Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Are You Being Served? (1972-1985)

First broadcast: Friday, September 8th, 1972 (pilot, as part of Comedy Playhouse) in the UK
Final broadcast: Monday, April 1st, 1985 in the UK
Description: BBC TV situation comedy written by Jeremy Lloyd and David Croft which ran for 69 episodes over 10 series. It was set in a department store called Grace Brothers and focused on the increasingly ridiculous antics of the shop floor staff. It was one of many sitcoms Croft wrote with Lloyd, as well as other collaborators, with a distinctive ensemble cast.
  • Are You Being Served? also had a stage version, which ran at Blackpool's Winter Gardens Theatre in the Summer of 1976, and this supplied the basic idea for a movie spin-off in 1977.
  • A partial remake of Are You Being Served? ran for two series in Australia, in which John Inman reprised his role as Mr Humphries, but the others were based on the UK characters, renamed, and recast. It ran on Network 10 for 16 episodes between Monday, June 16th, 1980 and an unknown date in early 1981.
  • There was a sequel series entitled Grace and Favour (UK) aka Are You Being Served Again! (North America) which ran for two six-part series between Friday, January 10th, 1992 and Monday, February 8th, 1993.
  • Finally, on Sunday, August 28th, 2016, the BBC celebrated 60 years of British sitcoms by reviving a handful of old favourites, including Are You Being Served? The original characters were the same, but recast, with Only Fools and Horses favourite John Challis as Captain Peacock, Sherrie Hewson as Mrs Slocombe, Jason Watkins as Mr Humphries, Niky Wardley as Miss Brahms, Roy Barraclough as Mr Grainger, Arthur Smith as Mr Harman, and Justin Edwards as Mr Rumbold. There were new characters too, including Young Mr Grace's grandson (also Young Mr Grace) played by Mathew Horne, Mr Conway played by Kayode Ewumi, and Miss Croft, played by Jorgie Porter. This one-off episode was set in 1988, three years after the original run ended. The special attracted 6.3m viewers, and was the fourth most watched show on BBC1 that week.

JOHN INMAN (born Frederick John Inman)
Played: Wilberforce Claybourne Humphries (1972-85 & 1992-93)
Birthdate: Friday, June 28th, 1935
Location: Preston, Lancashire, UK

Died: Thursday, March 8th, 2007
Location: Paddington, London, UK
Cause of death: Hepatitis A

John was stereotyped as camp, effeminate Mr Humphries and never managed to make another character performance stick. But that wasn't for want of trying - in 1977, while Are You Being Served? was at its height, he tried to make an impression in another sitcom called Odd Man Out, for Thames Television. Over seven episodes he played Neville Sutcliffe, a fish and chip shop owner who inherits half of his father's rock factory. The sitcom was not a hit, and neither was his second attempt at solo fame, 1981's Take a Letter, Mr Jones. This Southern Television sitcom saw John play Graham Jones, the male secretary to Rula Lenska's Joan Warner, the head of a multinational corporation. It was essentially a role-reversal comedy and did not run for more than its initial six episodes.

John in Grace and Favour,
aged 57
After Are You Being Served? finished in April 1985, John found it difficult to get cast in anything else on TV or film, although he did have a cameo as himself in the movie The Tall Guy in 1989, and then there was the sequel series Grace and Favour which ran for two years too.

In May 1995 he played Lancastrian comedian Frank Randle, who was well known in British films in the 1940s, in the BBC's Call Up the Stars, where current performers appeared as their predecessors (eg, Maureen Lipman appeared as Joyce Grenfell and Ronnie Corbett was Arthur Askey).

Amusingly, John had an uncredited cameo as Lady Capulet in a play seen in the movie Shakespeare in Love (1998), and soon after had cameos in French and Saunders (1999), Full Mountie (2000) and The Mumbo Jumbo (2000). His last screen appearances were as the antiques dealer in five episodes of the truly bizarre, now long forgotten sketch show Revolver (which also featured other sitcom luminaries such as Melvyn Hayes, Nicholas Smith, Gorden Kaye and Ruth Madoc) in 2004, and finally an episode of daytime soap Doctors called Intolerance on December 8th, 2004.

Where his screen success faltered, John's stage prowess came through and he became one of the UK's foremost and best known pantomime dames, performing in more than 40 festive productions in his lifetime. In the early 2000s he also toured Australia with live stage shows (including a revival of Are You Being Served? in Brisbane).

