Hywel Thomas Bennett
8 April 1944
|Died||24 July 2017 (aged 73)|
|Alma mater||Royal Academy of Dramatic Art|
(m. 1970; div. 1988)
Sandra Layne Fulford
|Relatives||Alun Lewis (brother)|
Amelia Warner (niece)
Hywel Thomas Bennett[a] (8 April 1944 – 24 July 2017) was a Welsh film and television actor. Bennett is perhaps best known for his leading roles in films including The Family Way (1966) and for playing the titular "thinking man's layabout" James Shelley in the television sitcom Shelley (1979–1992).
Bennett played opposite Hayley Mills in The Family Way, Twisted Nerve (1968) and Endless Night (1972). Other notable film roles include Private Brigg in the comedy The Virgin Soldiers (1969), Dennis in Loot (1970) and Edwin Antony in Percy (1971). Bennett's character, Ricki Tarr, was pivotal in the BBC serial adaptation of John le Carré's Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1979). In later years, he was often cast in villainous roles including Mr Croup in Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere (1996), Peter Baxter in ITV police drama The Bill (2002) and crime boss Jack Dalton in EastEnders (2003).
Bennett was born on 8 April 1944 in Garnant, Carmarthenshire, Wales, the son of Sarah Gwen (née Lewis) and Gorden Bennett. His first language was Welsh, but he learnt to speak English in an accent he called "London-Welsh" after the family moved to south London when he was four. He was the brother of actor Alun Lewis, who is best known for playing Vic Windsor in Emmerdale. Bennett attended Sunnyhill School, Streatham, Henry Thornton Grammar School, Clapham (1955–62) and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.
Bennett debuted on stage in the role of Ophelia in a Queen's Theatre production of Hamlet in 1959. He continued with the company for five years, his roles including Richmond in Richard III at the Scala Theatre in 1963. After a brief period working as a supply teacher, Bennett won a scholarship to train at Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and performed in repertory in Salisbury and Leatherhead. He made his television debut in 1964, making early appearances in episodes of Doctor Who and Theatre 625. In 1966, he appeared as the lead Willy Turner in BBC1 Wednesday Play "Where the Buffalo Roam". This role as a mentally disturbed, cowboy-obsessed teenager was the first of many parts in Dennis Potter television plays.
His first film appearance was as Leonardo in the 1966 Italian Il marito è mio e l'ammazzo quando mi pare ("It's my husband and I'll decide when to kill him"), directed by Pasquale Festa Campanile, a comedy in which a young wife carefully plans to murder her husband, who is 40 years her senior, to marry a young beatnik. Bennett then starred as nervously virginal newlywed Arthur Fitton opposite Hayley Mills in the Boulting brothers' adaptation of Bill Naughton's play The Family Way (1966). He was cast after John Boulting saw him in the Alan Plater play A Smashing Day and felt he had "the appearance of both sensitivity and masculinity." The success of the film gained Bennett a contract with British Lion Films and led the News of the World to dub him "the face of '67". He considered his looks "a boon and a curse. It won me quick fame, but I was a serious actor being written up as a pin-up boy and sex symbol... ...I used to wish for a broken nose." He was reunited with Mills and the Boultings in the psychological thriller Twisted Nerve (1968), playing Martin Durnley in what the British Film Institute has described as "one of cinema's most striking depictions of evil". In 1969, he starred as Private Brigg in The Virgin Soldiers, a comedy-drama film set during the Malayan Emergency. Bennett described the film as "the story of a young soldier's love affair with a Chinese prostitute. And his fear in combat. One day he runs the wrong way and accidentally becomes a hero." In 1969, contemporary critic Roger Ebert called him "one of England's best young actors".
Bennett's film roles continued into the 1970s, notably with the film adaptation of Joe Orton's Loot (1970) and Endless Night (1972), an Agatha Christie adaptation again pairing him with Hayley Mills. He was the preferred choice for the role of Brian Roberts in Bob Fosse's Cabaret (1972), but wrongly assumed it was a singing role and didn't read the script. The part went to Michael York. He starred in the Ralph Thomas-directed sex comedies Percy (1971), in which he plays a shy young man who becomes the recipient of the world's first penis transplant, and The Love Ban (1973). Of this period in his career, Bennett would later state "I had come in at the tail end of everything, the studio system and so on. I found myself in the early 70s with nowhere to go."
