Barry Foster (actor)

Last updated

Barry Foster
Barry Foster (1972).jpg
Barry Foster (1972)
John Barry Foster

(1931-08-21)21 August 1931
Died11 February 2002(2002-02-11) (aged 70)
Guildford, Surrey, England
Years active1954–2000
Judith Shergold
(m. 1955;his death 2002)
Children3; including Joanna Foster

John Barry Foster (21 August 1931 11 February 2002) [1] [2] was an English actor who had an extensive career on stage, television, radio and cinema over almost 50 years.

England Country in north-west Europe, part of the United Kingdom

England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to the west and Scotland to the north. The Irish Sea lies west of England and the Celtic Sea to the southwest. England is separated from continental Europe by the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south. The country covers five-eighths of the island of Great Britain, which lies in the North Atlantic, and includes over 100 smaller islands, such as the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight.


Early life

Foster was born in Beeston, Nottinghamshire, the son of a toolsetter. His family moved to Hayes, Middlesex, when he was a few months old. He received his formal education at Southall County Grammar School.

Beeston, Nottinghamshire town in Nottinghamshire, England

Beeston is a town in Nottinghamshire, England, 3.4 miles (5.5 km) southwest of Nottingham city centre.

Machinist profession

A machinist is a person who machines using hand tools and machine tools to create or modify a part that is made of metal, plastics, or wood.

Hayes, Hillingdon town in the London Borough of Hillingdon

Hayes is a town in West London, situated 13 miles (21 km) west of Charing Cross. Historically in Middlesex, Hayes became part of the London Borough of Hillingdon in 1965. The town's population was recorded as 95,763 in the 2011 census.

After leaving school, Foster trained as a plastics organic chemist at the local EMI Central Research Laboratories, while unsuccessfully submitting ideas to advertising agencies. Having been "called to the Colours" under the National Service Act 1948, Foster served with the Royal Air Force. [3]

National Service Act 1948

The National Service Act 1948 was an Act of Parliament which extended the British conscription of the Second World War long after the war-time need for it had expired, in the form of "National Service". After a bill with the same purpose had been approved in 1947, expected to be implemented 1 January 1949, the Cold War and the Malayan Emergency caused a revised and extended version of the new legislation to be approved in December 1948, only days before the new arrangements came into force.

Royal Air Force Aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces

The Royal Air Force (RAF) is the United Kingdom's aerial warfare force. Formed towards the end of the First World War on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world. Following victory over the Central Powers in 1918 the RAF emerged as, at the time, the largest air force in the world. Since its formation, the RAF has taken a significant role in British military history. In particular, it played a large part in the Second World War where it fought its most famous campaign, the Battle of Britain.

He subsequently trained as an actor, having won a scholarship to train at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London, [1] where he earned the affectionate soubriquet 'Fozza' (which would stay with him throughout his life), arriving there aged 20. It was here he became friends with actor and playwright Harold Pinter. Foster would much later appear on stage in three of Pinter's plays, The Basement and The Tea Party and A Slight Ache in 1987.

A scholarship is an award of financial aid for a student to further their education. Scholarships are awarded based upon various criteria, which usually reflect the values and purposes of the donor or founder of the award. Scholarship money is not required to be repaid.

Harold Pinter English playwright

Harold Pinter was a British playwright, screenwriter, director and actor. A Nobel Prizewinner, Pinter was one of the most influential modern British dramatists with a writing career that spanned more than 50 years. His best-known plays include The Birthday Party (1957), The Homecoming (1964), and Betrayal (1978), each of which he adapted for the screen. His screenplay adaptations of others' works include The Servant (1963), The Go-Between (1971), The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981), The Trial (1993), and Sleuth (2007). He also directed or acted in radio, stage, television, and film productions of his own and others' works.

The Basement is a television play by Harold Pinter. It was written first as a screenplay for a film, then revised for television and broadcast on 20 February 1967.


