Bob Grant (actor)
Bob Grant as Jack Harper in On the Buses
|Born||Robert St Clair Grant
21 April 1932
Hammersmith, London, England
|Died||8 November 2003
Twyning, Gloucestershire, England
Cause of death
|Suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning|
|Spouse(s)||Jean Hyett (divorced)
Christine Kemp (divorced)
(m. 1971–2003, his death)
Grant trained as an actor at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, working in his spare time as a frozen food salesman and also (coincidentally, in view of his later career) as a bus driver. After doing national service in the Royal Artillery, he made his stage debut in 1952 as Sydney in Worm's Eye View at the Court Royal, Horsham.
His first London appearance was in The Good Soldier Schweik at the Duke of York's Theatre in 1956, and he spent several years at the Theatre Royal Stratford East before getting the lead role in the musical Blitz! at the Adelphi Theatre in the West End for two years. In 1964 he appeared at the Piccadilly Theatre in Instant Marriage, a musical farce, for which he wrote book and lyrics, with music by Laurie Holloway.
He had by now started to make film appearances, including Sparrows Can’t Sing (1963), the screen version of a play written by his future On the Buses co-star Stephen Lewis in which he had previously acted on stage, and the film version of Till Death Us Do Part (1969). He returned to the Theatre Royal, Stratford, in 1967, and starred in the satirical play Mrs Wilson’s Diary as George Brown, the Foreign Secretary in Harold Wilson’s Labour government – this play later transferred to the West End. When the real-life Brown resigned in 1968, Grant was so concerned that his unflattering portrayal of him as a drunk may have contributed to his resignation that he offered to stand down from the part, but reluctantly continued.
On the Buses
Grant is perhaps best remembered as the randy bus conductor Jack Harper in the television comedy On the Buses, which ran for 74 episodes between 1969 and 1973; he co-wrote 12 episodes with co-star Stephen Lewis (the Inspector). Although some critics thought it was an unfunny and vulgar brand of comedy, it was an instant success with the viewers, and led to three feature films On the Buses (1971), Mutiny on the Buses (1972) and Holiday on the Buses (1973). The series was the peak of his career; when Grant married for the third time in 1971 there were huge crowds outside the register office and the couple had to abandon their hired Rolls-Royce and walk to the reception. A double-decker bus had been provided for the guests, but they had to walk as well.
When On the Buses finished, Grant found himself heavily typecast as Jack Harper and struggled to get other parts. He toured Australia in the farce No Sex Please, We're British, and continued to appear in musicals and pantomimes. In 1975 he starred in a one-off pilot Milk-O, an attempt to reinvigorate his career by means of a similar character, a milkman who spent his time fighting off amorous housewives he was delivering to. However, this did not lead to a series, and Grant never acted for television again. In 1981 he appeared in a touring production of the once-controversial revue Oh! Calcutta!, accompanied by a chorus line of naked men and women less than half his age.
In the 1980s, he suffered from manic depression and other mental problems, because of a lack of work and his vast debts. In 1987 he disappeared from his home in Leicestershire for five days; it later emerged that he had gone to Dublin intending to kill himself. He returned only after a public appeal from his wife. In 1995 he attempted suicide again, and was treated for carbon monoxide poisoning after being found slumped over the wheel of a car filled with exhaust fumes.
His last acting role was in the West End in Hobson's Choice early in 1996. Grant then moved with his wife to Church End Twyning, about a mile south of Twyning, near Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire. He lived very reclusively and neighbours would see him only when he was trimming his hedge.
Grant was found dead in his garage inside his fume-filled car with a hose attached to the exhaust pipe in 2003. He was 71 years old.
- Custom byline text: Brian Pendreigh (2003-11-24). "Bob Grant Actor and writer best remembered for his role as the lecherous bus conductor in On the Buses". Herald Scotland. Retrieved 2013-01-01.
- "Entertainment | On the Buses TV star found dead". BBC News. 2003-11-19. Retrieved 2013-01-01.
- 12:01AM GMT 19 Nov 2003 (2003-11-19). "Bob Grant". Telegraph. Retrieved 2013-01-01.
- Hayward, Anthony "Bob Grant (obituary)", 21 Nov. 2003. Accessed 14 Apr. 2007.