Robert St Clair Grant
14 April 1932
|Died||8 November 2003 (aged 71)|
Robert St Clair Grant (14 April 1932 – 8 November 2003) was an English actor, comedian and writer, best known for playing bus conductor Jack Harper in the television sitcom On the Buses, as well as its film spin-offs and stage version.
Grant trained as an actor at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, working in his spare time as a frozen food salesman and also (coincidentally, in view of his later career) as a bus driver. After doing national service in the Royal Artillery, he made his stage debut in 1952 as Sydney in Worm's Eye View at the Court Royal, Horsham.[a] In 1954, he married Jean Hyett; the marriage would end in divorce.
Grant's first London appearance was in The Good Soldier Schweik at the Duke of York's Theatre in 1956, and he spent several years at the Theatre Royal Stratford East before getting the lead role in the musical Blitz! at the Adelphi Theatre in the West End for two years. In 1962, he married for the second time, to Christine Sally Kemp; they later divorced. In 1964, he appeared at the Piccadilly Theatre in Instant Marriage, a musical farce, for which he wrote the book and lyrics, with music by Laurie Holloway.
Grant had by now started to make film appearances, including Sparrows Can't Sing (1963),[b] and the film version of Till Death Us Do Part (1969).[c] He returned to the Theatre Royal, Stratford, in 1967, and starred in the satirical play Mrs Wilson's Diary as George Brown, the Foreign Secretary in Harold Wilson's Labour government; this play later transferred to the West End. After George Brown's resignation from the Government on 15 March 1968, the character of George Brown was switched with Barbara Castle, as the plot required a cabinet minister.
In January of that year, Grant appeared as The Major in a six-part radio comedy drama The 17-Jewelled Shockproof Swiss-Made Bomb, featuring Peter Coke. It was written by Roy Clarke and produced by Alan Ayckbourn. The programne was transmitted on the BBC Light Programme.
On the Buses
Grant played the bus conductor Jack Harper in the television sitcom On the Buses, which ran for 74 episodes between 1969 and 1973; he co-wrote 11 episodes, and one special, with co-star Stephen Lewis (who played Blakey, the Inspector). It was an instant success with the viewers, and led to three feature films On the Buses (1971), Mutiny on the Buses (1972) and Holiday on the Buses (1973). He was in a relationship with guest star Gaye Brown, until he broke up with her to date (and eventually marry) Kim Benwell. The series was the peak of his career; when Grant married for the third time in 1971, there were huge crowds outside the register office, and the couple had to abandon their hired Rolls-Royce and walk to the reception. A double-decker bus had been provided for the guests, but they had to walk as well.
Later years and death
When On the Buses finished, Grant found himself heavily typecast as Jack Harper and struggled to get other parts. He toured Australia in the farce No Sex Please, We're British, and continued to appear in musicals and pantomimes. In 1975, he wrote and starred in a one-off pilot Milk-O alongside his On the Buses co-star Anna Karen, an attempt to reinvigorate his career by means of a similar character, a milkman who spent his time fighting off amorous housewives he was delivering to. However, this did not lead to a series, and Grant never acted for television again. In 1981, he appeared in a touring production of the once-controversial revue Oh! Calcutta!, accompanied by a chorus line of naked men and women less than half his age.
In 1980, Grant played the title role in John Arden's BBC radio adaptation of Don Quixote, with Bernard Cribbins as Sancho Panza. In 1986, he played a cockney detective inspector in The Red Telephone Box, a comedy thriller by Ken Whitmore on BBC Radio 4. On stage he later played Autolycus in Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale for the Birmingham Repertory Theatre.
In the 1980s, he suffered from depression, bipolar disorder and other mental health problems, because of a lack of work and his considerable debts. This eventually led to a suicide attempt. In 1987, he disappeared from his home in Leicestershire for five days; it later emerged that he had taken the ferry to Dublin intending to kill himself. "I was in a horrible state", Grant said during an interview with Pamela Armstrong after the event, "I just had to get out of the house. I left the house and thumbed a lift to Melton Mowbray, and then got a train to Birmingham New Street where I sat sobbing in a station buffet. Everyone ignored me. Normally I get asked in the street something like 'When you back on telly then?', but not this time".