He maintained a career in the theatre. His Puck in a 1967 Edinburgh Festival production of A Midsummer Night's Dream was described by Illustrated London News as "the best since Leslie French". He returned to the festival in 1990 as Long John Silver in a stage adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island. He appeared in several National Theatre productions including playing Mark Antony in Julius Caesar (the Young Vic, 1972) and Marlow in the She Stoops to Conquer (the Lyttelton Theatre, 1984). Other notable roles include Prince Hal in Henry IV, Parts 1 & 2 (the Mermaid Theatre, 1970), the lead in Hamlet on a 1974 South African tour and Andrey Prozorov in Three Sisters (the Albery Theatre, 1987). He also directed productions in provincial theatres, including a 1975 adaptation of J. B. Priestley's I Have Been Here Before at Theatr Gwynedd, Bangor.
Bennett's television career resumed with appearances in episodes of Play for Today (1973) and The Sweeney (1976). In 1978, he appeared in Dennis Potter's musical drama Pennies from Heaven as Tom, a pimp. In 1979, Bennett appeared as the field agent Ricki Tarr in Arthur Hopcraft's six-part BBC2 adaptation of John le Carré's novel Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1979), playing the character with "an ever-thinning veneer of boyish charm masking years of self-delusion and betrayal" according to the BFI. Bennett then starred in two further BBC miniseries - Malice Aforethought (1979) and The Consultant (1981). In 1981, he played occult novelist Gideon Harlax in David Rudkin's television play Artemis 81.
In 1979, he took the lead role in the Thames Television sitcom Shelley (1979–84) as the titular "professional freelance layabout" James Shelley, a philosophical and sardonic geography graduate with no desire to work. The series, created by Peter Tilbury, drew audiences of up to 18 million viewers. According to Bennett, "the writers had done something pretty amazing. They had created what was almost a monologue and turned it into a popular sitcom." The programme resumed, initially under the title The Return of Shelley, in 1988 and continued until 1992.
During the 1980s, Bennett was the voice of British Rail in their advertisements featuring the slogan "We're getting there". He provided further voiceovers for Budweiser and Hoffmeister advertisements. In 1986, he played the investigative journalist Allan Blakeston in Paula Milne's single drama Frankie and Johnnie, a production he described as "one of the best things I've done in quite a long time". He lost weight to give the character a "hungry and haunted look". The following year, he played an architect whose reaction to urban violence is to steadily turn his suburban home into a virtual fortress in Andy Hamilton's black comedy Checkpoint Chiswick, part of the Tickets for the Titanic anthology series.
By the mid-1990s, alcoholism and treatment for an overactive thyroid had altered Bennett's appearance. He was often cast in unsavoury roles including club owner Arthur 'Pig' Mallion in Dennis Potter's final, linked television plays Karaoke and Cold Lazarus (both 1996) and the villainous Mr Croup in Neil Gaiman's serial Neverwhere (1996). On film, he played in Dr. Crippen in Deadly Advice (1994) and Jean-Baptiste Colbert in Vatel (2000). He appeared in Lock, Stock... (2000) as Deep Throat and joined the cast of the long-running soap opera EastEnders in 2003, playing Jack Dalton – the ruthless gangland kingpin of Walford. Other late television appearances include ten appearances as sex offender Peter Baxter in The Bill (2002–2005) and as Dr. Mike Vine in the first episode of Jam & Jerusalem (2006). His final television role was opposite Peter Davison in an episode of The Last Detective (2007).
Personal life and death
In 1970, Bennett married Cathy McGowan, who had been the presenter of the music television programme Ready Steady Go! (1963–66). They had a daughter, Emma. The marriage was dissolved in 1988. In September 1986, Bennett sought treatment for alcoholism at the Priory Hospital, Roehampton. In 1998, he married Sandra Layne Fulford and they later moved to Deal, Kent. Bennett retired from acting in 2007 after being diagnosed with a congenital heart defect. He died on 24 July 2017 at the age of 73.
