As Seymour in Last of the Summer Wine
9 September 1920|
Glastonbury, Somerset, England
|Died||10 January 1994
Greenwich, London, England
Michael William ffolliott Aldridge (9 September 1920 – 10 January 1994) was an English actor. Widely recognised for his long career as a successful character actor on both stage and screen, dating back to 1939. He is, however, most famous for his role of Seymour Utterthwaite in the television series Last of the Summer Wine from 1986 to 1990.
The son of Dr Frederick James Aldridge and his wife Kathleen Michaela Marietta White, Aldridge was born in Glastonbury, Somerset, England, on 9 September 1920. He was educated at Gresham's School, Holt, Norfolk, where he acted in school plays. In his last year at school he played the title role in a production of Othello, a report in The Times noting "M. W. ff. Aldridge (aged 17½ years) was masterly and dignified as Othello and well worthy of the formal designation 'a noble Moor'".
He started his acting career in August 1939 at the Palace Theatre, Watford appearing in Terence Rattigan's play French Without Tears. A few days later, World War II broke out. From 1939 to 1940, he was in rep at Bristol, Blackpool, Sunderland, Sheffield, Bradford and Amersham. In 1940, he joined the Royal Air Force and served in Africa, the United States, the Middle East and the Mediterranean, leaving the service in 1945 as a flight lieutenant.
After the war, Aldridge returned to acting, and toured with the Arts Council Midland Theatre Company from 1946 to 1948, but it was not until 1954 that his career started to gain him recognition, when he took a role in Salad Days at the Vaudeville Theatre, where he remained until 1957. He played many roles in musicals throughout his career, usually in supporting roles in which he was highly reliable and professional.
Aldridge's first professional appearance was in the part of Kenneth in French without Tears, at the Palace Theatre, Watford, in August 1939. He was in rep until 1940. His first West End appearance was in This Way to the Tomb, playing the Prologue and the Mechanic, at the Garrick Theatre, 1946; toured with the Arts Council Midland Theatre Company from November 1946 to July, 1948; appeared in Nottingham Theatre Trust productions from November 1948 to March 1949, playing Othello in Othello at Nottingham, 1948, and at the Embassy Theatre, 1949; with Birmingham rep, 1949; Old Vic Company at New Theatre, 1949-1950: Love's Labour's Lost, She Stoops to Conquer, The Miser, Hamlet; returned to Arts Council Midland Theatre Company, 1950; Bristol Old Vic, 1951-1952: played Macbeth in Macbeth, Two Gentlemen of Verona, Of Mice and Men; Escapade, at St James's Theatre, Strand, London, 1953–1954; Salad Days, Vaudeville Theatre, 1954; Free as Air, Savoy Theatre, 1957; Moon for the Misbegotten, Arts Theatre, 1960; Vanity Fair, Queen's Theatre, 1962; The Fighting Cock, Duke of York's Theatre, 1966; at Chichester Festival, 1966–1969, and 1971-1972. Heartbreak House, Lyric Theatre, 1967; The Cocktail Party, Wyndham's Theatre, Haymarket, 1968; The Magistrate, Cambridge, 1969; A Bequest to the Nation, Haymarket, 1970; Reunion in Vienna, Piccadilly, 1972; Absurd Person Singular, Criterion Theatre, 1973; The Tempest, Royal Shakespeare Company at The Other Place, 1974; Jeeves, Her Majesty's Theatre, 1975; Lies, Albery Theatre, 1975; The Bed before Yesterday, Lyric Theatre, 1976; Rosmersholm, Haymarket, 1977;The Old Country, Queen's Theatre, 1978; Bedroom Farce, National Theatre at The Prince of Wales, 1978; The Last of Mrs Cheyney, Cambridge, 1980; Noises Off, Lyric, Hammersmith and Savoy, 1982; The Biko Inquest, Riverside, 1984; Relatively Speaking, Greenwich, 1986.
In 1975 Aldridge appeared in the title role of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Alan Ayckbourn's musical Jeeves, based on the stories by P. G. Wodehouse. Unfortunately the show was a rare flop for Webber, and the negative critical reaction led to Aldridge giving up his stage career to concentrate on television and film roles.
While Aldridge began acting on television as early as 1947 his earliest significant role was as criminologist Ian Dimmock in the Granada TV series The Man in Room 17 and its sequel The Fellows (1965–67). His screen work included playing Pistol in Orson Welles' movie Chimes at Midnight in 1967.
He played Percy Alleline, head of the British Secret Intelligence Service, in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy on BBC TV in 1979, and appeared in the sitcom Yes, Prime Minister amongst numerous other appearances.
In 1980 he played the role of Lord Alconleigh/Matthew Radlett in the TV miniseries Love in a Cold Climate - Simon Raven's adaptation of the Nancy Mitford novels Love in a Cold Climate and the Pursuit of Love for Thames Television.
Last of the Summer Wine
Aldridge first appeared in the New Year special feature-length episode "Uncle of the Bride" in 1986, along with several other characters including his onscreen sister and niece. The character of Seymour replaced Foggy Dewhurst, played by Brian Wilde who left the series, as the 'third man'. Seymour was a former headmaster and an eccentric inventor, and like Foggy the leader of the childish trio. Aldridge played the character from 1986 to 1990, starring in 31 episodes including two feature-lengths, but left the series in order to take care of his sick wife. In his last episode "Return of the Warrior" Seymour leaves after gaining a teaching position twenty miles away.
When Aldridge died in 1994, his obituary in The Times said of him:
|“||If Aldridge joined the cast of a show, it invariably meant the injection of an extra dimension of dramatic interest, however modest his role in it. In everything he did, if never a big name, he was a professional to his fingertips.||”|
Aldridge married Kirsteen Rowntree, and they had three daughters. He stated his main interests as sailing, market gardening, watching cricket and playing tennis, and also liked to make his own bread and jam. At the time of his death, he was living in Greenwich, London.
- Nothing Venture
- Bank Holiday Luck
- Suicide Mission (original title in Norwegian: Shetlandsgjengen)
- Murder in the Cathedral (1952)
- Life for Ruth (1962)
- Chimes at Midnight (1965)
- Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1979) -- Percy Alleline
- A Voyage Round My Father (1982) (TV)
- Bullshot (1983)
- Reilly, Ace of Spies (1983)
- Hallelujah! (1983–1984) (TV)
- Turtle Diary (1985)
- Murder by the Book (1986)
- Yes Prime Minister(1986) (TV)
- Clockwise (1986) - Prior
- Shanghai Surprise (1986)
- The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe (1988)
- Last of the Summer Wine (1986–1990) (TV)
- The Public Eye (1992)
- ALDRIDGE, Michael William ffolliott in Who Was Who 1897-2006 online (accessed 23 September 2007)
- Seymour: Michael Aldridge at examiner.co.uk (accessed 12 April 2008)
- ALDR1DGE, Michael, actor, in Who's Who in the Theatre: a Biographical Record of the Contemporary Stage (11th edition, 1952) (text online)
- The Times, Monday, 27 June 1938; pg. 20; Issue 48031; col A
- "Michael Aldridge". Musical Theatre.com. Retrieved 21 November 2010.
- Michael Aldridge, 73, Versatile British Actor in New York Times (online text) for 17 January 1994
- Who's Who 1993 (A. & C. Black, London, 1993) page 19