Stephen Lewis (actor)

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Stephen Lewis
Born (1926-12-17) 17 December 1926 (age 88)
Poplar, London, England[1]
Nationality British
Occupation Actor
Years active c.1958–2007

Stephen Lewis (born 17 December 1926) is an English actor, comedian, director, screenwriter and playwright. In his early stage career he used the name Cato but after writing 'Sparrers Can't Sing' he was urged by his agent to use his real name.[2]

He is best known for his roles as Inspector Cyril "Blakey" Blake in the LWT sitcom On the Buses, Clem "Smiler" Hemmingway in the longest running sitcom Last of the Summer Wine and Harry Lambert in BBC Television's Oh, Doctor Beeching!.


Lewis was born at All Saints Maternity Hospital, in Poplar, London on 17 December 1926 and began his career as a merchant seaman, but was persuaded to go to a performance by the Theatre Workshop, under their director Joan Littlewood. It was common, after these performances, to invite members of the audience to meet the cast. He was invited to an audition and landed the part; he left the sea, becoming a member of the company, and made his West End debut with the transfer of Brendan Behan's The Hostage in 1958. In 1960 he wrote Sparrers Can't Sing with the Theatre Workshop, which was made into a 1963 film, starring Barbara Windsor, Roy Kinnear and Lewis himself.

In 1969 Lewis starred in his best remembered role as Blakey (catch phrase "I 'ate you Butler") in the British sitcom On the Buses, which ran for 74 half-hour episodes and spawned three films, On the Buses (1971), Mutiny on the Buses (1972) and Holiday on the Buses (1973); he co-wrote 12 episodes with fellow star Bob Grant (conductor Jack Harper). While the lead character Reg Varney played a character intended to be significantly younger than himself, Lewis was made-up to look much older than his actual age, being only 42 when the programme began. A spin-off series, Don't Drink the Water, ran for thirteen episodes from 1974 to 1975. This featured Blakey retiring to Spain with his sister, Dorothy (Pat Coombs). In the 1990s Lewis's character Blakey (or a very similar-looking character) appeared regularly on Jim Davidson's version of The Generation Game on BBC1. He also appeared in Manhunt in a rare straight and villainous role, with Peter Barkworth and Alfred Lynch.

His other films include A Prize of Arms (1962), Negatives (1968), Staircase (1969) with Richard Burton and Rex Harrison, Some Will, Some Won't (1969), The Magnificent Seven Deadly Sins (1971), The Last Remake of Beau Geste (1977), Personal Services (1987) and The Krays (1990). He also appeared in two British sex comedies, Adventures of a Taxi Driver (1975) and Adventures of a Plumber's Mate (1978), both directed by Stanley Long.

In 1988 he took on one of his longest-running roles, playing the ironically-named 'Smiler' Hemingway in the BBC sitcom Last of the Summer Wine. The character recurred in occasional episodes for 17 years before ill health forced Lewis to leave the series in 2007.[citation needed]

In 1995, Lewis played Harry Lambert, the signalman in the BBC pilot of sitcom Oh, Doctor Beeching!, which ran to two further series. Lewis has also appeared as a guest in sitcoms such as One Foot in the Grave, 2point4 Children and Father, Dear Father. He also played the character of Alf, a comedy writer, in the second series of The All New Alexei Sayle Show (1995).


As of 2015, Lewis and Anna Karen who portrayed Olive Rudge are the last surviving members of the regular cast of On The Buses following the death of Reg Varney on 16 November 2008. in 1995 Lewis appeared in the video for the Carter USM single 'The Young Offender's Mum' Playing a Prison Officer.

Television roles[edit]

Year Title Role
On the Buses
Don't Drink the Water
Inspector Cyril "Blakey" Blake
1977 The Fosters Mr Wilberforce
1982 "Rep" Royston Flagg
1988, 1990,
Last of the Summer Wine Clem "Smiler" Hemmingway
1990 One Foot in the Grave Vince
1991 2point4 Children Driving Instructor
1995 "The All New Alexei Sayle Show" Alf
1995 to 1997 Oh, Doctor Beeching! Harry Lambert


  1. ^ "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 19 March 2015. 
  2. ^ Information from member of family

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