|1964||Julius Caesar||Octavius Caesar||TV film|
|1966||The Family Way||Arthur Fitton|
|1968||Il marito è mio e l'ammazzo quando mi pare||Leonardo||Italian|
|Twisted Nerve||Martin Durnley/Georgie Clifford|
|1969||The Virgin Soldiers||Private Brigg|
|1970||The Buttercup Chain||France|
|1972||Endless Night||Michael Rogers|
|Alice's Adventures in Wonderland||Duckworth|
|1973||The Love Ban||Mick Goonahan|
|1981||Artemis 81||Gideon Harlax||TV film|
|1985||Murder Elite||Jimmy Fowler|
|1991||A Mind to Kill||Gareth D. Lewis||TV film|
|1994||Deadly Advice||Dr. Crippen|
|1997||Hospital!||Dickie Beaumont||TV film|
|Harpur and Iles||ACC Desmond Iles||TV film|
|1999||Misery Harbour||The Captain|
|Nasty Neighbours||The Boss|
|Mary, Mother of Jesus||Herod||TV film|
|Married 2 Malcolm||Reg|
|2003||Lloyd & Hill||Dr. Freddie Marks||TV film|
|One for the Road||Richard Stevens|
|2004||The Second Quest||Ronno||TV film|
|The Final Quest||Ronno||TV film|
|1965||Doctor Who||Rynian||Episode: "The Death of Time"|
|Jury Room||Joe Mintz||Episode: "The Side of Mercy"|
|Theatre 625||Lipstrob||Episode: "Unman, Wittering and Zigo"|
|1966||Beliayev||Episode: "A Month in the Country"|
|The Idiot||Hypolite Terentiev||Mini-series|
|Thirteen Against Fate||Gilles Mauvaisin||Episode: "The Traveller"|
|The Wednesday Play||Willy Turner||Episode: "Where the Buffalo Roam"|
|1967||Oliver Treefe||Episode: "Death of a Teddy Bear"|
|BBC Play of the Month||Romeo||Episode: "Romeo and Juliet"|
|1973||Play for Today||Tony||Episode: "Three's One"|
|1976||The Sweeney||Steve Castle||Episode: "Sweet Smell of Succession"|
|1978||Pennies from Heaven||Tom||Episode: "Better Think Twice"|
|Strangers||Jack Slater||Episode: "Silver Lining"|
|1979||Malice Aforethought||Dr. Edmund Bickleigh||Mini-series|
|Play for Today||Harry Essendorf||Episode: "Coming Out"|
|Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy||Ricki Tarr||Mini-series|
|1979-1984||Shelley||James Shelley||Series regular|
|1982||BBC Play of the Month||Mr. King/Mr. Puff||Episode: "The Critic"|
|1983||The Consultant||Chris Webb||Mini-series|
|1985||Theatre Night||John||Episode: "Absent Friends"|
|1986||Screen Two||Allan Blakeston||Episode: "Frank and Johnnie"|
|The Twilight Zone||Grant||Episode: "Devil's Alphabet"|
|Robin of Sherwood||King Arthur||Episode: "The Inheritance"|
|1987||Tickets for the Titanic||Brian Stebbings||Episode: "Checkpoint Chiswick"|
|1988||The Modern World: Ten Great Writers||Professor||Episode: "Joseph Conrad's 'The Secret Agent'"|
|Boon||Richard Jay||Episode: "Charity Begins at Home"|
|1988-1992||The Return of Shelley||James Shelley||Series regular|
|1991||Ålder okänd||James Williams||Mini-series|
|1992||The Other Side of Paradise||Purvis||Mini-series|
|Virtual Murder||Harold Bingham||Episode: "A Bone to Pick"|
|Screen One||Ralph||Episode: "Trust Me"|
|1993||Casualty||Paul Lawson||Episode: "Life in the Fast Lane"|
|Frank Stubbs Promotes||Clive Riley||Episode: "Book"|
|1994||Murder Most Horrid||Clancy||Episode: "Smashing Bird"|
|1996||Karaoke||Arthur 'Pig' Mallion||Mini-series|
|Frontiers||DS Eddie Spader||Series regular|
|2000||Dirty Work||Mostyn Hughes||Episode: "A Fish Called Rhondda"|
|Lock, Stock...||Deep Throat||Episode: "...And Spaghetti Sauce"|
|2001||Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased)||Roger Whale||Episode: "Whatever Possessed You?"|
|2002||Last of the Summer Wine||Kevin||Episode: "It All Began with an Old Volvo Headlamp"|
|Time Gentlemen Please||Barsteward in Wheelchair||Episode: "Optics Wide Shut"|
|The Bill||Peter Baxter||Recurring role|
|2003||EastEnders||Jack Dalton||Recurring role|
|2005||Casualty@Holby City||David Wincott||Episode: "Interactive: Something We Can Do"|
|High Hopes||Uncle Tom||Episode: "Uncle Tom"|
|2006||Jam & Jerusalem||Dr. Mike Vine||Episode: "Sudden Death"|
|2007||The Last Detective||Reggie Conway||Episode: "Dangerous Liaisons"|
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- Terry, Clifford (9 July 1967). "Little Hayley Now Mature Miss Mills". Chicago Tribune – via Newspapers.com.
