Richard Beckinsale

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Richard Beckinsale
Beckinsale as Lennie Godber
Richard Arthur Beckinsale

(1947-07-06)6 July 1947
Died19 March 1979(1979-03-19) (aged 31)
Cause of death Heart defect
Years active1962–1979
Margaret Bradley
(m. 19651971)

Judy Loe
(m. 1977)
Children Samantha Beckinsale
Kate Beckinsale

Richard Arthur Beckinsale (6 July 1947 19 March 1979) was an English actor, who played Lennie Godber in the BBC sitcom Porridge (along with its sequel series Going Straight ) and Alan Moore in the British ITV sitcom Rising Damp . He is the father of actresses Samantha Beckinsale and Kate Beckinsale.

A British sitcom or a Britcom is a situation comedy programme produced for British television. Although styles of sitcom have changed over the years they tend to be based on a family, workplace or other institution, where the same group of contrasting characters is brought together in each episode. British sitcoms are typically produced in one or more series of six episodes. Most such series are conceived and developed by one or two writers.

<i>Porridge</i> (TV series) British 1970s TV sitcom

Porridge is a British sitcom, starring Ronnie Barker and Richard Beckinsale, written by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, and broadcast on BBC1 from 1974 to 1977. The programme ran for three series, and included two Christmas specials and a feature film of the same name.

<i>Going Straight</i> television series

Going Straight is a BBC sitcom which was a direct spin-off from Porridge, starring Ronnie Barker as Norman Stanley Fletcher, newly released from the fictional Slade Prison where the earlier series had been set.


Early life

Beckinsale was born in Carlton, Nottinghamshire, to an Anglo-Burmese father, Arthur John Beckinsale, and an English mother, Maggie Barlow. [1] [2] He left Alderman White Secondary Modern School at 15 with ambitions to become an actor, so while working in numerous manual jobs he enrolled at a Nottingham adult drama class. As a result, he won a place at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, turning professional in 1968. He then moved to Crewe to begin in repertory theatre, like most newly graduated actors at the time, and then made his television debut in 1969 as a police officer in Coronation Street , in which he had to arrest veteran character Ena Sharples.

Carlton, Nottinghamshire Town in Nottinghamshire, England, United Kingdom

Carlton is a suburb to the east of the city of Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, England. It is in the borough of Gedling. The population of the Gedling ward at the 2011 Census was 6,881.

The Anglo-Burmese people, also known as the Anglo-Burmans, are a community of Eurasians of Burmese and European descent, who emerged as a distinct community through mixed relations between the British and other European settlers and the indigenous peoples of Burma from 1826 until 1948 when Myanmar gained its independence from the United Kingdom. Those who could not adjust to the new way of life after Independence and the coming of military rule are dispersed throughout the world, with very few accurate estimates as to how many remain behind in military-ruled Burma.

Royal Academy of Dramatic Art drama school located in London, England

The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) is a drama school in London, England that provides training for film, television and theatre. It is one of the oldest and most prestigious drama schools in the United Kingdom, founded in 1904 by Herbert Beerbohm Tree.


Beckinsale's first starring role was as Geoffrey in the sitcom The Lovers (1970–71), opposite fellow newcomer Paula Wilcox. The show put both lead performers in the public eye and, like many sitcoms of the time, spawned a film version.

The Lovers is a British television sitcom by Jack Rosenthal, starring Richard Beckinsale and Paula Wilcox as a courting couple, Geoffrey and Beryl. It was made between 1970 and 1971 by Granada Television for the ITV network. The series was also given a repeat run on Channel 4 in 1996. The hook for the show was the mismatch between the two, particularly in the area of sex. Beryl was a slightly dizzy character with a penchant for pet names such as "Geoffrey bubbles bonbon", while Geoffrey, though dreamy, was somewhat rough around the edges, and obsessed with taking Beryl to bed. A typical exchange between them might consist of the following:

Paula Wilcox is an English actress. She is best known for roles in TV shows such as Girlfriends, Upstart Crow, Mount Pleasant, Boomers, Emmerdale, The Smoking Room, The Queen’s Nose and Man About The House.

Soon after, he appeared in two of British TV's most successful sitcoms at the same time from 1974 to 1977. On ITV, he was playing naive medical student Alan Moore in Rising Damp while also starring as prison inmate Lennie Godber alongside Ronnie Barker in the BBC sitcom Porridge . He also appeared in the films Rentadick (1972) and Three for All (1975) and made appearances in several other television series such as the ITV Playhouse episode "Last Summer" in 1976. Shortly after his 30th birthday, Beckinsale was the subject of an episode of This Is Your Life . [3]

<i>Rising Damp</i> British sitcom

Rising Damp is a British sitcom produced by Yorkshire Television for ITV. ITV originally broadcast the programme from 2 September 1974 until 9 May 1978. It was adapted for television by Eric Chappell from his 1971 stage play The Banana Box. The series was the highest-ranking ITV sitcom in BBC's 100 Best Sitcoms poll of 2004.

