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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. Other comic roles include the lead role in sitcom The Peter Principle and occasional guest appearances in Not The Nine O'Clock News. Brambell himself died less than three years later, of cancer. He had originally been offered the lead role of Del Trotter in the series, but turned it down due to other commitments. 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. The character appeared in three episodes over an eight-year period. On one occasion, Brambell used bad language and was openly derogatory about the Australian people in an interview. He is best known to television audiences as DCI Roy 'The Slag' Slater, an associate character in the enormously popular sitcom Only Fools and Horses.

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 is regarded as the one of the cinema's most reliable character actors and has a reputation of being very easy to work with. 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. 2001 proved to be a breakthrough year for Broadbent, who starred in three of the year's most succesful films: Bridget Jones' Diary (2001), Moulin Rouge (2001), for which he won a BAFTA and Iris (2001), for which won an Oscar for his portrayal of John Bayley. 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 proved his ability as a character actor in films including The Crying Game (1992), Enchanted April (1992), Bullets Over Broadway (1994), The Borrowers (1997) and Little Voice (1998) before taking a leading role in another Mike Leigh film, Topsy-Turvy (1999). Indeed, when he first became famous for Steptoe and Son, it was still illegal in the UK. He went on to work with Stephen Frears (for television, and in The Hit (1984)) and Terry Gilliam (in Time Bandits (1981) and Brazil (1985)) before establishing himself in Mike Leigh's Life is Sweet (1990).

Brambell was also a homosexual, at a time when it was very difficult, almost impossible, for public figures to be so. He made his film debut in 1978 with a tiny role in Jerzy Skolimowski's The Shout, and made his television debut the following year. 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. He also founded the comedy group, the National Theatre of Brent with Patrick Barlow. 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. He graduated in 1972 and went on to work for the Royal National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company as well as acting in Ken Campbell's epic Illuminatus (1976). Brambell had a difficult private life: he and Harry H. Born in Lincoln, Lincolnshire, the son of a furniture maker (his twin sister died at birth), he was educated at a Quaker school in Reading and briefly attended art college before transferring to the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.

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!". Jim Broadbent (born May 24, 1949) is an English television and film actor. 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 the latter, Brambell's part was taken by Red Foxx. 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.

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. 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. 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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