Thursday, February 21, 2013

Deceased--Richard Briers

Richard Briers
January 14thm 1934 to February 17th, 2013

With Felicity Kendall in The Good Life

"Sitcom star turned Shakespearean actor"

L. A. Times

Richard Briers, 79, a British actor who was an avuncular comic presence on TV and movie screens for decades, died Sunday at his London home, said his agent, Christopher Farrar. A former heavy smoker, Briers had suffered from emphysema.

Briers starred in the 1970s sitcom "The Good Life" as Tom Good, a man who decides to quit the urban rat race for a life of self-sufficiency in suburbia. Broadcast in Britain between 1975 and 1978, it aired in the United States as "Good Neighbors." He also starred in the comedy-drama "Ever-Decreasing Circles," the Scottish Highlands drama "Monarch of the Glen" and a host of other shows.

In later life, he became well known for Shakespearean roles. He joined director Kenneth Branagh's Renaissance Theatre Company in 1987 after deciding, he said, that "I had gone as far as I could doing sitcoms."

For Branagh, he took on roles including King Lear, Malvolio in "Twelfth Night" and the buffoon Bottom in "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

He also appeared in several Branagh-directed films, including "Henry V," "A Midsummer Night's Dream," "Hamlet," "Peter's Friends" and "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein."

Briers also was the voice of rabbit Fiver in the much-loved animated animal feature "Watership Down."

On stage, he was associated with the work of British comic playwright Alan Ayckbourn, playing leading roles in "Relatively Speaking," "Absurd Person Singular" and "Absent Friends."

Born Jan. 14, 1934, in Merton, England, Briers trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London.

He said he had no desire to retire, but complained in one of his final interviews that the chronic lung disease emphysema was slowing him down.

"The ciggies got me. I stopped 10 years ago, but too late," he told the Daily Mail newspaper last month.


"Richard Briers, The Good Life star, dies aged 79"

February 18th, 2013

BBC NEWS

Actor Richard Briers, best known for his role in TV's The Good Life, has died at the age of 79, his agent has said.

The star, who was also an accomplished stage actor, had been battling a serious lung condition for several years.

Briers died "peacefully" at his London home on Sunday, his agent added.

Briers recently blamed years of smoking for his emphysema.

"It's totally my fault,"
he said. "So, I get very breathless, which is a pain in the backside. Trying to get upstairs... oh God, it's ridiculous. Of course, when you're bloody nearly 80 it's depressing, because you've had it anyway."

 
His agent, Christopher Farrar, said: "Richard was a wonderful man, a consummate professional and an absolute joy to work alongside.

"Following his recent discussion of his battle with emphysema, I know he was incredibly touched by the strength of support expressed by friends and the public.

"He has a unique and special place in the hearts of so many. He will be greatly missed. Our thoughts and deepest sympathy go to his family at this sad time."


In 1970s BBC sitcom The Good Life, Briers and Felicity Kendal played a married suburban couple who try a self-sufficient lifestyle.

Briers also starred in shows including Marriage Lines, Ever Decreasing Circles, Monarch Of The Glen plus a role in Doctor Who and Torchwood.

He appeared in many films, most recently in British comedy film Cockneys versus Zombies, plus a cameo role in Run For Your Wife, based on Ray Cooney's 1980s stage farce.

Briers narrated the 1970s children's cartoon series Roobarb And Custard and also provided the voice for the character of Fiver in the animated feature Watership Down (1978).

"The nation has lost one of its most favourite actors of all time,"
said Michael Grade, who ran BBC One when Ever Decreasing Circles was on the air.

"He was up there with Ronnie Barker and Alan Bennett. He was just a treasure. He was so warm and so gently funny, and such a truthful actor."

Speaking to 5 live, Lord Grade added: "If you treated him like a star, I think he got embarrassed. He was one of those wonderful, genuine, professional actors with real star quality but humility to go along with it.

"There was nothing he couldn't do, and he always had a twinkle. You were always pleased to see him. It's just a shock and really, really sad."

"He is a centre-piece of our humorous culture and a magnificently talented man. I'm so deeply sad today that he has left us. He was a great person."


Actress Penelope Keith, who played the snobbish neighbour Margo to Briers' character Tom in The Good Life, said the actor's death was "an enormous loss".