Foster's professional stage debut came in 1952 as Lorenzo in The Merchant of Venice in County Cork. Then in 1955 he made his London stage debut as the Electrician in The Night of the Ball at the New Theatre (now the Noël Coward Theatre). His first film role was in the war film The Battle of the River Plate (1956), as part of the crew of HMS Exeter, in which he played Able Seaman Roper. Over the next decade and a half, he performed in such films as Joseph Losey's King and Country (1964), The Family Way (1966), Robbery (1967), Inspector Clouseau (1968), Battle of Britain (1969), and David Lean's Ryan's Daughter (1970). He had a regular role in the TV series The Troubleshooters (1965). In 1970 he played a Fenian revolutionary paramilitary leader in David Lean's epic Ryan's Daughter. In 1972 he played two roles, on opposite sides of the law. First was the cynical Dutch detective Van der Valk, the second was as a serial murderer in Alfred Hitchcock's Frenzy . Frenzy was one of Hitchcock's last films, made after the end of an acclaimed and commercially highly successful career, and caused controversy for the scene in which Foster was required to simulate a rape and murder, driven by Hitchock's desire to prove that he was still relevant as a director in the permissive atmosphere in the arts of the post counter-culture of the 1960s age. Michael Caine had previously rejected an offer of the role, having criticised the production's nature. [4] The Van Der Valk role would resurface twice more in Foster's career, in 1977 and once more in the early 1990s. Shortly after the third series in 1978, Foster took on the role of Sherlock Holmes in a series of radio appearances for the BBC. [5] He recorded 13 episodes of the Holmes canon, with David Buck as Dr. Watson. He was also seen on BBC television in Fall of Eagles (1974) in the role of Kaiser Wilhelm II and as the condescending chief of British Intelligence in the adaptation of the John le Carré novel Smiley's People (1982), starring Alec Guinness. During this time he appeared in the films Sweeney! (1977), spun off from the TV series; The Wild Geese (1978), Merchant Ivory's Heat and Dust (1983), The Whistle Blower (1986) and Maurice (1987).

<i>The Merchant of Venice</i> play by Shakespeare

The Merchant of Venice is a 16th-century play written by William Shakespeare in which a merchant in Venice named Antonio must default on a large loan provided by a Jewish moneylender, Shylock. It is believed to have been written between 1596 and 1599. Though classified as a comedy in the First Folio and sharing certain aspects with Shakespeare's other romantic comedies, the play is most remembered for its dramatic scenes, and it is best known for Shylock and the famous "Hath not a Jew eyes?" speech on humanity. Also notable is Portia's speech about "the quality of mercy". Critic Harold Bloom listed it among Shakespeare's great comedies.

County Cork County in the Republic of Ireland

County Cork is a county in Ireland. It is the largest and southernmost county of Ireland, situated in the province of Munster and named after the city of Cork, Ireland's second-largest city. The Cork County Council is the local authority for the county. Its largest market towns are Mallow, Macroom, Midleton, and Skibbereen. In 2016, the county's population was 542,868, making it the third-most populous county in Ireland. Notable Corkonians include Michael Collins, Jack Lynch, and Sonia O'Sullivan.

Noël Coward Theatre theatre in London

The Noël Coward Theatre, formerly known as the Albery Theatre, is a West End theatre on St. Martin's Lane in the City of Westminster, London. It opened on 12 March 1903 as the New Theatre and was built by Sir Charles Wyndham behind Wyndham's Theatre which was completed in 1899. The building was designed by architect W. G. R. Sprague with an exterior in the classical style and an interior in the Rococo style.

From the 1990s, Foster mainly performed on stage. He took on the role of Inspector Goole in J. B. Priestley's An Inspector Calls in a production directed by Stephen Daldry. In 2000 he starred as Prospero in The Tempest at Stafford Castle directed by Julia Stafford Northcote. From 2001–2002, he performed in a run of Yasmina Reza's stage play 'Art' in London's West End.