Grant started to write his first note to Kim, intending her to receive it after he had killed himself. "Tears streamed down my face as I wrote", he recalled. After hours of pounding the streets of Birmingham, Grant instead caught the ferry to Dublin, "It was a horrible night on that boat", he continued. "I'd been to Dublin before and it seemed such a nice place. I wanted to end it all, either by jumping in the River Liffey or ironically under a bus." Grant stayed at a guesthouse in Dublin to think things over. He called Kim, but there was no answer; she was at the time filming an appeal to find him. On the strength of the appeal, Grant eventually returned to England, where his absence had caused a small stir, which allowed him to gain a few more acting jobs.
In 1990, it was announced that On the Buses would be revived as a new show called Back on the Buses, and the entire cast, including Grant, Reg Varney, Stephen Lewis, Doris Hare, Michael Robbins and Anna Karen would appear on Wogan. Back on the Buses eventually fell through when funding from STV was not forthcoming. The project was to have been backed by STV's executive producer Bryan Izzard who had produced seven episodes of the series and the final spin-off film, Holiday on the Buses.
A further long gap in employment led to another suicide attempt in 1995, this time by carbon monoxide poisoning. Grant was discovered just in time, slumped over the steering wheel of his car, which was filled with exhaust fumes, and admitted to hospital for treatment. He and Kim took a holiday to Goa in India to recover and on their return, it seemed things were finally going right again. They moved to a small cottage in Church End Twyning, about a mile south of Twyning, near Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire with the ambition of making a fresh start. Grant lived very reclusively and neighbours would only see him when he was trimming his hedge. His last acting role was in Funny Money at Devonshire Park Theatre from July 1998. His "new life" did not last, as once more substantial bills continued to arrive and work did not. In despair, Grant made a third and final suicide attempt in 2003. This time he succeeded, dying in his fume-filled car in his garage with a hose attached to the exhaust pipe, and was found dead soon after.
|1959||I'm All Right Jack||Card player||Uncredited: Four workers playing cards behind the pallets. Grant is on the left and nearest the camera. The other three card players were played by David Lodge, Keith Smith, and Kenneth J. Warren|||
|1960||The Criminal||Prisoner||Uncredited||: 191 |
|1963||Sparrows Can't Sing||Perce|||
|1965||Help!||Cameo||Grant's scenes were cut from the film|||
|1969||Till Death Us Do Part||Man in Pub||: 873 |
|1971||On the Buses||Jack Harper||: 630|
|1972||Mutiny on the Buses||Jack Harper||: 630|
|1973||Holiday on the Buses||Jack Harper||: 630|
The following is a list of television programmes in which Grant was involved.
|1959||Quatermass and the Pit||The Wild Hunt||BBC One||Ted (Electrical technician — uncredited)||Series 1, Episode 5|||
|1959||Quatermass and the Pit||Hob||BBC One||Ted (Electrical technician — uncredited)||Series 1, Episode 6. He was electrocuted while laying a power cable inside the chamber|||
|1961||Sir Francis Drake||The Doughty Plot||Independent Television||Clements|||
|1963||No Hiding Place||Solomon Dancey's Luck||Independent Television||Alexander Mudgeon|||
|1964||Armchair Theatre||A Jug of Bread||Independent Television||Ben|||
|1964||The Plane Makers||Appointment in Brussels||Independent Television||Antique Dealer||Series 3, Episode 11|||
|1965||Merry-Go-Round||The Incredible Adventures of Professor Branestawm||BBC One||Professor Branestawm||Broadcast as part of the Merry-Go-Round children's education series|||
|1967||Softly, Softly||James McNeil, Aged 23||BBC One||Napier||Series 2, Episode 12|||
|1968||Z-Cars||Punch-Up: Part 1||BBC One||Ted Griffin||Series 6, Episode 157|||
