Alec Bregonzi May 29, 2010 13:23:30 GMT 1
Post by Laurence on May 29, 2010 13:23:30 GMT 1
Character actor Alec Bregonzi was born in London on April 21, 1930. Italian on his father's side, Bregonzi went to school in Maidenhead, Berkshire, as a wartime evacuee. Having been interested in theatre as a child, took up acting shortly after doing his National Service. He made his professional stage debut in 1946 in The Lady Protests, at the Torch, a club theatre in Knightsbridge, London. He was billed as Victor Bari - "to prevent embarrassment to the illustrious Bregonzi name". He appeared in rep in York, Bromley and Leatherhead and in 1957 played two parts and understudied Ronnie Barker in Tennessee Williams' Camino Real at the Pheonix. Bregonzi was also a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company and acted in productions of A Patriot for Me, Spring Awakening and The Comedy of Errors. In 1958 he appeared in Hancock's Half Hour, alongside Hugh Lloyd, Arthur Mullard, Mario Fabrizi and Johnny Vyvyan and soon became a part of the show's comic reertory company. He went on to appear in 22 of the 63 episodes made for BBC Television including the now classic episodes The Missing Page, Twelve Angry Men and The Bowmans. Later he toured with Hancock on variety bills.
Duncan Wood, producer of Hancock's Half Hour recommended Bregonzi to other directors, and throughout the fifties and sixties he was a stalwart of comedy shows starring Benny Hill, Charlie Drake, Arthur Askey, Ted Ray, Frankie Howerd, Harry Worth, Jimmy Logan, and Jimmy Logan. In interviews Bregonzi spoke about his private life at this time. As early as the 1940s he answered coded personal ads in the fan magazine Picture Show. Homosexuality was illegal and references to Farley Granger, Montgomery Clift and Bette Davis were enough to draw isolated gay men together. However, this proved to be a risky activity that also drew the attention of the police: "I got in one night and my mother called out from her bedroom. She was in tears and said, 'What have you done?' Apparently two men had called around asking for me, said they were from the Post Office, and it was about a letter. My dad, however, had noticed that, as they produced their documents, 'CID' was printed inside their briefcase." The police were about to bring charges against one of Bregonzi's pen pals, an RAF officer in East Anglia.
Later Bregonzi worked alongside Hale and Pace, Cannon and Ball, Kenny Everett and Little and Large and he appeared in The Two Ronnies and Filthy Rich and Catflap. He was also seen in straight roles in The Mayor of Casterbridge, The Barchester Chronicles, Mapp & Lucia, Don Camillo, Great Expectations and London's Burning. Bregonzi read viewers letters on Points of View, which led to the radio series Joke by Joke. He also appeared in radio comedy with Kenneth Connor, Richard Briers and others.
In the theatre, he appeared in the traditional pantomimes staged by the Players' Theatre, and he and Anthony Colin made a hit as Alf and Bert, the Broker's Men, in a production of Cinderella at the Ashcroft Theatre (1964). He appeared in several musicals, and also played King Ferdinand in Opera Rara's 1977 recording of Offenbach's opéra bouffe Christopher Columbus. Perhaps his most memorable stage appearance was his starring role in the musical A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum at Richmond Theatre in 1974. As Pseudolos, the wily slave determined to gain his freedom, he had the daunting task of following Frankie Howerd, who created the role in the West End, but vanquished comparisons with a hilarious performance that captivated audiences.
He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2000 but was still much in demand to give talks and interviews about Tony Hancock. This included introducing Hancock programmes at the National Film Theatre in London, and addressing meetings of the Tony Hancock Appreciation Society. In 2004 he took part in a BBC Radio 4 documentary celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first episode. He passed away on June 4, 2006 aged 76.