Michael Bates (actor)

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Michael Bates
Bates in A Clockwork Orange in 1971
Michael Hammond Bates

(1920-12-04)4 December 1920
Died11 January 1978(1978-01-11) (aged 57)
EducationUppingham School
Alma materSt Catharine's College, Cambridge
Years active1953–1977
Margaret M. J. Chisholm
(m. 1954)

Michael Hammond Bates[1] (4 December 1920 – 11 January 1978)[2] was an Anglo-Indian actor. He was best known for playing the chief prison guard who processes (and strip-searches) Alex (Malcolm McDowell) in A Clockwork Orange, Cyril Blamire in Last of the Summer Wine (1973–75), and Rangi Ram in It Ain't Half Hot Mum (1974–77).

Early life[edit]

Bates was born in Jhansi, United Provinces, India.[2] His parents were of Cheshire families; his father, Henry Stuart "Harry" Bates (1893–1985), son of Albert Bates, of Congleton, Cheshire,[3][4] was educated at Denstone School and Cambridge University before entering the Indian Civil Service in 1920. He served as Deputy Secretary of the Revenue Department and a Member of the Board of Revenue for the United Provinces of India until 1947 (in which year he was created CSI) and was later of the Colonial Office.[5][6] Bates's mother, Sarah Clarke Walker (1896–1982) was daughter of William Hammond Walker, also of Congleton.[3] Bates spent his early years in India, speaking Hindi and Urdu as his first languages before learning English, and remaining fluent in the former two languages for the rest of his life.[citation needed]

Having been sent home to England aged seven by his parents,[7] Bates was educated at Uppingham School and his father's alma mater, St Catharine's College, Cambridge.[5] He was commissioned in the Indian Army in March 1942.[8] During World War II he served in the Burma Campaign as a major with the Brigade of Gurkhas[9] and was mentioned in dispatches in 1944.[10]


In 1953, while an ensemble member with the Stratford Festival in Stratford, Ontario, Canada, Bates appeared in Richard III and All's Well That Ends Well.

In 1956, Bates appeared in Hotel Paradiso (L'Hôtel du libre échange), which starred Alec Guinness, at the Winter Garden Theatre in London. On radio, he played a variety of characters in the BBC's long-running comedy series The Navy Lark, including Able Seaman Ginger, Lieutenant Bates, Rear Admiral Ironbridge, the Padre, and Captain Ignatius Aloysius Atchison.

Bates appeared in many British television series, including Last of the Summer Wine from 1973 to 1975 (as Cyril Blamire) and It Ain't Half Hot Mum from 1974 to 1977 (as Rangi Ram). His role as Rangi Ram led to the allegation that he had performed in brownface.[11] Series co-creator Jimmy Perry told Stuart Jeffries in 2003 that they had been unable to find a suitable Asian actor. "But Michael was ideal for the role", Perry said.[12] Interviewed by the journalist Neil Clark for The Daily Telegraph in 2013, Perry said Bates only "wore was a light tan. He wasn't blacked up! Michael spoke fluent Urdu, and was a captain in the Gurkhas".[13][14] The show is not repeated in the UK by the BBC, who use the "blacked up" description of Bates's performance on their website's article about the series.[13][15]

Bates's film roles include Bedazzled (1967) as the flirtatious police inspector, Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush (1967) as Mr. McGregor, Battle of Britain (1969) as Warrant Officer Warwick, Oh! What a Lovely War (1969) as a Lance-Corporal, Patton (1970) as Field Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery (to whom he bore a striking resemblance), A Clockwork Orange (1971) and Frenzy (1972). On stage, he played Shakespearean roles at Stratford and at the Old Vic, and made a big impression as Inspector Truscott in the West End production of Loot by Joe Orton in 1966.

Personal life[edit]

In 1954, Bates married Margaret M. J. Chisholm. They had three children: Rupert (who also became an actor), Camilla, and Jolyon.[16]

Bates was a supporter of the Conservative Party. Peter Sallis described Bates as being "slightly to the right of Thatcher” politically and claimed that Bates's right-wing opinions contrasted so sharply with the left-wing views of fellow Last of the Summer Wine star Bill Owen that the series was almost not made because of their arguments.[17]

Bates died of cancer on 11 January 1978 in Chelsea, London, aged 57.[2][18]

Selected television roles[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1969 The mind of Mr. J.G. Reeder Ras Lal Punjabi Series 1, Episode 4
1971 Six Dates with Barker Gasman/Patient
1972 Public Eye George (Shopkeeper/Retired policeman)
1973–1975 Last of the Summer Wine Cyril Blamire 14 episodes
1974–1977 It Ain't Half Hot Mum Bearer Rangi Ram (final appearance)

Selected filmography[edit]


  1. ^ "England & Wales Deaths 1837-2007 > Michael Hammond Bates". Findmypast. Archived from the original on 24 October 2016. Retrieved 29 October 2016.
  2. ^ a b c "Michael Bates". British Film Institute. Archived from the original on 11 March 2016. Retrieved 23 April 2017.
  3. ^ a b Kelly's Handbook to the Titled, Landed and Official Classes, 1969, pg. 224
  4. ^ Who Was Who: A Companion to Who's Who, 2002, pg. 50
  5. ^ a b Debrett's Peerage, Baronetage and Companionage, Kelly's Directories, 1973, p. 2474
  6. ^ Who's Who, A. & C. Black, 1968, p. 183
  7. ^ Last of the Summer Wine: The Inside Story of the World's Longest-Running Comedy Series, Andrew Vine, Aurum Press, 2011
  8. ^ "No. 35494". The London Gazette. 20 March 1942. p. 1276.
  9. ^ Clarke, Colin (1 April 2014). "Why classic 'Hot' series may never be screened again…". Island Life. Isle of Wight. Archived from the original on 29 August 2016. Retrieved 29 October 2016.
  10. ^ "No. 36753". The London Gazette (Supplement). 17 October 1944. p. 4794.
  11. ^ See comments by actor Renu Setna in the documentary on Comedy Connections "It Ain't Half Hot, Mum" (#5.3), original air date: 26 January 2007
  12. ^ Jeffries, Stuart (3 February 2003). "Some like it hot". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 16 February 2018. But why did you cast a white man (Michael Bates) as an Indian bearer? "At the time we found it impossible to find an Indian actor who could perform the role, to be perfectly honest.
  13. ^ a b Clark, Neil (20 September 2013). "Jimmy Perry turns 90: a tribute to the genius behind Dad's Army". The Telegraph. London. Retrieved 16 February 2018.
  14. ^ Furness, Hannah (20 September 2013). "Banning It Ain't Half Hot Mum from TV is a 'shame', creator says, as non-PC moments are just 'historical truth'". The Telegraph. London. Retrieved 11 December 2012.
  15. ^ "It Ain't Half Hot Mum". BBC Comedy. Retrieved 14 October 2019.
  16. ^ Who's Who in the Theatre, 1977, pg. 391
  17. ^ "Argument 'threatened Summer Wine'". BBC News. 17 May 2009. Archived from the original on 7 March 2016. Retrieved 5 May 2017.
  18. ^ Midgley, Dominic (6 November 2015). "It Ain't Half Hot Mum: Why are BBC bosses so nervous about making show available again". Daily Express. UK. Archived from the original on 1 August 2017. Retrieved 29 October 2016. Bates, who died of cancer aged 57 in 1978... Additional on 23 April 2017.

External links[edit]