Ronnie Barker English actor, comedian and writer

Ronald William George Barker, was an English actor, comedian and writer. He was known for roles in British comedy television series such as Porridge, The Two Ronnies, and Open All Hours.

Rentadick is a 1972 British comedy film, directed by Jim Clark and starring James Booth, Richard Briers, Julie Ege, Ronald Fraser and Donald Sinden. It is a spoof spy/detective picture, the plot of which involves attempts to protect a new experimental nerve gas.

Beckinsale quit Rising Damp in 1977, the same year that Porridge was brought to an end with his character of Godber being released from his prison sentence in the final episode. He subsequently starred alongside Barker in Going Straight (1978), a spin-off of Porridge in which the two criminal characters are seen on the outside rebuilding their lives. In 1977, he starred in a radio comedy series called Albert and Me with Pat Coombs and John Comer. Beckinsale appeared in the film version of Porridge released in 1979. It was to be his last and only completed work of the year.

Albert and Me is a British radio series that had a pilot and eight episodes in 1977, and another eight episodes in 1983. The 17 half-hour-long episodes were broadcast on BBC Radio 2. It starred Richard Beckinsale and Pat Coombs. Richard Beckinsale played Bryan Archer who was a single parent struggling to find a job and to bring up his child with the help of his mother played by Pat Coombs.

<i>Porridge</i> (film) 1979 film by Dick Clement

Porridge is a 1979 film based on the television series Porridge. It was released under the title Doing Time in the United States. Most of the warders and inmates from the original series appear in the film, with the notable exceptions of Lukewarm, Blanco, Heslop and Harris. There is also a different governor, played by Geoffrey Bayldon rather than series regular Michael Barrington.

In October 1980, Frederick Muller Ltd published a volume of Beckinsale's poetry entitled "With Love" ( ISBN   0-584-10387-5).

International Standard Book Number Unique numeric book identifier

The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a numeric commercial book identifier which is intended to be unique. Publishers purchase ISBNs from an affiliate of the International ISBN Agency.


With filming completed on the film version of Porridge, Beckinsale started work on a sitcom for the BBC called Bloomers , and also prepared to start work on the film Bloody Kids . According to his Bloomers co-star Anna Calder-Marshall, during the recording of the first episode, Beckinsale told her he had suffered some kind of black-out, and had some dizzy spells. This concerned him enough to make an appointment to see a doctor, but the doctor could not find anything wrong apart from an overactive stomach lining, and slightly high cholesterol. As filming on the show progressed, Beckinsale appeared increasingly tired, and "greyer and greyer", according to co-star David Swift, and towards the end of filming he was complaining of pains in his arms. On what was to be his last day of filming on the show, he gave Anna Calder-Marshall a lift home after filming. To her surprise, he began to talk about his fear of dying, and of being alone in the house. [4]

A week before he died, Beckinsale complained to his wife Judy Loe of feeling unwell and said he was unable to take her to hospital. At the time, they both put it down to nerves; she was due to have an operation to increase the couple's chances of having another child. The day before he died, he and his five-year-old daughter Kate visited Loe in hospital. Upon leaving the hospital, Beckinsale dropped his daughter off with relatives to spend the night. He then attended a farewell party for the Two Ronnies, who were about to leave for Australia. Afterwards, he returned to his house in Sunningdale, Berkshire. At some point that day, he had also called his elder daughter Samantha, and made plans to spend some time with her the following weekend. After arriving home late on the evening of Sunday 18 March, he telephoned friends. During the conversation he repeated that he had been feeling unwell, and also said that he had some pain in his chest and arms. He seemed in good humour though, and made a joke out of it. [5]

Beckinsale's memorial plaque in St Paul's in Covent Garden Richard Beckinsale Memorial Plaque.jpg
Beckinsale's memorial plaque in St Paul's in Covent Garden

When he did not arrive at the rehearsal for the sixth and final episode of Bloomers the next morning, a member of the production team rang his house, and the phone was answered by family friend Rosana Bradley, who had been staying at the house to help take care of Kate, but who had not been there the previous night. She said Beckinsale was still sleeping, and she left the phone to wake him up. When she returned, she said that she was unable to wake him, and was advised to call a doctor. Shortly after, it was confirmed that he had died during the night, of what appeared to be a massive heart attack. This was confirmed during a post-mortem examination, which also revealed that he had a congenital heart defect. [6] Beckinsale had expressed worries about his cholesterol to friend Stephen Frears over dinner just days earlier, but he seemed healthy and fit and had no cardiac problems in his medical records. According to Frears, Beckinsale's high cholesterol may have been a factor in his early death.

