Monday, 7 December 2015

Godspeed Nicholas Smith

Nicholas Smith, best known for playing Mr. Rumbold on the long running classic British sitcom Are You Being Served?, died on December 6 2015 at the age of 81. He was the last surviving member of the original cast of the show.

Nicholas Smith was born on March 5 1934 in Banstead, Surrey. He wanted to be an actor from when he was very young, and appeared in many school plays. His National Service as in the  Royal Army Service Corps in Aldershot. After he was demobilised he studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Mr. Smith appeared in stage musicals with various repertory companies. He spent two years with the Royal Shakespeare Company. He also appeared at the Old Vic and on Broadway.

Nicholas Smith made his television debut in an episode of Pathfinders to Mars. He appeared in an episode of The Edgar Wallace Mystery Theatre before receiving his first substantial role as the camp leader Wells in the Doctor Who serial "The Dalek Invasion of Earth". In the Sixties Nicholas Smith was a regular on The Frost Report and played Sgt. Marena on Danger Island. He also appeared in the Freewheelers serial "Recipe for Danger" and guest starred on such shows as Softly, Softly; The Wednesday Play; Champion House; The Avengers; The Saint; The Champions; and Up Pompeii!. He appeared in the mini-series A Tale of Two Cities. He made his film debut in Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines or How I Flew from London to Paris in 25 hours 11 minutes (1965) and appeared in the films Salt and Pepper (1968), A Walk with Love and Death (1969) and The Twelve Chairs (1970).

Nicholas Smith was cast in the role Cuthbert Rumbold, manager of Grace Brothers department store, in the pilot for Are You Being Served. The BBC had initially decided against transmitting the pilot, let alone picking up the series. When the Munich massacre led to the interruption of coverage of the 1972 Summer Olympics, the BBC needed something to fill the airwaves. They then aired the pilot for Are You Being Served? as part of the anthology series  Comedy Playhouse. The pilot was well received and led to a full ten series of Are You Being Served?. Nicholas Smith appeared as Mr. Rumbold in the entire run of the show.

In the Seventies Nicholas Smith also had a regular role on Z Cars. He guest starred on such shows as The Liver Birds, Paul Temple, The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes, Ace of Wands, Doctor in Charge, The Sweeney, and Worzel Gummidge. He appeared in the films The Canterbury Tales (1972), Baxter! (1973), Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974), The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother (1975), and the feature film adaptation of Are You Being Served? (1977).

In the Eighties Nicholas Smith continued to appear on Are You Being Served?. In 1986 he went on a British tour of  Me And My Girl.  In the Nineties he reprised his role as Mr. Rumbold in the sequel/spinoff of Are You Being Served, Grace & Favour (known in the U.S. as Are You Being Served Again?). He guest starred the show Martin Chuzzlewit. He appeared in the film What Rats Won't Do (1998) . In the Naughts he was a regular on the TV show Revolver. He guest starred on the shows Doctors, Last of the Summer Wine, and M.I.High. He appeared in the film The Ghouls (2003) and provided the voice of Reverend Clement Hedges in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005). His last appearance was a guest shot in the revival of Charlie's Angels in 2011.

Nicholas Smith will always be remembered as Cuthbert Rumbold, the bumbling manager on Are You Being Served. In many respects it was an ideal role for Mr. Smith, who played it wonderfully. That having been said, he also performed many other roles over the years. What is more some of those roles were far from the comedy of Are You Being Served?. He was PC Yates on Z Cars and even played one of the villains in the two part episode of The Saint "The Fiction Makers" (also released as a feature film). While he might be best remembered as Mr. Rumbold on the classic Are You Being Served?, he was a versatile actor capable of a wide array of roles.

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