Stephen Lewis (actor)
As Inspector Blake in On the Buses, 1969
17 December 1926|
Poplar, Middlesex, England
12 August 2015 (aged 88)|
Wanstead, London, England
|Years active||c. 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 television roles as Inspector Cyril "Blakey" Blake in the LWT sitcom On the Buses, Clem "Smiler" Hemmingway in Last of the Summer Wine, and Harry Lambert in BBC Television's Oh, Doctor Beeching!, although he also appeared in numerous stage and film roles.
Lewis was born at All Saints Maternity Hospital in Poplar, Middlesex, England. He worked as a bricklayer, electrician's mate and carpenter and also joined the Merchant Navy before turning to acting. He 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, 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. 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 name 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 (or a very similar-looking character)[clarification needed] 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.
His film roles included 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), Out of Order (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).
Later television roles
In 1988, he took on one of his longest-running roles, playing "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 1995, 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, aged 84 also resides. His health had been gradually declining over the past few years. According to the manager of the nursing home, during his final years he would still deliver his famous lines from On the Buses, like "I'll get you for this, Butler" and "Get these buses out, Butler".  His funeral was attended by Anna Karen, his co-star and only surviving member from On the Buses. At the funeral Karen described Lewis as "extremely talented and very funny man and wonderful to work with".
|1961||The Frightened City||Alf's First Thug|
|1962||A Prize of Arms||Military Police Corporal|
|1963||Sparrows Can't Sing||Caretaker|
|1969–1973||On the Buses||Cyril "Blakey" Blake|
|1970||Some Will, Some Won't||Police Constable Arthur|
|1971||On the Buses||Cyril "Blakey" Blake|
|1971||The Magnificent Seven Deadly Sins||Jarvis||(segment "Wrath")|
|1972||Mutiny on the Buses||the Inspector|
|1973||Holiday on the Buses||Cyril "Blakey" Blake|
|1974–1975||Don't Drink the Water||Cyril "Blakey" Blake|
|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|
|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|
|1991||2point4 Children||Driving Instructor|
|1995||The All New Alexei Sayle Show||Alf|
|1995–1997||Oh, Doctor Beeching!||Harry Lambert|
- "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 19 March 2015.
- "Stephen Lewis, actor - obituary". Daily Telegraph. London. 13 August 2015. Retrieved 13 August 2015.
- "On The Buses actor Stephen Lewis dies aged 88". Independent.ie. 13 August 2015. Retrieved 13 August 2015.
- "Stephen Lewis, On the Buses' 'Blakey', dies aged 88". BBC News. 13 August 2015. Retrieved 13 August 2015.
- "'Blakey' From TV Sitcom On The Buses Dies". SkyNews. 13 August 2015.
- Pocklington, Rebecca (13 August 2015). "Actor Stephen Lewis dead: On The Buses star Blakey passes away aged 88". Daily Mirror.