Rodney Bewes in 2004
27 November 1937|
Bierley, West Riding of Yorkshire, England
21 November 2017 (aged 79)|
Cadgwith, Cornwall, England
|Occupation||Actor, performer, scriptwriter|
Sylvia N. Tebbitt (divorced)|
Daphne Black (1973–2015; her death)
Rodney Bewes (27 November 1937 – 21 November 2017) was an English television actor and writer best known for[not verified in body] playing Bob Ferris in the BBC television sitcom The Likely Lads (1964–66) and its colour sequel Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? (1973–74). Bewes' later career was of a much lower profile, but he continued to work as a stage actor.
Bewes was born in Bierley in the West Riding of Yorkshire, to Horace, an Eastern Electricity Board showroom clerk, and Bessie, who was a teacher of children with learning difficulties. His family lived for a few years in the Crossflatts district of Bingley, before they moved to Luton, where he attended Stopsley Secondary School. Because of his early ill-health (he suffered from asthma and bronchitis), one of the reasons the family moved, his mother tended to keep him off school. His illness receded, although the family eventually returned to the north.[when?]
Having seen an advertisement in the Daily Herald, Bewes auditioned for the title role in Billy Bunter of Greyfriars School when he was nearly 13, and was in the last two short-listed for the role, losing to Gerald Campion. However, he did appear in two early television roles for the BBC, Mystery at Mountcliffe Chase and The Pickwick Papers (both 1952). At 14, he moved to London to attend RADA's preparatory school.
After two years of national service in the RAF, Bewes attended RADA. He was working nights in hotels, doing the washing-up, to finance his studies at RADA during the day, and hence was frequently to be found asleep in class. He was expelled during his final year.
Bewes began appearing in repertory theatre and obtained parts in the television drama series Dixon of Dock Green (1962) and Z-Cars (1963). He also appeared in the film version of Billy Liar (1963) as Arthur Crabtree, alongside his close friend Tom Courtenay. The two men shared a flat at the time; Bewes, having seen Courtenay's script, independently and successfully approached the casting director for the part. The following year his northern working-class background and natural northern accent stood him in good stead, landing him the role of Bob Ferris in The Likely Lads (1964-66) after Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais had seen him in Billy Liar.
In The Likely Lads Ferris was the more ambitious of two Newcastle factory workers, with Terry Collier (James Bolam) being his lazy and more cynical friend. The series, at first broadcast on the newly launched BBC2, proved successful both critically and in the ratings when it was shown on the BBC1 and ran for three series. Between his two spells as a 'Likely Lad', Bewes also appeared in Man in a Suitcase (1967), Father, Dear Father (1968) and as "Mr Rodney" on The Basil Brush Show (1968–69). He starred in his own ITV sitcom Dear Mother...Love Albert (later known as Albert!, 1969–72), which he created and co-wrote with Derrick Goodwin.
Bewes appeared in the 1969 theatrical production of She Stoops to Conquer as Tony Lumpkin. He also appeared in the film Spring and Port Wine (1970) which starred James Mason, and played the Knave of Hearts in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1972). Bewes and Bolam reunited for the sequel that continued the Bob and Terry saga, Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? (1973–74), which by common consent surpassed the original. It ran for two series of 13 episodes, followed by a Christmas special in 1974. The original series was adapted for radio (1967–68) as was the sequel (1975), and a cinema spin-off (The Likely Lads, 1976) also followed.
Bewes' later film roles included Jabberwocky (1977), Unidentified Flying Oddball (1979) and The Wildcats of St Trinian's (1980). Although better known for his comedy and light entertainment roles, viewers were given an opportunity to see Bewes' serious acting ability in a made-for-TV film adaptation of John Ford's 17th century play, 'Tis Pity She's a Whore (1980). Despite a guest role in the Doctor Who serial Resurrection of the Daleks in 1984, his television career had largely ended by the mid-1980s.
