were asked to make another animated short. They came down to two ideas: one a sequel to Jesus vs. Frosty, and one about a character that would later be recurring in South Park, Mr. Hankey. They chose to write about the four boys, and Stone and Parker produced 13 episodes for season 1. The video landed in the hands of Comedy Central who thought it was hilarious and South Park is currently still under contract.

In 1999, Stone and Parker made South Park bigger, longer and uncut and the film’s music was nominated for an Academy Award. As of 2007, Parker is credited with directing and writing the vast majority of South Park episodes, and voicing most of the regular and guest characters, leading fans to question Stone’s involvement in the creative process. On September 25, 2013, South Park’s seventeenth season will premiere. In 1997, they also released Orgazmo and In 1998, they starred in (but did not write or direct) BASEketball, another feature film, while being renewed for a second season of South Park. In 2001, the duo announced they would do 39 shorts between the lengths of 2 and 5 minutes. Although originally thought to be South Park related, they decided they would do something different. The result was the shorts Princess. The content was so extreme that it was cancelled after two shows aired. In 2001, they also created That’s My Bush!, another television series, which was cancelled after one season. In 2004, they made a parody film, entitled Team America: World Police.

Stone is also a member of the band DVDA with Parker, for which he plays bass and drums. DVDA’s songs have appeared in many of the duo’s productions, including Orgazmo, BASEketball, South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, and Team America: World Police. On January 14, 2013, Stone and Parker announced that they would be starting a film production company called Important Studios. Inspired by the production work of Lucasfilm and DreamWorks,

Posted in films & DVD, Science fiction, Television

Peter Cushing

English actor Peter Wilton Cushing, OBE was Born 26 May 1913 he was known for his many appearances in Hammer Films, in which he played the sinister scientist Baron Frankenstein or the vampire hunter Dr. Van Helsing, among many other roles. He appeared frequently opposite Christopher Lee, and occasionally Vincent Price. A familiar face on both sides of the Atlantic, Cushing’s best-known roles outside the Hammer productions include Sherlock Holmes, Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars (1977) and The Doctor in Dr. Who and the Daleks (1965) and Daleks – Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D. (1966), both films based on the Doctor Who television series.

He was Educated at Shoreham College. Cushing’s first job was a surveyors Assistant. He left this to take up a scholarship at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. After working in repertory theatre in Worthing, Sussex, he left for Hollywood in 1939, debuting in The Man in the Iron Mask later that year, before returning to England in 1941 after starring in several films. In one, A Chump at Oxford (1940), he appeared opposite Laurel and Hardy. His first major film role was that of Osric in Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet (1948).In the 1950s, he worked in television, notably as Winston Smith in the BBC’s 1954 adaptation of the George Orwell novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), scripted by Nigel Kneale. Cushing also starred as Fitzwilliam Darcy in the BBC’s production of Pride and Prejudice (1952), as King Richard II in Richard of Bordeaux (1955), and as Raan, a Prospero-like character, in “Missing Link” (1975), an episode of Space: 1999. He also appeared in The Avengers and its successor series, The New Avengers. In 1956, he received the British Academy Television Award for Best Actor. Cushing also starred in film adaptation of the H.Rider Haggard novel “She” with Ursual Andress and Bernard Cribbins.

Cushing is also well known for playing Baron Victor Frankenstein and Professor Van Helsing in a long series of horror films produced by Hammer Film Productions in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. He was often cast alongside Christopher Lee, who became his best friend. His first appearances in his two most famous roles were in Terence Fisher’s films The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) and Dracula (1958). He later said that his career decisions entailed selecting roles where he knew that he would be accepted by the audience. “Who wants to see me as Hamlet? Very few. But millions want to see me as Frankenstein, so that’s the one I do.” Cushing and Christopher Lee in Nothing But The Night (1972) . Cushing also played Sherlock Holmes many times, originally in Hammer’s The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959), the first Holmes adaptation to be filmed in colour. This was followed by a performance in 16 episodes of the BBC series Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes(1968), of which only six episodes survive.

