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John Fortune

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John Fortune
John Courtney Wood

(1939-06-30)30 June 1939
Bristol, England
Died31 December 2013(2013-12-31) (aged 74)
Hampshire, England
  • Actor
  • writer
  • Susan Fry Waldo, aka Susannah Waldo Wood
    (m. 1962; div. 1976)
  • Emma Burge
    (m. 1995)

John Courtney Fortune (born John Courtney Wood; 30 June 1939 – 31 December 2013) was an English actor, writer and satirist, best known for his work with John Bird and Rory Bremner on the television series Bremner, Bird and Fortune.[1]

Early life[edit]

Fortune was born John Courtney Wood in Bristol on 30 June 1939.[2] He was educated at Bristol Cathedral School and King's College, Cambridge, where he was to meet and form a lasting friendship with John Bird.[2]


Fortune's early work included contributions to Peter Cook's Establishment Club team[2] in 1962, and as a regular member of the cast of the BBC-TV satire show Not So Much a Programme, More a Way of Life, both alongside Eleanor Bron and John Bird. Fortune and Bird also worked together on the TV show A Series of Birds in 1967, and Fortune and Bron wrote and performed a series of sketches for TV in Where Was Spring? in 1969. In 1971, with John Wells, he published the comic novel A Melon for Ecstasy, about a man who consummates his love affair with a tree. He appeared with Peter Sellers in a Barclays Bank television commercial in 1980, shortly before Sellers' death.

Along with writing several series for the BBC, in 1982 Fortune appeared in an episode of the BBC sitcom Yes Minister, as an army officer who brings the minister's attention to British-made weapons getting into the hands of terrorists. In 1999, he starred with Warren Mitchell and Ken Campbell in Art at Wyndham's Theatre in London's West End.[2] He also appeared in the films Take A Girl Like You (1970), in which he shared a TV debate with John Bird, Kenny Everett's horror spoof Bloodbath at the House of Death (1984), England, My England (1995), Maybe Baby (2000), and Saving Grace (2000), and had a guest part in the sitcom Joking Apart.

In 1993, Fortune and Bird began co-starring with Rory Bremner in the sketch show Rory Bremner...Who Else? on Channel 4. In 1999, the show changed its name to Bremner, Bird and Fortune and continued until 2010, receiving several BAFTA nominations along the way.[3][4]

Fortune's other work with John Bird included their series of satirical sketches The Long Johns, in which one interviewed the other, the latter being in the guise of a senior figure such as a politician, businessman or government consultant. The sketches earned several BAFTA award nominations, winning the Television Light Entertainment Performance award in 1997.[5] In one episode, they were two of the very first to predict the financial crisis of 2007–2010 during an episode of The South Bank Show broadcast on 14 October 2007.[6][7] In Fortune's latter years, he featured in the Radio 4 sitcom Ed Reardon's Week, playing the head of a literary agency and as theatrical agent Mel Simons in a 2008 episode of New Tricks.

Fortune died on 31 December 2013, aged 74.[8][9] His agent Vivienne Clore said he died peacefully, with his wife Emma and dog Grizelle at his bedside.[8]


Year Title Role Notes
1970 Take a Girl Like You Sir Gerald Culthorpe-Jones
1982 The Missionary Schoolmaster's voice Voice
1984 Bloodbath at the House of Death John Harrison
1987 Hardwicke House Educational psychologist in Episode 3, "Interview Day" Only the first two episodes of the series were shown, with the last five pulled. It was scheduled to be screened on ITV on 4 March 1987. In 2019, all seven episodes were uploaded to YouTube.
1995 England, My England Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon
1999 The Strange Case of Delfina Potocka: The Mystery of Chopin Second official
2000 Saving Grace Melvyn
2000 Maybe Baby Acupuncturist
2001 The Tailor of Panama Maltby
2003 Calendar Girls Frank
2005 Match Point John the Chauffeur


  1. ^ "Bremner, Bird and Fortune". Film & TV Database. British Film Institute. Archived from the original on 1 January 2014. Retrieved 31 December 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d Kennedy, Maev (31 December 2013). "John Fortune dies at 74". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 December 2013.
  3. ^ "BAFTA Television Awards". bafta.org. Retrieved 10 March 2015.
  4. ^ "BAFTA Television Awards". bafta.org. Retrieved 10 March 2015.
  5. ^ "BAFTA Awards – Television | Light Entertainment Performance in 1997". British Academy of Film and Television Arts. Retrieved 1 January 2014.
  6. ^ James, Harold (25 December 2008). "The Marx Renaissance". Project Syndicate. Retrieved 31 December 2013.
  7. ^ "The Last Laugh: John Bird and John Fortune Reviews". Archived from the original on 4 June 2011.
  8. ^ a b "Comedian John Fortune Dies Aged 74". Sky News. 31 December 2013. Archived from the original on 31 December 2013. Retrieved 31 December 2013.
  9. ^ "Comedian John Fortune dies aged 74". ITV News. 31 December 2013. Retrieved 5 May 2020.

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