John in October 2006,
aged 71. He would be
dead in five months
In December 2005 John entered into a civil partnership with his lover of 33 years, Ron Lynch. He suffered from poor health in his latter years, however: in 1993, aged 58, he was hospitalised with bronchitis, and two years later collapsed while on stage. In 2001 he was admitted to Paddington St Mary's Hospital suffering from breathing difficulties and was in intensive care for three days.

In December 2004, at the age of 69, he was forced to cancel a pantomime appearance as he was diagnosed with Hepatitis A, which he had contracted from contaminated food. Following this, John never worked again (although he was in the audience for An Audience with Shirley Bassey in 2006) and suffered with complications from the infection for the rest of his life. He died in the early morning of March 8th, 2007, aged 71, at the hospital in Paddington. He was cremated at Golders Green following a funeral on March 23rd. John had left the entirety of his estate (valued at over £2.8m) to his civil partner Ron, apart from a £5,000 bequest to the Entertainments Artistes Benevolent Fund.

MOLLIE SUGDEN (born Isobel Mary Sugden)
Played: Betty Slocombe (1972-85 & 1992-93)
Birthdate: Friday, July 21st, 1922
Location: Keighley, Yorkshire, UK

Died: Wednesday, July 1st, 2009
Location: Guildford, Surrey, UK
Cause of death: Heart attack

Before Are You Being Served? came along in 1972, Mollie had already enjoyed a career a decade old, appearing in the likes of Hugh and I with Hugh Lloyd, Up Pompeii, The Goodies and Steptoe and Son. So established was her career that she continued to appear in other productions throughout, and well beyond, her time on Are You Being Served? Regular roles included playing Terry Scott's mum (despite only being five years older than him!) in the now wiped sitcom Son of the Bride (1973); landlady Nellie Harvey in soap Coronation Street for 22 episodes between 1965 and 1976); Gertrude Noah in the lamentable sitcom Come Back, Mrs Noah (1977-78); and housekeeper Ida Willis in the sitcom That's My Boy (1981-86).

Mollie in Grace and Favour, aged 72
After Are You Being Served? ended in April 1985, the roles just kept on coming, particularly comedy roles. She played Nora Powers in sitcom My Husband and I, which co-starred Mollie's real-life husband William Moore (1987-88); played Mrs White in a series of Cluedo (based on the Waddingtons board game) in 1991; reprised Mrs Slocombe for Grace and Favour (1992-93); and also had a guest role as Great Aunt Florence in Just William (1995).

Another role Mollie reprised toward the end of her career was that of Thelma Hutchinson, Sandra's mother, who she had played in the original run of sitcom The Liver Birds between 1971-79, and returned to for the 1996 revival. She was quite ill during the recording of these episodes due to the steroids she was on for her polymyalgia, and had noticeably gained weight.

Mollie as she appeared in the 1996
series of The Liver Birds. She was 74
here and had gained weight due to her
medication for rheumatism

With Ron Moody in The Bill in July 2003,
her final acting appearance, aged 81
After a brief cameo in the sketch series Revolver in 2001 (see entry for John Inman above), Mollie's final acting role was aged 81, as Lally in an episode of police series The Bill on July 30th, 2003, in which Ron Moody played her husband.

Four months later she appeared in an episode of Little Britain as herself, the pay-off to an ongoing joke in the series in which the character of Liz is always bragging that she was a bridesmaid at Mollie Sugden's wedding. The real Mollie turns up to say that she only had one bridesmaid at her wedding, called Helen, and Liz promptly throws a knife in Mollie's back in spite! 

Pictured in March 2009 at
Wendy Richard's funeral.
Her final public appearance was at the funeral of her Are You Being Served? co-star Wendy Richard, on March 9th, 2009, just four months before her own passing. She died of heart failure in Guildford's Royal Surrey County Hospital on July 1st, 2009, aged 86, with her twin sons Robin and Simon at her side. She was later cremated at Golders Green and her ashes scattered in the crematorium's rose garden, as per her wishes.

FRANK THORNTON (born Frank Thornton Ball)
Played: Captain Stephen Peacock (1972-85 & 1992-93)
Birthdate: Saturday, January 15th, 1921
Location: Dulwich, London, UK

Died: Saturday, March 16th, 2013
Location: Barnes, London, UK
Cause of death: Natural causes

After the success of Are You Being Served?, the rest of Frank's career consisted mainly of guest appearances in various programmes, principally comedy or children's shows. He had turns on The Sooty Show (1987), The Ronnie Corbett Show (1987), The Kenny Everett Television Show (1983, 1985 & 1988) and Mr Majeika (1990), but it wasn't long until he found more serious roles, notably as Mr Trab in Charles Dickens's Great Expectations (1991), Mr Witherden in Dickens's The Old Curiosity Shop (1991), as well as the period film Gosford Park (2001).

