Tom Bell (actor)

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Tom Bell
Actor Tom Bell.jpg
Thomas George Bell

(1933-08-02)2 August 1933
Liverpool, Lancashire, England
Died4 October 2006(2006-10-04) (aged 73)
Brighton, Sussex, England
Years active1959– 2006
Notable credit(s)
Adolf Eichmann in Holocaust
Bill Otley in Prime Suspect
Jack McVitie in The Krays
Lois Daine
(m. 1960; div. 1976)
Partner(s)Frances Tempest (1976–his death 2006)

Thomas George Bell (2 August 1933 – 4 October 2006) was an English actor on stage, film and television.[1] In his later years, Bell often played characters having a sinister side to their nature.

Early life[edit]

Bell was born on 2 August 1933 in Liverpool, Lancashire, England. Evacuated as a child during the Second World War, he lived with three different families in Morecambe, Lancashire. In 1948, at age 15, Bell began to act in his first school plays. His younger brother Keith also became an actor.[2]

On leaving school he trained under Esme Church at the Bradford Civic Theatre; fellow pupils included Billie Whitelaw and Robert Stephens. He later worked in repertory in Liverpool and Dublin.


Bell made his first film appearances in so-called "Kitchen Sink Dramas", including The Kitchen (1961) and The L-Shaped Room (1962), with Leslie Caron.

As a young actor, he gained somewhat of a reputation for being a hellraiser who liked a drink. At an awards ceremony, drunk, he interrupted a speech by the guest of honour, Prince Philip, by yelling "Tell us a funny story" – to the obvious embarrassment of table companions, Richard Attenborough and Bryan Forbes. Although (it is said) the Prince took the heckle in good humour with his retort "If you want a funny story, I suggest you engage a professional comic", the incident didn't do Bell's career any favours.[3] In 1978, he came to worldwide attention portraying Adolf Eichmann in the Emmy-winning tv-series Holocaust, and he received a BAFTA nomination for the series Out, in which he played convicted armed robber, Frank Ross.

In the 1980s and 1990s, he appeared in several British films including Wish You Were Here,[4] Peter Greenaway's Prospero's Books, Swing and the 1990 film The Krays, where he played the part of Jack "The Hat" McVitie, one of the Kray twins' murder victims.[5]

He played the dour owner of a run-down seaside waxworks museum in Thames tv's sitcom Hope It Rains, written by John Esmonde and Bob Larbey and directed by John Howard Davies. There were two series (13 episodes in all) aired in 1991–92.[6]

Although he tended to eschew live performance, his few stage appearances included a rôle in the 1979 UK première of Bent, Martin Sherman's play about homosexuality, staged at the Royal Court Theatre.[7] He played the character Horst opposite Ian McKellen's Max. The play's setting of homosexuals and love in a Nazi death camp was shocking for many theatregoers at the time and uncovered a previously little-examined area of Nazi brutality.

Bell played a policeman Detective Sergeant Bill Otley opposite Helen Mirren in the first and third series of the ITV series Prime Suspect. In 1993, in the third series, he received his second BAFTA nomination. One of his final screen appearances was a supporting role in 2006 in the seventh: Prime Suspect: The Final Act.[8]

Personal life[edit]

Bell's only marriage, to the actress Lois Daine, lasted , from 1960 to 1976. They had one son, Aran, who became an actor.[9]

Bell later had a daughter by his partner Frances Tempest.


Bell had enjoyed working with TV director Danny Hiller. When his friend and adviser, showbiz accountant Jose Goumal (also a close friend and adviser to Hiller) asked Bell, he agreed to appear in Hiller's first feature film Love Me Still. It was evident throughout filming that he was not well but he soldiered on and completed filming only a few days before the end of his life. He died in hospital in Brighton on 4 October 2006, aged 73, following a short illness. [7]



Television (selected)[edit]


  1. ^ "Tom Bell". BFI. Archived from the original on 21 July 2012.
  2. ^ Howard Maxford (8 November 2019). Hammer Complete: The Films, the Personnel, the Company. McFarland. p. 45. ISBN 978-1-4766-2914-8.
  3. ^ Hewitt, Michael (2003–14). "Bell, Tom (1932–2006)". BFI Screenonline. Retrieved 6 May 2020.
  4. ^ Maslin, Janet (24 July 1987). "Wish You Were Here (1987) FILM: 'WISH YOU WERE HERE'". The New York Times.
  5. ^ "Prime Suspect actor Tom Bell dies". BBC News. 5 October 2006.
  6. ^ "Hope It Rains" – via
  7. ^ a b Coveney, Michael (6 October 2006). "Obituary: Tom Bell". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 15 August 2010.
  8. ^ "Tom Bell". The Daily Telegraph. 7 October 2006.
  9. ^ Howard Maxford (17 December 2018). Hammer Complete: The Films, the Personnel, the Company. McFarland. p. 177. ISBN 978-1-4766-7007-2.