|1968||Z-Cars||Punch-Up: Part 2||BBC One||Ted Griffin||Series 6, Episode 158|||
|1969||Mrs. Wilson's Diary||Independent Television||George Brown||It was scheduled originally to be broadcast on 23 November 1968[d]|||
|1969–1973||On the Buses||Independent Television||Jack Harper||Grant appeared in all 74 episodes and as a writer with Stephen Lewis for a number of episodes from series 5 onwards|||
|1969||All Star Comedy Carnival||Independent Television||Jack Harper|||
|1970||Comedy Playhouse||The Jugg Brothers||BBC One||Robert Jugg||Written by Grant and Stephen Lewis. Comedy pilot for Series 9 of the Comedy Playhouse|||
|1970||The Borderers||The Quacksalver||BBC Two||William Peck||Series 2, Episode 7|||
|1970||This Is Your Life||Reg Varney||Independent Television||Himself||Series 10, Episode 25|||
|1971||This Is Your Life||Doris Hare||Independent Television||Himself||Series 12, Episode 7|||
|1972||All Star Comedy Carnival||Independent Television||Jack Harper||The On the Buses segment was written by Grant and Stephen Lewis|||
|1975||It's a Celebrity Knockout||Craven Cottage||BBC One||Himself|||
|1975||Comedy Premiere||Milk-o||Independent Television||Jim Wilkins||Written by Grant and Anthony Marriott|||
|1987||Daytime||The price of fame: in and out of the public eye||ITV||Himself||Discussion show with Sarah Kennedy|||
|1990||Wogan||Interview||BBC One||Himself||Interview with the former cast of On the Buses about plans to revive the series as "Back on the Buses"|||
- Marriott, Anthony; Grant, Bob (1978). Darling Mr. London: a farce. London: Samuel French. ISBN 978-0-573-11113-6. OCLC 1038431648.
- Marriott, Anthony; Grant, Bob (1978). No room for love: a farce. London: Samuel French. ISBN 978-0-573-11310-9. OCLC 5379828.
- Marriott, Anthony; Grant, Bob (1991). Home is where your clothes are: a comedy in two acts. London: Samuel French. ISBN 978-0-573-01789-6. OCLC 26310819.
- Anthony Hayward in Grant's obituary, and Ian Herbert in Grant's Who's who entry, both state that Grant's stage début was in Worm's Eye View at the Court Royal, Horsham, in November 1952. However, there was no advertised production of Worm's Eye View at the Court Royal for that year and it is doubtful that this was Grant's début. A production of the play was staged at the theatre from the 4 May 1953 for six days.
- The screen version of a play written by his future On the Buses co-star Stephen Lewis, in which he had previously acted on stage.
- He appeared with Michael Robbins, another future On the Buses co-star.
- The Independent Television Authority (ITA) objected to certain scenes that characterised George Brown, the former Foreign Secretary, as a drunk. London Weekend Television refused to make the cuts requested by the ITA, but eventually backed down, and the scenes were reshot.
- Herbert, Ian (1977). Who's who in the theatre: a biographical record of the contemporary stage (16th ed.). London: Pitman. pp. 668–669. ISBN 978-0-273001-63-8. OCLC 1036916139. Retrieved 14 April 2021.
"Bob Grant". The Times. 24 November 2003. p. 27. ISSN 0140-0460. ProQuest 318985488. Retrieved 7 April 2021.
Bob Grant's obituary.
Hayward, Anthony (21 November 2003). "Bob Grant Obituary". The Independent. p. 21. ISSN 0951-9467. OCLC 185201487. Archived from the original on 25 April 2019. Retrieved 5 April 2021.
Lothario conductor in the sitcom 'On the buses'
- "Theatre Royal, Carfax, Horsham". West Sussex County Times. 1 May 1953. p. 4. OCLC 469839222. Retrieved 15 May 2021 – via British Newspaper Archive.
- "Jean Hyett to marry". The Stage. 4 November 1954. p. 16. ISSN 0038-9099. Retrieved 7 April 2021 – via British Newspaper Archive.
- Hope, Michael (2021). "Production of Blitz". theatricalia.com. Archived from the original on 8 October 2020. Retrieved 5 April 2021.
- "Name change for Albery/Rix Musical". The Stage. 16 July 1964. p. 1. ISSN 0038-9099. Retrieved 7 April 2021 – via British Newspaper Archive.
