Some Joe You Don't Know: An American Biographical Guide to 100 British Television Personalities

By Anthony Slide | Go to book overview

pack, and Sheila Mercier makes only the occasional guest appearance on the soap opera.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

Hill Bill, and Michael Heatley. Emmerdale. London: Boxtree in association with Yorkshire Television, 1992.

Mercier Sheila, with Anthony Hayward. Annie's Song: My Life & Emmerdale. London: Titan Books, 1994.


FRANK MIDDLEMASS

The Archers, "an everyday story of country folk," is the longest running soap opera in British history. It has been heard on BBC radio since 1950. Frank Middlemass is best known in Britain for having been the fourth actor to play the program's leading character, Dan Archer, succeeding Edgar Harrison, who died in November 1982. In the United States, The Archers is virtually unknown, but Frank Middlemass is a name, one of the best- loved aging character actors on public television.

Born in 1919, Frank Middlemass had always wanted to be an actor, but his family insisted he pursue a career as a civil servant. In the late 1930s, he joined the army and retired in 1948 with the rank of major. "I really wanted to go into the navy but I have terrible eyesight," he said. "I went along to the medical having memorized the eye test board but as I happily rattled it off I hadn't realized they had turned the board over. They gave me a tin mug and a white stick and told me join the army. My eyesight has been a problem throughout my career but it can have its advantages. Recently I came off stage and all the actors were complaining about a woman eating crisps in the third row. It could have been a gorilla eating crisps for all I knew, I couldn't see a thing."

As Middlemass puts it, "I had to wait until everyone had died until I went into the theatre." And that was in the mid-1960s. He worked with the Bristol Old Vic Company, coming to New York with the group in 1967. "It's not a myth. You do perform better in a company--it's knowing the other actors. There's more spontaneity," he pointed out. In the West End, Middlemass has appeared in Widowers' Houses ( 1970), Rosmersholm ( 1977), Heartbreak House ( 1983), Temptation ( 1990), Broadway Bound ( 1991), You Can't Take It with You ( 1993), and Lady Windermere's Fan ( 1994).

On screen, Frank Middlemass has appeared in Otley ( 1969), Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed! ( 1970), Say Hello to Yesterday ( 1971), Barry Lyndon ( 1975), and Dreamchild ( 1985, voice only). His biggest role to date-fourth billing--has been as Windsor in The Island ( 1980), directed by Michael Ritchie, based on Peter Benchley's novel, and starring Michael Caine and David Warner. The failure of that production has made Middlemass leery of accepting other film roles.

The actor made his television debut in the late 1950s as a tramp on the

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Some Joe You Don't Know: An American Biographical Guide to 100 British Television Personalities
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • A 1
  • B 13
  • C 39
  • D 55
  • E 59
  • F 67
  • G 75
  • H 85
  • Bibliography 117
  • I 121
  • J 123
  • K 141
  • L 147
  • M 161
  • Bibliography 181
  • O 191
  • P 193
  • R 203
  • Bibliography 232
  • T 235
  • W 243
  • General Bibliography 257
  • Index 259
  • About the Author 273
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