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Posted 22 August 2016 - 12:26 AM
"The son of a ship’s outfitter, Brian Rix was born at Cottingham, East Yorkshire, on January 27 1924, and educated at Bootham School, a Quaker institution in York. His father, Rix recalled, was “passionately fond of cricket” and his mother was “besotted by the theatre and very keen on amateur dramatics”. His elder brother and sister were “too sensible to take to acting”, but he and his younger sister Sheila (who as Sheila Mercier would later play Annie Sugden in Emmerdale Farm), “succumbed to the charms of the stage”.
When Brian was 18, in 1942, his father determined that he should attend Oxford and become the family’s first cricket Blue: Brian, however, wanted to join the RAF and, defying his father, was accepted for pilot training, deferred for 10 months.
Any fledgling actor who could walk on stage was almost certain of a job. If you were too young, unfit, or what was euphemistically known as temperamentally unsuited for military service, you were in great demand
To fill in time, he went on tour with Donald Wolfit’s company. “Any fledgling actor who could walk on stage was almost certain of a job,” Rix recalled. “If you were too young, unfit, or what was euphemistically known as temperamentally unsuited for military service, you were in great demand.” He remembered that he had “three lines in Lear for £3 a week”.
It was from an early accident with Wolfit’s company that Rix believed he could be funny. As Snout in A Midsummer Night’s Dream he had stretched upwards after being bent down in the “tedious brief scene” between Pyramus and Thisbe. His tights dropped to his ankles and an audience of schoolchildren was so amused as to earn him a compliment from Wolfit on his gift for comedy.
After being deferred again, Rix appeared in a season at the St James’s Theatre. He then had a stint with Ensa and performed in repertory at the White Rose Theatre in Harrogate. By 1945 the demand for pilots had abated somewhat and Rix realised that he would not be trained to fly. Instead he spent several months as a Bevin Boy mining in Wales."
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