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General information  

  • Place of birth : Dublin
  • Date of birth : 22/03/1912
  • Place of death : London
  • Date of death : 18/01/1985

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  • Brambell Wilfrid

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Wilfrid Brambell (1912)

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  Summary  

Henry Wilfrid Brambell (22 March 1912 – 18 January 1985) was an Irish film and television actor best known for his role in the British television series Steptoe and Son. He also performed alongside The Beatles in their film A Hard Day's Night, playing Paul McCartney's fictional grandfather.

  Biography  

 early life
Brambell was born in Dublin. His father worked at a Guinness Brewery and his mother was an opera singer. His first appearance was as a child, entertaining the wounded troops during the First World War. On leaving school he worked part-time as a reporter for The Irish Times and part-time as an actor at the Abbey Theatre before becoming a professional actor for the Gate Theatre. He also did repertory at Swansea, Bristol and Chesterfield. In World War II he joined the British military forces entertainment organisation ENSA.

 acting career
His television career began during the 1950s, when he was cast in small roles in three Nigel Kneale/Rudolph Cartier productions for BBC Television: as a drunk in The Quatermass Experiment , as both an old man in a pub and later a prisoner in Nineteen Eighty-Four and as a tramp in Quatermass II . All of these roles earned him a reputation for playing old men, though he was only in his forties at the time. Brambell hardly ever stopped working in his 36-year career.

Brambell also appeared as Bill Gaye in the 1962 Maurice Chevalier/Hayley Mills picture, In Search of the Castaways. He was heard in the original soundtrack of The Canterbury Tales, which was one of the quickest selling West End soundtrack albums of all time. He also released two 45-rpm singles, Second Hand b/w Rag Time Ragabone Man which played on his Steptoe and Son character, followed in 1971 by Time Marches On, his tribute to The Beatles with whom he had worked in 1964 . It featured a Beatles-esque guitar riff with Brambell reciting words about The Beatles splitting up, b/w The Decimal Song which, at the time of Britain adopting decimal currency, was politically charged.

In 1965, he appeared on Broadway in the show Kelly which closed after just one performance.

He featured in many prominent theatre roles. In 1966 he played Ebenezer Scrooge in a musical version of A Christmas Carol. This was adapted for radio the same year and appeared on Radio 2 on Christmas Eve. Brambell's booming baritone voice surprised many listeners: he played the role straight, true to the Dickens original, and not in the stereotype Albert Steptoe character.

In 1971, he starred in the premiere of Eric Chappell's play The Banana Box in which he played Rooksby. This part was later renamed Rigsby for the TV adaptation called Rising Damp which starred Leonard Rossiter.

 legacy
The Curse of Steptoe, a BBC TV play about Brambell and his co-star Harry H. Corbett, was broadcast on 19 March 2008 on digital BBC channel BBC Four, featuring Phil Davis as Brambell. The first broadcast gained the channel its highest audience figures to date, based on overnight returns.

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  Sources

Whole or part of the information contained in this card come from the Wikipedia article "Wilfrid Brambell", licensed under CC-BY-SA full list of contributors here.