Francis Bernard Heptonstall (19 October 1925 – 27 July 2018) better known by the stage name Bernard Hepton, was an English theatre director and actor. Best known for his stage work and television roles in teleplays and series, he also appeared briefly on radio and in film.
19 October 1925
|Died||27 July 2018 92) (aged|
|Spouse(s)||Nancie Jackson (1957–77, her death)|
Hillary Liddell (1979–2013, her death)
Early life and education
Hepton was born in Bradford, West Riding of Yorkshire and said he was born in the same street as J.B. Priestley thirty years earlier. His father, Bernard senior, was an electrician, while his mother Hilda (née Berrington) was from a mill-working family. Brought up as a Catholic (which he remained as an adult), he attended St Bede's Grammar School in the city. His short-sight meant he was unable to serve in the army during the Second World War, but he trained as an aircraft engineer and draughtsman while undertaking firewatching duties.
Hepton trained at the Bradford Civic Playhouse under director Esme Church. He had extensive stage experience as an actor in repertory, especially in Scarborough and York. In 1952, he joined Birmingham Rep under Barry Jackson, later himself becoming the theatre's artistic director in 1957. Later, for a brief period from 1963, he was director of the Liverpool Playhouse, but resigned during his first season. Productions of the Max Frisch play The Fire Raisers and John Osborne's Luther were not well-received locally because of their content. He was responsible for orchestrating the fight sequences in Laurence Olivier's film version of Richard III (1955) and an Old Vic production of Hamlet with lead Richard Burton in 1953.
On television, he played Caiaphas in the 1969 Dennis Potter play Son of Man. He was cast as the Kommandant in Colditz (1972–74) and later appeared for the same production team as Albert Foiret in three seasons of Secret Army (1977–79). Before that he made a guest appearance in an episode of the first series of Catweazle (1970) where he played a naturalist. Other notable performances included Thomas Cranmer in both The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1970) and Elizabeth R (1971). He reprised the role in the film adaptation of the former, Henry VIII and His Six Wives (1972). Hepton acted in adaptations of John le Carré's novels, as Toby Esterhase in the BBC Television versions of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and Smiley's People, and George Smiley in the radio adaptations. He appeared in I, Claudius (1976) as Pallas and in the comedy series The Squirrels (1974–77).
Having played Inspector Goole in An Inspector Calls (1982) and Sir Thomas Bertram in Mansfield Park (1983), he appeared as Sam Toovey in the 1989 television adaptation of Susan Hill's ghost story The Woman in Black (1989).
Radio and film
On radio, Hepton played the role of Albert, in Stranger in the Home by Alan Dapre, also the role of The Old Man in the Corner, the amateur, and mostly sedentary, sleuth in the BBC dramatisations of The Teahouse Detective (1998–2000) by Baroness Orczy. Inspector Gilbraith, BBC radio 1977.
Hepton's appearances in feature films were less frequent, he made his debut in 1949. He made a brief appearance as Thorpey, a gangster, in the classic British film Get Carter (1971), and another small role, as Milton Goldsmith, in Voyage of the Damned (1976).
Personal life and death
Hepton was married to actress Nancie Jackson from 1957 until she died in 1977. Jackson played his wife Alice in A Man for All Seasons, and they settled in Barnes, south-west London. He married Hilary Liddell in 1979; she died in 2013. He died on 27 July 2018, aged 92. He was survived by a niece and nephew.
