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|Born||Robert Michael Bilton
14 December 1919
Cottingham, East Riding of Yorkshire, England
|Died||5 November 1993
Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, England
Michael Bilton (14 December 1919 – 5 November 1993) was an English actor best known for his roles in the British television sitcoms To the Manor Born (playing the gardener and sometime butler Ned) and Waiting for God (playing Basil, a septuagenarian satyr).
He attended Hymers College, Hull. In the Second World War he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant and was wounded at the Battle of El Alamein. After his recovery he began his acting career in repertory theatre.
He had a strong comedic bent and featured in Keeping Up Appearances, One Foot in the Grave and Grace and Favour (1992). He also appeared in Pennies From Heaven, The Saint, The Avengers, The Prisoner, Quatermass II, and The Champions. He also featured in the Doctor Who stories The Massacre of St Bartholomew's Eve, Pyramids of Mars and The Deadly Assassin. He also appeared as the butler Stevens in "The Adventure of Shoscombe Olde Place" episode of The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes; also notable in the cast was Jude Law as an aspiring jockey. Bilton's film appearances included A Taste of Honey, Frenzy and The Fourth Protocol.
Bilton appeared in a well-remembered Yellow Pages television commercial as an elderly gardener receiving a sit-on lawnmower from a couple with a large rear garden. The male half of the couple was played by David Hargreaves, who also appeared in the BBC drama series Juliet Bravo.
Bilton's final role was that of Basil Makepeace in the BBC Sitcom Waiting for God; when filming began in 1990 he was already aged 71. Basil grew in importance throughout the first four series eventually becoming the main supporting character. His final appearance was in the last episode of Series 4. He died shortly after completing filming.
In the Christmas episode 1993, his absence was explained by his character having gone on an "Icelandic wife-swapping cruise" and he is not mentioned again. The character of Basil was "replaced" by Jamie Edwards, Jane's spirited Irish grandfather, who was played by Paddy Ward.
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