Frank pictured in 2009,
aged 89, and (inset) in Run
for Your Wife in 2012
Comedy still beckoned, however, and apart from reprising Captain Peacock for Grace and Favour, Frank also had roles in The Upper Hand (1995) and All Rise for Julian Clary (1996). However, he did find renewed success in later life playing the character of Herbert "Truly" Truelove in veteran sitcom Last of the Summer Wine. He became a member of the changing regular line-up for 135 episodes between December 1997 and the very last episode in August 2010.

After Last of the Summer Wine, Frank had only one further, brief, acting appearance, as Man Getting Off Bus in the British film Run for Your Wife in 2012, when he was aged 91.

Frank died peacefully in his sleep of natural causes at the age of 92, in the early hours of March 16th, 2013. His death meant that Nicholas Smith (Mr Rumbold) became the last surviving actor from the original series of Are You Being Served?

WENDY RICHARD (born Wendy Emerton)
Played: Edith Shirley Brahms (1972-85 & 1992-93)
Birthdate: Tuesday, July 20th, 1943
Location: Middlesbrough, UK

Died: Thursday, February 26th, 2009
Location: London, UK
Cause of death: Breast cancer

Wendy was one of the few stars of Are You Being Served? to find a subsequent role which almost completely eclipsed her character of leggy Miss Brahms. In February 1985 the BBC debuted its brand new twice-weekly soap opera, EastEnders, and Wendy had secured one of the central roles of Pauline Fowler. Her first appearance in the soap (on February 19th, 1985) was actually the day after the tenth and final series of Are You Being Served? premiered on BBC1, so her two most iconic roles overlapped for six weeks.

Wendy as Pauline Fowler in
the year 2013 in a 3D Doctor
Who special from 1993
Pauline Fowler went on to become one of the most memorable characters in EastEnders, and Wendy played her in a total of 1,534 episodes between February 1985 and December 2006. She even played three ages of Pauline (in 1973, 1993 and 2013) in a 3D Doctor Who special for Children in Need in November 1993 (it's sad to think that Wendy didn't actually get to 2013 to see if the "aged" make-up was true to life).

After leaving EastEnders, Wendy had only two more roles - firstly as Sylvia in the fifth series of sitcom Benidorm in April 2008, and finally as Mrs Crump in Agatha Christie's Marple: A Pocketful of Rye, broadcast posthumously on July 5th, 2009, just over four months after her death.

Wendy was first diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 53 in 1996. She had an operation, but the cancer came back in 2002. She had further treatment and went into remission, being given a clean bill of health in 2005, when she was 62. Wendy was diagnosed with breast cancer a third time in January 2008, when cancerous cells were found in her left armpit. This then spread to her spine and left kidney and ribs.

Wendy in her final two acting roles - in Benidorm (2008) and
an adaptation of the Agatha Christie mystery A Pocketful of
Rye, broadcast posthumously in 2009

As Wendy appeared when suffering from
cancer in To Tell You the Truth, filmed
in the last months of her life in 2009
On March 19th, 2009, a special half-hour programme about her fight with breast cancer was broadcast on the BBC, entitled Wendy Richard: To Tell You the Truth, documenting the last three months of her life. It also featured her EastEnders co-stars and close friends Natalie Cassidy and James Alexandrou.

Wendy finally succumbed to the disease which had plagued her for the last 13 years on February 26th, 2009, aged 65. She died at a Harley Street clinic with her husband John at her side. Her funeral took place on March 9th at St Marylebone Parish Church in London, and was attended by many of her EastEnders and Are You Being Served? co-stars. She was cremated at Golders Green, and in July 2009 a commemorative plaque was unveiled by the Heritage Foundation at the Shepherds Tavern in London, which Wendy's parents had run after World War Two.

Played: Cuthbert Rumbold (1972-85 & 1992-93)
Birthdate: Monday, March 5th, 1934
Location: Banstead, Surrey, UK

Died: Sunday, December 6th, 2015
Cause of death: Complications following a fall

Jug-eared Nicholas Smith was another of the Are You Being Served? regulars who maintained a career outside of Grace Brothers during the sitcom's 13-year tenure. He even kept up a recurring character called PC Yates in the police series Z Cars until 1975, and also appeared in The Sweeney (1975), And Mother Makes Five (1976) and Worzel Gummidge (1979).

