Stephen Lewis (actor)

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Stephen Lewis
Stephen Lewis 1969.png
As Inspector Cyril Blake in On the Buses
Born(1926-12-17)17 December 1926
Poplar, London, England
Died12 August 2015(2015-08-12) (aged 88)
Wanstead, London, England
Resting placeSt Patrick's Roman Catholic Cemetery, Leytonstone, London, England
  • Actor
  • comedian
  • director
  • screenwriter
  • playwright
Years activec. 1958–2007

Stephen Lewis (17 December 1926 – 12 August 2015), credited early in his career as Stephen Cato, was an English actor, comedian, director, screenwriter and playwright. He is best known for his roles as Inspector Cyril "Blakey" Blake in On the Buses, Clem "Smiler" Hemmingway in Last of the Summer Wine and Harry Lambert in Oh, Doctor Beeching!, although he also appeared in numerous stage and film roles.

Early life[edit]

Lewis was born at All Saints Maternity Hospital in Poplar, London, England.[1] He worked as a bricklayer, electrician's mate and carpenter, and also joined the Merchant Navy, before turning to acting.[citation needed] He was persuaded to go to a performance by the Theatre Workshop, under its 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, landed the part, and left the sea to become a member of the company.


Lewis made his West End theatre debut with the transfer of Brendan Behan's The Hostage in 1958.[2] In 1960 he wrote Sparrers Can't Sing with the Theatre Workshop, which was made into the film Sparrows Can't Sing in 1963, starring Barbara Windsor, Roy Kinnear and Lewis himself, as well as his future On the Buses co-star Bob Grant. He used the surname "Cato" in his early stage career, but after writing Sparrows Can't Sing he was urged by his agent to use his real name.


From 1969 Lewis starred in his best-remembered role as the gruff inspector Blakey in the British sitcom On the Buses, which ran for 74 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. Lewis was made up to look much older than his actual age with heavy make-up; he was only 42 when the programme began. A spin-off series, Don't Drink the Water (1974–1975), ran for two series. This featured Blakey retiring to Spain with his sister Dorothy (played by Pat Coombs). In the 1990s, Blakey appeared regularly on Jim Davidson's version of The Generation Game on BBC One. In addition, Lewis played a coach driver with very similar characteristics to Blakey in a 2000 edition of ITV's 1970s-set sitcom The Grimleys. He also appeared in Manhunt in a rare villainous role. He and Bob Grant starred in a TV show called Jugg Brothers (1970), but this never got past the pilot episode.


The films in which Lewis acted included A Prize of Arms (1962), Sparrows Can't Sing (1963) (which he also wrote), 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, Out of Order (both 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).[2]

Later television roles[edit]

In 1988, he took on one of his longest-running roles, playing Clem "Smiler" Hemingway in the BBC sitcom Last of the Summer Wine. The character appeared in many episodes for 17 years, until ill health forced Lewis to leave the series in 2007. In 1996, Lewis played Harry Lambert, the signalman, in the BBC pilot of sitcom Oh, Doctor Beeching!, which ran to two further series. He appeared as a guest in sitcoms such as One Foot in the Grave, 2point4 Children, Father, Dear Father and The Grimleys. He also played the character of Alf, a comedy writer, in the second series of The All New Alexei Sayle Show (1995).


Lewis died at the age of 88 on 12 August 2015, in a nursing home in Wanstead, London, where his sister Connie also resided.[3][4]


Year Title Role Notes
1961 The Frightened City Alf's First Thug
1962 A Prize of Arms Military Police Corporal
1963 Sparrows Can't Sing Caretaker
1966 Kaleidoscope Truck Driver Uncredited
1968 Negatives The Dealer
1969–1973 On the Buses Cyril "Blakey" Blake
1969 Staircase Jack
1970 Some Will, Some Won't Police Constable Arthur
1971 The Magnificent Seven Deadly Sins Jarvis (segment "Wrath")
1971 On the Buses Cyril "Blakey" Blake
1972 Mutiny on the Buses
1973 Holiday on the Buses
1974–1975 Don't Drink the Water
1976 Adventures of a Taxi Driver Doorman
1977 The Fosters Mr Wilberforce
1977 The Last Remake of Beau Geste Henshaw
1978 Questo si che è amore Policeman
1978 Adventures of a Plumber's Mate Crapper
1982 Rep Royston Flagg
1987 Personal Services Mr. Dunkley
1987 Out of Order Bus Driver
1988–2007 Last of the Summer Wine Clem "Smiler" Hemmingway
1990 One Foot in the Grave Vince Bluett
1990 The Krays Policeman
1991 2point4 Children Driving Instructor
1993 Inside Victor Lewis-Smith Man in Lift
1995 The All New Alexei Sayle Show Alf
1995–1997 Oh, Doctor Beeching! Harry Lambert
2004 Revolver Various characters


  1. ^ "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 19 March 2015.
  2. ^ a b "Stephen Lewis, actor – obituary". The Daily Telegraph. London. 13 August 2015. Retrieved 13 August 2015.
  3. ^ "On The Buses actor Stephen Lewis dies aged 88". Irish Independent. 13 August 2015. Retrieved 13 August 2015.
  4. ^ "Stephen Lewis, On the Buses' 'Blakey', dies aged 88". BBC News. 13 August 2015. Retrieved 13 August 2015.

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