About Richard David Briers
Richard David Briers, CBE
(14 January 1934 – 17 February 2013) was an English actor. Prominent for half a century, his career encompassed television, stage, film and radio performances.
He first came to prominence as George Starling in Marriage Lines in the 1960s, but it was in the following decade when he played Tom Good in the BBC sitcom The Good Life (1975-78) that he became a household name. In the 1980s he starred in Ever Decreasing Circles (1984-89), and had a leading role in Monarch of the Glen (2000-2).
Briers was born in Raynes Park, South West London, the son of Joseph Benjamin Briers and Morna Phyllis (née Richardson). He was the second cousin of actor Terry-Thomas. He spent his childhood in Raynes Park and Guildford. His father drifted between jobs, while his mother wished for a showbusiness career; she went on to become a very proud member of Equity. Morna was also an extremely good pianist and a highly successful drama and music teacher; inspiring children to make their dreams a reality. Richard attended Rokeby Prep School in Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey, and left at the age of 16 without any formal qualifications. Richard's sister, Jane, is also an actress.
His first job was a clerical post with a London cable manufacturer, and for a short time he went to evening class to qualify in electrical engineering, but soon left and became a filing clerk. At the age of 18, he was called up for two years national service in the RAF, during which he was a filing clerk at RAF Northwood, where he met future George and Mildred actor Brian Murphy. Murphy introduced Briers, who had been interested in acting since the age of 14, to the Dramatic Society at the Borough Polytechnic Institute, now London South Bank University, where he performed in several productions. When he left the RAF he studied at RADA, which he attended from 1954 to 1956. He won a scholarship with Liverpool Repertory Company, and he worked with them for 15 months, then moved to the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry for 6 months and then had his West End debut.
It was while at Liverpool Rep that he met his future wife Ann Davies, who was acting as stage manager, and acted on television and in films from the mid 1950s. Soon after meeting, he borrowed £5 from his mother, bought an engagement ring and they were married within six months. They had two children, one of whom, Lucy, is also an actress; Katie worked in stage management.
In 1961, Briers was cast in the leading male role in Marriage Lines (1961–66) with Prunella Scales playing his character's wife. The following year, Briers appeared in Brothers in Law (from the book by Henry Cecil) as callow barrister Roger Thursby. He was cast in this role by adaptors Frank Muir and Denis Norden, who had seen him in the West End. His other early appearances included Dixon of Dock Green (1962), The Seven Faces of Jim (1961) with Jimmy Edwards, a production of Noël Coward's Hay Fever (1968) and the storyteller in several episodes of Jackanory (1969).
Briers was cast in the lead role in The Good Life (1975–78), playing Tom Good, a draughtsman who decides, on his 40th birthday, to give up his job and try his hand at self-sufficiency. An enormously successful series, the last episode in 1978 was performed in front of the Queen. In 1977, he starred with his The Good Life co-star Penelope Keith in the televised version of Alan Ayckbourn's trilogy The Norman Conquests. Briers was the original narrator and voice actor for Noddy (character)Noddy (1975) TV series based on the Enid Blyton character.
During the 1980s and 1990s, he had leading roles in several programmes. including Goodbye, Mr Kent (1982), a rare failure also featuring Hannah Gordon, the lead role of Martin Bryce in Ever Decreasing Circles (1984-89), and as Godfrey Spry in the BBC comedy drama If You See God, Tell Him (1993). He also guested in All in Good Faith (1985), Tales of the Unexpected (1988), and Mr. Bean (1990). In 1987, he appeared in the Doctor Who episode Paradise Towers. In 1995 he played the character Tony Fairfax in the BBC comedy Down to Earth. Fairfax is a cultural adviser to the president of a banana republic in Latin America. When the president is deposed by a military coup, Tony is sacked and deported back to England and ends up staying with his brother Chris (Christopher Blake) and his wife Molly (Kirsten Cooke).
Briers spent much of his career in theatre work, including appearances in plays by Shakespeare and George Bernard Shaw. In 1967, one of his earliest successes was playing alongside Michael Hordern and Celia Johnson in the London production of Alan Ayckbourn's Relatively Speaking. Briers was a member of Kenneth Branagh's Renaissance Theatre Company, taking on classical and Shakespearean roles including Malvolio in Twelfth Night and the title roles in King Lear and Uncle Vanya. Briers also appeared in nine of Kenneth Branagh's films, such as Henry V (as Bardolph, 1989), Much Ado About Nothing (as Signor Leonato, 1993) and as Polonius in Hamlet (1996).
