Graham Stark - Character Actor Nov 19, 2013 15:29:05 GMT 1
Post by Laurence on Nov 19, 2013 15:29:05 GMT 1
British comic actor Graham Stark, best known for his recurring roles opposite Peter Sellers in the Pink Panther films, has died aged 91.
Stark began to work on BBC Radio in the postwar years, helped by Hancock's connections, making his debut in Happy Go Lucky and going on to Ray's A Laugh, thanks to the intervention of Sellers. For a time he was a regular in Educating Archie and substituted for Spike Milligan on The Goon Show when the comedian was ill. Stark was a regular supporting player on TV with Peter Sellers in A Show Called Fred and Son of Fred, and with Benny Hill. His profile was sufficient for him to gain his own, albeit short-lived, sketch series, The Graham Stark Show (BBC 1964). Now entirely lost, all the editions were scripted by Johnny Speight and each one featured a different group of supporting actors, including Deryck Guyler, Arthur Mullard, Derek Nimmo, Patricia Hayes and Warren Mitchell.
He became a regular performer in the Pink Panther film series. His first role in the series was as Hercule Lajoy, Inspector Clouseau's stonefaced assistant, in A Shot in the Dark (1964). Other than Herbert Lom and Burt Kwouk, he has appeared in more Pink Panther films than any other actor, playing a variety of characters, including reprising Lajoy in Trail of the Pink Panther (1982) and twice playing Dr Auguste Balls (in Revenge of the Pink Panther, 1978; and Son of the Pink Panther, 1993). He also gave a moving performance in the film Alfie (1966) as Humphrey, a timid bus conductor who takes on a woman and her child when the title character (played by Michael Caine) refuses commitment. He also played the role of Lord Fortnum's doctor, Captain Pontius Kak, in the original stage play of The Bed-Sitting Room, which opened at the Mermaid Theatre on 31 January 1963. Following the death of James Beck, Graham took over the role of Private Joe Walker in the radio adaptation of Dad's Army.
The son of a purser on transatlantic liners, Stark was born in New Brighton (part of Wallasey) on the Wirral in Merseyside, England. He attended Wallasey Grammar School and made his professional stage debut aged 13 in pantomime at the Lyceum Theatre in London. During the Second World War he served in the Royal Air Force, but did not fly as he was colour blind. While in the RAF, he first met Dick Emery, Tony Hancock and Peter Sellers, the latter two as fellow members of Ralph Reader's Gang Shows. Sellers would become a long-lasting close friend. With the Gang Shows, Stark toured the locations where military personnel were seeing active service. After the war he studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and joined the regulars at Grafton's, a pub in Victoria run by Jimmy Grafton, a venue at which soon to be prominent entertainers of the next few decades regularly gathered. Stark was also an accomplished stills photographer.
Graham Stark died in London on 29 October 2013 after suffering a stroke. He was 91.