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Bernard Hepton

Discussion in 'WWII Era Obituaries (non-military service)' started by GRW, Jul 31, 2018.

  1. GRW

    GRW Pillboxologist WW2|ORG Editor

    Oct 26, 2003
    Likes Received:
    Stirling, Scotland
    "Never on the front cover, but always somehow familiar, Bernard Hepton, who has died aged 92, was one of those actors you were always glad to see again. He could be plain and morose, or authoritative and stern, or he could be extremely funny, but he never let you down, whether as the German Kommandant with a human streak in the popular TV series Colditz (1972-74), or as an ordinary, humdrum “television watcher” in Jack Rosenthal's sitcom Sadie, It’s Cold Outside (1975), with Rosemary Leach.
    The 1970s was Hepton’s decade of greatest activity and exposure. He was hardly off our small screens, appearing as Thomas Cranmer in two BBC Tudor blockbusters, The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1970), starring Keith Michell, and Elizabeth R (1971), with Glenda Jackson in the title role.Then he popped up as the Greek freedman, Pallas, in I, Claudius (1976), and the high-ranking intelligence officer Toby Esterhase in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1979), starring Alex Guinness, a role he repeated with subtler inflections and a less English accent (the Hungarian-born character had retired and was running an art gallery) in Smiley’s People, also with Guinness, three years later.
    In addition, he was a flustered press officer in Philip Mackie’s The Organisation (1972), a satire on power games co-starring Peter Egan and Donald Sinden; an incompetent, very funny boss figure in Eric Chappell’s The Squirrels (1975), set in a television rental company; and a Belgian resistance fighter, Albert Foiret, running a restaurant patronised by Nazis while smuggling out prisoners of war in the BBC’s Secret Army (1977-79).
    As an actor, he could transform himself without makeup into a king or a countryman. His voice was strong, Yorkshire-tinged, his bearing firm, his timing impeccable, his range quietly stupendous. Chronically shortsighted, he could hide effectively behind spectacles, but without them he bared an unusual moon-like face, curiously blank and expressive at the same time.
    He was born in Bradford and grew up in the same street as JB Priestley 20 years before, the son of Bernard Heptonstall, an electrician, and his wife, Hilda, who came from a family of mill workers. The tedium of his duty as a teenage fire-watcher in wartime was relieved by some one-act plays the woman in charge brought along, and this led him to join the amateur drama company based at Bradford Civic Playhouse.
    His eyesight exempted him from the call-up, so he trained as an aircraft engineer, and a draughtsman. But he continued with the playhouse and when the incoming director, Esmé Church, founded her short-lived drama school in 1945, he was her first student; Robert Stephens, another of her proteges, said of Hepton, “immediately, you could see that he was brilliant”.

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