Monday, July 30, 2012

The Late Great Geoffrey Hughes

Geoffrey Hughes, who played Onslow on Keeping Up Appearances and provided the voice of Paul McCartney in the animated classic Yellow Submarine died on 27 July 2012 at the age of 68. The cause was prostate cancer.

Geoffrey Hughes was born on 2 February 1944 in Wallasey, Cheshire, England. He attended Abbotsford Secondary Modern School, Norris Green, Liverpool. After he finished school Mr. Hughes worked as a salesman in a department store and in his spare time acted with the Merseyside Unity Theatre, an amateur acting troupe. He received his break when playwright Alan Owun and actor Tom Bell watched Mr. Hughes perform in one of Mr. Owun's plays. Mr. Bell made him an offer to go with him to London where he would get him an agent. Mr. Hughes was ambivalent about the offer, and took a position with the repertory at the Victoria Theatre in Stoke-on-Trent instead. It was six months before he took up Tom Bell's offer. Less than a year later he made his debut on the West End in Lionel Bart and Alun Owen's musical Maggie May. He would return to the West End several times, including Run for Your Wife, The Secret Life of Cartoons, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and several other productions.

It was in 1966 that Geoffrey Hughes made his television debut in two episodes of The Likey Lads. In the late Sixties he would also appear in the TV programmes, ITV Play of the Week, Sorry I'm Single, City '68, Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased), The Wednesday Play, Wicked Women, and Up Pompeii. He was a regular on Currry & Chips. He made his debut in Smashing Time in 1967 and provided the voice of Paul McCartney in Yellow Submarine (1968). In the late Sixties he also appeared in the films The Bofors Gun (1968), Till Death Do Us Part (1969), The Virgin Soldiers (1969), and The Man Who Had Power Over Women (1970).

It was in 1974 that Geoffrey Hughes first appeared as Eddie Yeats on Coronation Street. He would play the role until 1983. In the Seventies he also appeared on the shows Shadows of Fear, The Mind of J. G. Reeder, Play for Today, Thirty-Minute Theatre, Dad's Army, Z Cars, Crown Court, Don't Drink the Water, and Mr. Big. He also appeared in the films The Blood on Satan's Claw (1971), Revenge (1971), Carry on at Your Convenience (1971), Tiffany Jones (1973), Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall (1974), Confessions of a Driving Instructor (1976), and Nijinsky (1980).

In the Eighties Geoffrey Hughes continued to appear as Eddie on Coronation Street and also appeared in the shows The Bright Side, Doctor Who, Flying Lady, Screen Two, Coasting, and You Rang, M'Lord. It was in 1990 that Geoffrey Hughes first appeared as Onslow, the work shy and bone lazy brother in law of would be social climber Hyacinth Bucket (played by Patricia Routledge). He remained with the show until 1995, the entirety of its run. He also appeared in the shows Spender, Making Out, Boon, I. Lovett, The Upper Hand, and Polterguests. In the Naughts he played Vernon Scripps on the show Heartbeat from 2001 to 2007 and Twiggy on The Royle Family from 1998 to 2008. He also appeared in the shows Casualty and Skins. He appeared in the films Expresso (2007) and Flick (2008).

In 2009 Geoffrey Hughes was appointed Deputy Lord Lieutenant for the Isle of Wight.

Geoffrey Hughes was one of the great comic actors of British television. His two best known roles, that of Eddie on Coronation Street and Onslow on Keeping Up Appearances, could best be described as lovable oafs. And while Mr. Hughes had a flair for playing such roles, his talent went well beyond such parts. It was early in his career that he provided the voice of Paul McCartney, doing so well that many thought that it was the genuine Beatle who had provided his own voice. He also played Pistol in a stage production of Shakespeare's Henry V, the Cowardly Lion in a stage production of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and Trinculo in a BBC film version of Shakespeare's The Tempest. While he had a flair for playing affable rouges, his talent went much further.

Indeed, I must say that Onslow was my favourite character on Keeping Up Appearances largely because Geoffrey Hughes played him so well. Indeed, it is hard to picture any other actor in the role. I must admit I was somewhat surprised when I learned the actor who played Onslow was also the voice of Paul in Yellow Submarine! Geoffrey Hughes was a very funny man and a man of considerable talent. It is so sad to know he is gone.

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