Actor & Director Anton Rodgers Passes Away at 74Date: 4 December 2007
Actor Anton Rodgers passed away on Saturday (1 December 2007). He was 74. Though best recognised for his numerous roles in long-running sitcoms, Rodger was a stage regular during his 60-year career.
Born in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire on 10 January 1933, Rodgers began acting professionally while still at school, appearing in Carmen at the Royal Opera House at 14, before tours of Great Expectations and The Winslow Boy and stints in regional rep. He trained at Italia Conti and then LAMDA (London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art).
Rodgers’ first West End part was in 1957 in Sandy Wilson’s The Boy Friend at Wyndham’s, which he followed with many more musicals over the years – including The Crooked Mile, And Another Thing, Twists, Pickwick (with Harry Secombe), The Threepenny Opera, Songbook (for which he won an Olivier) and Windy City. In 2001 at the London Palladium, he originated the role of Grandpa Potts in the stage adaptation of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, his last West End role.
The actor’s many non-musical stage credits, at the Royal Court, the Royal Shakespeare Company, in the West End and elsewhere, included the premiere of John Osborne’s Plays for England, notable performances in Peter Nichols’ Forget-Me-Not Lane and Passion Play, as well as The Beaux Stratagem, Straw Hat, Henry V, Waiting for Godot, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Uncle Vanya, Gaslight, Are You Now or Have You Ever Been…?, Saint Joan, Two into One, Time of My Life, Beyond a Joke and How the Other Loves.
Rodgers’ last West End play was Under the Doctor (pictured) with Peter Davison, which had a brief run at the Comedy Theatre in 2002. Last autumn, he was due to play Hector in the tour and subsequent West End transfer of Alan Bennett’s The History Boys, but was forced to withdraw and was replaced by Stephen Moore (See News, 31 Aug 2006).
When not on-stage himself, Rodgers was often directing the action on it. His directorial credits included Piece of Cake, Grass Roots, The Fantastiks, The Rainmaker, The Roses of Eyam, The Taming of the Shrew, Death of a Salesman, Flashpoint and We Who Are About To, which he also co-devised and transferred to the West End after its 1969 premiere at Hampstead Theatre.
On screen, Rodgers is probably best remembered for his roles in Fresh Fields (in which he played Julia McKenzie’s suburban husband William), its sequel French Fields (when the couple relocated to France), and May to December (in which he was Alec, a solicitor with a love of musicals and Perry Mason).
In total, Rodgers appeared in more than 20 TV series. His many other screen credits included Noah’s Ark, Midsomer Murders, Where the Heart Is, Longford, Ukridge, The Elusive Pimpernel, The Old Curiosity Shop, Affairs of the Heart and After the Dance on television, and the films Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The Day of the Jackal, The Fourth Protocol and Son of the Pink Panther.
- by Terri Paddock
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