Nicholas in Grace and
Favour (1992)
However, as soon as Are You Being Served? stopped in 1985, so too did his screen career - for a while. For the seven years between Are You Being Served?'s last episode The Pop Star and the launch of the sequel series Grace and Favour in January 1992, Nicholas didn't appear in any dramatic productions on screen, although he did pop up as himself in the likes of quiz show Blankety Blank (1985 & 1986) and Jimmy Cricket's And There's More (1987).

Nicholas's career since Grace and Favour saw him play Mr Spottletoe in Dickens's Martin Chuzzlewit, and play various characters in the leftfield sketch show Revolver (see John Inman's entry above for more). He also did a fair bit of voice acting, including The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest (1996), The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005) and The Golden Compass video game (2007).

Nicholas as Professor Quakermass (2010)
His final few appearances included appearing alongside his Are You Being Served? co-star Frank Thornton in an episode of the sitcom Last of the Summer Wine in 2008, in which he played a vicar; and playing the amusingly named Professor Quakermass in the children's spy series MI High (January 2010). Nicholas's IMDb entry lists him as appearing in a 2011 episode of Charlie's Angels, but this is not the same actor.

Nicholas last appeared on British television as part of the December 2011 tribute to sitcom writer David Croft, entitled You Have Been Watching, but in 2013, at the age of 79, he made a trip to Pretoria in South Africa, where he was interviewed as part of host Ed Sutkowski's series Interesting People.

In October 2015, Nicholas suffered a fall at his home and was hospitalised for seven weeks, but sadly passed away on December 6th, at the age of 81. He was the last surviving member of the original Are You Being Served? line-up.

TREVOR BANNISTER (born Trevor Gordon Bannister)
Played: Dick Lucas/ James Lucas* (1972-79)
Birthdate: Tuesday, August 14th, 1934
Location: Durrington, Wiltshire, UK

Died: Thursday, April 14th, 2011
Location: Thames Ditton, Surrey, UK
Cause of death: Heart attack

* In the 1974 episode The Clock, Mr Mash refers to Mr Lucas as James. However, Mr Lucas's first name is given as Dick (short for Richard) in the 1977 episode The Old Order Changes (much to Mr Humphries' delight), and in the 1978 episode Shedding the Load he signs a letter as Dick Lucas.

Trevor in The Dustbinmen, aged 35
Trevor's career had been a long and successful one before Are You Being Served? came along. He'd played the recurring character of Peter Barry in the science-fiction serial Object Z and its sequel Object Z Returns (1965-66), had a co-starring role in the sitcom The Dustbinmen as Heavy Breathing in 1969-70, and worked with comedian Harry Worth in his series Thirty Minutes Worth (1972-73).

He did have the occasional role in other series during his eight-year run in Are You Being Served? (including Crossroads (1974), The Tomorrow People (1975) and Only on Sunday (1975)), but after the 1979 Christmas special, The Punch and Judy Affair, Trevor accepted a role in a touring production of the Roger Hall play Middle-Age Spread, and so was unable to film the eighth series of the sitcom. Mr Lucas's departure was never explained, although in the 1981 episode Sit Out, in reference to falling sales at the store, Captain Peacock does refer to having "fired the junior".

With Frank Thornton and Wendy Richard
at John Inman's funeral in March 2007
After this, Trevor's career fell into a routine of guest appearances in series such as The New Adventures of Lucky Jim (1982), The Upper Hand (1991), Woof! (1994) and Keeping Up Appearances (1994), but by the turn of the millennium - by which point he was 66 and of retirement age - his acting appearances grew sparser.

In 2006 he appeared in five episodes of soap Coronation Street as David, solicitor to Mike and Danny Baldwin, and also had guest roles in Casualty (2009) and New Tricks (2011). His role as a retired pathologist in the latter series was broadcast posthumously, just under three months after his death.

Trevor with Brian Murphy, Russ Abbot
and Burt Kwouk in Last of the Summer
Wine, circa 2009
However, rather like his co-star Frank Thornton, Trevor did find renewed success late in his career with a regular role in the veteran sitcom Last of the Summer Wine. He had first appeared in the sitcom as a tailor in a 1992 episode, but returned to play the new character simply named Golf Captain in 2001. He enjoyed a handful of occasional return appearances over the course of the following few years, finally being given the name Toby Mulbery-Smith in 2008 and becoming a member of the central cast in the 2009 series (the sitcom's 30th!). He stayed with the series until its final episode, How Not to Cry at Weddings, in August 2010.

On April 14th, 2011, Trevor suffered a heart attack while on his allotment in Thames Ditton and died, aged 76. In his obituary, co-star Frank Thornton said the last time he'd seen him was at his 90th birthday party in January 2011. "He was a very good friend over a long time. We shall miss him sorely," he said.

