Obituary: Terence Brady
Actor, who along with his wife, wrote 'Upstairs, Downstairs' and several other TV dramas and sitcoms
Published 02/10/2016 | 02:30
Terence Brady, the actor and playwright, who has died aged 77, was one half of a husband-and-wife team who co-wrote some of Britain's best-loved television sitcoms and dramas including the first two series of Upstairs, Downstairs (1971-2).
Brady's wife, Charlotte Bingham, the glamorous daughter of the 7th Lord Clanmorris (a former MI5 spy said to be a model for John le Carre's George Smiley), had shot to fame as a 19-year-old by writing a humorous autobiography about searching for a real man among the aristocracy, Coronet Among the Weeds, before going on to make her name as a romantic novelist.
Although she had done the season, she was unimpressed by the "Debs' Delights" she had met at parties.
That all changed when she was 20 and saw Brady, who had replaced Peter Cook in the West End production of Beyond The Fringe, with Dudley Moore, Alan Bennett and Jonathan Miller.
"I went backstage and told him how wonderful I thought he was," she recalled. "He fell in love with me at first sight and proposed within days."
Both together and working alone, Terence Brady and Charlotte Bingham forged careers as writers for the stage and screen, as journalists and novelists and, in Brady's case, as an actor and painter. They achieved international fame, however, as television scriptwriters.
As well as Upstairs, Downstairs, their credits included Take Three Girls (1969-1971), which launched the career of Liza Goddard; No Honestly (1974-75), a sitcom starring Pauline Collins and her husband John Alderton, and a sequel, Yes, Honestly (1976), starring Donal Donnelly and Liza Goddard; Thomas and Sarah (1979), an Upstairs, Downstairs spin-off also starring the Aldertons; Nanny (1982), starring Wendy Craig, and Pig In The Middle (1980-1983), a comedy series concerning a man torn between wife and mistress which ran for three series on LWT after the BBC rejected it as "too racy".
Brady took the starring role as Barty Wade after the original actor in the part, Dinsdale Landen, left at the end of the first season. He also designed some of the costumes, including a T-shirt for Joanna van Gyseghem (Wade's controlling wife) which bore the legends "I AM A VIRGIN" on the front and "THIS IS A VERY OLD TEE SHIRT" on the back. Within hours replicas had appeared for sale in Carnaby Street.
Terence Joseph Brady was born in London on March 13, 1939, to Irish parents and was educated at Merchant Taylor's, where he became a drummer in the school jazz band, a group considered good enough to play at the BBC Radio Show at Earl's Court as well as being featured on the Third Programme.
He also won good notices in the local press for his performance as Osric in Hamlet, and was offered places at two London art schools, as well as auditioning successfully for Rada and winning a scholarship to St John's College, Oxford.
He chose instead to go to Trinity College Dublin, where his father and grandfather had studied, to read history and political science. He edited the college magazine and literary journal, and became chairman of Dublin University Players, attracting the admiration of Harold Pinter and Samuel Beckett; Beckett wanted to send him to Paris to study under Marcel Marceau.
Returning to London in 1961, Brady got his first break starring in Pinter's play The Dumb Waiter at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East, in 1962.
At the same theatre in the same year he wrote and acted with Michael Bogdanov in Would Anyone Who Saw the Accident?, his performance inspiring the critic of the London Evening News to headline his review "A Star is Born". On the strength of this and similar notices he was invited to take over from Peter Cook in Beyond The Fringe.
Brady continued to act in theatre, on television and in films after his marriage, while pursuing a parallel career as a writer.
He was one of the leading players in Anthony Jay's Sunday night BBC television revue Dig This Rhubarb (1963-4); starred in the West End run of the musical A Present From the Corporation, and headlined with Sally Smith in Peter Myers's In the Picture.
His television work included leading roles in series such as Boy Meets Girl and Love Story and numerous guest appearances. He was one of the regular voices in a cast led by Sir Michael Redgrave for the epic 26-part BBC documentary series The Great War and chaired the BBC panel game First Impressions.
On radio he hosted and wrote the weekly series, Hear! Hear! and Thank Goodness It's Saturday, and acted and wrote alongside Ronnie Barker on Lines From My Grandfather's Forehead, which won the Writers' Guild Award for Best Radio Series.
His collaboration with Charlotte Bingham began soon after their marriage, and in 1969 their One Two, Sky's Blue was commissioned for the drama series Boy Meets Girl, and starred James Bolam, Judy Cornwell as well as Brady himself. On the strength of the script Brady and Charlotte Bingham were selected as founder writers for Take Three Girls.
Pig in the Middle took Brady and his wife to Hollywood to work on an American version of the series called Oh Madeline. Though they soon returned to Britain, they continued working for American film and television, among other projects writing the script for Love with a Perfect Stranger starring Marilu Henner and Daniel Massey.
Their later television collaborations included Father Matthew's Daughter (1987), with James Bolam, Gabrielle Lloyd and Ray Winstone, and Riders (1993), an adaptation of Jilly Cooper's novel starring Michael Praed.
Brady also earned enthusiastic reviews for his adaptation for the stage of Rosamunde Pilcher's best-seller The Shell Seekers, which became one of the highest grossing touring plays for a decade, initially starring Stephanie Cole.
Brady wrote several novels and two books of history, one about the abolition of slavery, the other about the history of point-to-point racing.
The second of these arose out of an interest Brady took up after he and Charlotte moved from Richmond to a Georgian rectory in Somerset, where they created a beautiful garden and bred thoroughbred racehorses and eventers. Brady was proud of being (as far as he knew) the only writer and actor to have trained a winning steeple-chaser under National Hunt rules.
His paintings were exhibited at the National Theatre in 1987 and at galleries in Somerset.
In later life he performed for charity in cabaret with his great friend, the singer-songwriter Peter Skellern.
Terence Brady, who died on September 24, is survived by his wife Charlotte and by their son and daughter.