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12 October 1929|
Gravesend, Kent, England, United Kingdom
|Died||31 October 2012(aged 83)|
|Education||City of Oxford High School for Boys|
|Alma mater||Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art|
|Occupation||Voice artist and actor
Telephone exchange worker
|Known for||Voice of the Speaking clock (1985–2007)|
|Home town||Oxford, Oxfordshire|
|Parent(s)||Sydney and Amy Cobby|
Cobby was born in Gravesend, Kent, the son of Amy and Sydney Cobby, a retail manager. Sydney had hoped to serve in the Royal Navy like his father and grandfather before him, but was unable to join due to a ruptured eardrum. He instead joined Woolworths and moved around the country managing its stores, finally transferring from Gravesend to Oxford, where Brian spent most of his early years.
Cobby started singing while attending Ealing Academy, before becoming a chorister at Worcester College, Oxford and, later, the City of Oxford High School for Boys, where he won a competition to perform at St Paul's Cathedral. It was during this time that Cobby's love for acting grew, and he visited the Oxford Playhouse every week. One day he noticed an advertisement for a job for a young boy or girl at the Playhouse; this turned out to be sweeping the stage, but the manager encouraged him to continue his studies and later return to acting.
After completing his education, Cobby was called up for National Service at the age of 18, during which time he initially served with the Royal Engineers Postal Service before becoming a corporal and running the officer's mess. He also raised money for the Red Cross by performing puppet shows. He was then approached to work for the British Forces Network radio station in Hamburg, Germany, where he became a disc jockey, interviewer and announcer.
Upon his return to England, he decided to pursue acting, and attended the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art. Cobby's first theatrical part was that of God in a newly translated Strindberg play at the Watergate Theatre, London. During the 1950s, he acted in repertory theatre and toured with productions of Ladies for Hire, Intimate Relations, Peter Pan, Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2 and Macbeth.
During the 1960s, Cobby voiced many television advertisements, including ones for Stork margarine, Surf washing powder and Big Fry, for which George Lazenby's voice was dubbed over with Cobby's. He appeared, albeit briefly, in the film version of Evita (1996), standing next to Madonna in the balcony scene. In 2004, he guest-starred in the Doctor Who audio drama The Creed of the Kromon.
Speaking clock voice
When the machinery behind the speaking clock was due to be replaced in the mid-1980s, British Telecom (now BT plc) launched a search for a new voice from among its employees. More than 5,000 staff entered the "Golden Voice" competition, which ended on 5 December 1984 when Cobby, an assistant supervisor at a telephone exchange in Withdean, Brighton, was selected from 12 finalists. The selection was broadcast live on BBC Breakfast Time from the top of BT Tower. The speaking clock had been voiced by female employees since 1936, and the other 11 finalists were female.
The new speaking clock was inaugurated on 2 April 1985, and Cobby's voice was used until 2 April 2007, when it was replaced with that of Sara Mendes da Costa.
Cobby has frequently been cited as the (uncredited) voice of the countdown that plays during the title sequence of the 1960s puppet TV series Thunderbirds, and indeed said so himself. However, the year that he cites (1965) post-dates the recording of the series, which started in 1964. Although Cobby was contracted by the BBC for a similar recording, this may only have been for a Tracy Island children's toy.
- Question: An actor by the name of Brian Cobby has claimed that he was the voice of the famous '5-4-3-2-1 Thunderbirds are go!' countdown, whereas the voice sounds just like Jeff Tracy voice artist Peter Dyneley. Can you please confirm, just for the record, who the actual voice artist was? Ian Fryer, Bradford, W. Yorks
- Answer: Sorry, but I haven't got a clue who Brian Cobby is, Ian! Does anyone really believe that we'd hire a different actor to record those eight words in preference to the talented team of artists we'd already assembled to perform in the series? I remember the countdown as being one of the hardest voice recording sessions as it wasn't just a case of someone coming in and reading out the lines. The actor had to really emote, and only an actor who had been involved in the production and understood what it was about could really do it. No, anyone who's heard the Thunderbirds countdown knows that it is Peter Dyneley.
Cobby died on 31 October 2012, aged 83, following a series of health problems.
|1960||The Tell-Tale Heart|
|1960||The Nudist Story||Bob Sutton||Lead Role|
|1961||The Breaking Point||Peter de Savory||a.k.a. The Great Armored Car Swindle|
|1961||The Pursuers||Daly||Season 1: Episode 37: "The Contract"|
|1961||The Cheaters||First Mate||Season 1: Episode 10: "The Schemers"|
|1961||Another World: Island of the Solan Goose||Narrator||Documentary for Granada Television|
|1961||Another World: Folk of the Sea||Narrator||Documentary for Granada Television|
|1962||Richard the Lionheart||Captain||Season 1: Episode 21: "A Marriage of Convenience"|
|1962||Fate Takes a Hand||Mark|
|1963||Calculated Risk||Police Constable||Uncredited|
|1964||Sir Basil Spence||Narrator||Associated British Pathé|
|1964||Men of our Time - Hitler||Narrator||Documentary for Granada Television|
|1965||The New Men||Narrator||Associated British Pathé|
|1965||Crane||Lev||Season 3, Episode 12: "The Death of Karloff"|
|1966||The British Motor car||Narrator||Associated British Pathé|
|1972||The Man Outside||Season 1, Episode 1: "The Last Target"|
|1973||The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes||De Beers Director||Season 2, Episode 2: "Five Hundred Carats"|
|1974||Death or Glory Boy||Rifles Major||Season 1, Episode 3: "Early Breakfast"|
|1985||The Detective||Newsreader||Season 1, Episodes 1 and 5|
|1988||Paris By Night||Foreign Secretary|
|2011||Danziger Studios: The Untold Elstree Story||Himself|
- Walker, Emily (4 November 2012). "Speaking clock actor Brian Cobby Dies Aged 83". The Argus. Retrieved 4 November 2012.
- Barker, Dennis (5 November 2012). "Brian Cobby Obituary". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 6 November 2012.
- 10 Things We Didn't Know Last Week - BBC News, November 2005
- Profile published in the Insight between 2001 and 2004 - Voice of the Speaking Clock
- The 22 April 2008 edition of BBC One's University Challenge attributed the voice-over to Cobby.
- "In 1965, I did one of my most famous voice-overs: the countdown for Thunderbirds." - Waitrose Food Illustrated, October 2002
- Gerry Anderson: "Ask Anderson" in FAB News, Issue 58 (Vol. 12, No. 2), p. 11.
- Paley Centre for Media
|Permanent voice of the British Speaking clock
2 April 1985 – 2 April 2007
Sara Mendes da Costa