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West Yorkshire Thespians

"Mighty oaks from little acorns grow", so the saying goes, and so sometimes it is in the acting profession. Groups like ours can provide valuable experience to aspiring hopefuls just starting out in their pursuit of an acting career, so who can say when a star of tomorrow might just be treading our boards today. At least one of our present crop of young actor/members has a handful of minor TV appearances under his belt and is no doubt hoping for bigger and better things to come. With that in mind, I thought it might be interesting to look at some of the big names of recent years who happen to be natives of our region (for region I have limited my attention to West Yorkshire). This list is not intended to be exhaustive, but if you can think of anyone else to add, please let me know.

Famous For / Trivia

Natalie Anderson
24th October, 1981
'Stella Davenport' in ITV's medical drama "The Royal"
Attended Intake High School of Performing Arts in Leeds and is a graduate of LIPA (the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts). Was a contestant in the first series of 'Pop Idol', coming third in her heat.

Rodney Bewes
27th Nov, 1938
'Bob Ferris' in the TV sitcom, "The Likely Lads".
'Mr Rodney' on "The Basil Brush Show".
Although born in Bingley, was raised mainly in Luton, then in London and attended RADA's preparatory school. Has appeared in several films, including 'Billy Liar', 'Spring and Port Wine' (with James Mason and Diana Coupland), 'The Three Musketeers', 'Jabberwocky' and 'The Wildcats of St Trinians'. On stage, he has enjoyed considerable success with one-man versions of 'Three Men in a Boat' and 'Diary of a Nobody' - both of which he has toured extensively in the UK.

Diana Coupland
5th March, 1952
'Jean Abbott' in the TV sitcom "Bless this House"
Originally wanted to be a ballet dancer but turned to singing when this ambition was thwarted due to a horse-riding accident. She sang on BBC radio at the age of 11, and by the time she reached 14 was singing full time at the Mecca Locarno in Leeds, before moving with her parents to London and becoming a resident singer at Mecca's Tottenham Court Road ballroom. Became one of the leading singers of her day and gained film work dubbing the singing voices of actresses who could not sing, namely Lana Turner in "Betrayed" and Ursula Andress in the James Bond film "Dr. No". She gave up professional singing in the 1960's and gained TV fame alongside Sid James in the long-running popular sitcom "Bless This House".

Peter Firth
October 27th, 1953
'Scooper' in the childrens TV series "Here Come The Double Deckers"
'Angel Clare' in Roman Polanski's "Tess"
Was a leading child actor in the 1970's, most prominently in the television series "Here Come the Double Deckers" which featured child actors in all the leading roles. Firth played Scooper, the leader of the gang. His first major role as an adult was in the title role in a 1976 BBC Television Play of the Month adaptation of Oscar Wilde's novel "The Picture of Dorian Gray". Has appeared in many films and stage plays and is also a noted narrator of audio books.

William Gaunt
3rd April, 1937
'Richard Barrett' in TV SF/Spy drama "The Champions".
'Arthur Crabtree' in the TV sitcom "No Place Like Home".
Was educated at the Moravian School at Fulneck, Pudsey, at the same time as Diana Rigg was a student there, and later at Giggleswick School in the Pennines. Gained his first experience on the amatuer stage with the Otley Little Theatre Group, then under Esme Church at the Princess Theatre in Bradford. Since then has appeared in many stage productions, including for the RSC in Stratford, as well as becoming a familiar face on TV.

Bernard Hepton
19 October, 1925
An actor of stage, film, television and radio and is known as a particularly versatile character actor. He trained at Bradford Civic Theatre School under Esme Church.
He appeared in the television adaptations of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and Smiley’s People. He played the Kommandant in Colditz in 1972-1974 and other notable performances include Thomas Cranmer in both The Six Wives of Henry Vlll (1970) and Elizabeth R (1971). He has also played many roles on radio.

He is a fan of Rugby League team Hunslet Hawks and played for them in the 1952/53 season, winning a Yorkshire Cup medal.

Gordon Kaye
7th April, 1941
'Rene' in the wartime French resistance sitcom "'Allo 'Allo"
Made his TV debut as Elsie Tanner's nephew in "Coronation Street" in 1968. Went on to minor roles in many other shows and a part in the 1977 Pythonesque comedy film "Jabberwocky" (as Sister Jessica). Acheived cult status as 'Rene' in Jeremy Lloyd and David Croft's hugely popular comedy series "'Allo 'Allo". Made the news in January, 1990, when a freak car accident in a severe storm led to a horrific head injury that almost cost his life. After a long but eventually successful recovery, he resumed his career and made two more series of "'Allo 'Allo". Is married to Carmen Silvera (his long-suffering wife Edith in that series).

Malcolm McDowell
June 13th, 1943
Gangleader 'Alex de Large' in Stanley Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange".
Began his professional life serving drinks in his parents' pub and then as a coffee salesman before securing work as an extra with the Royal Shakespeare Company. Won great acclaim for his role in "A Clockwork Orange", being nominated for Best Actor by the New York Film Critics Circle. Remembered by "Star Trek" fans as the man who killed Captain Kirk in the film "Star Trek: Generations" (as the mad scientist 'Dr. Tolian Soran').

James Mason
15th May, 1909
'General Erwin Rommell' in the feature films "The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel" (1951) and "The Desert Rats" (1953).
'Captain Nemo' in "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" (1954).
Three-time Academy Award nominated actor who was the son of a wealthy Huddersfield merchant, John Mason. Had no formal training as an actor, but got involved with stock theatre companies whilst studying architecture at Peterhouse, Cambridge. Died as a result of a heart attack in Lausanne, Switzerland on July 27, 1984.

