Bernard Bresslaw

Bernard Bresslaw (25 February 1934 – 11 June 1993) was an English comic actor, best remembered as a member of the Carry On team.

Bernard Bresslaw
Bernard Bresslaw

(1934-02-25)25 February 1934
Died11 June 1993(1993-06-11) (aged 59)
Regent's Park, London, England
Years active1954–1993
Spouse(s)Betty Wright (m. 1959–1993) (his death)
ChildrenJames Bresslaw
Mark Bresslaw
Jonathan Bresslaw
AwardsMost Promising Newcomer Variety Club of Great Britain


Bernard Bresslaw was born the youngest of three boys into a Jewish family in Stepney, London,[1] on 25 February 1934.[2] He attended the Coopers' Company's School in Tredegar Square, Bow, London E3. His father was a tailor's cutter and he became interested in acting after visits to the Hackney Empire. London County Council awarded him a scholarship to train at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art where he won the Emile Littler Award as the most promising actor.[3] After Educating Archie on radio and The Army Game on television, more television, film and Shakespearean theatre roles followed, until he was cast in Carry On Cowboy in 1965. Although officially starring in 14 Carry On films, Bresslaw did appear in one other: Carry On Nurse. The legs of Terence Longdon were deemed to be too thin and scrawny looking, so Bresslaw's were used as stand-ins for the scene where Joan Sims gives him a bath.

Bresslaw's catchphrase, in his strong Cockney accent, was "I only arsked" (sic), first used in The Army Game,[4] and later revived in Carry On Camping (1969). In his fleeting appearance as an angry lorry driver in the 1970 film Spring and Port Wine, his character was dubbed.

At 6 ft 7 in (2.01 m), he was the tallest of the Carry On cast, head and shoulders over fellow Carry On regular Barbara Windsor, who is 4 ft 10 in (1.47 m). Because of his height he was briefly considered for the part of the Creature in Hammer's Curse of Frankenstein (1957), which ultimately went instead to 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m) Christopher Lee. Bresslaw later made a comedy version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for Hammer titled The Ugly Duckling (1959). He made great efforts to prepare for roles, for example learning Fanagalo phrases for Carry On Up the Jungle (1970).

He featured as Varga, the lead villain in the 1967 Doctor Who story The Ice Warriors.[5] Even though all the actors playing the aliens were over six feet tall, Bresslaw towered over them. Sonny Caldinez, who played an Ice Warrior in the story, stated in a 2004 interview that Bresslaw "was the only man that could make me feel small."

Television series


UK chart singles

  • "Mad Passionate Love/You Need Feet" (1958)
  • "The Army Game/What Do We Do in the Army?" (1958) Michael Medwin, Bernard Bresslaw, Alfie Bass & Leslie Fyson
  • "Charlie Brown/The Teenager's Lament" (1959)
  • "Ivy Will Cling/I Found a Hole" (1959)

Stage actor

Bresslaw performed with the Young Vic Theatre Company, the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre. One of his last stage performances was as Malvolio in Twelfth Night at the Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park (1990).

He also played the genie in the lamp in Aladdin at the Theatre Royal, Newcastle, in the 1990s.

He also played the genie on the Sooty Show.

He also voiced Gorilla on The Giddy Game Show.

He played Mephistopheles, alongside James Warwick in the title role of an Oxford Stage Company regional touring production of Doctor Faustus in 1987.

He was a member of the oldest theatrical fraternity in the world, the elite Grand Order of Water Rats[6]


His song "You Need Feet" (a parody of "You Need Hands" by Max Bygraves) was used in the Rutles' TV special, accompanying the Yoko Ono film parody "A Thousand Feet of Film". This was cut from the syndicated version and the original DVD release, but was restored (along with other cut footage) in later DVD releases.

BT adverts

Bresslaw, together with Miriam Margolyes, appeared with English comedienne Maureen Lipman in a series of British Telecom advertisements in the late 1980s. Bresslaw and Margolyes played Gerald and Dolly, a nervous couple who drop in unannounced on Lipman's character Beatrice "Beattie" Bellman and her husband Harry.

Personal life

Bresslaw was married to the dancer Betty Wright in 1959, and was married until his death in 1993.[7] They had three sons: James, Mark and Jonathan.


Bresslaw died of a sudden heart attack on 11 June 1993.[2] He had collapsed in his dressing room at the Open Air Theatre in Regent's Park, London, where he was to play Grumio in the New Shakespeare Company's production of Taming of the Shrew,[8] His body was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium, north London, where his ashes were buried on 17 June 1993.[9]


Bresslaw was the author of a privately published volume of poetry, Ode to the Dead Sea Scrolls.[10]


  1. "Carry On's Bernard Bresslaw «". 6 November 2010. Retrieved 16 April 2012.
  2. Donnelley, Paul (2003). Fade to Black: A Book of Movie Obituaries. Omnibus Press. p. 118.
  3. Marcus, Laurence (28 August 2006). "I Only Arsked: The Life and Work of Bernard Bresslaw". Teletronic. Archived from the original on 9 May 2008. Retrieved 8 August 2008.
  4. "National service with a smile". Bristol Evening Post. Northcliffe Newspapers Group. 30 May 2006. Retrieved 8 August 2008.
  5. "Doctor Who Classic Episode Guide - The Ice Warriors - Details". BBC. Retrieved 3 December 2016.
  6. "Roll of Honour". Grand Order of Water Rats. 17 April 2017.
  7. Rennie, John (2006). London History: 100 Faces of the East End. p. 69. ISBN 9781411666085.
  8. Ross, Robert; Collins, Phil (2002). The Carry on Companion. Batsford. p. 181. ISBN 9780713487718.
  9. Harris, John (9 March 2007). "Whole lotta love". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media. Retrieved 8 August 2008.
  10. Bresslaw, Bernard (1977). Ode to the Dead Sea Scrolls. New Broom Private Press. ISBN 978-0-901870-28-5.

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