|Born||Graham William Stark
20 January 1922
Wallasey, Merseyside, England
|Died||29 October 2013
|Occupation||Comedian, actor, writer, director|
Graham William Stark (20 January 1922 – 29 October 2013) was an English comedian, actor, writer and director.
The son of a purser on transatlantic liners, Stark was born in New Brighton (part of Wallasey) on the Wirral in Merseyside, England. He attended Wallasey Grammar School and made his professional stage debut aged 13 in pantomime at the Lyceum Theatre in London.
During the Second World War he served in the Royal Air Force, but did not fly as he was colour blind. While in the RAF, he first met Dick Emery, Tony Hancock and Peter Sellers, the latter two as fellow members of Ralph Reader's Gang Shows. Sellers would become a long-lasting close friend. With the Gang Shows, Stark toured the locations where military personnel were seeing active service. After the war he studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and joined the regulars at Grafton's, a pub in Victoria run by Jimmy Grafton, a venue at which soon-to-be-prominent entertainers of the next few decades regularly gathered.
Stark began to work on BBC Radio in the postwar years, helped by Hancock's connections, making his debut in Happy Go Lucky and going on to Ray's A Laugh, thanks to the intervention of Sellers, For a time he was a regular in Educating Archie and substituted for Spike Milligan on The Goon Show when the comedian was ill. Stark was a regular supporting player on TV with Peter Sellers in A Show Called Fred and Son of Fred, and with Benny Hill. His profile was sufficient for him to gain his own, albeit short-lived, sketch series, The Graham Stark Show (BBC 1964). Now entirely lost, all the editions were scripted by Johnny Speight and each one featured a different group of supporting actors, including Deryck Guyler, Arthur Mullard, Derek Nimmo, Patricia Hayes and Warren Mitchell.
He became a regular performer in the Pink Panther film series. His first role in the series was as Hercule Lajoy, Inspector Clouseau's stonefaced assistant, in A Shot in the Dark (1964). Other than Herbert Lom and Burt Kwouk, he has appeared in more Pink Panther films than any other actor, playing a variety of characters, including reprising Lajoy in Trail of the Pink Panther (1982) and twice playing Dr Auguste Balls (in Revenge of the Pink Panther, 1978; and Son of the Pink Panther, 1993).
Stark gave a moving performance in the film Alfie (1966) as Humphrey, a timid bus conductor who takes on a woman and her child when the title character (played by Michael Caine) refuses commitment. He also played the role of Lord Fortnum's doctor, Captain Pontius Kak, in the original stage play of The Bed-Sitting Room, which opened at the Mermaid Theatre on 31 January 1963. Following the death of James Beck, Stark took over the role of Private Joe Walker in the radio adaptation of Dad's Army.
Stark was also an accomplished stills photographer. He was the last known performer to have appeared on The Goon Show during its original run. In 2003 he published a biography, Stark Naked. He died in London on 29 October 2013 after suffering a stroke. He was 91.
After his death, writer Roger Lewis revealed that, in the late 1960s, Stark formed a relationship with a young schoolgirl, which included writing pornographic letters to her, which when discovered by her relatives resulted in his receiving an official warning and an injunction to keep clear of the girl, her mother having decided she could not face taking the matter to court.
Filmography as actor
- Obituary: Graham Stark, telegraph.co.uk, 31 October 2013
- Robert Sellers "Graham Stark: Actor, author and director who graduated from music hall to the big screen", The Independent, 31 October 2013
- Michael Coveney "Graham Stark obituary", The Guardian, 31 October 2013
- Cheryl Mullin Graham Stark Obituary, Reading Post, 30 October 2013
- Scudamore, Pauline (1985). Spike Milligan: A Biography. London: Granada. ISBN 0-246-12275-7. (a)pp.159-160, (c)pp.203-204
- Lewis, Roger (1995). The Life and Death of Peter Sellers. London: Arrow Books. ISBN 0-09-974700-6.
- "Missing or incomplete episodes for programme The Graham Stark Show", lostshows.com
- Milligan, Spike, & Antrobus, John (1973) The Bedsitting Room. Tandem: London. First published in Great Britain by Margaret & Jack Hobbs, 1970. Published by Universal-Tandem, 1972. © 1970 Spike Milligan and John Antrobus
- McCann, Graham (2006). Spike & Co. London: Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 0-340-89809-7. p.158. McCann cites the doctor's name as Captain Martin. This is possible. There appears to have been variation in names used, certainly between the play and the film, and possibly during the life of the play.
- "Alfie actor Graham Stark dies aged 91". www.mirror.co.uk. Retrieved 31 October 2013.
- "Film actor Graham Stark dies at 91". Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 30 October 2013.
- "Graham Stark, Pink Panther actor, dies aged 91". BBC News. 30 October 2013.
- Roger Lewis. "The stark truth of Peter Sellers' sidekick". The Daily Telegraph., accessed 4 May 2014