Lloyd Pearson
13 December, 1897
Died 2 June, 1966
Appeared in films in the 1940s including Schweik’s New Adventures, The Way Ahead, The Angry Silence and Passport to Pimlico. In the 1960s he was seen in many TV series, including The Army Game and Robin Hood.
Having trained in repertory theatre, he was regularly seen at Liverpool Playhouse, along with the Redgraves, Robert Donat and Raymond Huntley. During the Second World War he appeared regularly on the London stage. This included playing the part of Alderman Helliwell in the original London cast of When We Are Married, continuing his contact with J B Priestley with whom he served in the First World War. Lloyd appeared in the first production of Salad Days (1954/60) in which he played the tramp/piano player.

Duncan Preston
Eccleshill, Bradford
June 13th, 1943
'Clifford' in "Acorn Antiques"
'Stan' in "Dinnerladies".
Well known actor who often appears on our TV screens, especially in television productions written by Victoria Wood, most recently in "Dinnerladies". He is also well known for his Theatre work, such as his participation in a highly successful 2007 production of "To Kill A Mockingbird". He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters degree by the University of Bradford on the 4th December, 2002 for his contributions as an actor.

Patrick Stewart
13th July, 1940
'Captain Jean-Luc Picard' in "Star Trek: The Next Generation"
Has had a distinguished career in theatre for nearly fifty years, including many Shakespearean roles, but is most famous for his roles as Captain of the starship Enterprise in 'Star Trek: The Next Generation', and as Professor Xavier in the 'X-Men' films. Has provided voice-overs for many animated productions and was awarded an OBE in the 2001 New Year honours list.

Mollie Sugden
21st July, 1922
'Mrs Slocombe' in "Are You Being Served"
Graduated from the Guildhall School of Drama then worked in rep for eight years with a company that included Eric Sykes and Roy Dotrice. Later worked in radio then landed a regular TV sitcom role as Mrs. Crispin in 'Hugh and I'. Later portrayed Mrs Hutchinson for eight years in 'The Liver Birds', but it was her role as Mrs. Slocombe in the long-running cult sitcom 'Are You Being Served' that made her famous. She later reprised the role in the sequel series 'Grace and Favour'.

Mary Tamm
22nd March, 1950
'Romana' (first incarnation) in "Doctor Who"
'Penny Crosbie' in "Brookside".
Born in Dewsbury of parents who were refugees from Estonia, and attended Bradford Girls Grammar school before training at RADA where she won the Emile Littler and Hannam Clarke awards. Joined the new Birmingham Repertory theatre where she worked alongside Derek Jacobi, Joan Sims and Ronnie Barker. TV work soon followed, leading to her role as 'Romana' in "Doctor Who". Has also appeared in several motion pictures, most notably "The Odessa File" (1974) and "The Likely Lads" (1976).

Timothy West
October 20th, 1934
'Bradley Hardacre' in the spoof TV historical sitcom "Brass"
Title role in "Edward the Seventh"
Began his career as an Assistant Stage Manager at the Wimbledon Theatre in 1956, and followed this with several seasons in rep. Acted with the RSC in 1966 at Stratford and the Aldwych Theatre. Spent many years as a familiar face on TV without quite ever becoming a household name until he landed the title role in the ATV drama series "Edward the Seventh" (1975), in which his real-life sons, Samuel and Joseph, played the young princes. He was created a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) for his services to drama in 1984.

Tom Wilkinson
December 12th, 1948
'Mr Pecksniff' in "Martin Chuzzlewitt"
'Gerald Arthur Cooper' in the feature film "The Full Monty"
Moved with his family to Canada for several years when he was young, but subsequently returned to England where he graduated from the University of Kent and attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Made his television debut in the mid-1970's and has worked on several television series, first gaining recognition for his role as 'Mr Pecksniff' in the BBC's "Martin Chuzzlewit". Made brief appearances in handful of movies before making a hit in the internationally acclaimed "The Full Monty" in 1997. Has since landed major roles in numerous other movies including winning an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for his part in "In the Bedroom". Made a CBE in the 2004 New Years honours list.

All images from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - Wikipedia

The Corrie Connection
At the time of writing (2007), the current cast of the popular soap 'Coronation Street', despite being set in the heart of Lancashire, has a strong representation of actors from West Yorkshire. The following all hail from our region.
Actor Role Birthplace Trivia
Beverley Callard Liz MacDonald Leeds Real name Beverley Jane Moxon. Previously appeared in Coronation Street in one or two episodes as June Dewhirst.
Liz Dawn Vera Duckworth Leeds Real name Sylvia Butterfield. Awarded an MBE in 2000 for her work raising money for hospitals in the Manchester and Leeds area.
Johnathan Dixon Darryl Morton Pudsey A graduate of Stage 84 School of Performing Arts in Idle.
Andrew Dunn Roger Stiles Leeds Best remembered for his role as Tony in 'Dinnerladies'.
Nikki Patel Amber Kalirai Bradford Another graduate of Stage 84 School of Performing Arts in Idle.
Jack Shepherd David Platt Pudsey Second actor to play the role. Graduate of Stage 84 School of Performing Arts in Idle.
Helen Worth Gail Platt Ossett Helen is today club president of Ossett Albion Football Club.
Barbara Young Doreen Fenwick Brighouse Played the future Emperor Nero's mother, Agrippinilla, in the landmark 1975 BBC serial 'I, Claudius'.
Reece Dinsdale Joe McIntyre Normanton Joined cast of Coronation Street - 2008.
Steve Huison Eddie Windass Leeds Joined cast of Coronation Street - 2008.

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