Briers was also a familiar voice actor, with numerous commercials, including adverts for the Midland Bank in which he was the voice of the company's Griffin symbol, and the animated children's series Roobarb (1974), Noah and Nelly in... SkylArk (1976) and Bob the Builder (2005) to his credit. He also provided the voice of Fiver in the animated film adaptation of Watership Down (1978). Between 1984 and 1986 he made a series of commercials for the Ford Sierra done in a sitcom style portraying the Sierra as "one of the family".
His work in radio included playing Bertie Wooster in a series of adaptations of the Jeeves novels by P.G. Wodehouse, Dr. Simon Sparrow in BBC Radio 4's adaptions of Richard Gordon's Doctor in the House and Doctor At Large (1968), a retired thespian in a series of six plays with Stanley Baxter Two Pipe Problems, and later the play Not Talking, commissioned for BBC Radio 3 by Mike Bartlett.
After 1990, he appeared in Lovejoy, Inspector Morse, Midsomer Murders (the episode "Death's Shadow"), Doctors, New Tricks, Kingdom, and If You See God, Tell Him. Richard Briers starred as Hector in the first three series of Monarch of the Glen from 2000 to 2002, a role which saw him return to the limelight. He contributed "Sonnet 55" to the 2002 compilation album, When Love Speaks, which features famous actors and musicians interpreting Shakespeare's sonnets and play excerpts. In 2005, he appeared alongside Kevin Whately in Dad, a TV Film made by BBC Wales exploring issues of elder abuse. In 2006, he made an appearance in an episode of Extras, and portrayed the servant Adam in Kenneth Branagh's 2006 Shakespeare adaptation, As You Like It. He made a cameo appearance as a dying recluse in the 2008 Torchwood episode "A Day in the Death".
Richard Briers was appointed OBE in 1989, and CBE in 2003. As a result of Terry-Thomas's Parkinson's disease, Briers became President of the Parkinson's Disease Society. He also helped to launch a Sense-National Deafblind and Rubella Association campaign.
Richard Briers was also a non-medical patron of the TOFS (Tracheo-Oesophageal Fistula Support) charity, which supports children and the families of children born unable to swallow.
In early 2013, Briers stated that he had smoked half a million cigarettes before quitting in 2003. He said he was diagnosed with emphysema in 2008. He died at his home in London on 17 February 2013.
Girls at Sea (1958) Bottoms Up (1960) The Girl on the Boat (1961) Murder, She Said (1961) A Matter of WHO (1961) Doctor in Distress (1963) The Bargee (1964) Fathom (1967) All the Way Up (1970) Rookery Nook (1970, TV drama) Rentadick (1972) Roobarb (1974) Watership Down (1978) A Chorus of Disapproval (1989) Henry V (1989) Peter's Friends (1992) Much Ado About Nothing (1993) Frankenstein (1994) A Midwinter's Tale (1995) Hamlet (1996) Spice World (1997) Love's Labour's Lost (2000) Unconditional Love (2002) Peter Pan (2003) As You Like It (2006) Run For Your Wife (2012) Cockneys vs Zombies (2012)
^ a b "Richard Briers Dies: Good Life Actor Aged 79". Sky News. http://news.sky.com/story/1053662/richard-briers-dies-good-life-actor-aged-79. Retrieved 18 February 2013. ^ Richard Briers Biography (1934-) ^ a b c d e f "A Celebration of The Good Life". Orion Books. 2000. ^ "A new face for Torchwood and a new look for Martha" (Press release). BBC Press Office. 15 August 2007. http://www.bbc.co.uk/pressoffice/pressreleases/stories/2007/08_august/15/torchwood.shtml. Retrieved 2007-08-16. ^ "Richard Briers' classic career". BBC. 13 June 2003. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/tv_and_radio/2988170.stm. ^ Parkinson's Disease Society annual report 2003 ^ Richard Briers has emphysema
Richard Briers at the Internet Movie Database Richard Briers at the BBC Comedy Guide Richard Briers at BFI ScreenOnline