Porridge co-star Ronnie Barker commented on Beckinsale's premature death, saying: "He was so loved. He hadn't done much but he was so loved that there was a universal sort of grief that went on." When asked to comment on his death years later, Kate Beckinsale said, "It was so sudden. He just went to sleep one night, and didn't wake up again." [7]

Beckinsale was cremated during a private ceremony in Bracknell, Berkshire and his remains were then taken to Mortlake Crematorium. [8] On 19 April 1979, the one-month anniversary of his death, a memorial service was held at the actors' church St Paul's in Covent Garden. More than 300 people attended the service, including David Jason, Leonard Rossiter, Fulton MacKay, and Richard Briers. [9] A memorial plaque was later erected in the church in Beckinsale's honour.

Unfinished work

At the time of his death, Beckinsale had almost completed Bloomers . Writer James Saunders's original script reveals that Beckinsale was due to attend the sixth and last rehearsal for the final episode of the series on the day he died, with the show to be recorded the following day. The five completed Bloomers episodes were aired later in the year.

He was also making a television film, Bloody Kids , which then had to be re-cast. This role marked a change in direction for Beckinsale, being a more hard-nosed character than those he had played before. Three days after his death, Going Straight won a BAFTA award. Barker delivered a brief acceptance speech in tribute to his co-star.

Plans had been drawn up to make a film version of Beckinsale's other successful sitcom Rising Damp and ultimately the film was made in 1980. Christopher Strauli was recruited to replace Beckinsale, playing a different character.

Personal life and legacy

In 2000, 21 years after his death, a documentary was broadcast on ITV in tribute, called The Unforgettable Richard Beckinsale. It featured interviews with his widow, the actress Judy Loe, as well as his father, sister, closest schoolfriend and two daughters. Also contributing were his co-stars, Barker and Rising Damp's Don Warrington.

In 2013, a blue plaque in Beckinsale's memory was unveiled at his former school, College House Junior School in Chilwell. Kate Beckinsale, Judy Loe, David Walliams, and Michael Sheen attended the ceremony. [10]

In 2018, as part of an art project in Beckinsale's former hometown of Beeston, a mural of him was commissioned by the town council and painted by the French street artist, Zabou. [11] [12]

Selected filmography

1969 Coronation Street PC Wilcox1 episode
1970 A Family at War Private Grey1 episode
1970-1971 The Lovers Geoffrey Scrimgeor13 episodes
1971 Armchair Theatre Lewis1 episode
1972 Rentadick HobbsFeature film
1973 The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes Richard Frobisher1 episode
1974-1977 Rising Damp Alan Moore22 episodes
1974-1977 Porridge Lennie Godber17 episodes
1975 Three for All Jet BoneFeature film
1975 Play for Today Michael Robson1 episode
1977 ITV Playhouse Johnny1 episode
1978 Going Straight Lennie Godber4 episodes

{1978-79 Asda Advert

1979 Porridge Lennie GodberFeature film spin-off of TV series
1979 Bloomers Stan5 episodes

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  1. "Richard Arthur Beckinsale | English Actor 1947 to 1979". Richard Beckinsale. Archived from the original on 2 April 2010. Retrieved 21 January 2012.
  2. Barratt, Nick (4 November 2006). "Family Detective". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 22 May 2010.
  3. "This Is Your Life - Richard Beckinsale". Big Red Book. Retrieved 29 January 2019.
  4. Clayton, David (2008). The Richard Beckinsale Story. Stroud: History Press. p. 158. ISBN   978-0-7509-5061-9.
  5. Clayton, p159.
  6. Clayton, p173.
  7. Donnelly, Gabrielle (29 April 2008). "Kate Beckinsale: 'Losing my dad made me anorexic'". Daily Mail . London. Retrieved 10 August 2013.
  8. Clayton, p173.
  9. Clayton, p175.
  10. "Kate Beckinsale unveils plaque for father Richard". BBC Online . 17 July 2013. Retrieved 29 January 2019.
  11. "Icons Of Beeston In Street Art Tribute". Broxtowe Borough Council. 29 October 2018. Retrieved 29 January 2019.
  12. "Hollywood star Kate Beckinsale thanks Beeston for new mural of her dad calling it 'unbelievably wonderful'". Nottingham Post . 11 October 2018. Retrieved 29 January 2019.