Graham Stark, c. early 1960s
Graham William Stark
20 January 1922
|Died||29 October 2013 (aged 91)|
|Occupation||Comedian, actor, writer, director|
(m. 1959; his death 2013)
Graham William Stark (20 January 1922 - 29 October 2013) was an English comedian, actor, writer and director.
The son of a purser on transatlantic liners, Stark was born in New Brighton (part of Wallasey) in Wirral, Cheshire, England. He attended Wallasey Grammar School and made his professional stage debut aged 13 in pantomime at the Lyceum Theatre in London.
During the Second World War he served in 334 company of the BEF in Salonika, Greece, where he was a turner in group workshops. While there he first met Dick Emery, Tony Hancock and Peter Sellers, the latter two as fellow members of Ralph Reader's Gang Shows. Sellers would become a long-lasting close friend. With the Gang Shows, Stark toured the locations where military personnel were seeing active service. After the war he studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and joined the regulars at Grafton's, a pub in Victoria run by Jimmy Grafton, a venue at which soon-to-be-prominent entertainers of the next few decades regularly gathered.
Stark began to work on BBC Radio in the postwar years, helped by Tony Hancock's connections, making his debut in Happy Go Lucky and going on to Ray's A Laugh, thanks to the intervention of Sellers, For a time he was a regular in Educating Archie and Archie's the Boy and substituted for Spike Milligan on The Goon Show when the comedian was ill. Stark was a regular supporting player on TV with Peter Sellers in A Show Called Fred and Son of Fred, and with Benny Hill. His profile was sufficient for him to gain his own, albeit short-lived, sketch series, The Graham Stark Show (BBC 1964). Now entirely lost, all the editions were scripted by Johnny Speight and each one featured a different group of supporting actors, including Deryck Guyler, Arthur Mullard, Derek Nimmo, Patricia Hayes and Warren Mitchell.
He became a regular performer in the Pink Panther film series. His first role in the series was as Hercule Lajoy, Inspector Clouseau's stonefaced assistant, in A Shot in the Dark (1964). Along with Herbert Lom and Burt Kwouk, he has appeared in more Pink Panther films than any other actor, playing a variety of characters, including reprising Lajoy in Trail of the Pink Panther (1982) and twice playing Dr Auguste Balls (in Revenge of the Pink Panther, 1978; and Son of the Pink Panther, 1993). His most memorable role was playing the hotel clerk in the "Does your dog bite" scene in The Pink Panther Strikes Again. Stark, as well as Lom and Kwouk, have each appeared in seven titles from the series-- remarkable given that Peter Sellers, who originated the franchise's central Inspector Clouseau character, appeared only in six entries (counting 1982's Trail of the Pink Panther, which used only outtakes and previously released footage of the late Sellers).
Stark gave a moving performance in the film Alfie (1966) as Humphrey, a timid bus conductor who takes on a woman (Julia Foster) and her child when the title character (played by Michael Caine) refuses commitment. He also played the role of Lord Fortnum's doctor, Captain Pontius Kak, in the original stage play of The Bed-Sitting Room, which opened at the Mermaid Theatre on 31 January 1963. Following the death of James Beck, Stark took over the role of Private Joe Walker in the radio adaptation of Dad's Army.
In 1982, Stark appeared in a cameo role as a butler, alongside Dandy Nichols, in the music video for Adam Ant's UK No. 1 hit "Goody Two Shoes". He played the character of Mr Nadget in the 1994 BBC adaptation of Martin Chuzzlewit.
In 1959 he married Audrey Nicholson, who survives him with their two sons and a daughter. Stark was also an accomplished stills photographer. He was the last known performer to have appeared on The Goon Show during its original run. In 2003 he published an autobiography, Stark Naked. He died in London on 29 October 2013 at age 91, after suffering a stroke.