Thursday, June 13, 2024

Godspeed William Russell

William Russell, the English actor who played the title character on The Adventures of Sir Lancelot and Ian Chesterson on Doctor Who, died on June 3 2024 at the age of 99.

William Russell was born William Russell Enoch in Sutherland, County Durham on November 19 1924. His family moved to moved to Solihull, and then Wolverhampton. There he attended Wolverhampton Grammar School. Later he attended Fettes college in Edinburgh and Trinity College, Oxford. Initially he studied philosophy, politics and economics, but he found himself ill-suited to economics. He then switched to English. His national service was in the Royal Air Force. Afterwards, he played in weekly repertory theatre in Tunbridge Wells, fortnightly rep at the Oxford Playhouse.

William Russell began his career using his part of his given name, Russell Enoch. It was under that name that he made his movie debut in Gift Horse in 1952. He used the name Russell Enoch he appeared in One Good Turn with Norman Wisdom in 1955. Mr. Wisdom objected to his surname because he had a rival by that name years go. William Russell then took up his first name and middle name as his stage name.

In the Fifties William Russel Sir Lancelot in The Adventures of Sir Lancelot. He also appeared in the mini-series St. Ives and in the mini-series Nicholas Nickleby. He guest starred on the shows BBC Sunday-Night Theatre, Lili Palmer Story, Assignment Foreign Legion, The Adventures of Aggie, Hour of Mystery, Sword of Freedom, Television World Theatre, Saturday Playhouse, Television Playwright, ITV Play of the Week, Armchair Theatre, and Tales from Dickens. He appeared in the movies Appointment in London (1953), Intimate Relations (1953), Malta Story (1953), Always a Bride (1953), The Saint's Return (1953), They Who Dare (1954), The Gay Dog (1954), One Good Turn (1955), Above the Waves (1955), The Man Who Never Was (1956), The Big Chance (1957), and The Adventures of Hal 5 (1958).

In the Sixties William Russell played Ian Chesterson on Doctor Who. He appeared in the mini-series Triton, Hamlet, and Jane Eyre.  He also starred on the show Breaking Point. He guest starred on Tales from Dickens, The Edgar Wallace Mystery Theatre, Drama 61--67, Moonstrike, Suspense, Dr. Finlay's Casebook, This Man Craig, Who-Dun-It., and Parkin's Patch. He appeared in the movies The Share Out (1962), The Great Escape (1963),and Return to Sender (1963).

In the Seventies William Russell starred on the shows Harriet's Back in Town. He guest starred on the shows Justice, Father Brown, Whodunit?, The Main Chance, Against the Crowd, The Doll, Scene, Crown Court, Van der Valk, Strangers, Parables, Disraeli, BBC2 Play of the Week, Spearhead, Shoestring, Armchair Thriller, Play for Today, The Professionals, and ITV Playhouse. He appeared on the TV series Mackenzie. He appeared in the mini-series The Hanged Man and Testament of Youth. He appeared in the movie Superman (1978).

In the Eighties William Russell appeared on the shows The Black Adder, Robin of Sherwood, and Boon. In the Nineties he was a regular on Coronation Street. He guest starred on Casualty, Great Performances, and Heartbeat. In the Naughts he guest starred on Poirot. His last appearance was in 2022, playing Ian Chesterson one last time on Doctor Who.

William Russell was a remarkable actor. Chances are very good he will always be best remembered as Ian on Doctor Who and then as Sir Lancelot. Despite this, over the years he played a wide variety of roles. He was Sorren ("Security") in The Great Escape. In the Justice episode "Point of Death" he played a doctor accused of hastening a patient's death so he could harvest the kidneys. On The Black Adder he played the Duke of Winchester on his deathbed. In the Robin of Sherwood episode "The Pretender" he played the villainous Duke of Gloucester. William Russell played a wide variety of roles throughout this career and played all of them well.

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