Thursday, 15 December 2016
The Late Great Bernard Fox
Bernard Fox was born on May 11 1927 in Port Talbot, Glamorgan, Wales. His parents, Queenie (née Barrett) and Gerald Lawson, were both actors on the stage. His uncle was screen actor Wilfrid Lawson. Bernard Fox began acting while very young. By the time he was 14 years old he was the assistant manager of a theatre. During World War II he served in the Royal Navy.
Bernard Fox made his television debut in 1955 as a regular on Sixpenny Corner, Britain's first daily television soap opera. His film debut was in Soho Incident in 1956. In the late Fifties Mr. Fox appeared in such films as Home and Away (1956), The Counterfeit Plan (1957), Inside Information (1957), Blue Murder at St. Trinian's (1957), The Safecracker (1958), The Two-Headed Spy (1958), and Captured (1959). In A Night to Remember (1958) he played Frederick Fleet, the lookout who spots the iceberg with which the Titanic would collide. It was one of two major motion pictures about the Titanic in which he appeared. He guest starred on such TV shows as Dixon of Dock Green, The Golden Spur, ITV Television Playhouse, No Hiding Place, The Love of Mike, and ITV Play of the Week.
In 1961 Bernard Fox was one of the leads on the Britcom Three Live Wires. The show centred on three television repairmen. Mr. Fox played Malcolm. He had the recurring role of Colonel Crittendon, a bumbling RAF Group Captain, on Hogan's Heroes. He played Colonel Crittendon from the show's first season in 1965 to its final season in 1970. Bernard Fox guest starred on Bewitched in the episode "Disappearing Samantha" in 1966 before joining the cast in the recurring role of Dr. Bombay in 1967. Dr. Bombay was the womanising witch doctor who treated the many strange ailments which could befall witches and warlocks. He played the role until the show went off the air in 1972. He would reprise his role as Dr. Bombay on Bewitched's spinoff Tabitha in the Seventies and later on the soap opera Passions in the Nineties.
Bernard Fox appeared frequently on American television in the Sixties. He guest starred as inept waiter Alfie Wingate on three episodes of The Danny Thomas Show. He guest starred as valet Malcolm Merriweather on The Andy Griffith Show. He also guest starred on such shows as Combat!, Ensign O'Toole, McHale's Navy, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Perry Mason, The Flintstones, F Troop, I Spy, Amos Burke, Secret Agent, I Dream of Jeannie, The Girl From U.N.C.L.E., The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Monkees, The Wild Wild West, Daniel Boone, and Ironside. As frequently as he appeared on television, he also found time to appear in several films throughout the decade. He appeared in such films as The List of Adrian Messenger (1963), Honeymoon Hotel (1964), Quick Before It Melts (1964), Strange Bedfellows (1965), Munster, Go Home! (1966), Hold On! (1966), and The Bamboo Saucer (1968).
In the Seventies Bernard Fox guest starred on such TV shows as Arnie; Night Gallery; Love, American Style; Dirty Sally, Columbo; Emergency!; Cannon; Soap; Tabitha (as Dr. Bombay); M*A*S*H; Fantasy Island; The Dukes of Hazzard; and Lou Grant. He played Dr. Watson in a 1972 TV adaptation of Teh Hound of the Baskervilles. He appeared in such films as Big Jake (1971), The Million Dollar Duck (1971), Arnold (1973), Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo (1977), and The Private Eyes (1980). He appeared on Broadway in 13 Rue de l'Amour.
In the Eighties Bernard Fox appeared in the films Yellowbeard (1983) and 18 Again! (1988). He provided the voices of Chairmouse and Doctor Mouse in the Disney animated feature The Rescuers Down Under (1990). He guest starred on such TV shows as The Love Boat; General Hospital; Hart to Hart; The Jeffersons; Knight Rider; Hotel; Simon & Simon; The Fall Guy; Murder, She Wrote; and Pee-Wee's Playhouse.
In the Nineties Bernard Fox appeared in the films Titanic (1997--the second film about the Titanic in which he appeared) and The Mummy (1999). He guest starred on Passions as Dr. Bombay. In the Naughts he made further appearances as Dr. Bombay on Passions and guest starred on Dharma & Greg.
Bernard Fox was certainly a remarkable actor. He was also extremely prolific. In the Sixties alone he appeared on around thirty different television shows throughout the decade. He was also very versatile, and his roles could often vary dramatically. I suspect he will always be best remembered as Dr. Bombay, the womanising witch doctor with a penchant for stale jokes. He will probably also be remembered as Colonel Crittendon, the incredibly inept RAF officer who was always guaranteed to bungle things.
Beyond those roles, however, Bernard Fox played a wide array of characters who were often quite different from any others he played. As Malcolm Merriweather on The Andy Griffith Show he was an incredibly efficient valet with a stiff upper lip, even if he did have little understanding of American customs. In The Mummy he was Captain Winston Havlock, a very good pilot with plenty of experience flying during the Great War. The parts played by Bernard Fox were often very British. He could be found in such roles in everything from the movie Munster, Go Home! to The Monkees. Mr. Fox did play a few villains in his career. In the two part Man From U.N.C.L.E episode "The Bridge of Lions Affair" he played the THRUSH agent Jordin, In the movie The Private Eyes Bernard Fox played Justin, the insane and homicidal butler at an English estate.
As to why Bernard Fox was so prolific, it was perhaps because he was so very talented. He could create a character in only a few brief scenes that often seemed more fully developed than characters who appeared throughout a TV series or film. I suspect this is why such characters as Dr. Bombay, Colonel Crittendon, and Malcolm Merriweather remain so memorable. Bernard Fox could bring characters to life in a way that very few actors could.