Today I am going to look back at the life and career of another well-known British character actor, Victor Maddern. Victor had one of those instantly recognisable faces which popped up in countless television shows and films from the 1950s right through until the early 1990s. He appeared in everything from war films to light comedies, often in small or supporting roles. Another actor who was never a star but still managed a highly successful career on the stage.
As always, we'll start off with Victor's Carry On contributions. Victor made his first appearance with a cameo role in Carry On Constable, released in 1960. He played Detective Sergeant Liddell who is innocently going about his business when green police constable Stanley Benson (Kenneth Williams) attempts to arrest him for his dodgy antics! Following this eye-catching support, Maddern was back at Pinewood later in 1960 for a very brief turn as a sinister train passenger who, along with Denis Shaw, pops up during Kenneth Connor's 39 Steps sequence.
1964 saw Victor Maddern contribute two more supporting roles to the Carry On series. In Carry On Spying he played the sinister Milchmann, an agent for Doctor Crow who comes a cropper after trying to take on Kenneth Williams and Barbara Windsor! Watch out for Victor's hilarious death scene in that one! Later the same year he played Sid James' second in command in the classic Carry On Cleo. Victor works well with Sid and their scenes encountering Amanda Barrie's Cleopatra for the first time are superbly played. It was then over a decade before Victor Maddern associated with the Carry On team again. In 1975 he played three supporting roles in the ATV Carry On Laughing television series, reuniting him with the likes of Sid James, Joan Sims and Kenneth Connor.
Three years after filming Carry On Laughing, Victor Maddern was one of a very few familiar faces to appear in the last film of the original run, Carry On Emmannuelle, in 1978. Victor's scene is one of the few highlights of an otherwise dire film. He shares a wordless romantic interlude in a laundrette with Joan Sims' character Mrs Dangle. So although only appearing in five original films, Victor still managed to span most of the series.
In the early days, Victor was often cast as soldiers or sailors. He appeared in films from the early 1950s, with credits including Seven Days to Noon (1950); Pool of London (1951); Angels One Five (1952); Malta Story (1953) and The Sea Shall Not Have Them (1954). As I've already mentioned, Maddern often appeared in war films during the 1950s, some of the more famous being the likes of Carve Her Name With Pride (1958); Dunkirk (also 1958); Sink the Bismarck! (1960); the star-studded The Longest Day (1962) and H.M.S Defiant (1962)
Equally adept at comedy roles, Victor Maddern also appeared in many Carry On-esque comedy films during the peak of the genre in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He worked again for Rogers and Thomas in two other films away from the Carry Ons - Please Turn Over in 1959 and Watch Your Stern the following year. He also appeared as Knowles in the classic comedy I'm All Right Jack. Other comedy films he appeared in included the Charlie Drake vehicle Petticoat Pirates in 1961 and On The Fiddle starring Sean Connery and Stanley Holloway.
One of his earliest stage roles was as Sam Weller in The Trial of Mr Pickwick in 1952. Appearing as Helicon in a production of the Camus play Caligula in 1964, Maddern was singled out for critical praise. It was also rumoured that he bought some of the sets from this production and sold them on to Peter Rogers for Carry On Cleo! He also did two stints in the highly successful Agatha Christie play The Mousetrap - the longest-running production in London's West End.
Victor Maddern was born Ilford, Essex on 16 March 1928. Victor joined the Merchant Navy at the age of 15 and served during the Second World War. Following the end of the hostilities, he was discharged from the Navy and enrolled to train to become an actor at RADA in London. Always an enterprising man, away from the acting profession he set up and ran a very successful script printing business. He even started a further business, a public speaking school in 1991.