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Gorden Kaye in 1974
|Born||Gordon Fitzgerald Kaye
7 April 1941
Huddersfield, West Riding of Yorkshire, England
|Other names||Gordon Kay
Kaye was born in Huddersfield, West Riding of Yorkshire, England, an only child; his mother was 42 when he was born. His father was a wagon driver and in the ARP during the Second World War and at other times worked as an engineer in a tractor factory.
Kaye had appeared in a radio play directed by Alan Ayckbourn and also in a television play from Manchester. Ayckbourn suggested that he audition for the Bolton Octagon Theatre; he was offered a contract and his roles there included Pishchik in The Cherry Orchard followed by roles in The Homecoming, The Imaginary Invalid, Luther and a double-bill of Oedipus and Cyclops.
Having been seen by Pat Phoenix in Little Malcolm at Bolton he came to prominence playing Elsie Tanner's nephew Bernard Butler in the UK's long-running soap opera Coronation Street in 1969. He later made an impression on producer/writer David Croft following guest roles in It Ain't Half Hot Mum, and Come Back Mrs Noah. He appeared in the 1978 comedy short The Waterloo Bridge Handicap starring Leonard Rossiter, and featured as Dimes in the 1979 feature film Porridge alongside Ronnie Barker.
In 1981, Kaye appeared as Frank Broadhurst in the children's drama serial Codename Icarus.
Croft offered him the lead role in a series he had written called Oh, Happy Band! but Kaye was unavailable and the part went to Harry Worth. Oh, Happy Band! disappeared after one series. Kaye also appeared in three episodes of Croft's British department store sitcom Are You Being Served?
He played Dr Grant in a television adaptation of Mansfield Park and Lymoges, Duke of Austria in the 1984 BBC production of King John by Shakespeare. He also toured in the National Theatre production of As You Like It, as Touchstone.
In 1982, David Croft sent Kaye the script for the pilot episode of 'Allo 'Allo! inviting him to play the central character of René Artois. He accepted and appeared in all 84 episodes (1982–92) and 1,200 performances of the stage version.
Kaye returned as Rene Artois in a 2007 one-off television revival of 'Allo 'Allo! and in a stage show in Brisbane, Australia, at the Twelfth Night Theatre in June and July, alongside Sue Hodge as Mimi Labonq and Guy Siner as Lieutenant Gruber. The other characters were portrayed by Australian actors, including Katy Manning, Steven Tandy, Chloe Dallimore, Jason Gann and Tony Alcock.
Kaye is the author of a 1989 autobiography, Rene & Me: A Sort of Autobiography (with Hilary Bonner, ISBN 0-283-99965-9) in which he describes his experiences as a shy, gay, overweight, typecast youth. The unusual spelling of the name Gorden (usually spelt "Gordon") was the result of a British Actors' Equity Association typing error.
Kaye suffered serious head injuries in a car accident during the Burns' Day storm on 25 January 1990. Although he cannot remember any details of the incident, he still has a scar on his forehead from a piece of wooden advertising hoarding that smashed through the car windscreen.
While recovering in hospital from emergency brain surgery to treat injuries sustained in the accident, Kaye was photographed and interviewed by Sunday Sport journalist Roger Ordish. He sued the Sunday Sport, but the Court of Appeal held that there was no remedy in English law for an invasion of privacy. See Kaye v Robertson.
- "Gorden Kaye (1952–59)". The Old Almondburians' Society. Retrieved 6 February 2012.
- BFI database: King John, BBC, 1984.
- Andrew Hirst, "Examiner Community awards Lifetime award for Gorden Kaye", Huddersfield Daily Examiner, 28 September 2005. Retrieved 21 October 2013.
- "Theatre: 'Allo 'Allo - What Went Wrong Here, Then?". 23 June 2007.
- René & me: An Autobiography (with Hilary Bonner). Pan Books, London, Sydney, Auckland, 1990, ISBN 0-283-99965-9), p. 102.
- "On This Day: 25 January, 1990" - BBC Online