Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Remembering Peter Butterworth


As regular readers will know, Peter Butterworth is one of my all time favourite comedy actors and members of the brilliant Carry On team. Over the course of sixteen films, two stage productions and countless television episodes, Peter guaranteed himself a place in our hearts for his sensational comic performances. 

Sadly, today marks forty years since Peter's sad death at the age of just 59 in 1979. He was performing in pantomime in Coventry at the time of his death, as Widow Twankey in a production of Aladdin at the Coventry Theatre. After a performance, Peter returned to his hotel room where he suffered a heart attack. 



Peter worked on in a range of different productions following his last Carry On appearance, as Richmond the aged boot boy in Carry On Emmannuelle which was made in 1978. His last film, The First Great Train Robbery, was on general release at the time of his death. Peter's last role was that of Mr Bywaters in a television film broadcast just a few weeks after he passed away. The production was written by Alan Bennett and directed by Stephen Frears. This surely points to the fact that Peter would indeed have gone on to even more success in his career. Sadly it wasn't to be.

At the time of his death, there was no certainty over whether the Carry Ons would continue. However with the death of Hattie Jacques the following year, it became quickly apparent that the series could not possibly return. Kenneth Williams wrote of his shock and sadness at the news of Peter's death in his diary and sent condolences to his wife, the actress and impressionist Janet Brown. Kenneth was a friend of the couple and the usually picky Mr Williams was extremely fond of them both.



Peter Butterworth had been a familiar face on stage and screen since the late 1940s, following an impressive career in the forces during the war. A beloved children's entertainer on television in the 1950s, he worked consistently across all media throughout his life, always with the best, because he was the best. When Peter died, he left his wife, the actress Janet Brown and his children Tyler and Emma. He was one of those actors who everyone loved and admired. 

From his first role in the series as Doc in Carry On Cowboy to his final turn as Richmond in Emmannuelle, Peter never put in a bad performance. He excelled as Slowbotham in Carry On Screaming, as Citizen Camembert in Don't Lose Your Head and as Mr Fiddler in Carry On Camping. As for his finest performance in the films? Well I'm completely split on that one. Perhaps his beautifully played supporting turn as Brother Belcher in Up The Khyber? Who can forget his star turn in the dinner party sequence? Or maybe the excitable, desperate hotelier Pepe (or is it Mario?) in Carry On Abroad? Whichever role is your favourite, I think we can agree that Peter always gave us his best. 

Thanks for all the laughs, Peter. 



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