- Williamson, Marcus (3 August 2017). "Hywel Bennett obituary: Beloved actor who rose to fame as a sitcom star". The Independent. Archived from the original on 23 October 2017. Retrieved 23 October 2017.
- "Hywel Bennett Biography (1944–)". www.filmreference.com.
- Samuel, Graham (22 February 1973). "His first big role was Ophelia". Aberdeen Press and Journal: 10. Retrieved 5 December 2021.
- "Hywel Bennett". The Times. Retrieved 5 December 2021.
- "Hywel Bennett obituary: fashionable young man who grew up fast – Sight & Sound".
- "Il MARITO È MIO E L'AMMAZZO QUANDO MI PARE (1967)". BFI. 2 July 2015. Retrieved 29 February 2016.
- Bramwell, Tony (8 December 2014). Magical Mystery Tours: My Life with the Beatles. Portico. ISBN 9780312330439.
- Little Hayley Now Mature Miss Mills, Clifford, Terry. ;;Chicago Tribune;; 9 July 1967: f13.
- Ebert, Roger. "Interview with Hywel Bennett". Roger Ebert. Retrieved 5 December 2021.
- Stacey, Pat (11 August 2007). "Bogie Men". Evening Herald: 21. Retrieved 9 December 2021.
- "Hywel Bennett – Movies and Filmography – AllMovie". AllMovie.
- Trewin, J. C. "Fantasy at Edinburgh". Illustrated London News: 30. Retrieved 6 December 2021.
- Snape, Tony (4 October 1990). "Treasure Island". The Stage: 25. Retrieved 6 December 2021.
- "Show hits the road". North Wales Weekly News: 16. 30 January 1975. Retrieved 6 December 2021.
- "Il MARITO È MIO E L'AMMAZZO QUANDO MI PARE (1967)". BFI. 2 July 2015. Retrieved 29 February 2016.
- "Malice Aforethought Part 3 (1979)".
- "Artemis 81". BBC Genome. Retrieved 6 December 2021.
- "Hywel Bennett dies aged 73". British Comedy Guide. Retrieved 5 December 2021.
- Bonner, Hilary; Bennett, Hywel (20 September 1988). "The Day I Nearly Died". Daily Mirror: 9. Retrieved 8 December 2021.
- Mafham, Rowena (30 January 1986). "Old style journalist is new role for 'Shelley'". Aberdeen Press and Journal: 4. Retrieved 5 December 2021.
- "Checkpoint Chiswick". The Stage: 17. 31 July 1986. Retrieved 5 December 2021.
- Pendreigh, Brian (4 August 2017). "Obituary - Hywel Bennett, actor best-known for the sit-com Shelley". The Herald. Retrieved 8 December 2021.
- "EastEnders star Hywel Bennett passes away aged 73". 4 August 2017.
- "Lock, Stock...And Spaghetti Sauce (2000)".
- "Hywel Bennett".
- TV.com. "Jam and Jerusalem". TV.com.
- "Dangerous Liaisons". Imdb. Retrieved 5 December 2021.
- Belsham, Philip (9 September 1986). "TV Shelley dries out". Daily Mirror: 1. Retrieved 8 December 2021.
- "Hywel Bennett". The Gazette. Retrieved 12 December 2021.
- "Hywel Bennett, star of television and film, dies aged 73". BBC News. 3 August 2017. Retrieved 3 August 2017.