Tea Time Tidbits
Last of the Summer Wine's Ken Kitson
Week of May 12, 2014
Ken Kitson
Ken Kitson in 1976.

This week's subject is actor Ken Kitson who plays PC Cooper in Last of the Summer Wine.

A true Yorkshireman, Kitson was born in Bradford in 1946. Unlike many actors who dream of going into the profession from an early age, Kitson didn't get the acting bug until he was almost thirty. Instead he worked as a printer. It was only after he got a job with his brother, working as a driver and an understudy for a travelling theatre troupe. that he got the opportunity to perform. He quit his printing job and set about honing his acting skills at East 15 drama school. On leaving, he stayed in the London area and began to get work on stage, film and television.

Ken Kitson
Ken Kitson.

Kitson was often cast as a thug, a policeman, or a soldier. He starred in 11 episodes of Danger UXB as Corporal Horrocks, alongside actor Anthony Andrews. Nigel Hawthorne, Geraldine McEwan and Prunella Scales were his co-stars in the mid-1980s when the 6'2" Kitson played Cadman in Mapp & Lucia. Kitson also appeared in films with some major Hollywood actors, including Alastair Simm's final film, Disney's Escape from the Dark, where he played a Yorkshire coalminer. When Kitson got the role he thought "Disney - Hollywood at last!", but it wasn't to be, as much to his disappointment all of his scenes were filmed in Sheffield, Durham and Pinewood Studios.

One of the biggest stars Kitson worked with was Deborah Kerr in a remake of Witness for the Prosecution. Also in the cast were Donald Pleasence, Diana Rigg, Beau Bridges and Sir Ralph Richardson.

"It was a closed set and mostly when people aren't involved in a scene they go out and have a cigarette or a cup of tea or whatever", recalls Kitson, "but for Donald Pleasence, Deborah Kerr and Ralph Richardson's scenes people went onto the set to watch. And that's the thing with this business - you never stop learning."

Ken Kitson
In a 1990 episode of LOTSW.

Kitson was also slated to be in the film Patriot Games with Harrison Ford, but dropped out on principle. It was only a small role for which he was to be paid four thousand pounds. On the first day of filming he asked the producer if he was going to be reimbursed for his forty-five pound train fare and was met with ridicule. So he promptly strode across to a bemused Harrison Ford, shook his hand, and marched back to his caravan while removing his costume. All to the applause of a delighted crew.

Kitson joined Last of the Summer Wine in 1973 and stayed until 2006, which made him the show's third longest-serving cast member. He thoroughly loved every minute of his time working on the show and was disappointed when he learned it would no longer be made. Kitson's explanation of the show's appeal is simple. "It's harmless fun", he said. "It's escapism. I've watched a lot of the comedies [on TV now] and some of them are funny, I must admit. But a lot are full of effing and blinding and people don't think they're funny. It's all swearing. When you had those old comedians, they didn't have to swear to be funny."

Ken Kitson
With PC Walsh. © summer-wine.com

After Last of the Summer Wine, Kitson teamed up with his on-screen partner, Louis Emerick who played PC Walsh, to present a live comedy sketch show based on their Last of the Summer Wine characters, which he'd hoped would perhaps be turned into a Last of the Summer Wine spin-off television series. Roy Clark even wrote a script for it called HoboCops, and Alan Bell agreed to direct it. So far, though, no word on whether it'll come off.

Another project Kitson has had in the pipe-line for many years is a film he's been trying to get made called Fistful of Dreams; a romantic comedy western set in Yorkshire. He started raising money over a decade ago and managed to get about a hundred and thirty thousand pounds, but it wasn't anywhere near enough to cover the two and a half million pounds he needed to make the film, so he gave it all back.

"I raised a thousand here, a thousand there," Kitson said. "There were old ladies ringing me up saying, 'I'm going to put £1,000 in your film and make your dream come true.' But because it's gone on so long, people kept saying, rightfully so, what's happening? So I sent it all back."

You can see Kitson in Last of the Summer Wine, weekdays on Afternoon Tea at 1:30pm. If there's an actor you'd like to see featured in Tea Time Tidbits, be sure to let me know. Either drop me a line, or use our new online comment form below.

To contact Heather:
E-mail: heather@mpt.org
Address: Afternoon Tea
Maryland Public Television
11767 Owings Mills Blvd.
Owings Mills, MD 21117

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