- Stewart, John (2006). Broadway musicals, 1943 to 2004. Jefferson: McFarland & Company. p. 723. ISBN 978-0-7864-2244-9. OCLC 61362150. Retrieved 7 April 2020.
- "Sparrows Can't Sing". www.bfi.org.uk. London: British Film Institute. 1963. Archived from the original on 15 October 2023. Retrieved 15 October 2023.
- Ellis, Frank (2021). "Production of Sparrers Can't Sing, by Stephen Lewis". theatricalia.com. Archived from the original on 12 April 2019. Retrieved 5 April 2021.
- "Till Death Us Do Part (1969)". British Film Institute. 2021. Archived from the original on 16 October 2023. Retrieved 16 October 2023.
- "Mrs Wilson's Diary". Guide to Musical Theatre. 2021. Archived from the original on 9 October 2020. Retrieved 5 April 2021.
- "Mr. George Brown resigns". Birmingham Daily Post. 16 March 1968. p. 1. OCLC 1080828265. Retrieved 7 April 2021 – via British Newspaper Archive.
- "Poor George Brown". Daily Mirror. 1 April 1968. p. 11. OCLC 11996384. Retrieved 7 April 2021 – via British Newspaper Archive.
- "Roy Clarke - The 17-Jewelled Shockproof Swiss-Made Bomb". BBC Online. London. 2 January 1968. Archived from the original on 4 April 2021. Retrieved 4 April 2020.
- Pendreigh, Brian (14 November 2003). "Bob Grant Actor and writer best remembered for his role as the lecherous bus conductor in On the Buses". Herald Scotland. ISSN 0965-9439. OCLC 29991088. Archived from the original on 27 March 2018. Retrieved 5 April 2021.
- "The Monday Play: The Adventures of the Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote de la Mancha". Radio Times. No. 2968. London: BBC Magazines. 25 September 1980. p. 55. ISSN 0033-8060. Archived from the original on 10 April 2021. Retrieved 24 May 2021.
- "The Afternoon Play: The Red Telephone Box". Radio Times. No. 3248. London: BBC Magazines. 20 February 1986. p. 67. ISSN 0033-8060. Archived from the original on 10 April 2021. Retrieved 24 May 2021.
- Walters, Matthew (March 1986). "On the Air". Plays and Players. No. 390. London: Brevet Publishing Limited. p. 40. ISSN 0032-1559. OCLC 2243805.
- "Brum's own special arts Grant". Sandwell Evening Mail. 28 February 1986. p. 25. OCLC 52228801. Retrieved 10 April 2021 – via British Newspaper Archive.
- Fisher, Tex; Wolfe, Ronald; Chesney, Ronald (2011). I 'ate you butler!: The making of On the Buses. Elland: Deck Chair Publishing. p. 53. ISBN 978-0-9565634-1-5. OCLC 806192755.
- Walker, Craig (2010). On The Buses: the Complete Story. Luton: Andrews UK Ltd. p. 26. ISBN 978-1-907792-16-8. OCLC 651600660.
- "Bob Grant". The Daily Telegraph. 19 November 2003. ISSN 0307-1235. OCLC 49632006. Archived from the original on 11 April 2020. Retrieved 5 April 2021.
- "Eastbourne. Funny Money". The Stage. 16 July 1998. p. 14. ISSN 0038-9099. Retrieved 5 April 2021 – via British Newspaper Archive.
Grant, Bob (1959). I'm All Right Jack (Motion picture trailer). StudioCanal Ltd. Event occurs at 41 seconds.
- Halliwell, Leslie (2003). Halliwell's film guide 2004. New York: HarperResource. ISBN 978-0-007167-12-8. OCLC 1052808936. Retrieved 5 April 2021.
- Grant, Bob (1960). The Criminal (Motion picture trailer). StudioCanal Ltd. Event occurs at 1 minute 56 seconds.
- Watson, Albert (10 May 1975). "Off the buses and on to the milk float". Newcastle Evening Chronicle. p. 5. ISSN 0960-3573. Retrieved 5 April 2021 – via British Newspaper Archive.
- Whitehall Theatre (1969). Pyjama Tops Programme (Report). London: Paul Raymond Organisation Ltd. p. 5.
