31 August 1924|
Hoxton, London, England, United Kingdom
|Died||2 April 2007
Early life and career
The son of a Hoxton printer and a florist; Sewell left school at the age of 14 and worked briefly in the printing trade before switching to building work, specifically the repair of bomb-damaged houses. He then trained as a Royal Air Force pilot, though too late to see action during the Second World War.
Following his demob, Sewell joined the Merchant Navy, serving as a steward for the Cunard Line on the RMS Queen Mary and RMS Queen Elizabeth for their Atlantic crossings to New York. He worked as a street photographer, assisted a French roller-skating team, and was drummer and assistant road manager of a rumba band. He also travelled Europe as a motor coach courier for a holiday company.
Sewell had not considered acting until, aged 35, he met the actor Dudley Sutton by chance in a pub. Sutton recommended that Sewell audition for a production by Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop of Fings Ain't Wot They Used T'Be. Sewell did so, and made his acting debut as a policeman in the show both at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East and in the West End. He went on to star in two other Littlewood productions, Sparrers Can't Sing (1962) and as Field Marshal Haig in Oh! What a Lovely War (1963), which later opened in Paris and on Broadway. The experience garnered from stage acting led to a long career in both film and television.
For many years, Sewell was the gritty face of crime and law enforcement in a huge array of television series. Amongst his early roles, he was the tallyman in the television play Up The Junction (1965), a criminal who runs off with a teenage girl in Softly, Softly (1966), a hard-nosed building engineer in The Power Game (1965–66), a cowardly informer in Man in a Suitcase (1967), and a seedy private eye in Spindoe (1968). In 1970, he played Colonel Alec Freeman in Gerry Anderson's live-action science-fiction drama UFO.
In 1973, Euston Films re-invigorated the TV series Special Branch, formerly a videotaped series starring Derren Nesbitt. Sewell was brought in to play the lead character of DCI Alan Craven. The show ran for two seasons with Sewell, and served as a stylistic forerunner of crime drama The Sweeney (in which Sewell also appeared, this time as a villain). Sewell was to parody this role as Supt Frank Cottam in the Jasper Carrott/Robert Powell comedy, The Detectives.
Later television appearances include Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1979), in which he played Mendel, and the Doctor Who story Remembrance of the Daleks (1988), in which he played a fascist called Mr Ratcliffe. He also appeared frequently in films, notably This Sporting Life (1963), Poor Cow (1967) and Get Carter (1971).
Personal life and Death
His brother, Danny Sewell, a former boxer, also became an actor.
George Sewell died of cancer at the age of 82.
- This Sporting Life (1963)
- Sparrows Can't Sing (1963)
- The Informers (1963)
- Kaleidoscope (1966)
- Deadlier Than the Male (1967)
- Robbery (1967)
- Poor Cow (1967)
- The Vengeance of She (1968)
- The Haunted House of Horror (1969)
- Doppelgänger (1969)
- Get Carter (1971)
- Diamonds on Wheels (1974)
- Operation Daybreak (1975)
- Barry Lyndon (1975)
- Running Blind (1979)
- Winterspelt (1979)
- If You Go Down in the Woods Today (1981)
- Let's Stick Together (1998)
- Z-Cars (1965–67)
- Paul Temple (1969–71)
- UFO (1970)
- Special Branch (1973–74)
- Rising Damp (Series 1, Episode 5: "The Prowler", 10 January 1975)
- The Sweeney (Series 4, Episode 7: "Bait", 19 October 1978)
- Running Blind (1979)
- Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1979)
- Minder (Series 3, Episode 4: "Rembrandt Doesn't Live Here Any More", 1981)
- Andy Robson (1982–83)
- Home James! (1987–90)
- Doctor Who (Remembrance of the Daleks, 1988)
- The Detectives (1993–97)