John Bluthal

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John Bluthal
Born (1929-03-28) 28 March 1929 (age 89)
Galicia, Poland
NationalityPolish Australian British
Alma materUniversity of Melbourne
Years active1953[1] – present

John Bluthal (born 28 March 1929) is a British radio, stage, television and film actor and voice artist, whose work has mostly been in comedy. He is best known for his work with Spike Milligan, and for his roles in the TV series Never Mind the Quality, Feel the Width and The Vicar of Dibley. He has also worked in the United States and Australia, in numerous productions.

Early life[edit]

Bluthal was born in Jezierzany, Galicia, Poland (now in Ukraine). He emigrated to Australia with his family in 1938, at the age of nine, and was educated at Princes Hill High School in Carlton North. He subsequently studied drama at the University of Melbourne, and visited the United Kingdom, during which time he appeared in pantomime. He worked in repertory theatre in Melbourne and appeared in drama on Australian radio, as well as television productions, including Shell Presents and Three's A Crowd. He also devised and produced Gaslight Music Hall, in which he starred.


Bluthal moved to the United Kingdom permanently in 1959[1] and appeared in Citizen James for BBC television, and in the long-running UK TV series Never Mind the Quality, Feel the Width in which he played Manny Cohen, a Jewish tailor in business with an Irishman in London. Also in the early 1960s, he provided the voice for Commander Zero in the television puppet series Fireball XL5. He appeared in the role of Fagin in the musical Oliver! at New Theatre, London.

Bluthal had worked with Spike Milligan before leaving Australia, appearing with him in a 1958 Australian television special, The Gladys Half-Hour. On relocating to Britain, he appeared as several characters in Milligan and John Antrobus' stage play The Bed-Sitting Room, which opened at the Mermaid Theatre on 31 January 1963.[2][3][4] He also worked with Milligan on the television series Q and its radio counterpart The Milligna Show. He previously worked with Milligan in the radio comedy series The Idiot Weekly and The Omar Khayyam Show. Bluthal can produce many comedic and imitative voices, like Milligan's former radio colleague Peter Sellers, and he was used somewhat like Sellers in Milligan's later work.

His other television appearances include the Sykes and a... episode "Sykes and a Bath", broadcast on 25 January 1961,[4] 'Allo 'Allo!, Hancock, Minder, The Saint episode "The Happy Suicide", The Avengers, Rumpole of the Bailey, Jonathan Creek, Lovejoy, Bergerac, and Inspector Morse, as well as appearing as Major Cheeseburger in The Goodies' episode "Clown Virus". He also replaced Ronnie Stevens in the Australian comedy/satire series The Mavis Bramston Show for the second half of 1966 [5] and starred as "Enzo Pacelli" in the ABC-TV comedy television series Home Sweet Home (1982-3).

Bluthal also appeared as Leonid Krassin in episodes of the Thames TV series Reilly, Ace of Spies.[6]

In 1975, Bluthal took the part of Richard Armitage, described as "an Orthodox London Jew", in The Melting Pot. This was a sitcom written by Spike Milligan and Neil Shand, which was cancelled by the BBC after just one episode had been broadcast.[7] Bluthal also appeared as "Chalky", a hospital patient, in the episode "I Gotta Horse" of the comedy television series Doctor Down Under (the Australian series of the British comedy television series Doctor in the House, which also starred Robin Nedwell as Dr. Duncan Waring and Geoffrey Davies as Dr. Dick Stuart-Clark).

His films appearances include: The Knack ...and How to Get It (1965), three Carry On films, two of the Doctor films, and also The Beatles' films A Hard Day's Night (1964) and Help! (1965), three roles in Casino Royale (1967), and two of the Pink Panther films. Bluthal also played several characters in The Great McGonagall (1974), by Spike Milligan and Joseph McGrath, based on the life of William McGonagall.[8] He portrayed an Egyptologist in the year 1914 for the first part of the film The Fifth Element (1997) and Uncle Karl in Dark City (1998). He also appeared in the comedy Beware of Greeks Bearing Guns (2000).

His work with the National Theatre London includes roles in Tales from Hollywood, Entertaining Strangers, Antony and Cleopatra, Yonaadab, The Tempest, Winters Tale, and Cymbeline.

His later television appearances have been in the sitcom The Vicar of Dibley as the fastidious minutes-taker Frank Pickle and as the caretaker Rocko in Spirited. He also appeared in the 2004 film Love's Brother and in the 2016 film Hail, Caesar!.

Selected filmography[edit]


  1. ^ a b John Bluthal – AusStage
  2. ^ Milligan, Spike, & Antrobus, John (1973) The Bedsitting Room. Tandem: London. First published in Great Britain by Margaret & Jack Hobbs, 1970. Published by Universal-Tandem, 1972. © 1970 Spike Milligan and John Antrobus
  3. ^ Scudamore, Pauline (1985). Spike Milligan: A Biography. London: Granada. ISBN 0-246-12275-7. pp.203–204
  4. ^ a b McCann, Graham (2006). Spike & Co. London: Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 0-340-89809-7. (a)p.158, (b)pp.215–216
  5. ^ 'Mavis Star Leaving' Sydney Morning Herald 16 June 1966 p. 1
  6. ^ "John Bluthal". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 7 July 2016.
  7. ^ Milligan, Spike; Shand, Neil (1983). The Melting Pot. London: Robson Books. introductory pages. ISBN 0-86051-195-2.
  8. ^ Lewis, Roger (1995). The Life and Death of Peter Sellers. London: Arrow Books. ISBN 0-09-974700-6. p.935

External links[edit]