- Dobermann, Harry (1968). "Till Death us do Part". dobermann.wymark.org.uk. Archived from the original on 22 March 2020. Retrieved 5 April 2021.
Grant, Bob (19 January 1959). Quatermass and the Pit — The Wild Hunt (Television). BBC. Event occurs at 31 minutes 16 seconds. Archived from the original on 22 March 2020. Retrieved 5 April 2021.
Come on Ted
- Cater, Martin (28 February 2019). "On the Buses at 50". London. Archived from the original on 31 July 2019. Retrieved 5 April 2021.
Grant, Bob (26 January 1959). Quatermass and the Pit — Hob (Television). BBC. Event occurs at 2 minutes 12 seconds. Archived from the original on 10 March 2020. Retrieved 5 April 2021.
Has been electrocuted
- "The Doughty Plot". www.bfi.org.uk. London: British Film Institute. 1961. Archived from the original on 15 October 2023. Retrieved 15 October 2023.
- "Solomon Dancey's Luck". www.bfi.org.uk. London: British Film Institute. 1963. Archived from the original on 15 October 2023. Retrieved 15 October 2023.
- White, Leonard (2003). Armchair Theatre: The Lost Years. Tiverton: Kelly Publications. p. 116. ISBN 978-1-903053-18-8. OCLC 53030738. Retrieved 5 April 2021.
- "Weekend Broadcasting". The Times. 16 May 1964. p. 12. ISSN 0140-0460. Gale CS202729136. Archived from the original on 26 May 2021. Retrieved 4 June 2021.
- "Appointment in Brussels Writer John Gray Director Peter Collinson". wymark.org.uk. 29 December 1964. Archived from the original on 22 March 2020. Retrieved 5 April 2021.
- "Genome Project". Radio Times. London: BBC. 2005. ISSN 0961-8872. OCLC 265408915. Archived from the original on 22 May 2021. Retrieved 24 May 2021.
- Billany, Fred (22 November 1968). "Why Mrs W's Diary was scrapped". Newcastle Journal. p. 1. ISSN 0307-3645. Retrieved 5 April 2021 – via British Newspaper Archive.
- "Programme Highlights". Reading Evening Post. 4 January 1969. p. 9. ISSN 1353-9264. Retrieved 5 April 2021 – via British Newspaper Archive.
- "All On the Buses Episodes 1969–1973". British Comedy Guide. London. 1969. Archived from the original on 22 March 2020. Retrieved 5 April 2021.
Jackson, Peter, ed. (20 December 1969). "6.0 All Star Comedy Carnival 8.30" (JPEG). TVTimes. London: Independent Television Publications. p. 49. ISSN 0962-1660. Archived from the original on 22 March 2020. Retrieved 5 April 2021.
Christmas 1969 & New Year Double Issue. Des O'Connor in Santa hat and beard, cover design by John Farman
- "This Is Your Life Season 10. Episode 25: Reg Varney". www.radiotimes.com. London: Immediate Media Company Limited. 20 May 1970. Archived from the original on 3 December 2022. Retrieved 3 December 2022.
Doris Hare (29 December 1971). This Is Your Life (Television). Independent Television. Event occurs at 2 minutes 59 seconds. Archived from the original on 10 August 2017. Retrieved 5 April 2021.
- "All Star Comedy Carnival". www.bfi.org.uk. London: British Film Institute. 1972. Archived from the original on 15 October 2023. Retrieved 15 October 2023.
- "ATV plan to find fresh sit com. Network plays to be seen next month". The Stage. 15 May 1975. p. 11. ISSN 0038-9099. Retrieved 5 April 2021 – via British Newspaper Archive.
- "ITV/London". The Times. 24 March 1987. p. 41. ISSN 0140-0460. Gale IF0500037491.
- Fulton, Graham (27 March 1990). "Pitlochry theatre set for successful season". Perthshire Advertiser. p. 4. ISSN 1462-7205. Retrieved 5 April 2021 – via British Newspaper Archive.
- Rankin, Peter (2014). Joan Littlewood: Dreams and Realities. The Official Biography. London: Oberon Books. ISBN 978-1-78319-583-1. OCLC 1039537894. Retrieved 5 April 2021.