ARTHUR BROUGH (born Frederick Arthur Baker)
Played: Ernest Grainger (1972-77)
Birthdate: Sunday, February 26th, 1905
Location: Petersfield, UK

Died: Sunday, May 28th, 1978
Location: Folkestone, UK

Before being cast in Are You Being Served?'s pilot in 1972, Arthur had been an active member of the theatrical community. After graduating from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in the 1920s, he and his wife rented a a repertory theatre in Folkestone in Kent, UK, and set up the Arthur Brough Players. When the theatre set up its own rep company, Arthur moved on and established new repertory companies in Bradford, Bristol, Blackpool, Keighley, Leeds, Lincoln, Oxford and Southampton.

During World War Two he served in the Royal Navy, helping with the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940. After the war he returned to Folkestone rep, and a number of noted actors got their big break with the Arthur Brough Players, including Peter Barkworth, Polly James, Anne Stallybrass and his future Are You Being Served? co-star Trevor Bannister.

Arthur Brough in his mid-30s during World
War Two (left) and as the landlord in
the 1956 film The Green Man, aged 51
By the 1970s Arthur had carved a niche for himself in television sitcoms, appearing in Dad's Army, Doctor at Large and Doctor in Charge. He continued to make appearances in other series during his five-year tenure with Grace Brothers, including Upstairs, Downstairs (1973), Bless This House (1974), Rooms (1975) and the film Royal Flash (1975).

The seventh and final episode of Are You Being Served?'s fifth series, It Pays to Advertise, was broadcast on Good Friday, April 8th, 1977. However, almost a year later, on Easter Sunday, March 26th, 1978, Arthur's wife of 49 years, Elizabeth Addyman, died aged 66, and her devastated widower announced he was giving up acting. He went to stay with his daughter for a few days in the aftermath of Elizabeth's death, where he was contacted by Are You Being Served?'s writers David Croft and Jeremy Lloyd to say they were writing him into the forthcoming sixth series, due to be recorded that autumn.

Sadly, Arthur died just nine weeks after his wife, on May 28th, 1978, aged 73. The cause of death was not made public, but perhaps he died of a broken heart? He was cremated at Golders Green. Lloyd and Croft did not want to recast Mr Grainger, so instead they wrote a new character to replace him: Mr Tebbs, played by James Hayter.

Played: Young Mr Grace (1972-81)
Birthdate: Sunday, September 17th, 1899
Location: Hastings, UK

Died: Tuesday, September 15th, 1981
Location: London, UK
Cause of death: Heart attack

Before he found fame in Are You Being Served?, Harold had already had quite a colourful and varied career, and not always in the acting profession. In the 1910s he toured North America as a clown with a circus, and later became an English teacher at London's Working Men's College before World War One broke out and he served as a horseback and motorcycle courier.

A distinguished looking Harold
Bennett in a publicity shot in
his younger years (1960s?)
He first got into the acting world after the war ended, becoming a stage producer and actor in London, but soon put that to one side to forge a career as an architect's draughtsman for an electric company, and it wasn't until his retirement at the age of 65 that he returned to treading the boards.

His earliest screen credit is in the Wednesday Play Vote, Vote, Vote for Nigel Barton (December 1965), in which he was already being credited as Old Man. He enjoyed various minor, sometimes uncredited, roles in series such as Adam Adamant Lives! (1967), Strange Report (1969) and Doomwatch (1971), and also put in a memorably amusing turn as the seemingly deathless Archdeacon Pulteney in the Ghost Story for Christmas The Stalls of Barchester in 1971.

Harold did, however, hit upon another regular character in a BBC sitcom years before Are You Being Served? came along. In 1969 he first played Sidney Blewitt in Dad's Army for the first time, and made 12 return appearances between then and 1977. During his nine years on Are You Being Served? he could also be seen in Clayhanger (1976), Mollie Sugden's woeful sitcom Come Back, Mrs Noah (1978) and Oh Happy Band (1980).

Harold's signature. Whether he
signed it as shakily as Young Mr
Grace might, or whether that was
his real handwriting, who knows!
Harold's last appearance in Are You Being Served? was the 1981 Christmas special Roots, which also featured the last appearance of his character's brother Old Mr Grace, played by Kenneth Waller (who was actually 28 years younger than Harold!). The special was broadcast posthumously three months after Harold's death from a heart attack, just two days before his 81st birthday. Harold had been intending to take a break from Are You Being Served? in order to have a rest, but sadly things didn't quite work out that way.