Cushing reprised the role, now playing the detective in old age, in The Masks of Death (1984) for Channel 4. In the mid-1960s, Cushing played Dr. Who in two films (Dr. Who and the Daleks and Daleks – Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D.) based on the BBC science-fiction TV series Doctor Who. He decided to play the part as a lovable and avuncular figure to counter the public’s image of him as a horror actor. In an interview published in ABC Film Review in November 1964, Cushing stated, “People look at me as if I were some sort of monster, but I can’t think why. In my macabre pictures, I have either been a monster-maker or a monster-destroyer, but never a monster. Actually, I’m a gentle fellow. Never harmed a fly. I love animals, and when I’m in the country I’m a keen bird-watcher.” In an interview published in 1966, he added, “I do get terribly tired with the neighbourhood kids telling me ‘My mum says she wouldn’t want to meet you in a dark alley’.

In 1976, Cushing was cast in Star Wars in the part of Grand Moff Tarkin. He was presented with ill-fitting riding boots, which pinched his feet so much that he was given permission by director George Lucas to play the role wearing his slippers. The camera operators filmed him only from the knees up, or else standing behind the table of the Death Star conference room set. As a result, Cushing’s role could not be expanded on in the later director’s cut versions with improved special effects (such as inserting a CGI Jabba the Hutt in place of a human for Han Solo to argue with), because the technicians could not replace the slippers with the boots. Peter Cushing was also later digitally added to the Star Wars spin-off film Rogue One as Grand Moff Tarkin.

Following Star Wars, Cushing continued to appear sporadically in film and television, as his health permitted. In 1969, he had appeared in a comedy play by Ernie Wise on The Morecambe and Wise Show on BBC2. Throughout the BBC era of the show, he would regularly join Wise and his comic partner, Eric Morecambe, on stage; he would constantly seek payment for his first appearance, wearily asking “Have you got my five pounds yet?” This running joke continued when the duo left the BBC and moved to Thames Television in 1978. Cushing appeared in their first special for Thames Television on 18 October, still asking to be paid, with the hosts repeatedly trying to get rid of him; at the end of the show, Morecambe placed some money in a wallet wired up to a bomb, in an attempt to blow Cushing up in exaggerated comedic style. In the duo’s Christmas special, Cushing pretended to be the Prime Minister while Morecambe and Wise caroled outside 10 Downing Street; he made the comedians give him money and finally came out to declare “paid, at last!”Wise was a guest for Cushing’s appearance on This Is Your Life in 1989. He promptly presented Cushing with a five pound note, only to extort it back from him. Cushing was delighted and exclaimed “All these years and I still haven’t got my fiver!”

Sadly Cushing was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1982, but managed to survive for 12 years without surgery, although his health remained fragile. In 1989, he was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire, although his friend Christopher Lee publicly opined that the honour was “too little, too late”. Cushing retired to Whitstable, on the Kent coast, where he had bought a seafront home in 1959, and continued his hobby of birdwatching while writing two autobiographies. He also worked as a painter, specialising in watercolours, and wrote and illustrated a children’s book of Lewis Carroll-style humour, The Bois Saga. He was the patron of the Vegetarian Society from 1987 until his death. Cushing’s final professional commitment was the co-narration of the TV documentary Flesh and Blood: The Hammer Heritage of Horror, produced by American writer and director Ted Newsom. His contribution was recorded in Canterbury, near his home. The programme was broadcast only a few days before his death on 11 August 1994, aged 81.

