A couple of weeks ago we heard the sad news that a familiar face to Masterpiece Mystery fans, actor Warren Clarke, who starred in Dalziel and Pascoe, died peacefully in his sleep after a short illness on November 12th.
As Detective Superintendent Andy Dalziel, the 67-year-old Clarke became a household name in the U.K., but his acting career spanned almost five decades. His film career kicked off when he was just 23 and was cast as a thug named Dim, in the 1971 Stanley Kubrick classic, A Clockwork Orange. Before then he had worked in weekly repertory theatre and he continued to perform on stage throughout the 1970s, appearing in classics by Shakespeare, Molière, and Ibsen. Other films the 1970s and '80s included another film with Clockwork Orange's Malcolm McDowell, O Lucky Man!, Charlton Heston's Antony and Cleopatra, Firefox, starring Clint Eastwood and Enigma with Martin Sheen.
Clarke, who changed his first name from Alan to Warren when his girlfriend had a crush on actor Warren Beatty, was born in Oldham, Lancashire and grew up with sister Beryl, who is 11 years older than him, in government housing in Chorltoncum-Hardy in Manchester. His father was a stained-glass maker and his mother a secretary. After leaving school at the age of 15, Clarke went to work as a copy boy on the Manchester Evening News. It made for some colorful stories.
"The whole place was filled with wonderful old drunks," recalled Clarke, in an interview he gave before his death. "I spent days at Old Trafford with the cricket correspondent. I'd phone through his piece to the copytakers. But after the first hour-and-a-half he'd be on the old sauce and as the day went on his writing got worse. In the end I couldn't read a thing so I had to write it myself."
Clarke's acting career began while still in his teens at the Huddersfield Repertory Theatre and the Liverpool Playhouse. His first stage role was that of a 60-year-old German professor. Wanting to make himself look old, the novice actor put flour in his hair to make it look grey. Clarke had no idea that the hot lights would make him sweat. The flour turned to dough and big lumps went dripping down his face!
The actor's first introduction to the BBC was in a radio play for BBC Manchester. He'd return to his Manchester roots later to appear in Coronation Street; in two different roles. That long running series is just one in a list of television credits too numerous to mention. Some you might recognize are Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; Lovejoy; The Jewel in the Crown and Blackadder the Third and Call the Midwife. Despite enjoying a successful film, television and stage career though, in the late 1980s Clarke contemplated giving up acting because the money was so bad. At one point, he had been working on a particular television series for two months, but as the BBC didn't pay the actors until the first studio recording was completed, his bank account dried up. The BBC gave him an advance of about $500 but he was still forced to borrow from the rest of the cast and his wife even had to sell her engagement ring to cover the bills.
After that difficult period, Clarke's fortunes improved and he was rarely out of work. He never, however, considered himself a "celebrity". "I'm not even a personality", the 5' 10" actor quipped back in 2003, "I'm just a bloke who happens to act, direct and produce. That's how I like it. It works for me."
Clarke's last television role was as Charles Poldark in the BBC revival of the 1970s series Poldark, which will be a Masterpiece presentation airing next year on MPT. He is survived by his second wife Michele, who he met through friends over 30 years ago, their daughter Georgia and Clarke's son Rowan from his first marriage.
To contact Heather:
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