Friday 30 September 2016

Obituary: Richard Davies

Welsh actor whose roles over a long career included Private Jones in Zulu and Mr Price in Please Sir!

Published 18/10/2015 | 02:30

From pit to screen: Richard Davies in Please Sir!
From pit to screen: Richard Davies in Please Sir!

Richard Davies, who has died aged 89, was a character actor who became familiar to television and cinema audiences for his gap-toothed features and broad Welsh accent.

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On television he was best known as the Welsh maths and science teacher Mr Price, the ever-cynical foil to John Alderton's idealist teacher "Privet" Hedges ("I pity you, Hedges") in the LWT sit-com Please Sir!, which ran for four series from 1968. He also appeared in the spin-off series The Fenn Street Gang and as Clive in Oh No, It's Selwyn Froggitt! opposite Bill Maynard in the mid-1970s.

On film he played Private 593 Jones in Zulu (1964), with Stanley Baker and Michael Caine, keeping the hordes at bay in the battle of Rorke's Drift. In the 1972 film of Under Milk Wood, starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, he played Mr Pritchard, a failed bookmaker who committed suicide "ironically" by ingesting disinfectant - one of the two late husbands of Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard. On stage in the same play he took the roles of Mr Ogmore, Captain Cat and the Reverend Eli Jenkins.

The son of a railway guard, Richard Davies was born on January 25 1926, Merthyr Tydfil, Glamorgan. After leaving school aged 14, he followed his elder brother Ron down the pits. He had always enjoyed drama at school, however, and soon left to pursue a career in acting. Moving to London, he joined the Pilgrim Players which also nurtured the talents of Richard Burton and Anthony Hopkins.

While working in a theatre in Colwyn Bay, he married Beryl, the daughter of his landlady, with whom he had a son. Called up for military service during the war, he was sent to train for the Burma Military Police, but was rescued by the captain of the Combined Services Entertainment Unit, and spent the rest of the war entertaining the troops. Returning to London, he appeared on stage in Carrington VC, toured Africa with the Old Vic in 1952 and appeared in the supernatural film drama The Night my Number Came Up (1955) with Michael Redgrave.

From the 1960s onwards he enjoyed a steady flow of television work, taking semi-regular roles as the slimy police informant Sloan in Z-Cars (1962-65) and as the foundry worker Idris Hopkins in Coronation Street (1974-1975).

He was Mr White, the occupant of a hotel room where Basil and Sybil have hidden the dead body of another guest in the Fawlty Towers episode The Kipper and the Corpse (1979). In 1982 he appeared as the loquacious union leader Clive Jenkins in a Not the Nine O'Clock News parody of the BBC's Question Time, doggedly insisting: "I will have my say" when there is an attempt to silence him on the subject of imminent nuclear holocaust. He was a holiday camp manager held prisoner by the Bannermen in the Doctor Who episode Delta and the Bannermen (1987). In One Foot in the Grave (1992), he played a childhood playmate of Victor Meldrew who has bitter memories of the sad fate of a hamster he had left with Meldrew during the holidays (it was eaten by a cat - Meldrew claimed it was suicide).

Other television credits included parts in such series as Dixon of Dock Green, The Sweeney and Van der Valk, as well as in Taff Acre (1981), Whoops Apocalypse (1982) and And the Beat Goes On (1996). Film credits included Oh! What a Lovely War (1969) and the film adaptation of Please Sir! (1971).

Richard Davies, who died on October 8, is survived by his second wife Jill, whom he married in 1955, by their son and daughter, and by the son of his first marriage.

Telegraph.co.uk

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