"I look back with enormous affection and love for Dickie. He was the most talented of actors, always self-deprecating. I learnt an awful lot from him during our time on The Good Life,"
said Keith.

"He was a wonderful mentor, tutor and teacher although that would suggest he imposed himself on you, which he didn't.

"He was always courteous and he would speak to the crew - which was not always that common. And he was always nervous. It was the most enjoyable time - when I think of The Good Life, I smile."


Briers's godson, the actor and director Samuel West, whose mother Prunella Scales was in Marriage Lines, tweeted: "What a lot of joy he spread."

Scales described Briers as "very skilful, very professional, and off screen a dear friend and a very considerate colleague".

Comedian and writer Barry Cryer told 5 live Briers had been an "enormously popular, well-liked man", adding he was a "formidable actor and the most modest, you know, arrogant in his humility!".

After a long career in popular television, Briers joined Kenneth Branagh's Renaissance Theatre Company in 1987, and his career moved on to major classical roles.

He said at the time: "Ken offered me Malvolio in his production of Twelfth Night at the very time I had decided to expand my career when I realised I had gone as far as I could doing sitcoms. As soon as I worked with him, I thought he was truly exceptional."

After playing Malvolio, Briers took on the acting challenge of King Lear, followed by the title role in Uncle Vanya and Menenius in Coriolanus.

Peter Egan, his co-star in Ever Decreasing Circles, told the BBC: "I spent nearly 10 years just laughing. He was just the most magical comedian, a huge talent, has been a part of the nation's lives for over 50 years."

On film Branagh cast him as Bardolph in Henry V (1989), as Stephen Fry's father in the comedy Peter's Friends (1992), Don Leonato in Much Ado About Nothing (1993), the blind grandfather - playing opposite Robert De Niro's Creature - in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994).

Sir Kenneth said on Monday: "He was a national treasure, a great actor and a wonderful man. He was greatly loved and he will be deeply missed."

Stephen Fry tweeted: "How sad. He was the most adorable and funny man imaginable."

Briers was born in London on 14 January, 1934 and was inspired to be an actor by his mother, a music and drama teacher.

He trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and won a scholarship to Liverpool Playhouse in 1956. Two years later he made his first West End appearance in Gilt And Gingerbread.

His big screen career began with the British features Bottoms Up (1960), Murder She Said (1961), The Girl On The Boat and A Matter of Who (both 1962) and the multi-national The VIPs (1963), followed by Raquel Welch's spy spoof Fathom (1967).

Other film credits included Michael Winner's A Chorus Of Disapproval (1989) and the big-screen version of the hit TV series Minder.

Briers returned to the stage many times in his career, and was particularly associated with the works of Alan Ayckbourn, including Relatively Speaking, Absurd Person Singular and Absent Friends.

He was formerly president of Parkinson's UK and later its honorary vice president.

"We're really sad to hear that Richard Briers has passed away. Richard was our honorary vice president and a great supporter of Parkinson's UK," the charity tweeted on Monday.

Briers was awarded the OBE in 1989 and a CBE in 2003. He married the actress Anne Davies in 1956 and had two daughters with her.


"The Good Life's Richard Briers dies at 79"

He played Tom in the BBC comedy and also starred in shows such as Ever Decreasing Circles and Monarch of the Glen

by

Ben Dowell   

February 18th, 2013

The Guardian

The actor Richard Briers, best known for starring in the popular BBC sitcom The Good Life, has died at the age of 79 after a five-year struggle with emphysema.

Briers, who played the self-effacing Tom Good in the classic series which ran for just three years, died peacefully at his London home on Sunday, his agent, Christopher Farrar, said.

The actor, who began his acting career at the Liverpool Playhouse in 1956, starred in many film and stage productions but will be best remembered for his sitcom work.

His most famous roles were as suburban obsessives in The Good Life and another BBC show, Ever Decreasing Circles, both written by John Esmonde and Bob Larbey.

In the latter, he played Martin Bryce, a fussy busybody unusually preoccupied with law and order. As the more sympathetic Tom Good, he and his wife Barbara, played by Felicity Kendal, sought to live a self-sufficient lifestyle in Surbiton, the acme of suburban London.

Briers later admitted he never liked his character in The Good Life and he and Kendal were not friends off-set.