J. B. Priestley English writer

John Boynton Priestley, OM, known by his pen name J.B. Priestley, was an English novelist, playwright, scriptwriter, social commentator, broadcaster and president of the Bradford Playhouse.

<i>An Inspector Calls</i> 1945 play written by English dramatist J. B. Priestley

An Inspector Calls is a play written by English dramatist J. B. Priestley, first performed – in Russia – on 6 July 1945 at Moscow's Kamerny Theatre in the Soviet Union. Interviewed about this Priestley said that the play would have had its premiere in London but a theatre could not be found. Shortly after the play had been completed, Priestley and his wife were guests at a dinner at the Soviet Embassy in London and a discussion led to Priestley's providing an official with a copy of the script.

Stephen Daldry British director

Stephen David Daldry, CBE is an English director and producer of film, theatre, and television. He has won three Olivier Awards for his work in the West End and two Tony Awards for his work on Broadway. He has directed several feature films that have been nominated for Best Director and/or Best Picture at the Academy Awards. These films are Billy Elliot (2000), The Hours (2002), The Reader (2008) and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (2011). From 2016 to 2019, he produced and directed Netflix television series The Crown, for which he received two Primetime Emmy Award nominations and one win for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series and Outstanding Drama Series. Daldry joined an elite group of directors by receiving nominations for direction in theatre, television and film.


Foster died on 11 February 2002 of a heart attack in his 75th year whilst at the Royal Surrey County Hospital, in Guildford in the county of Surrey, where he lived.

A funeral service was held for him on 21 February 2002 at St. Stephen's Church, at the village of Shottermill near Haslemere. His body was cremated at Guildford Crematorium, and his ashes divided, part being interred at St. Stephen's Church in Shottermill, and the remainder being interred in France. [6]

Personal life

He married Judith Shergold in 1955 in Birkenhead, the marriage producing two daughters and a son. After Foster's death, a trust was set up, entitled the Barry Foster Memorial Award, to help disabled children become involved in the theatre. [7] Foster was a talented amateur pianist, with a taste for jazz music. [8]




Related Research Articles

John Thaw actor from England

John Edward Thaw, was an English actor who appeared in a range of television, stage, and cinema roles, his most popular being television series such as Inspector Morse, Redcap, The Sweeney, Home to Roost and Kavanagh QC.

Leo McKern Australian actor

Reginald McKern, AO, known professionally as Leo McKern, was an Australian actor who appeared in numerous British, Australian and American television programmes and films, and in more than 200 stage roles. Notable roles he portrayed include Clang in Help! (1965), Thomas Cromwell in A Man for All Seasons (1966), Tom Ryan in Ryan's Daughter (1970), Paddy Button in The Blue Lagoon (1980), Dr. Grogan in The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981), Father Imperius in Ladyhawke (1985) and, in the role that made him a household name as an actor, Horace Rumpole, whom he played in Rumpole of the Bailey. He also portrayed Carl Bugenhagen in the first and second installments of The Omen series.

Edward Cedric Hardwicke was an English actor, who had a distinguished career on the stage, as well as being known for his portrayal of Dr. Watson in the Granada TV series Sherlock Holmes.

<i>Frenzy</i> 1972 film by Alfred Hitchcock

Frenzy is a 1972 British thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock. It is the penultimate feature film of his extensive career. The screenplay by Anthony Shaffer was based on the novel Goodbye Piccadilly, Farewell Leicester Square by Arthur La Bern. The film stars Jon Finch, Alec McCowen, and Barry Foster and features Billie Whitelaw, Anna Massey, Barbara Leigh-Hunt, Bernard Cribbins and Vivien Merchant. The original music score was composed by Ron Goodwin.

Anna Massey English actress

Anna Raymond Massey was an English actress. She won a BAFTA Award for the role of Edith Hope in the 1986 TV adaptation of Anita Brookner's novel Hotel du Lac, a role that one of her co-stars, Julia McKenzie, has said "could have been written for her."

Trevor Gordon Martin was a British stage and film actor known for playing popular British characters.

