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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 on November 18, 2002, from a heart attack. Brambell himself died less than three years later, of cancer. For his appearance as the abusive father of protagonist Nick Nolte in Affliction he received an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1998. 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 then appeared in movies such as Young Guns II (1990), The Nutty Professor (1996), The Cherokee Kid (a 1996 TV movie), and Maverick (1994). On one occasion, Brambell used bad language and was openly derogatory about the Australian people in an interview. He claimed to have healed himself with pills containing sulfur, and returned to screen in the 1990s.

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. Due to severe rheumatoid arthritis, he did not appear in any films during the 1980s. 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. He was particularly fine in Peckinpah's Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973); and modified his "tough guy" image in satires and comedies, such as What Did You Do in the War Daddy? (1966), Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round (1966), Waterhole # 3 (1967) and The President's Analyst (1967). 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. Born in Laurel, Nebraska, Coburn became famous as the "tough guy" in a variety of films, including the western The Magnificent Seven (1960), the World War Two POW drama The Great Escape (1963), the spy movie Our Man Flint (1966) and its sequel In Like Flint (1967), the Sergio Leone 'spaghetti western' Duck You Sucker aka A Fistful of Dynamite (1971), and Sam Peckinpah's war movie Cross of Iron (1977). Indeed, when he first became famous for Steptoe and Son, it was still illegal in the UK. James Coburn (August 31, 1928 - November 18, 2002) was an American movie actor.

Brambell was also a homosexual, at a time when it was very difficult, almost impossible, for public figures to be so. 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. 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. Brambell had a difficult private life: he and Harry H.

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!". 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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