Posted in Fantasy, films & DVD, Science fiction, Television

Sir Ian McKellen CH CBE

English actor Sir Ian Murray McKellen, CH, CBE was born 25 May 1939 in Burnley, Lancashire. Shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939, his family moved to Wigan. They lived there until Ian was twelve years old, before relocating to Bolton in 1951, after his father had been promoted. McKellen’s father was a civil engineer and lay preacher, and was of Protestant Irish and Scottish descent. Both of McKellen’s grandfathers were preachers, and his great-great-grandfather, James McKellen, was a “strict, evangelical Protestant minister” in Ballymena, County Antrim. His home environment was strongly Christian, but non-orthodox. When he was 12, his mother died of breast cancer; his father died when he was 24. His great-great-grandfather Robert J. Lowes was an activist and campaigner in the ultimately successful campaign for a Saturday half-holiday in Manchester, the forerunner to the modern five-day work week, thus making Lowes a “grandfather of the modern weekend. McKellen attended Bolton School (Boys’ Division), and his acting career started at Bolton Little Theatre, of which he is now the patron.

An early fascination with the theatre was encouraged by his parents, who took him on a family outing to Peter Pan at the Opera House in Manchester when he was three. When he was nine, his main Christmas present was a wood and bakelite, fold-away Victorian theatre from Pollocks Toy Theatres, with cardboard scenery and wires to push on the cut-outs of Cinderella and of Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet. His sister took him to his first Shakespeare play, Twelfth Night, by the amateurs of Wigan’s Little Theatre, shortly followed by their Macbeth and Wigan High School for Girls’ production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with music by Mendelssohn, with the role of Bottom played by Jean McKellen. In 1958, McKellen won a scholarship to St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, where he read English literature.While at Cambridge, McKellen was a member of the Marlowe Society, where he appeared in 23 plays over the course of 3 years. At that young age he was already giving performances that have since become legendary such as his Justice Shallow in Henry IV alongside Trevor Nunn and Derek Jacobi, Cymbeline (as Posthumus, opposite Margaret Drabble as Imogen) and Doctor Faustus.

McKellen made his first professional appearance in 1961 at the Belgrade Theatre, as Roper in A Man for All Seasons. After four years in regional repertory theatres he made his first West End appearance, in A Scent of Flowers. In 1965 he was a member of Laurence Olivier’s National Theatre Company at the Old Vic, which led to roles at the Chichester Festival. With the Prospect Theatre Company, McKellen made his breakthrough performances of Richard II and Marlowe’s Edward II at the Edinburgh festival in 1969. During the 1970s and 1980s McKellen performed frequently at the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal National Theatre, portraying several leading Shakespearean characters including Macbeth and Iago in Othello. In 2007 he appeared in the Royal Shakespeare Company, productions of King Lear and The Seagull. In 2009 he appeared in Waiting for Godot at London’s Haymarket Theatre, opposite Patrick Stewart. He is Patron of English Touring Theatre and also President and Patron of the Little Theatre Guild of Great Britain, an association of amateur theatre organisations throughout the UK. In late August 2012, he took part in the opening ceremony of the London Paralympics, portraying Prospero from The Tempest.

McKellen’s career spans genres ranging from Shakespearean and modern theatre to popular fantasy and science fiction and He started his professional career in 1961 at the Belgrade Theatre as a member of their highly regarded repertory company. In 1965 McKellen made his first West End appearance. In 1969 he was invited to join the Prospect Theatre Company to play the lead parts in Shakespeare’s Richard II and Marlowe’s Edward II, firmly establishing himself as one of the country’s foremost classical actors. In the 1970s McKellen became a stalwart of the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre of Great Britain.

Over the years he has gained fame for many notable film roles, which include Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies and Magneto in the X-Men films, both of which introduced McKellen to a new generation. He has been the recipient of six Laurence Olivier Awards, a Tony Award, a Golden Globe Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, a BIF Award, two Saturn Awards, four Drama Desk Awards, and two Critics’ Choice Awards. He has also received two Oscar nominations, four BAFTA nominations and five Emmy Award nomination. He was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 1979 Birthday Honours, was knighted in the 1991 New Year Honours for services to the performing arts, and made a Companion of Honour for services to drama and to equality in the 2008 New Year Honours. He has been openly gay since 1988, and continues to be a champion for LGBT social movements worldwide. He was made a Freeman of the City of London in October 2014.