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Obituary: Richard Briers (1934 – 2013)
I was extremely sad to hear the news that Richard Briers died yesterday at the age of 79. Particularly as he was a big part of my childhood, having watched him on TV and listened to his voice in the children’s cartoon ‘Roobarb and Custard’.
Very much a local lad, Richard Briers grew up in Raynes Park and attended Rokeby Prep School in Kingston-Upon-Thames where he left at the age of 16 without any formal qualifications.
He studied his trade at RADA and he was awarded an OBE in 1989 and a CBE in 2003.
Briers was one of Britain’s most adored actors who had a long a varied career through the medium of stage, television, radio and film. It’s fair to say that he is probably best remembered as the character Tom Good in the popular TV comedy ‘The Good Life’ (1975-78) alongside Felicity Kendal, Penelope Keith and Paul Eddington. The series ran for 30 episodes and it is often repeated on the Gold channel to the delight of a whole new audience.
He was one of those actors that the public thought they knew. Maybe it had something to do with that boyish charm that he also brought to the Tom Good role. Another successful series followed in the next decade with ‘Ever Decreasing Circles’ (1984-89). His character Martin Bryce was the kind of person you avoided at parties a busy-body, interfering, obsessive organiser who loved lists and charts and was a member of numerous committees, in fact a million miles away from Tom Good.
He was a well respected Shakespearian stage actor and also featured in Kenneth Branagh’s film version of Hamlet (1996). His film career ranged from a British Agent in ‘Fathom’ (1967) a vehicle to promote the acting talents of one of America’s biggest sex symbols of the sixties Rachel Welch. Frankenstein (1994) another Branagh Movie, starring Robert De Niro and he was the voice of the nervous little rabbit Fiver in ‘Watership Down’ (1978). He ended his film career in the comedy / horror ‘Cockneys vs. Zombies’ (2012) which was actually a much better movie that the title would have you believe.
Although he suffered from emphysema for many years, he was only diagnosed with lung cancer five years ago but he admitted in an interview in the Daily Mail “It’s a bugger. But there it is. I used to love smoking.”
A very sad loss indeed.