<i>A Study in Terror</i> 1965 film by James Hill

A Study in Terror is a 1965 British thriller film directed by James Hill and starring John Neville as Sherlock Holmes and Donald Houston as Dr. Watson. It was filmed at Shepperton Studios, London, with some location work at Osterley House in Middlesex.

Francis Bernard Heptonstall better known by the stage name Bernard Hepton, was an English theatre director and actor. Best known for his stage work and television roles in teleplays and series, he also appeared briefly on radio and in film.

Nigel Stock (actor) British actor

Nigel Hector Munro Stock was an English actor of stage, screen, radio and television, who played character roles in many films and television dramas.

Patrick Newell British actor

Patrick David Newell was a British actor, known for his large size.

Jon Finch English actor

Jon Finch was an English stage and film actor who became well known for his Shakespearean roles. Most notably, he starred in films for directors Roman Polanski and Alfred Hitchcock.

The stories of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle were very popular as adaptations for the stage, and later film, and still later television. The four-volumes of the Universal Sherlock Holmes (1995) compiled by Ronald B. De Waal lists over 25,000 Holmes-related productions and products. They include the original writings, "together with the translations of these tales into sixty-three languages, plus Braille and shorthand, the writings about the Writings or higher criticism, writings about Sherlockians and their societies, memorials and memorabilia, games, puzzles and quizzes, phonograph records, audio and video tapes, compact discs, laser discs, ballets, films, musicals, operettas, oratorios, plays, radio and television programs, parodies and pastiches, children's books, cartoons, comics, and a multitude of other items — from advertisements to wine — that have accumulated throughout the world on the two most famous characters in literature."

Barbara Leigh-Hunt is a British actress. Her numerous theatre credits include Broadway productions of Hamlet (1958) and Sherlock Holmes (1974), and she won the 1993 Olivier Award for Best Supporting Actress for the National Theatre production of An Inspector Calls. Her film appearances include Frenzy (1972), Henry VIII and His Six Wives (1972), Bequest to the Nation (1973) and Billy Elliot (2000).

David Healy was an American-born actor who appeared in British and American television shows.

William Lucas (actor) actor

William Thomas Clucas, better known as William Lucas, was an English film, theatre, radio and television actor.

Lisa Daniely English actress

Lisa Daniely was a British film and television actress.

<i>Jack the Ripper</i> (miniseries) 1988 British crime drama TV series

Jack the Ripper is a 1988 Anglo-American co-production by Thames Television and CBS television film drama based on the notorious Jack the Ripper murder spree in Victorian London.

Wallas Eaton, sometimes credited as Wallace Eaton or Wallis Eaton, was an English film, radio, television and theatre actor.

The Hound of the Baskervilles is a 1972 American made-for-television mystery film directed by Barry Crane and starring Stewart Granger as Sherlock Holmes and Bernard Fox as Doctor Watson. The movie is based on Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes novel The Hound of the Baskervilles.

The Hound of London is a television film directed by Peter Reynolds-Long and starring Patrick Macnee as Arthur Conan Doyle's character Sherlock Holmes.


  1. 1 2 Purser, Philip (11 February 2002). "Barry Foster: Versatile actor best known for his portrayals of Orde Wingate and a Dutch detective". The Guardian . Retrieved 6 January 2019.
  2. "Barry Foster". The Telegraph, London. 12 February 2002. Retrieved 6 January 2019.
  3. 11 February 2002 Death Notice for Barry Foster, 'Family Announcements' online archive database.
  4. 'Michael Caine explains Hitchcock feued', Daily Express, 22 March 2010.
  5. Brown, Hugo. . Retrieved 5 February 2015.Missing or empty |title= (help)
  6. Entry for Barry Foster, 'Resting Places: The Burial Sites of more than 14,000 Famous Persons'. by Scott Wilson. 3rd Edition. (Pub. McFarland & Company. Inc., 2016).
  7. 'The Arts Professional', 17 November 2003.
  8. Obituary notice for Barry Foster, 11 February 2002.