Geoffrey Palmer (actor)

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Geoffrey Palmer

Geoffrey Palmer Breath of Fresh Air.JPG
Palmer performing at A Breath of Fresh Air in 2008
Geoffrey Dyson Palmer

(1927-06-04)4 June 1927
London, England
Died5 November 2020(2020-11-05) (aged 93)
Years active1958–2020
Sally Green
(m. 1963)
Children2, including Charles Palmer

Geoffrey Dyson Palmer[1] OBE (4 June 1927 – 5 November 2020) was an English actor. He was best known for his roles in British television sitcoms playing Jimmy Anderson in The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin (1976–79), Ben Parkinson in Butterflies (1978–1983) and Lionel Hardcastle in As Time Goes By (1992–2005). His film appearances include A Fish Called Wanda (1988), The Madness of King George (1994), Mrs Brown (1997) and Tomorrow Never Dies (1997).

Early life and education[edit]

Geoffrey Dyson Palmer was born on 4 June 1927 in London, England. He was the son of Frederick Charles Palmer, who was a chartered surveyor, and Norah Gwendolen (née Robins).[2] He attended Highgate School from September 1939 to December 1945.[3] He served as a corporal instructor in small arms and field training in the Royal Marines during his national service from 1946 to 1948, following which he briefly worked as an unpaid trainee assistant stage manager.[1]


Palmer's early television appearances included multiple roles in episodes of The Army Game (Granada Television), two episodes of The Baron and as a property agent in Cathy Come Home (1966). After a major break in John Osborne's West of Suez at the Royal Court with Ralph Richardson, he acted in major productions at the Royal Court and for the National Theatre Company and was directed by Laurence Olivier in J. B. Priestley's Eden End. Palmer found the play so boring, however, that it put him off a stage career for good.[4]

Two BBC sitcom roles brought him attention in the 1970s: the hapless brother-in-law of Reggie Perrin in The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin (1976–79), and the phlegmatic dentist Ben Parkinson in Butterflies (1978–1983). He also played Doctor Price in the Fawlty Towers episode "The Kipper and the Corpse" (1979), determined to have breakfast amidst the confusion caused by the death of a guest and Fawlty's inept way of handling the emergency. In 1986, Palmer appeared as Donald Fairchild in the first series of an ITV sitcom, Executive Stress, alongside Penelope Keith. He later left, and was replaced by Peter Bowles.

Palmer later starred opposite Judi Dench for over a decade in another BBC sitcom, As Time Goes By (1992–2005). In 1997, he also appeared with Dench in the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies, in which he portrayed Admiral Roebuck, and Mrs Brown, playing Sir Henry Ponsonby to Dench's Queen Victoria.

Palmer's voice-over skills led to frequent work in commercials. Campaigns he was involved with include the 'Slam in the Lamb' ads for the Meat & Livestock Commission and the Audi commercials in which he was heard using the phrase "Vorsprung durch Technik". As a narrator, he worked on the BBC series' Grumpy Old Men and Grumpy Old Holidays, as well as narrating the audiobook version of Dickens' A Christmas Carol, released in 2005 as a podcast by Penguin Books.[5] He narrated the documentary series Little England, and he continued to appear in productions written by Reggie Perrin creator David Nobbs, the last of these being the radio comedy The Maltby Collection broadcast from 2007.

In the 2006 DVD series The Compleat Angler, Palmer partnered Rae Borras in a series of episodes based on Izaak Walton's 1653 The Compleat Angler. In 2007, he recorded The Diary of a Nobody by George Grossmith and Weedon Grossmith as an online audiobook. In December 2007, Palmer appeared in the role of the Captain in "Voyage of the Damned", the Christmas special episode of the BBC science-fiction series Doctor Who;[6] Palmer previously appeared in the classic era of the show in the Third Doctor serials Doctor Who and the Silurians (1970) (as Masters) and The Mutants (1972) (as the Administrator). In March 2009, he joined in a sketch with the two double acts Armstrong and Miller and Mitchell and Webb for Comic Relief. In 2011, he played the reactionary father-in-law of the eponymous clergyman of Rev. in its Christmas episode.

Personal life and death[edit]

Palmer married Sally Green in 1963.[7] They had a daughter, Harriet, and a son, Charles, a television director.[8] Palmer lived at Lee Common in the Chiltern Hills, Buckinghamshire,[9] and enjoyed fly fishing in his spare time.[1][7]

Palmer died at his home on 5 November 2020 following a short illness, aged 93.[10][11][12]

Awards and recognition[edit]

In the New Year's Honours List published 31 December 2004 he was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to drama.[13] A drawing of Palmer by Stuart Pearson Wright is in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery, London.[14]






Recordings (spoken word)[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Geoffrey Palmer, veteran actor best known for the sitcoms Butterflies and As Time Goes By – obituary". The Telegraph. 6 November 2020. Retrieved 6 November 2020.
  2. ^ Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television, vol. 2, ed. Joshua Kondek, Cengage Gale, 1985, p. 232
  3. ^ Tucker, Rodney C. Highgate School Register 1838-1950 (5th ed.). p. 408.
  4. ^ "The Spectator (11 June 2011)". 11 June 2011. Retrieved 13 March 2015.
  5. ^ "The Penguin Podcast: A Christmas Carol – Episode 1". 15 December 2005. Archived from the original on 17 December 2005. Retrieved 13 March 2015.
  6. ^ "Kylie Boards Titanic!". BBC. 11 July 2007. Archived from the original on 25 November 2007. Retrieved 11 July 2007.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Obituary: Geoffrey Palmer". BBC News. 6 November 2020.
  8. ^ Loose Women, 12 December 2011
  9. ^ "Great British Life".
  10. ^ Bawden-Gaul, Scarlett (6 November 2020). "Geoffrey Palmer, actor and anti-HS2 campaigner, dies aged 93". Planet Radio. Retrieved 6 November 2020.
  11. ^ "Geoffrey Palmer, TV and film actor, dies at 93". BBC News. 6 November 2020. Retrieved 6 November 2020.
  12. ^ Coveney, Michael (6 November 2020). "Geoffrey Palmer obituary". The Guardian.
  13. ^ "The London Gazette". 31 December 2004: 12. Retrieved 13 March 2015. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  14. ^ "NPG 6755; Geoffrey Palmer - Portrait - National Portrait Gallery, London". National Portrait Gallery, London. Retrieved 6 November 2020.
  15. ^ "BBC Radio 4 Extra – G. K. Chesterton – The Man Who Was Thursday". BBC. 21 August 2016. Retrieved 21 August 2016.
  16. ^ "The Screwtape Letters".
  17. ^ "BBC Radio 4 – Afternoon Drama, Two Pipe Problems, The Case of the Missing Meerschaum". BBC. 25 December 2013. Retrieved 13 March 2015.
  18. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Geoffrey Palmer". BFI. Retrieved 6 April 2019.
  19. ^ a b "Geoffrey Palmer, TV and film actor, dies at 93". BBC News. 6 November 2020. Retrieved 6 November 2020.

External links[edit]