During 1982, he served as spokesman for the now defunct trade organisation the British Onion Marketing Board, appearing in a number of print advertisements during the year.
Bewes remained active as a stage performer in the 1990s and later with one-man versions of Three Men in a Boat and Diary of a Nobody, both of which shows he toured extensively in the UK. In July 2013, he was The Marshal (Philippe Pétain) in the Southwark Playhouse production of Peter Ustinov's The Moment of Truth. He was back in Edinburgh again in 2015 for an autobiographical show, An Audience with Rodney Bewes... Who?
Rodney Bewes' autobiography, A Likely Story, was published in September 2005. In it, and on Michael Parkinson's BBC Radio 2 show in 2005, he stated that his Likely Lads co-star James Bolam had not spoken to him for the past 30 years. It had been assumed for years that Bolam and Bewes were friends off screen as well as on; a pretence they kept up because their public expected it. However, they had comprehensively fallen out when Bewes indiscreetly related a personal anecdote about Bolam in a 1976 press interview, and had not spoken since. He blamed Bolam's fear of having his privacy invaded, and of being eternally typecast, leading to his refusing to allow repeats of The Likely Lads. The final breach, said Bewes, occurred when, having told an anecdote about the birth of his own triplets, he followed on with a story of how Bolam's wife, Sue, had told him she was pregnant while he was driving, and he almost crashed the car. Bewes repeated this story, thinking it was already public knowledge; but then, on realising he might have crossed a line, phoned Bolam to forewarn him of the article, and got a frosty reaction. "There was this dreadful silence. He put the phone down. I called him back, he didn't answer. He hasn't spoken to me since."
In 2010, Bewes also complained about his former co-star's refusal to allow The Likely Lads to be repeated on network television (both must give approval), preventing his earning anything from the repeats; "he must be very wealthy; me, I've just got an overdraft and a mortgage". Shortly before he died, in an interview with the Daily Mirror, Bewes once more lamented the loss of his friendship with Bolam. Bolam, however, denied such a rift ever existed, stating after Bewes' death that they "didn't talk for 40 years because of their busy schedules rather than resentment", and he had "nothing but fond memories" of Bewes.
Bewes appeared in the following film and television roles:
- A Prize of Arms (1962) – Pvt. Maynard
- Billy Liar (1963) – Arthur Crabtree
- San Ferry Ann (1965) – Lover Boy
- Decline and Fall... of a Birdwatcher (1968) – Arthur Potts
- Spring and Port Wine (1970) – Harold Crompton
- Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1972) – Knave of Hearts
- The Three Musketeers (1973) – Spy
- The Likely Lads (1976) – Bob Ferris
- Jabberwocky (1976) – The Other Squire
- Saint Jack (1979) – Smale
- The Spaceman and King Arthur (1979) – Clarence
- The Wildcats of St Trinian's (1980) – Peregrine Butters
This section needs additional citations for verification. (November 2017) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
|1964–1966||The Likely Lads||Bob Ferris|
|1967||Hicks and Stokes||Billy Hicks|
|1969–1972||Dear Mother...Love Albert||Albert Courtnay|
|1973–1974||Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads?||Bob Ferris|
|1984||Doctor Who: Resurrection of the Daleks||Stien|
|1993||A Cowboy on the Fens||Himself|
|2009||Heartbeat: Ties That Bind||Edward Walton||(Final television appearance)|
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- McPhee, Rod. "Likely Lad Rodney Bewes pleaded with former co-star James Bolam to end 40-year rift in last interview before his death". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 23 November 2017.
- McSmith, Andy (7 November 2007). "Look back in anger: Whatever happened to The Likely Lads?". The Independent. London. Retrieved 18 April 2013.
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- "Rodney Bewes". British Film Institute. Retrieved 22 November 2017.
- Media related to Rodney Bewes at Wikimedia Commons
- Rodney Bewes on IMDb
- Feature from Wales on Sunday, archived by The Free Library