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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. Burton is sometimes erroneously referred to as "Sir Richard Burton", perhaps due to the similarity of his assumed name to that of Richard Francis Burton, but unlike the 19th century scholar, he never received a knighthood. Brambell himself died less than three years later, of cancer. Burton appears in the 2002 List of "100 Great Britons" (sponsored by the BBC and voted for by the public). 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. He was only 58 years old. On one occasion, Brambell used bad language and was openly derogatory about the Australian people in an interview. Burton died suddenly of a cerebral hemorrhage at his home in Switzerland, where he is buried.

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. Burton was banned permanently from BBC productions in 1974 for questioning the sanity of Winston Churchill and others in power during World War II--Burton reported hating them "virulently" for the alleged promise to wipe out all Japanese people on the planet. 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. The film is reputed to have been similar to Burton and Taylor's real-life marriage. 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. Burton and Taylor played opposite each other in Mike Nichols's film of the play Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, in which a bitter erudite couple spend the evening trading vicious barbs in front of their horrified and fascinated guests. Indeed, when he first became famous for Steptoe and Son, it was still illegal in the UK. An insomniac and notoriously heavy drinker, Burton was married five times - twice, consecutively, to Elizabeth Taylor.

Brambell was also a homosexual, at a time when it was very difficult, almost impossible, for public figures to be so. In 1954, he took his most famous radio role, as the narrator in the original production of Under Milk Wood, a role he would reprise in the film version twenty years later. 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. In 1952, Burton successfully made the transition to Hollywood star, appearing in My Cousin Rachel opposite Olivia de Havilland. 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. This was made possible only because it was wartime and he was an air force cadet. Brambell had a difficult private life: he and Harry H. In 1943, at the age of eighteen, Richard Burton (who had now taken his teacher's surname), was allowed into Exeter College for a term of six months study.

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!". His former teacher, Philip Burton, recognising his talent, adopted him and enabled him to return to school. 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. The facts, as recorded by Burton himself in his own autobiography and in Richard and Philip, which he co-wrote, are as follows: At the age of sixteen, he was forced to leave school and find work as a shop assistant. In the latter, Brambell's part was taken by Red Foxx. There is a widespread myth (perhaps encouraged or even believed by some members of his stoutly working-class family) that Richard Burton "won a scholarship to Oxford at the age of sixteen" but left after six months. 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. It was at this time that he began to develop the distinctive speaking voice that became his hallmark, having been encouraged by Philip (who sidelined as a BBC radio producer) to "lose his Welsh accent".

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. With the assistance of his inspirational schoolmaster, Philip H Burton (who legally adopted him), he excelled in school productions. 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. He was born Richard Walter Jenkins in the village of Pontrhydyfen near Port Talbot. All of these roles earned him a reputation for playing old men, though he was only at the time in his forties.
Richard Burton (November 10, 1925 - August 5, 1984) was a Welsh actor from the late 1940s through the 1980s. 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). For the 19th-century explorer, scholar, and orientalist, see Richard Francis Burton..

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. This article is about the 20th-century actor. 1984 (1984) - (his final screen appearance) (see also: Nineteen Eighty-Four (novel)). Anne of the Thousand Days (1969)
. Where Eagles Dare (1968)
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Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)
. Night of the Iguana (1964)
. Hamlet (1964)
. Becket (1964)
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Cleopatra (1963)
. The Longest Day (1962)
. Alexander the Great (1956)
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