So what was the difference in age between Young and Old Mr Grace? Well, it's typically unclear. In Series 4 it was stated that Young Mr Grace was 80 (so, born in 1896), but in the Series 5 episode Founder's Day it is said he was born in 1897. Moreover, during Series 6 in 1978 it is stated that he is 80 years old then, so it seems Young Mr Grace was born at some point between 1896-1898.

As for Old Mr Grace, it is stated in the 1981 Christmas special that he is 90, making him born in 1891. At least the various facts in the show do confirm that Young Mr Grace is younger than Old Mr Grace, even if the actors weren't!

LARRY MARTYN (born Lawrence Martyn)
Played: Mr Mash (1972-75)
Birthdate: Thursday, March 22nd, 1934
Location: London, UK

Died: Sunday, August 7th, 1994
Location: St Mary's Bay, Kent, UK

Larry had had an enviable career before joining Are You Being Served? with its pilot in 1972, stemming back to the late 1950s. Some of the more high profile entries on his CV include The Great St Trinian's Train Robbery (1966), Up the Junction (1968), Carry On At Your Convenience (1971) and four episodes of Dad's Army (1969-72). It's also interesting to note that Larry replaced the late actor James Beck in the role of Private Walker in the BBC radio version of Dad's Army in 1973.

Larry aged 27 in Partners in Crime (1961)
and in the sitcom Spring and Autumn in
July 1974, aged 40 (and looking more like
Mr Lucas without his Mr Mash wig!)
Mr Mash the maintenance man appeared in a total of 19 episodes before Larry left at the end of Series 3. The character's departure was never referred to, and he was replaced by Arthur English's Mr Harman in Series 4. However, throughout his time on Are You Being Served?, Larry was also playing another recurring character called Brian Reid, the son-in-law of star Jimmy Jewel, in the sitcom Spring and Autumn. Larry appeared in 26 episodes over four series between 1972-76, and it was filming commitments for the third series of Spring and Autumn which forced Larry to leave Are You Being Served? after filming finished on that in November 1975.

After both series ended, Larry went on to have roles in series such as Rings on Their Fingers (1978), The Jim Davidson Show (1980), West End Tales (1981) and Minder (1982). He appeared in a slew of sitcoms throughout the 1980s, with his final acting appearance being in his third episode of police series The Bill, on May 25th, 1993, as a pub landlord.

Larry passed away of undisclosed causes at the age of 60 at home in St Mary's Bay in Kent in August 1994.

ARTHUR ENGLISH (born Arthur Leslie Norman English)
Played: Beverley Harman/ Harry Harman* (1976-85)
Birthdate: Friday, May 9th, 1919
Location: Aldershot, UK

Died: Sunday, April 16th, 1995
Location: Frimley Park Hospital, Surrey, UK
Cause of death: Emphysema

* Mr Harman is referred to Harry in some of his earlier appearances, but in 1983's episode Monkey Business, when Mr Rumbold calls him Harry, he says his name is actually Beverley, "but it's the thought that counts". He is also referred to as Beverley in the last ever episode, The Pop Star, in 1985, so maybe Harry is just a knickname derived from his surname?

Sitcom favourite Arthur had already had roles in the likes of Dad's Army (1970), Bless This House (1971) and For the Love of Ada (1972) before replacing Larry Martyn as the Grace Brothers' maintenance man in Series 4 of Are You Being Served?, a role he played for 48 episodes right through until the series ended in 1985.

As Bert in The Hi-Jackers
(1963), aged 44
Arthur enjoyed a whole host of regular characters in many series over his career, such as Slugger in 39 episodes of Follyfoot (1971-73), Vincent in the various Doctor... sitcom series (1970-73), Knocker White in Dixon of Dock Green (1970 & 1974), Ted Cropper in How's Your Father? (1974-75), Bodkin in 20 episodes of children's series The Ghosts of Motley Hall (1976-78), Sam in educational series Everyday Maths (1978-79) and Sid in the long forgotten Never Say Die (1987), a Channel 4 sitcom set in sheltered housing for the elderly!

As Arthur in In Sickness
and in Health
However, he also found lasting fame as Alf Garnett's mate Arthur in the sitcom In Sickness and in Health, appearing in 33 episodes over five series between 1985-90. The 1990 Christmas special was Arthur's final screen appearance.

Arthur died from complications stemming from emphysema in April 1995, aged 75. A funeral was held at St Michael's Church in Aldershot and he was cremated at the Park Crematorium, with his ashes interred in the same plot as his first wife, Ivy, who had died in 1975. His second wife was dancer Teresa Mann, who he'd met in pantomime in Wimbledon in 1977, when she was just 22 and he was 58. In 1981 they had a child together (Claire-Louise English, whose godfather was John Inman), but the marriage was dissolved in 1987.

