LOTSW's Christopher Beeny: 1941-2020
Tea Time Tribute for the week of February 17, 2020
In Last of the Summer Wine
Last of the Summer Wine lost another cast member recently. Christopher Beeny, who appeared in the series as an incompetent debt collector from 2001 until the show ended in 2010, died at his home on Kent on February 3rd at the age of 78.
Long-time viewers of Masterpiece - back when it was called Masterpiece Theatre - will also remember Beeny from when he played footman and chauffeur Edward Barnes in the original Upstairs, Downstairs in the early 1970s. The actor was reportedly as cheerful in real-life as the cheeky-grinned character he played. His role wasn’t all sweetness and light though, and he proved his acting talents in the fourth series, when his character returned from World War One, suffering from shell shock.
The London born Beeny started his performing arts career at the age of six, when he danced at Britain’s oldest dance company, Ballet Rambert. A couple of years later he hung up his ballet shoes and began a career as a child actor. His first television role was in 1953, when he was 12, playing a cabin boy in a play about Christopher Columbus. The same year, Beeny made his big screen debut in the film, The Long Memory, which also starred his Last of the Summer Wine co-star Thora Hird.
In 1954, Beeny was cast in the UK’s first television soap opera, The Grove Family, appearing in all 125 episodes as the youngest member of the Grove family, Lenny. The series ran until 1957 and only concluded when the BBC refused a request by the writers for a break. Instead, much to the viewers’ dismay, they cancelled the show.
Beeny continued to play children’s roles on television and in films, even throughout his formal actor training at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. As Beeny aged and tried to transition to adult roles, his acting career floundered. So much so, that in 1963 Beeny left the acting profession altogether, and took work in a bakery and peeling onions at Battersea Fun Fair, before setting up his own building firm.
In 1970, Beeny returned to acting in Upstairs, Downstairs. The popular serial drama ran for five years. After its conclusion, Beeny turned to sitcoms, the most popular of which was In Loving Memory, which also starred Thora Hird as the aunt of Beeny’s character. Beeny’s last television appearance was the final episode of Last of the Summer Wine, but he continued to perform on stage. His theatre appearances included a U.K. touring production of Lark Rise to Candleford, where he played four roles – Old Price, Dick, Sharman, and Twister.
The twice divorced Beeny is survived by his three children, Johanne, Richard and James.
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