Obituary: Eric Lander

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The Independent Culture
IN THE early Sixties, the police series No Hiding Place was one of the most popular programmes on television and Eric Lander one of the best-known faces. As Detective Sergeant Harry Baxter, Lander was sidekick to Raymond Francis's Detective Chief Superintendent Lockhart and found himself a legion of female fans. Such was his popularity that the actor was given his own series, Echo Four-Two, and promoted to detective inspector.

Lander, born in Rugby, Warwickshire, in 1924, the son of a Wesleyan Methodist minister, worked as an apprentice for Rolls-Royce in Derby before serving in the Royal Marines during the Second World War. In 1946, he was awarded the Alexander Korda scholarship to train at Rada and, three years later, made his professional debut with the Arthur Brough Players in Folkestone.

On stage, he subsequently acted alongside John Gielgud, Peggy Ashcroft, Paul Scofield, Anthony Quayle, Robert Shaw and Claire Bloom in Much Ado About Nothing (Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, 1950).

In between theatre appearances, Lander was seen on television in producer Rudolph Cartier's play The White Falcon (1956), a light-hearted version of the Henry VIII-Anne Boleyn story, as well as in The Critical Point (as Dr Philip Gage, 1957) and 2,000 Minus 60 (1957).

But it was his role as DS Harry Baxter in No Hiding Place (1959-61, 1962- 64) that brought Lander fame. The star of the programme, Raymond Francis, had previously played top detective Tom Lockhart in the police dramas Murder Bag and Crime Sheet. They were so popular that his character was moved to No Hiding Place, featuring hour-long episodes that kept the public enthralled from 1959 to 1967.

Lander was brought in as the snuff-taking sidekick and helped to establish the programme as television's top police drama, with higher viewing figures than both Z Cars and Dixon of Dock Green. No Hiding Place was broadcast live, which meant that car chases took place in Associated-Rediffusion's London studios. In all Lander appeared in 141 episodes, before finally leaving in 1964, when the series was at the height of its popularity.

In 1961 Lander was given his own ITV series, Echo Four-Two (1961), starring as DI Baxter, in command of London's E Division squad of unmarked police cars. He was joined by Geoffrey Russell as DS York. Only 10 of the planned 13 half-hour episodes were made before an actors' strike brought the series to an end, but each one was among the most popular programmes in the weekly television ratings.

During his run in No Hiding Place, Lander also acted a Scottish doctor treating typhoid sufferers in The Citadel (1960), based on A.J. Cronin's book. He returned to the screen in the children's detective series Sexton Blake (1967-71), as Inspector Cardish, and in Coronation Street (1972- 74), as reformed alcoholic Ron Cooke, a draughtsman who wooed and married corner shopkeeper Maggie Clegg after convincing her that he no longer drank. It was during his time in the Street that Lander met his wife-to- be, Janet Mills, who was personal assistant to the actor-turned-theatrical impresario Bill Kenwright, who had returned to the serial as Maggie's son Gordon.

At the St George's Theatre in Tufnell Park, north London, Lander performed in classics such as Macbeth, As You Like It and Richard II. His last role was as a detective sergeant in the West End production of The Business of Murder (Mayfair Theatre, 1983-86).

Lander's other television appearances included roles in The Avengers, Department S (1969), Trial (as a prosecuting lawyer), General Hospital and Crossroads (as a surgeon saving Benny's eyesight), and he was in the films Track the Man Down (1964), Man in Demand (1955), The Colditz Story (as a British officer, 1955) and Sink the Bismarck! (1959).

Arthur Eric Lander, actor: born Rugby, Warwickshire 27 May 1924; married 1975 Janet Mills; died Gweek, Cornwall 26 October 1999.

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