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Wilfrid Brambell (1912-1985) (born March 22, 1912 in Dublin, Ireland; died January 18, 1985 in London, England, UK) was an Irish film and television actor, best known for his roles in the British television series Steptoe and Son and The Beatles' film A Hard Day's Night.

His television career began during the 1950s, when he was cast in small roles in three Nigel Kneale / Rudolph Cartier productions for BBC Television: as a drunk in The Quatermass Experiment (1953), as both an old man in a pub and later a prisoner in Nineteen Eighty-Four (1954) and as a tramp in Quatermass II (1955). All of these roles earned him a reputation for playing old men, though he was only at the time in his forties.

It was this ability to play old men that led to his casting in his most famous role, as Albert Steptoe, the irascible father Steptoe and Son. Initially the role was merely a one-off for the BBC's Comedy Playhouse anthology strand: however, its success led to a full series being commissioned, which lasted throughout the 1960s and into the 1970s. There were also two feature film spin-offs, a stage show and an American re-make entitled Sanford and Son, based on the original British scripts. In the latter, Brambell's part was taken by Red Foxx.

The success of Steptoe and Son made Brambell a high profile figure on British television, and earned him the major role of Paul McCartney's grandfather in The Beatles' first film, A Hard Day's Night. A running joke is made throughout the film of his character being "a very clean old man." This is in reference to his on-screen son, Harold, in Steptoe and Son constantly referring to his father as "you dirty old man!"

Brambell had a difficult private life: he and Harry H. Corbett, who played Harold Steptoe in Steptoe and Son, detested each other, and were barely on speaking terms outside of takes by the end of the programme's run. In a series almost entirely based around the pair of them with no other regular characters, this made production of the series difficult and stressful.

Brambell was also a homosexual, at a time when it was very difficult, almost impossible, for public figures to be so. Indeed, when he first became famous for Steptoe and Son, it was still illegal in the UK. Earlier in his life he had been married, from 1948 to 1955, to Molly Josephine, but the marriage ended after she gave birth to the child of their lodger, Roderick Fisher, in 1953.

After the final series of Steptoe and Son was made in 1974, Brambell had some guest roles in films and on television, but both he and Corbett found themselves heavily type cast as their famous characters. In an attempt to take advantage of this situation, they undertook a tour of Australia in the late 1970s with a Steptoe and Son stage show: however, with the pair openly despising each other, the tour was a disaster and a working relationship proved impossible. On one occasion, Brambell used bad language and was openly derogatory about the Australian people in an interview. Brambell did, however appear on the BBC's television news to pay tribute to Corbett after the latter's death from a heart attack in 1982.

Brambell himself died less than three years later, of cancer. He was seventy-three. News of his death received far less attention than that of his co-star, and his funeral was sparsely attended.


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He was seventy-three. News of his death received far less attention than that of his co-star, and his funeral was sparsely attended. He died of heart failure in London. Brambell himself died less than three years later, of cancer. After taking on the role, he made few appearances out of character and is considered the Sherlock Holmes of the 1980s and 1990s, as Basil Rathbone had been before him from his 1940s films. Brambell did, however appear on the BBC's television news to pay tribute to Corbett after the latter's death from a heart attack in 1982. Although he appeared in so many films and was such a familiar face on television, Brett is now best remembered for portraying Sherlock Holmes in a long series of television films (from 1984 to 1994), based on the original stories by Arthur Conan Doyle. On one occasion, Brambell used bad language and was openly derogatory about the Australian people in an interview. Brett could sing, however, as he proved when he played Danilo in The Merry Widow on television in 1968.

In an attempt to take advantage of this situation, they undertook a tour of Australia in the late 1970s with a Steptoe and Son stage show: however, with the pair openly despising each other, the tour was a disaster and a working relationship proved impossible. He played Freddie Eynsford-Hill in the 1964 film My Fair Lady, but his singing voice was dubbed. After the final series of Steptoe and Son was made in 1974, Brambell had some guest roles in films and on television, but both he and Corbett found themselves heavily type cast as their famous characters. Brett's film career was never as distinguished as his stage and small-screen careers. Earlier in his life he had been married, from 1948 to 1955, to Molly Josephine, but the marriage ended after she gave birth to the child of their lodger, Roderick Fisher, in 1953. He joked that he was rarely allowed into the 20th century and never into the present day. Indeed, when he first became famous for Steptoe and Son, it was still illegal in the UK. Many of his appearances were in comedy roles, but usually with a classic edge (he appeared in several Noel Coward plays).

Brambell was also a homosexual, at a time when it was very difficult, almost impossible, for public figures to be so. He played leading roles in many classic serials, notably appearing as D'Artagnan in the 1966 adaptation of The Three Musketeers. In a series almost entirely based around the pair of them with no other regular characters, this made production of the series difficult and stressful. From the early 1960s onwards, Brett was rarely off British television screens. Corbett, who played Harold Steptoe in Steptoe and Son, detested each other, and were barely on speaking terms outside of takes by the end of the programme's run. In 1976 he married Joan Wilson, but she died in 1985, and he did not remarry. Brambell had a difficult private life: he and Harry H. Danvers.

A running joke is made throughout the film of his character being "a very clean old man." This is in reference to his on-screen son, Harold, in Steptoe and Son constantly referring to his father as "you dirty old man!". Years later, they would appear together in the BBC's dramatization of Rebecca (1978) -- Brett playing the hero, Max de Winter, and Massey playing the sinister Mrs. The success of Steptoe and Son made Brambell a high profile figure on British television, and earned him the major role of Paul McCartney's grandfather in The Beatles' first film, A Hard Day's Night. In 1958, he married the actress, Anna Massey (daughter of Raymond Massey), but they were divorced in 1962. In the latter, Brambell's part was taken by Red Foxx. He played many classical roles on stage, including a huge amount of Shakespeare, and made his first film and television appearances in 1955. There were also two feature film spin-offs, a stage show and an American re-make entitled Sanford and Son, based on the original British scripts. He was educated at Eton College and trained at the Central School of Speech and Drama.

Initially the role was merely a one-off for the BBC's Comedy Playhouse anthology strand: however, its success led to a full series being commissioned, which lasted throughout the 1960s and into the 1970s. Brett was born in Berkswell Grange, Warwickshire, England. It was this ability to play old men that led to his casting in his most famous role, as Albert Steptoe, the irascible father Steptoe and Son. Jeremy Brett (born Peter Jeremy William Huggins) (November 3, 1933 - September 12, 1995) was a British actor. All of these roles earned him a reputation for playing old men, though he was only at the time in his forties. His television career began during the 1950s, when he was cast in small roles in three Nigel Kneale / Rudolph Cartier productions for BBC Television: as a drunk in The Quatermass Experiment (1953), as both an old man in a pub and later a prisoner in Nineteen Eighty-Four (1954) and as a tramp in Quatermass II (1955).

Wilfrid Brambell (1912-1985) (born March 22, 1912 in Dublin, Ireland; died January 18, 1985 in London, England, UK) was an Irish film and television actor, best known for his roles in the British television series Steptoe and Son and The Beatles' film A Hard Day's Night.

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