Burke in The Angry Silence
28 February 1918|
Peckham, London, England
16 February 2011 (aged 92)|
Barnes, London, England
Born in London's south-east district of Peckham, the son of Sarah Ann O'Leary and William Burke, he was educated at Leo Street Boys' School and Waltham Central School. Burke started work aged 14, working in a railway repair firm in the City of London after leaving school. He became a club steward and also worked in a silk warehouse, joining a local amateur dramatics group before moving to Morley College and winning a scholarship to RADA in 1937. His acting career started two years later at the Barn Theatre in Shere, Surrey. His budding career was interrupted by the Second World War, when he registered as a conscientious objector, and was directed to work on the land.
In the late 1940s, he worked with the Young and Old Vic and other companies. His London debut was in 1950 at the Watergate Theatre, appearing in Pablo Picasso's play Desire Caught by the Tail. He then spent three years with Birmingham Repertory Theatre (1950–53) and appeared in the 1954 West End hit Sailor Beware!.
Burke built a solid reputation across a wide range of character roles in films and on television. His acting career included: The Angry Silence, Touch and Go, Interpol, Yangtse Incident and Buccaneers, as well as such televised plays as The Tip and Treasure Island.
His most famous role was the enquiry agent Frank Marker in the ABC/Thames television series Public Eye, which ran from 1965 to 1975. His low-key, understated but always compelling portrayal of the down-at-heel private eye made the series one of the most popular and highly rated detective dramas on British television.
After Public Eye ended Burke appeared in a host of guises, from Long John Silver to Pope John Paul II's father. In the television series Minder he appeared in the episode Come in T-64, Your Time Is Ticking Away as Kevin, partner to Arthur Daley in his latest scheme, a minicab service. He was also the formidable headmaster "Thrasher" Harris in Home To Roost. More recently he was seen as Armando Dippet in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
On stage Burke appeared in several productions by the Royal Shakespeare Company, including Richard II, Romeo and Juliet, Roberto Zucco, The Tempest, Peer Gynt, Measure for Measure, Troilus and Cressida, Two Shakespearean Actors, All's Well That Ends Well and Antony and Cleopatra. In 2008 he appeared at the National Theatre as the Shepherd in a new version of Sophocles' Oedipus by Frank McGuinness.
Burke died from a chest infection on 16 February 2011, twelve days before his 93rd birthday, and was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium. He was survived by his wife, Barbara (née Bonelle) and their four children: Jacob and Harriet (twins), and Kelly and Louisa (twins).
- The Kid from Brooklyn (1946) – Dancer (uncredited)
- The Constant Husband (1955) – Porter (uncredited)
- Touch and Go (1955) – Man on the Bridge
- Yangtse Incident: The Story of H.M.S. Amethyst (1957) – Petty Officer
- Interpol (1957) – Vincent Cashling
- Let's Be Happy (1957) – French Ticket Clerk
- The Long Haul (1957) – Drunk in Club (uncredited)
- Bitter Victory (1957) – Lt. Colonel Callander
- High Flight (1957) – Controller, Operations Room
- No Time to Die (1958) – Capt. Ritter
- Law and Disorder (1958) – Willis Pugh – Poacher
- The Man Inside (1958) – Mr. Pritchard
- The Man Upstairs (1958) – Mr. Barnes
- Operation Amsterdam (1959) – Dealer
- Model for Murder (1959) – Podd
- Moment of Danger (1960) – Shapley
- The Angry Silence (1960) – Travers
- The Trials of Oscar Wilde (1960) – Reporter
- Dead Lucky (1960) – Knocker Parsons
- The Pot Carriers (1962) – Lang
- Crooks Anonymous (1962) – Caulfield
- She Knows Y'Know (1962) – Mr. Fox
- Mix Me a Person (1962) – Lumley
- On the Beat (1962) – Trigger O'Flynn
- The Small World of Sammy Lee (1963) – Big Eddie
- The Man Who Finally Died (1963) – Heinrich (uncredited)
- Farewell Performance (1963) – Marlon
- Children of the Damned (1964) – Colin Webster
- The Nanny (1965) – Dr. Wills
- Night Caller from Outer Space (1965) – Detective Supt. Hartley
- Guns in the Heather (1969) – Kersner
- One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (1970) – Alyosha
- The House on Garibaldi Street (1979) – Adolf Eichmann
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002) – Professor Armando Dippet (final film role)
|1963||On the Knocker||Frank|
Selected drama appearances
|1956-64||ITV Play of the Week||Thirteen appearances||Including adaptations of "The Birthday Party" and "The Crucible"|
|1959-69||Armchair Theatre||Six appearances|
|1961-66||The Avengers||Three appearances||"Dragonsfield", "The Maritius Penny", "The Girl from Auntie"|
|1963-64||The Saint||Two appearances||"The Wonderful War" and "Starring the Saint"|
|1965–75||Public Eye||Frank Marker|
|1969||Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased)||Henry Foster||Episode 3: "All Work and No Pay"|
|1978–80||Enemy at the Door||Major Dieter Richter|
|1979||Minder||Kevin||Season 1, Episode 8|
|1980||Tales of the Unexpected||Herbert||Season 3, Episode 1: 'The Flypaper'|
|1981||The Borgias||Giuliano della Rovere||6 Episodes, 1981|
- Dr Rance in What the Butler Saw by Joe Orton. Directed by Braham Murray at the Royal Exchange, Manchester. (1977)
- Serebryakov in Uncle Vanya by Anton Chekhov. Directed by Michael Elliott at the Royal Exchange, Manchester. 1977)
- Vincentio in Measure for Measure. Directed by Braham Murray at the Royal Exchange, Manchester. (1981)
- Dennis Barker (18 February 2011). "Alfred Burke obituary". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 18 February 2011.
- Alfred Burke Film Reference biography
- Oedipus – Productions – National Theatre Archived 5 August 2009 at the Wayback Machine.