Friday 30 March 2018

A Tribute to the late, great Bill Maynard

The news broke today that the legendary actor Bill Maynard has passed away at the age of 89. Bill was a fixture on the small screen, big screen, radio airwaves and in theatres around the country for decades and his sad passing sees another tangible link with the glory days of British film and television. 

Bill Maynard was a familiar face to us all. He had a career dating back to the 1950s, appeared in countless British films, including five Carry Ons, worked with many wonderful comedians....but he will forever be remembered as the loveable rogue Claude Greengrass in the nostalgia fest that was ITV's Heartbeat.

Bill played that role for eight years before a series of strokes put him out of action for a long time. It has forever placed him in the nation's affections though and that series remains extremely popular to this day. So what about his Carry On appearances? 

Well, Bill was a regular supporting player in the series during the early 1970s. While never being a leading man, he did have memorable roles. His first appearance came in 1970, in a cameo role as Mr Dreery, who attends marriage guidance with his wife (Patricia Franklin) but is less than happy with the advice he receives from Kenneth Williams! Bill returned to Pinewood later than year to film a supporting role as Guy Fawkes in Carry On Henry. In 1971, Maynard made two further Carry On appearances, first as Fred Moore, the wife of Chloe (Joan Sims) and then later in the bigger role as Freddy, one of Sid James' gang of crooks in Carry On Matron.

In 1972 Bill Maynard filmed a supporting role as Mr Fiddler, the boss of Wundatours in Carry On Abroad. Despite filming scenes with Kenneth Williams, Patsy Rowlands and Gail Grainger, his entire performance was cut as the film went over time. What a shame! Bill made his final Carry On appearance in 1974, with his role as the Landlord of The Old Cock Inn in Carry On Dick.

Away from Carry On, Bill also appeared in the film version of Bless This House in 1972, playing Oldham, a man Diana Coupland and Patsy Rowlands encounter when they go into business together selling antiques. 

Bill Maynard was a regular face in British film for over forty years. He was involved in another highly successful film comedy franchise during the 1970s - the horrid Confessions films which starred Robin Askwith. Bill appeared in all four of the films between 1974 and 1977, playing Askwith's father. He also clocked up appearances in Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall (with Jim Dale) in 1972, the big screen version of Man About The House (1974), Robin And Marian (1976) - which also co-starred Peter Butterworth and It Shouldn't Happen To A Vet (1975) - which starred John Alderton as James Herriot. 

On television Bill Maynard got his first big break in 1953, appearing in an episode of Henry Hall's Face The Music. He went on to form a memorable double act with Terry Scott, starring in Great Scott, It's Maynard for several years. In the early 1970s, Maynard starred alongside comedy legend Ronnie Barker in his series Seven of One. The mid-1970s also brought two regular roles in sitcoms for Yorkshire Television. One, as Selwyn Froggitt in Oh No, It's Selwyn Froggitt! and the other as Fred Moffat in The Gaffer. 

Other television roles included guest spots in Till Death Us Do Part, The Sweeney, The Royal (reprising his role as Greengrass), Kisses at Fifty and Dalziel and Pascoe. Bill also played a cameo role in Coronation Street, working with Violet Carson as the legendary Ena Sharples. Bill went on to host a weekly radio show for BBC Radio Leicester for five years until 2008. 

Apparently BIll also entered the political arena in 1984. He stood as an independent Labour candidate against none other than Tony Benn. Benn won the seat in Chesterfield with Maynard coming in fourth place. 

Bill Maynard was born Walter Frederick George Williams in October 1928. He took his stage name from the famous wine gums manufacturer. Born in Surrey, he soon made Leicestershire his home. He married Muriel Linnett in 1949 and together they had two children. Muriel sadly died in 1983. Bill re-married in 1989, to Tonia Bern, the widow of the the famous record breaker, Donald Campbell. Following a prolonged bout of ill health in he early 2000s, Bill Maynard was forced to temporarily retire. He had made appearances since however, on television chat shows, on radio and more recently in a documentary about Sid James in 2012. 

Bill lived a long life and a very full life, experiencing highs and lows, as we all do. He was due to celebrate the milestone of turning 90 this October and it's a great shame he won't  now see it. This Summer Bill was due to return to Borehamwood, a town he knew well, having worked regularly at the film studios there back in the 1970s. On a personal note, I was also due to feature an interview with Bill this year but sadly I won't now get the great pleasure of hearing from the man himself about his rich, varied and celebrated career.

Rest in peace, Bill, and thanks for all the laughs.

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and on Instagram

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