- A Boy, a Girl and a Bike (1949) as Cyclist (uncredited)
- Richard III (1955) as Soldier (uncredited)
- Get Carter (1971) as Thorpe
- Henry VIII and His Six Wives (1972) as Archbishop Thomas Cranmer
- Barry Lyndon (1975) as Man selling painting to Barry
- Voyage of the Damned (1976) as Milton Goldsmith
- The Plague Dogs (1982) as Stephen Powell (voice)
- Gandhi (1982) as G.O.C, British army in India
- The Holcroft Covenant (1985) as Commander Leighton
- Shadey (1985) as Captain Amies
- Stealing Heaven (1988) as Bishop
- Eminent Domain (1990) as Slovak
- The Baroness and the Pig (2002) as Soames
- A Man for All Seasons (1957) as Sir Thomas More
- The Life of Henry V (1957) as Chorus
- Compact (1964) - director, two episodes
- Swizzlewick (1964) - producer, 20 episodes
- Thursday Theatre (1965) - producer, two episodes
- United! (1965–1966) - producer, 28 episodes
- Play of the Month: The Devil's Eggshell (1966) as Lord Portmanteau
- Great Expectations (1967) as Wemmick
- The Spanish Farm (1968) as Captain Dormer
- Out of the Unknown: The Fosters (1969) as Harry Gerwyn
- The Wednesday Play: Son of Man (1969) as Caiaphas
- The Elusive Pimpernel (1969) as Chauvelin
- W. Somerset Maugham: Lord Mountdrago (1969) as Dr Audlin
- Play For Today: Robin Redbreast (TV play) (1970) as Fisher
- The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1970) as Archbishop Thomas Cranmer in four episodes
- Elizabeth R (1971) as Archbishop Thomas Cranmer
- Omnibus: Paradise Restored (1971) as Oliver Cromwell
- The Organisation (1972) as Rodney Spurling
- Follow the Yellow Brick Road (1972) as Colin Sands
- Colditz (1972–1974) as Kommandant
- Play of the Month: The Adventures of Don Quixote (1973) as Village Priest
- A Pin to See the Peepshow (1973) as Herbert Starling
- Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em (1973) as Webster
- The Squirrels (1974–77) as Mr Fletcher
- Sadie, It's Cold Outside (1975) as Norman Potter
- Orde Wingate (1976) as Palmer
- I, Claudius (1976) as Pallas
- Secret Army (1977–1979) as Albert Foiret
- Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1979) as Toby Esterhase
- Blood Money (1981) as Det Chief Supt Meadows
- Kessler (1981) as Albert Foiret
- An Inspector Calls (1982) as Inspector Goole
- Smiley's People (1982) as Toby Esterhase
- Mansfield Park (1983) as Sir Thomas Bertram
- Dear Box Number (1983) as Walter Cartwright
- A Profile of Arthur J. Mason (1984) as Arthur J. Mason
- Bleak House (1985) as Krook
- Bergerac (1985) as Sir Geoffrey Newton
- Honour, Profit & Pleasure (1985) as Bishop of London
- The Disputation (1986) as Raymund de Penjaforte
- The Life and Loves of a She-Devil (1986) as Judge Bissop
- The Lady's Not for Burning (1987) as Hebble Tyson
- The Charmer (1987) as Donald Stimpson
- The Contract (1988) as Henry Carter
- The Woman in Black (1989) as Sam Toovey
- A Perfect Hero (1991) as Arthur Fleming
- The Old Devils (1992) as Malcolm Cellan-Davies
- Dandelion Dead (1994) as Mr Davies
- Emma (1996) as Mr Woodhouse
- Midsomer Murders: Death of a Hollow Man (1998) as Harold Winstanley
- Heartbeat: Bread & Circuses (2002) as Colonel Barber/James Barker
- Emma (2008) Mr. Woodhouse (final appearance)
- "Bernard Hepton obituary". The Times. 1 August 2018. Retrieved 1 August 2018. (subscription required)
- Coveney, Michael (30 July 2018). "Bernard Hepton obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 July 2018.
- "HEPTON, Bernard". bfi.org.uk. Retrieved 31 July 2013.
- Harrie, Kate (6 April 2006). "Interview with Bernard Hepton". Theatre Archive Project. British Library. Retrieved 4 June 2011.
- Daily Telegraph Obituaries p27 "Actor who played Kommandant in Colditz and Toby Esterhase in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" Issue no 50,760 dated Wednesday 1 August 2018