25 February 1934
Stepney, London, England
|Died||11 June 1993
Enfield, London, England
|Spouse(s)||Betty Wright (1959–1993)|
|Awards||Most Promising Newcomer Variety Club of Great Britain|
Bernard Bresslaw was born into a Jewish family in Stepney, London, on 25 February 1934. He attended the Coopers' Company's School in Tredegar Square, Bow, London E3. His father was a tailor's cutter and he became interested in acting after visits to the Hackney Empire. London County Council awarded him a scholarship to train at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art where he won the Emile Littler Award as the most promising actor. After Educating Archie on radio and The Army Game on television, more television, film and Shakespearean theatre roles followed, until his big break when he was cast in Carry on Cowboy in 1965.
He featured as Varga, the lead villain in the 1968 Doctor Who story The Ice Warriors. Even though all the actors playing the aliens were over six feet tall, Bresslaw towered over them. Sonny Caldinez, who played an Ice Warrior in the story, stated in a 2004 interview that Bresslaw "was the only man that could make me feel small."
Although officially starring in 14 Carry On films, Bresslaw did appear in one other: Carry On Nurse. The legs of Terence Longdon were deemed to be too thin and scrawny looking, so Bresslaw's were used as stand-ins for the scene where Joan Sims gives him a bath.
Bresslaw's catchphrase, in his strong Cockney accent, was "I only arsked" (sic), first used in The Army Game, and later revived in Carry On Camping (1969). In his fleeting appearance as an angry lorry driver in the 1970 film Spring and Port Wine, his character was dubbed.
Bresslaw, at 6 ft 7 in (2.01 m), was the tallest of the Carry On cast, head and shoulders over fellow Carry On regular, Barbara Windsor, who is 4 ft 10 in (1.47 m). Because of his height he was briefly considered for the part of the Creature in Hammer's Curse of Frankenstein (1957), which ultimately went instead to 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m) Christopher Lee. Bresslaw later made a comedy version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for Hammer titled The Ugly Duckling (1959). He made great efforts to prepare for roles, for example learning genuine Swahili phrases for Carry On Up the Jungle (1970).
- The Adventures of Robin Hood: The Black Patch as Sir Dunstan's Captain
- The Army Game
- Our House (1961-1962) 22 episodes
- 3 Carry On Christmas Specials and Carry On Laughing
- Danger Man: The Outcast, as Leo (1964)
- Doctor Who serial The Ice Warriors (1967) as Varga, an Ice Warrior
- The Goodies
- The Book Tower
- Terry and June
- Up in the World (1956)
- Blood of the Vampire (1958)
- I Only Arsked! (1958)
- The Ugly Duckling (1959)
- Too Many Crooks (1959)
- Carry On Cowboy (1965)
- Carry On Screaming! (1966)
- Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment (1966)
- Follow That Camel (1967)
- Carry On Doctor (1967)
- Carry On... Up the Khyber (1968)
- Carry On Camping (1969)
- Moon Zero Two (1969)
- Carry On Up the Jungle (1970)
- Carry On Loving (1970)
- Up Pompeii (1971)
- The Magnificent Seven Deadly Sins (Avarice segment) (1971)
- Carry On at Your Convenience (1971)
- Carry On Matron (1972)
- Carry On Abroad (1972)
- Carry On Girls (1973)
- Carry On Dick (1974)
- Carry On Behind (1975)
- One of Our Dinosaurs Is Missing (1975)
- In the Movies it Doesn't Hurt (Educational short, several roles) (1975)
- Jabberwocky as "The Landlord" (1977)
- Hawk the Slayer as "Gort" (1980)
- Krull (1983)
- Asterix and the Big Fight (animation) as voice of "Obelix" (1989)
- Leon the Pig Farmer (1993)
- Bernard Bresslaw: A Story About Bernard Breslaw "as Joe" (2009)
UK chart singles
- "Mad Passionate Love/You Need Feet" (1958)
- "The Army Game/What Do We Do in the Army?" (1958) Michael Medwin, Bernard Bresslaw, Alfie Bass & Leslie Fyson
- "Charlie Brown/The Teenager's Lament" (1959)
- "Ivy Will Cling/I Found a Hole" (1959)
Bresslaw performed with the Young Vic Theatre Company, the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre. One of his last stage performances was as Malvolio in Twelfth Night at the Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park (1990), where he demonstrated the fine line between pathos and comedy to perfection.
He also played the genie on the Sooty Show.
He also voiced Gorilla on The Giddy Game Show.
His song "You Need Feet" (a parody of "You Need Hands" by Max Bygraves) was used in the Rutles' TV special, accompanying the Yoko Ono film parody "A Thousand Feet of Film". This was cut from the syndicated version and the original DVD release, but was restored (along with other cut footage) in later DVD releases.
Bresslaw, together with Miriam Margolyes, appeared with English comedienne Maureen Lipman in a series of British Telecom advertisements in the late 1980s. Bresslaw and Margoyles played Gerald and Dolly, a nervous couple who drop in unannounced on Lipman's character Beattie and her husband Harry.
Personal life and death
Bresslaw was married to dancer Betty Wright from 1959 until his death. They had three sons: James, Mark and Jonathan.
Bresslaw died of a sudden heart attack on 11 June 1993. He had collapsed in his dressing room at the Open Air Theatre in Regent's Park, London, where he was to play Grumio in the New Shakespeare Company's production of Taming of the Shrew, the day after the death of fellow comedy performer Les Dawson. He was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium, where his ashes are buried.
Bresslaw was the author of a privately published volume of poetry, Ode to the Dead Sea Scrolls.
- "Carry On’s Bernard Bresslaw «". Eastlondonhistory.com. 2010-11-06. Retrieved 2012-04-16.
- Donnelley, Paul (2003). Fade to Black: A Book of Movie Obituaries. Omnibus Press. p. 118.
- Marcus, Laurence (2006-08-28). "I Only Arsked: The Life and Work of Bernard Bresslaw". Teletronic. Retrieved 2008-08-08.
- "National service with a smile". Bristol Evening Post (Northcliffe Newspapers Group). 2006-05-30. Retrieved 2008-08-08.
- Rennie, John (2006). London History: 100 Faces of the East End. Lulu.com. p. 69.
- Ross, Robert; Collins, Phil (2002). The Carry on Companion. Batsford. p. 181.
- "Les Dawson". Britannica Online Encyclopedia. Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2008-08-08.
- Harris, John (2007-03-09). "Whole lotta love". The Guardian (Guardian News and Media). Retrieved 2008-08-08.
- Bresslaw, Bernard (1977). Ode to the Dead Sea Scrolls. New Broom Private Press. ISBN 0-901870-28-5.