Bernard Miles

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Lord Miles Allan Warren.jpg
Bernard Miles in 1974 (with his parrot, Jack Sprat) by Allan Warren
Member of the House of Lords
Lord Temporal
In office
7 February 1979 – 14 June 1991
Life Peerage
Personal details
Bernard James Miles

(1907-09-27)27 September 1907
Uxbridge, Middlesex, England
Died14 June 1991(1991-06-14) (aged 83)
Knaresborough, North Yorkshire, England
Spouse(s)Josephine Wilson
(m. 19??; died 1990)
Children3, including John Miles

Bernard James Miles, Baron Miles, CBE (27 September 1907 – 14 June 1991) was an English character actor, writer and director.[1] He opened the Mermaid Theatre in London in 1959, the first new theatre that opened in the City of London since the 17th century.[2]

He was known for playing character roles that usually had bucolic backgrounds or links to countrymen. His strong accent was typical of rustic dialects associated with the counties of Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire. His pleasant rolling bass-baritone voice made him a regular presence on the stage and in films for more than fifty years. In addition to his acting, he was a voice-over artist and published author.

Early life[edit]

Miles was born in Uxbridge, Middlesex, and attended Bishopshalt School in Hillingdon. His father was a farm labourer and his mother a cook. After completing his education at Pembroke College, Oxford, he entered the theatre in the 1930s.


In addition to his theatre work, Miles began appearing in British feature films in the mid-1930s. He featured prominently in several patriotic movies made during the Second World War, such as In Which We Serve and One of Our Aircraft Is Missing. He also had an uncredited role in The First of the Few (released in the US as Spitfire). His best known film role was as Joe Gargery in the David Lean version of Great Expectations (1946).

By the 1950s, he had started to work in television. In 1951 he played Long John Silver in a British TV version of Treasure Island. A decade later he reprised the role for a performance of Treasure Island at the Mermaid Theatre in the winter of 1961–62, where the cast included Spike Milligan as Ben Gunn.[3]

Miles was always keen to promote up-and-coming talent. Impressed with the writing of English playwright John Antrobus, he introduced him to Spike Milligan, which led to the production of the one-act play The Bed Sitting Room. It was later expanded and staged by Miles at Mermaid Theatre on 31 January 1963, with critical and commercial success.[4][5][6]

Miles was also known for his comic monologues, often delivered with a rural dialect, which were issued on record albums.[7]

Personal life[edit]

Miles was married to the British stage and film actress Josephine Wilson until her death in 1990. They had two daughters, actress Sally Miles and artist Bridget Miles; and a son, John Miles, a Grand Prix driver with Lotus in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Miles was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1953,[8] was knighted in 1969,[9] and was created a life peer as Baron Miles, of Blackfriars in the City of London, on 7 February 1979.[10] He was only the second British actor to receive a peerage, after Laurence Olivier.[11]


Miles wrote several books, including The British Theatre (1947), God's Brainwave (1972) and Favourite Tales from Shakespeare (1972).

Robin Hood – His Life and Legend was published in 1979, illustrated by future Time Team artist Victor Ambrus. In 1981, Miles co-authored Curtain Calls with J. C. Trewin.


Miles died in Knaresborough, North Yorkshire, on 14 June 1991 at age 83.

He was born in the same year, and died on the same day, as the actress Peggy Ashcroft.[12]




  • Nathaniel Titlark (1956-1957, Woodsman, 10 Episodes, BBCTV. Lost) (with Maureen Pryor as Jessie Titlark) – Nathaniel Titlark


  1. ^ "Bernard Miles". BFI.
  2. ^ "Bernard Miles | British actor". Retrieved 27 April 2016.
  3. ^ Scudamore, Pauline (1985). Spike Milligan: A Biography. London: Granada. ISBN 0-246-12275-7. p.198
  4. ^ Scudamore(1985) pp.200, 203–204
  5. ^ McCann, Graham (2006). Spike & Co. London: Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 0-340-89809-7. p.157
  6. ^ Antrobus, John (2002). Surviving Spike Milligan: A Voyage Through the Mind & Mirth of the Master Goon. London: Robson Books. ISBN 0-246-12275-7. pp.69–70
  7. ^ "Bernard Miles | Britmovie | Home of British Films". Archived from the original on 30 May 2016. Retrieved 27 April 2016.
  8. ^ "No. 39732". The London Gazette (Supplement). 1 January 1953. p. 11.
  9. ^ "No. 44968". The London Gazette. 20 November 1969. p. 11119.
  10. ^ "No. 47766". The London Gazette. 9 February 1979. p. 1852.
  11. ^ Obituary. The New York Times 15 June 1991
  12. ^ "British theatre loses two titans". The Times. 15 June 1991.
  13. ^ "Release date for The Magic Box". Retrieved 27 April 2016.

External links[edit]