|Born||Frank Thornton Ball
15 January 1921
Dulwich, London, England
|Died||16 March 2013
Barnes, London, England
|Spouse(s)||Beryl Jane Margaret Evans
(m. 1945–2013, his death); 1 daughter
Frank Thornton (born Frank Thornton Ball; 15 January 1921 – 16 March 2013) was an English actor. He was known for playing Captain Peacock in Are You Being Served? and its sequel Grace & Favour (Are You Being Served Again), and as Truly in Last of the Summer Wine.
Frank Thornton Ball was born in Dulwich, London, the son of Rosina Mary (née Thornton) and William Ernest Ball. His father was organist at St Stephen's Church, Dulwich, and his son learned to play for a short while. Music proved too difficult for him, however, and he wanted to act from an early age. His father, who worked in a bank, wanted him to get a "proper" job, so he began working in insurance after leaving Alleyn's School. He soon enrolled at a small acting school, the London School of Dramatic Art, and took evening classes. After two years working at the insurance company he was invited to become a day student at the acting school and persuaded his father to finance his studies.
During the Second World War Thornton was evacuated along with the drama school, and his first job was touring with four plays in Ireland, beginning in County Tipperary. After that he served as an airman in the Royal Air Force before ending the war as an officer. From the rank of leading aircraftman he was commissioned as a pilot officer on probation (emergency) on 1 December 1944. On 1 June 1945 his commission was confirmed and he was promoted to flying officer (war substantive). He was demobilised in 1947.
Almost immediately after demobilisation Thornton joined a repertory company. His first credited screen role was in the film Radio Cab Murder (1954). After working on stage and in a few films during the 1950s, he became a familiar face on British television, specialising in comedy. He was a regular on It's a Square World, and appeared in classic British sitcoms such as Hancock ("The Blood Donor", 1961), Sykes, The Goodies and Love Thy Neighbour. He appeared in the Danger Man episode "The Assassin" as Pepe in 1961. He appeared alongside Benny Hill, Frankie Howerd, Harry Worth, Reg Varney and Spike Milligan in their comedy shows. He appeared in five episodes of Steptoe and Son during its original run from 1962 to 1965, and in 1973 appeared in the film Steptoe and Son Ride Again and that year's television Christmas special, the most recurring actor in the series aside from Wilfrid Brambell and Harry H. Corbett.
From 1966 to 1968 he starred in the BBC radio comedy The Embassy Lark, a spin-off of The Navy Lark. He continued to appear in films, mostly comedies, during the 1960s and 1970s, including Carry On Screaming!, alongside Steptoe and Son star Harry H. Corbett, The Early Bird, The Bed Sitting Room, Up the Chastity Belt, Some Will, Some Won't, and No Sex Please, We're British, as well as television sitcom spin-offs. He appeared in The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970) as the one-armed doorman for the Diogenes Club. In 1974, he made a rare dramatic appearance as Prince Albert in the second episode of Fall of Eagles
Thornton was best known for playing Captain Peacock in the long-running BBC comedy series Are You Being Served? from 1972 to 1985. He reprised his role for Grace & Favour from 1992 to 1993. In 1984 he starred as Sir John Treymane in the hit London musical Me and My Girl, earning rave reviews and an Olivier Award nomination. He also guest-starred in an episode of the BBC Radio series of Dad's Army entitled "Ten Seconds from Now" as the BBC producer Willoughby Maxwell-Troughton, who has to coordinate the chaotic platoon as it tries to broadcast to the nation in a morale-boosting Gang Show-style extravaganza. In 1980 he joined John Cleese in the BBC Television Shakespeare production of The Taming of the Shrew.
In 1997 he took the role of Herbert "Truly" Truelove in Last of the Summer Wine, replacing Brian Wilde, who had suggested him for the role. He can also be seen in the film Gosford Park (2001) as Mr Burkett. Thornton was the subject of This Is Your Life in 1998, when he was surprised by Michael Aspel at Pinewood Studios. Following the death of Trevor Bannister on 14 April 2011, Thornton was one of only two surviving members of the original cast of Are You Being Served? (the other being Nicholas Smith, born 1934, who is now the sole survivor of the original cast).
- Radio Cab Murder (1954)
- Battle of the V-1 (1958)
- Tarnished Heroes (1961)
- Victim (1961)
- Trial and Error (1962)
- The Wild Affair (1963)
- The Comedy Man (1964)
- Gonks Go Beat (1965)
- The Big Job (1965)
- The Early Bird (1965)
- The Murder Game (1965)
- A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1966)
- Carry On Screaming! (1966)
- Lucy in London (1966)
- Danny the Dragon (1967)
- The Assassination Bureau (1969)
- Crooks and Coronets (1969)
- The Bed-Sitting Room (1969)
- Some Will, Some Won't (1970)
- The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970)
- The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer (1970)
- Up the Chastity Belt (1971)
- Our Miss Fred (1972)
- Bless This House (1972)
- The Three Musketeers (1973)
- No Sex Please, We're British (1973)
- Spanish Fly (1975)
- Are You Being Served? (1977)
- Gosford Park (2001)
- Run for Your Wife (2013)
- "Frank Thornton profile at FilmReference.com". FilmReference.com. Retrieved 27 January 2012.
- St. Stephen Parish Magazine, Dulwich, London
- Richard Webber (1999). I'm Free! – The Complete Are You Being Served?. Orion Books. ISBN 978-0-7528-1866-5.
- The London Gazette: . 16 February 1945. Retrieved 18 March 2013.
- The London Gazette: . 3 July 1945. Retrieved 18 March 2013.
- "Frank Thornton profile". IMDb. Retrieved 27 January 2012.
- "The A to Z of Dad's Army" Webber,R (Ed): London, Orion, 2000 ISBN 0-7528-1838-4 p174
- "Trevor Bannister, Are You Being Served's Mr Lucas, dies aged 76". The Guardian (Guardian.co.uk). 15 April 2011. Retrieved 2012-01-27.
- "Are You Being Served? star Trevor Bannister dies at the age of 76". BBC. 15 April 2011. Retrieved 27 January 2012.
- "Are You Being Served? actor Frank Thornton dies aged 92". BBC News. 2013-03-18. Retrieved 2013-03-18.
- Official website
- Frank Thornton at the Internet Movie Database
- Frank Thornton recalls his appearance on This Is Your Life