One of Arthur's lesser known legacies is that he designed the phoenix rising from the ashes on the emblem of Aldershot Town Football Club, which was formed from what was Aldershot FC in 1992. Arthur had been their president.

There were other series regulars in Are You Being Served?'s 13-year run, but the actors above appeared most regularly, whereas the following were more short-lived or lesser known...

Mr Goldberg (Alfie Bass), Mr Tebbs (James Hayter), Mr Grossman (Milo Sperber)
and Mr Spooner (Mike Berry)

James Hayter, who played Percival Tebbs, a replacement for Mr Grainger in Series 6 only, was born in India on April 23rd, 1907 and died in Spain on March 27th, 1983, aged 75. Mr Tebbs's departure is the only one directly addressed in the series; his retirement party is seen on screen. Interestingly, James only left Are You Being Served? as he was paid a large sum of money to do so by the makers of Mr Kipling's cakes, for whom he did commercial voiceovers at the time. They believed his reputation gave a significant air of dignity to their product (and Are You Being Served? didn't!).

Alfie Bass, who played Harry Goldberg, a replacement for Mr Tebbs in Series 7 only, was born in Bethnal Green, London, on April 10th, 1916 and died of a heart attack on July 15th, 1987, aged 71. Mr Goldberg was initially taken on as a junior menswear salesman after Mr Humphries was promoted to senior salesman to replace Mr Tebbs, and Mr Lucas was promoted to replace Mr Humphries, but after Mr Goldberg got all his friends to buy from the store on his first day, he was promoted to senior salesman and the other two were demoted!

Milo Sperber, who played Mr Grossman and transferred from the shoe department for four episodes in Series 8 only, was born in Poland on March 20th, 1911, and died in London on December 22nd, 1992, aged 81. Milo fled Nazi Germany with his family in 1939.

Mike Berry, who played Bert Spooner, a replacement for Mr Lucas in Series 8, 9 & 10, was born in Northampton on September 24th, 1942. Mike had actually enjoyed very different success in the UK music charts when, between 1961-67, he released several singles produced by Joe Meek, the greatest hit being Don't You Think It's Time, which reached number 6 in 1962. He had later UK singles chart hits with The Sunshine of Your Smile (number 9 in 1980) and If I Could Only Make You Care (number 37 in 1980). This success was just before he joined Grace Brothers, but came at the height of his role in the family drama Worzel Gummidge, in which he played the children's father Mr Peters for 23 episodes between 1979-81. Mike's last acting role was as Mac Macdonald in the film Julie and the Cadillacs (1999).

Candy Davis, who played Miss B Belfridge, Mr Rumbold's secretary in series 9 & 10, was born in London on January 2nd, 1962. She was a former Page 3 model and in the 1980s was married to actor Gary Olsen, best known for the sitcom 2point4 Children. Candy can also be seen in the music videos for ABC's Poison Arrow (1982) and Mick Jagger's controversial Rocky Horror (1983). She now goes by the name Clare Dunkel (she was born Clare Damaris Bastin).

Kenneth Waller, who played Old Mr Henry Grace in Series 8 only, was born in Huddersfield on November 5th, 1927 and died on January 28th, 2000, aged 72, after a brief illness. Kenneth was actually 28 years younger than Harold Bennett, who played Young Mr Grace. After Are You Being Served?, he went on to greater acclaim playing Grandad in 74 episodes of the Carla Lane sitcom Bread between 1986-91. Kenneth once shared a home in London with theatrical agent Greville Hallam, who was murdered by Guardian journalist Erwin James in 1982, the year after Kenneth's involvement with Are You Being Served?

Miss Belfridge (Candy Davis) and Old Mr Grace (Kenneth Waller)


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    1. I still today can,t beleive that the entire cast has departed. Of coarse the exception of Mike berry and Candy Davis. They are running the show here in Toronto weekly at 3:30pm on Vision TV.I watch it every afternoon but i feel sad that they are no longer here.
      I do seem to like British Hmour at its best. Its alot mre riskier than American comedies...

    2. Penny Irving who played young Mr. Grace's first secretary is still alive also.

    3. I have all the episodes on DVD. Watching them is hard though. It's like watching a lot of ghosts playing together. The episodes kind of say something different now.