Briers was also feted for his classical stage roles, particularly after he was spotted in a production of Sir John Vanbrugh's The Relapse at Chichester in 1986 by actor and director Kenneth Branagh.

He recruited Briers into his Renaissance theatre company in 1987 where Briers took on roles such as Malvolio in the 1988 film of William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night and, at Branagh's suggestion, as King Lear in a world tour of the tragedy in 1990, a move which led many critics to comment on his versatility. He also appeared in a number of Branagh's films including Much Ado About Nothing (1993) and as Polonius in Hamlet (1996).

Branagh said: "He was a national treasure, a great actor and a wonderful man. He was greatly loved and he will be deeply missed."

Kenith Trodd, the veteran television drama producer, said Briers' successes in popular sitcoms belied his talents as a serious actor.

"He was a gentle and engaging man and went through many incarnations,"
said Trodd. "I remember him first as quite a smooth matinee actor. He was gentle and engaging and it gave the impression that he may have felt frustrated, that he had more to give.

"He thins an already diminished rank of distinguished stalwarts – Bernard Cribbins, Clive Swift, Stanley Baxter, Tim West, Geoffrey Whitehead still among them – who like Briers himself thrived in the vintage TV of yesteryear but were to some extent homogenised by the medium's over-appetite for that style."


Briers' film credits also included A Chorus of Disapproval (1989) and Watership Down (1978), for which he supplied the voice of the rabbit Fiver. He also narrated the children's cartoon series Roobarb and Custard.

More recently, he starred for five years in the BBC drama Monarch of the Glen as the eccentric patriarch Hector MacDonald. His character bowed out when he was blown up by explosives retrieved by his dog following a failed fishing expedition in a 2005 episode.

Briers spoke publicly about his illness in an interview with the Daily Mail earlier this month and blamed years of smoking for his condition. "It's totally my fault," Briers said. "So, I get very breathless, which is a pain in the backside. Trying to get upstairs … oh God, it's ridiculous. Of course, when you're bloody nearly 80 it's depressing, because you've had it anyway."

Farrar said: "Richard was a wonderful man, a consummate professional and an absolute joy to work alongside. Following his recent discussion of his battle with emphysema, I know he was incredibly touched by the strength of support expressed by friends and the public. He has a unique and special place in the hearts of so many. He will be greatly missed. Our thoughts and deepest sympathy go to his family at this sad time."

Stephen Fry, who worked with Briers in the 1992 film Peter's Friends, said on Twitter: "Oh no, I've just heard the news that Richard Briers has died. How sad. He was the most adorable and funny man imaginable."

 
Ricky Gervais tweeted: "RIP the wonderful Richard Briers."

Shane Allen, the BBC's controller of comedy commissioning, added: "Richard Briers holds a very special place in British sitcom history, having starred in several monumentally successful and well-loved shows. He was an incredibly accomplished actor who enjoyed a long, varied and distinguished career and will be greatly missed. Our thoughts and sympathies are with his family at this sad time."

Briers, who was awarded the OBE in 1989 for services to the arts, was married to the actor Ann Davies, and the couple had two daughters, Lucy and Katie. Lucy has become a successful actor and Katie has worked in stage management.

Felicity Kendal's agent Dallas Smith was unable to reach his client, who was on holiday. However Briers' other female co-star on The Good Life, Penelope Keith, called Briers' death "an enormous loss".

She told the Press Association: "I look back with enormous affection and love for Dickie. He was the most talented of actors, always self-deprecating. I learnt an awful lot from him during our time on The Good Life, over those 30 programmes.

"He was a wonderful mentor, tutor and teacher although that would suggest he imposed himself on you, which he didn't. He was always courteous and he would speak to the crew – which was not always that common.

"And he was always nervous. It was the most enjoyable time. When I think of The Good Life, I smile.

"He was a real gent – both gentle and a gentleman. He had this amazing body of work – successful television comedies, classics and West End plays. He is an enormous loss to our family."


News announcements...

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 Penelope Keith on Richard Briers...

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A clip from The Good Life...

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A risque clip from The Galton and Simpson Playhouse...

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And, a Polaroid commercial with Felicity Kendall...

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Richard Briers [Wikipedia]

The Good Life [Wikipedia]

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