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Bernard Bresslaw
Born Bernard Bresslaw
25 February 1934(1934-02-25)
Stepney, London
Died 11 June 1993 (aged 59)
Enfield, London
Occupation Actor
Years active 1954-1993

Bernard Bresslaw (25 February 1934 – 11 June 1993) was an English actor. He is best remembered for his comedy work, especially as a member of the Carry On team.



Bernard Bresslaw was born in Stepney, London, on 25 February 1934.[1] He attended the Coopers' Company's School in Tredegar Square, Bow, London E3. His father was a tailor's cutter and he became interested in acting after visits to the Hackney Empire. London County Council awarded him a scholarship to train at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art where he won the Emile Littler Award as the most promising actor.[2] After Educating Archie on radio and The Army Game on television, more television, film and Shakespearean theatre roles followed, until his big break when he was cast in Carry on Cowboy in 1965.

He featured as Varga, the lead villain in the 1968 Doctor Who story The Ice Warriors. Even though all the actors playing the aliens were over six feet tall - Bresslaw, at 6'7", towered over them. Sonny Caldinez, who played an Ice Warrior in the story (as well as in every subsequent appearance of the Ice Warriors) stated in a 2004 interview that Bresslaw "was the only man that could make me feel small."

Although officially starring in 14 Carry On films Bernard Bresslaw did appear in one other Carry On Nurse, as the legs of Terence Longdon were deemed to be too thin and scrawny looking Bernard Bresslaw's were used as stand ins for the scene where Joan Sims gives him a bath.

Bresslaw's catchphrase, in his strong Cockney accent, was "I only arsked" (sic), first used in The Army Game,[3] and later revived in Carry On Camping (1969). In his fleeting appearance as an angry lorry driver in the 1970 film Spring and Port Wine (set in Bolton), his character was dubbed.

He was a very tall man, exactly 6 ft 7½ in (2.019 m), the biggest of the Carry On team, head and shoulders over fellow Carry On regular, Barbara Windsor, who is 4 ft 10 in (1.47 m). Because of his height he was briefly considered for the part of the Creature in Hammer's Curse of Frankenstein (1957), which ultimately (and famously) went instead to 6' 4" Christopher Lee. Bresslaw later made a comedy version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for Hammer titled The Ugly Duckling (1959). He made great efforts to follow up any role, learning a genuine African language for Carry on Up the Jungle (1970).

Bresslaw died of a sudden heart attack on 11 June 1993.[1] He had collapsed in his dressing room at the Open Air Theatre in Regents Park, London, where he was to play Grumio in the New Shakespeare Company's production of Taming of the Shrew,[4] the day after the death of fellow comedy performer Les Dawson.[5] He was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium, where his ashes are buried.[6]


Television series


UK chart singles

  • "Mad Passionate Love/You need Feet" (1958)
  • "The Army Game/What do we do in the Army?" (1958) Michael Medwin. Bernard Bresslaw, Alfie Bass & Leslie Fyson
  • "Charlie Brown/The Teenager's Lament" (1959)
  • "Ivy Will Cling/I Found a Hole" (1959)

Stage actor

Bresslaw performed with the Young Vic Theatre Company, the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre. One of his last stage performances was as Malvolio in Twelfth Night at the Regent's Park open air Theatre, (1990) where he demonstrated the fine line between pathos and comedy to perfection.

He also played the genie in the lamp in Aladdin at the Newcastle Theatre Royal in the nineties.


His song "You Need Feet" (a parody of "You Need Hands" by Max Bygraves) was used in The Rutles' TV special, accompanying the Yoko Ono film parody "A Thousand Feet of Film". This was cut from the syndicated version and the original DVD release, but was restored (along with other cut footage) in later DVD releases.

BT commercials

Bresslaw, together with Miriam Margolyes, appeared with English comedienne Maureen Lipman in a series of BT (British Telecom) adverts in the late 1980s. Bresslaw and Margoyles played Gerald and Dolly, a nervous couple who drop in on Lipman's character Beattie and her husband Harry unannounced.

Personal life

He was married to dancer Betty Wright from 1959 until his death.[7] They had three sons (James, Mark and Jonathan).


Bresslaw was the author of a privately published volume of poetry, Ode to the Dead Sea Scrolls.[8]


  1. ^ a b Donnelley, Paul (2003). Fade to Black: A Book of Movie Obituaries. Omnibus Press. pp. 118. 
  2. ^ Marcus, Laurence (2006-08-28). "I Only Arsked: The Life and Work of Bernard Bresslaw". Teletronic. Retrieved 2008-08-08. 
  3. ^ "National service with a smile". Bristol Evening Post (Northcliffe Newspapers Group). 2006-05-30. Retrieved 2008-08-08. 
  4. ^ Ross, Robert; Collins, Phil (2002). The Carry on Companion. Batsford. pp. 181. 
  5. ^ "Les Dawson". Britannica Online Encyclopedia. Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2008-08-08. 
  6. ^ Harris, John (2007-03-09). "Whole lotta love". The Guardian (Guardian News and Media). Retrieved 2008-08-08. 
  7. ^ Rennie, John (2006). London History: 100 Faces of the East End. pp. 69. 
  8. ^ Bresslaw, Bernard (1977). Ode to the Dead Sea Scrolls. New Broom Private Press. ISBN 0901870285. 

External links


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