    4. Loved watching AYBS. Sad many of the original cast have passed on. Still watch episodes on YouTube in 2019. πŸ“ΊπŸ“½️🎬

  2. Started watching this show in my late teens in our local PBS station, and being from El Paso, Texas USA it was nothing that my contemporaries watched but I loved it. I was horrified and saddened to learn that as I found the program living in youtube, that all main cast members had already passed away. I am still very sad about the fact, but in a small remedy, I ordered a full set of all episodes on DVD and will watch them until I am gone too.

    1. Don't worry, you're not the only person in El Paso, TX who is obsessed with the show. There are at least two of us!

  3. I believe Doremy Vernon, the Canteen Manageress is still alive as well.

  4. All this actors from Are you being served?, are like my family. For over 30 years I'm washing this show everyday, over and over and over... and I laugh with each of them.

  5. Why did they replace Trevor Bannister (Mr. Lucas)? Does anyone know the real reason?

    1. Hello Angela... As it says in the blog above, after the 1979 Christmas special, Trevor accepted a role in a touring production of the Roger Hall play Middle-Age Spread, and so was unable to film the eighth series of the sitcom. Mr Lucas's departure was never explained, although in the 1981 episode Sit Out, in reference to falling sales at the store, Captain Peacock does refer to having "fired the junior".

    2. He had other acting obligations.

  6. Im from Alberta in Canada. I like the show very much that i record it for evening viewing.

  7. AYBS is my favorite British sitcom and has been for many years. The main actors were so full of expression and talent. My favorite was Mr Humphries. RIP to all of you. Vickie in Atlanta, GA.

  8. Hi,

    I saw you mention AYBS in your blog, so I thought this might interest you.

    I run an official "Are You Being Served?" site at:

    There are a lot of images and info pertaining to all the cast members.


    Elina M. Lampart
    Official AYBS Central?:
    AYBS RPG (Role Playing Game):
    AYBS Forum:

  9. the sound of my late mother giggling away watching the show comes to mind everytime i see the show , she loved mr humphries and mrs slocombe , so many other genius pom comics also, my late father was teh same, they could never miss thwe two ronnies , love thy neighbour and so many more , rip mum and dad , rip grace brothers faithful staff

  10. I have the series & am enjoying it again now. Love this show!

  11. Still in 2019 watching Are You Being Served here in Florida on YouTube. Love it. Sadly all main Character Actors have passed on. πŸ“ΊπŸŽ¬πŸ“½️🎞️

  12. Watching AYBS right now 8-17-2019 at 7.52 AM.on PBS WETA 26-2 in Maryland USA. Its so sad that all the main original characters have passed on. I really liked Are You Being Served Again as well. RIP and thanks for the laughs.

  13. This was a great show and my wife and I along with my dad have been watching it on britbox via Amazon prime. I also agree that it's hard to believe the original cast is gone except Mike and Candy are possibly the only ones still around. I also like the sequel as well. Although not as good as it was in the store but still funny nonetheless. Great to see others comments about AYBS and how we all liked this show. I still find it hilarious today just as I did when I watched it in the 90s in reruns on PBS. My two favorite lines Mrs. Slocombe You cheeky monkey and the famous I'm free from Mr. Humphries. Take care all and stay safe in this time of pandemic and enjoy the hilarious comedy of AYBS. God bless.

    1. I really enjoyed watching it over and over and to read all bios on the actors and reading they have all passed away and it seemed like the whole crew was very close no matter what and it was a blast just to laugh again.

  14. I am interested to know about Candy Davis in a Mick Jagger Rocky Horror video. I know he wanted to role of Frank for the movie, but I have never heard of this video and I am not finding anything with google searches. Please let me know more details if you have them. Thank you,

    1. Hello,
      I wrote this five years ago so struggled a little to find my source, but the only reference to it comes in the World Heritage Encyclopedia. The page has now been removed, but is cached here (
      The passage referring to Rocky Horror reads: "Candy featured in the controversial music video for Mick Jagger's song Rocky Horror. The video was banned however as the scenes of sex and violence were considered too outrageous for the BBC at the time (1983)."

  15. Hello, everyone. I am so happy to be watching AYBS on Britbox. My family first saw it in the 90s on PBS. The show hasn’t lost any of its charm and outrageous humor. I am always so amazed at and in awe of the acting talent of the entire cast. Nothing in the US can compare to the British shows, in my opinion, especially this one. I realize that most of the cast has passed on, but I would still like to thank them all, “wherever” they may be, for sharing their immense talent with the world and for continuing to make me laugh nearly 50 years on.

  16. If just watched the last episode today.i loved them so favourite show for years.the original cast were and Lucas were never replaced.i had a schoolboy crush on miss Brahms like thousands more.she was so sexy.and miss selfridge was another hottie!those were the days.


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