History Focus

Even More Teddington Celebrities

When writing about Doctor Who, I should have carried on from Patrick Troughton to the third doctor – Jon Pertwee. Jon came from a strong show business family; his father Ronald Pertwee was an actor and screenwriter and his brother Michael was also a screen writer. He was a second cousin of Bill Pertwee, the notorious ARP warden in Dad’s Army. 

He spent his war years in the Royal Navy and worked under Ian Fleming of James Bond fame in Naval Intelligence. This experience was obviously to stand him in good stead when he secured his radio comedy breakthrough as Chief Petty Officer Pertwee in The Navy Lark, a role he was to hold for 18 years from 1959 – 1977. He took on the role as second choice and played it for five seasons from 1970 to 1974.

David Osborne wrote to me to say that he was in Teddington School from 1976 – 82 and his class were under the impression that Jon Pertwee lived in the pink detached house to the school and did I know if this was true. He also recalls Sean Pertwee being in the year above him until he was chucked out! Unfortunately that was a bit after my time but as I recall Jon Pertwee being a regular in The Tide End Cottage, it is quite likely.

Sean Pertwee followed his father into the acting profession and has built a solid career in acting and producing. He is best known for his role as Sgt Wells in the film Dog Soldiers. He may currently be heard narrating the progress of promising cooks in Master Chef. 

We have sadly lost another of our Teddington fraternity of entertainers with the death of Des O’Connor. In a career that scanned from 1954 until 2020, Des was very much a household name. During this period, the Des O’Connor Show and Des O’Connor Entertains were produced from Teddington Studios.

A much earlier quiz programme came on our screens at the beginning of Independent Television. This was Take Your Pick, a game show invented and presented by New Zealander, Michael Miles. Originally a radio show, it moved to television in 1955 and stayed there until 1968. It was the first UK game show to offer cash prizes. The likely contestants were grilled in a 1 minute interview  in which they could not use the words yes or no. To do so meant a loud gong being sounded and the contestant exited the show.

The contestants then moved onto the main quiz where they would answer questions for prize money, doubling up with each answer until the climax when the contestant was given the option of ta\king the money he or she had already won (to a maximum of £50) or open one of ten boxes in the hope of winning a star prize which could be a holiday or a washing machine. Three of the boxes contained booby prizes. At this point audience participation was invoked with cries of “Take the Money !” or “Open the Box !”  

Although the show was made at Rediffusion’s studios at Wembley. Michael Miles lived in Hampton and was frequently seen in the district. He died of a heart attack in Spain in 1971.

Some time later, the show was revived at Thames Studios at Teddington Lock with Des O’Connor as the compere. This version ran from 1992 to 1999.

One man who will no doubt be recognised by many who are then unable to name him. “It’s what’s his name”… or some such catch-phrase. Extremely prolific and unmatched as a British background actor, Marcus Guy Wyndham Standeven or just Guy Standeven must hold the record for the number of films in which he appeared. Think of any popular British film from the 1950s to the early 1990s, and there is a fair chance that Guy would have registered an appearance.

One of the most busy and tireless of British bit players, Guy will be spotted in scores of films and tv shows in which he was cast as doctors, policemen, military and naval officers, restaurant patrons or numerous men of the cloth. In all he must have had over 1,000 roles to his credit as well as hundreds of appearances as an extra. Sometimes he had a speaking role and more often, not. He also did much theatre work and for training films and radio. His biographer, Marcus James Hislop, (“Who’s That Guy ?”) has been unable to confirm the exact number of roles he undertook. He was a prolific pipe smoker and this led to his being treated in Hammersmith Hospital for lung cancer. After a successful operation, he sustained a heart attack from which he did not recover and died on 16 October 1998, aged 70.

I knew Guy briefly in the early 1970s when he and his partner, Felicity, used to frequent the Railway Hotel by Teddington Station. My memories of him are as of a charming man with an amazing recall of actors and their roles. Some time later he moved to Hampton Wick where he became well known as a regular in the now defunct Rose & Crown.

Whilst the Teddington area is well known for its performers, there is another side to the entertainment business and here again Teddington is high on the list of its supporting writers. Jed Mercurio started his working life in the RAF before switching to the NHS and becoming a hospital physician. This led him to write a hospital drama series called Cardiac Arrest and from here he decided on a career of writing full time. 

From this beginning Jed went on to write The Grimleys, Bodies, Ascent and The Bodyguard. All much acclaimed comedy and drama notwithstanding his signature piece – Line of Duty. Ranked as the best police drama series of all time. Here Superintendent Ted Hastings and the AC-12 team take on organised crime and continue to try and nail the “Mr Big.”

Jed Mercurio is now a Teddington resident and may be seen anonymously walking around the town.

Ken Howe is a local historian and author of several books.

howe64@btinternet.com 

020 8943 1513

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