Barry Evans (actor)

Barry Joseph Evans (18 June 1943 – 9 February 1997)[1] was an English actor best known for his appearances in British sitcoms such as Doctor in the House and Mind Your Language.

Barry Evans
Barry Evans as Jamie McGregor in Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush (1968)
Born
Barry Joseph Evans

(1943-06-18)18 June 1943
Died9 February 1997(1997-02-09) (aged 53)
OccupationActor
Years active1964–1993

Biography

Early life

Born in Guildford, Surrey,[1] and abandoned as a baby, Evans was educated at the orphanage boarding schools run by the Shaftesbury Homes, first at Fortescue House School in Twickenham and then at Bisley Boys' School in Bisley, Surrey. His acting ability was recognised at an early age and he often played the leading roles in school plays. He briefly lived in Yalding before moving to London. Evans attended the Italia Conti Academy and later won a John Gielgud Scholarship to study at the Central School of Speech and Drama.[1]

Career

One of his first film credits was the lead role in Clive Donner's film Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush (1968) where he was cast as Jamie McGregor, a teenager who finds it difficult to lose his virginity. Photoplay magazine called Evans a "bright and exciting new actor", and the Sunday Telegraph described his screen debut as "brilliant".

Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush represented a breakthrough in a number of technical features: the script, the photography and the filming techniques. Jamie McGregor speaks his thoughts out loud. The soundtrack was also rightly famous, containing mainly songs performed by The Spencer Davis Group and Traffic. The film was listed to compete at the 1968 Cannes Film Festival, but the Festival was cancelled that year. The film saw the beginning of a long-lasting friendship between Barry Evans and the director, Clive Donner, whom Evans regarded as one of his best friends, and he worked with Donner again in 1969 in the historical epic Alfred the Great.

In 1969, he appeared in an episode of the series Journey to the Unknown entitled "The Killing Bottle", alongside Roddy McDowall, as a man planning to murder his brother for the inheritance.

His first major television role was in the sitcom Doctor in the House (1969–70), based on Richard Gordon's series of novels, which had already been turned into a feature film series. Evans starred as the young student doctor Michael Upton, to whom Evans felt he bore no similarities. Following the show's success, he starred in the sequel to the series, Doctor at Large (1971). Evans enjoyed working with his fellow actors George Layton, Geoffrey Davies, Robin Nedwell and Richard O'Sullivan, and he later described these as the best years of his life. Work on the "Doctor" series was extremely intense though, and left him no time to take on other roles; he therefore declined to appear in the sequels. However in a later interview he admitted he'd been "incredibly stupid" to turn the series down.[2]

In 1971, Evans played the character of Eli Frome in Pete Walker's low-budget thriller Die Screaming, Marianne, alongside Susan George. In 1976, he had the lead role in Stanley Long's sex comedy Adventures of a Taxi Driver. Unlike Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush where the viewer is allowed to partake in Jamie's thoughts, here Evans' character breaks the fourth wall throughout the film. Although the film was successful Evans decided not to appear in the sequels, however he starred in the similarly-themed Under the Doctor the same year.

Evans also did some theatre work. However, this did not prove financially worthwhile, and he spent several spells claiming benefits. He wrote to London Weekend Television, "and told them... I was still alive".[3] This led to what would become his best-known comedy role, as Jeremy Brown in the ITV sitcom Mind Your Language (1977–79),[1] which was a humorous look at an evening class tutor teaching English to foreign students. The series was immensely popular, both in the UK and internationally and more so in the countries the actors portrayed. The series was written by TV scriptwriter Vince Powell, and was adapted for American TV as What a Country! in 1986. In the same year, it was briefly revived in Britain for a further 13 episodes.[4]

Later career

In 1982–83 Evans played Dick Emery's trusted assistant Robin Bright in the comedy thriller series Legacy of Murder, the first of Emery's shows to be shot entirely on film.

By the latter half of the 1980s, his youthful appearance was working against him, and he found it difficult to obtain mature acting roles in keeping with his age. His last role was as Bazzard in the 1993 film adaptation of The Mystery of Edwin Drood. By the mid–1990s Evans was working as a minicab driver in Leicestershire.

Death

In February 1997, Evans was found dead in his home by police. The police discovered Evans's body in his living room after going to the house to tell him they had recovered his stolen car which had been reported missing the day before.[5] The cause of his death has never been confirmed. The Coroner found a blow to Evans's head and also found high levels of alcohol in his system. There was also a short written will found on a table next to his body and a spilt packet of aspirin (bearing a pre-decimalisation price tag indicating that the pack was at least 26 years old) was found on the floor, although the Coroner concluded that he had not taken any of these. An open verdict was eventually given. An 18-year-old man was arrested but later released without charge due to insufficient evidence.[6] Evans was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium.

TV credits

YearTitleRoleNotes
1964Camera Three
"Chips with Everything"
First Airman
1964Redcap
"The Boys of B Company"
Tug Wilson
1965Undermind
"Flowers of Havoc"
Ted
1967Much Ado About NothingCoffee boy
1967The Baron
"The Edge of Fear"
Hotel porterUncredited
1968Love Story
"The Proposal"
1969Journey to the Unknown
"The Killing Bottle"
Jimmy Rintoul
1969–1971Doctor in the House
Doctor at Large
Dr Michael Upton
1971ITV Playhouse
"Like Puppies in a Basket"
Tony
1971Thirty Minute Theatre
"Blues in the Morning"
Tommo
1972Late Night Theatre
"Torquil"
Joe
1975CrossroadsTrevor Woods
1977-1979
1986
Mind Your LanguageMr Jeremy Brown
1978Crown Court
"Still Waters"
Barry Sellars
1982Legacy of MurderRobin Bright

Filmography

YearTitleRoleNotes
1967The White BusBoy
1967Here We Go Round the Mulberry BushJamie McGregor
1969Alfred the GreatIngild
1971Journey to MurderJimmy Rintoul(The Killing Bottle)
1971Die Screaming, MarianneEli Frome
1976Adventures of a Taxi DriverJoe North
1976Under the DoctorDoctor Boyd, Psychiatrist/ Mr Johnson /
Lt Cranshaw / Colin Foster
1993The Mystery of Edwin DroodBazzard(final film role)

References

  1. Hayward, Anthony (13 February 1997). "Obituary: Barry Evans". The Independent. London, UK. Retrieved 6 January 2011.
  2. "Back To Stardom via the Dole Queue by Barry Evans", TV Times 1977
  3. TV Times interview
  4. Hayward, Anthony (13 February 1997). "Obituary: Barry Evans". The Independent. Retrieved 8 July 2015.
  5. Bennetto, Jason (12 February 1997). "Police investigate `suspicious' death of sitcom actor". The Independent. London, UK: Independent Print Limited. Retrieved 25 December 2010.
  6. Upton, Julian (2004). Fallen Stars: Tragic Lives and Lost Careers. London, UK: Headpress. p. 89. ISBN 1-900486-38-5.
  • Barry Evans on IMDb
  • "Coroner's Report". Archived from the original on 20 April 2016. Retrieved 2013. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  • Sheridan, Simon (2011). Keeping the British End Up: Four Decades of Saucy Cinema (fourth ed.). Titan Books.
  • Sheridan, Simon (2008). X-Rated – Adventures of an Exploitation Filmmaker. Reynolds & Hearn Books.
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