Obitaury: Michael Ward

George Everard Yeo Ward (Michael Ward), actor: born Carnmenellis, Cornwall 9 April 1909; died London 8 November 1997.

Michael Ward belonged to that clutch of character actors whose services were in such demand during the heyday of the British film industry that they seemed to appear in every post-war movie. A master of cameo acting, Ward made his name in small parts throughout the 1950s and 1960s, in such films as Tom Brown's Schooldays, The Love Lottery and Doctor in Love.

Whether cast as an industrious barman or petulant shop assistant, his unique acting style afforded an air of upper-class nervousness. With light fuzzy hair, aquiline nose and always immaculately attired, he was a distinctive thespian whose haughty tones were well-suited to the fretful and solicitous characters for which he became renowned.

His more substantial film contributions included appearances as Maurice, an effeminate uncle in Norman Wisdom's seventh film Up in the World (1956), and as the supercilious Gerald in Hammer's What the Butler Saw (1950). For his performance as Elvin, an ornithologist, in Sleeping Car to Trieste (1948), a fine remake of the 1930s classic Rome Express, Ward received glowing reviews. A trade paper commented: "the actor deserving most praise is Michael Ward who gives us a delightful characterisation of a lecturer on English birds."

He was born George Everard Yeo Ward. His father was a parish vicar which meant that the family moved around the Cornish peninsula, including spells at Falmouth; Hessenford, near St Germans; St Agnus and Marazion. As an only child, Ward admitted to leading a lonely childhood, missing the companionship of brothers and sisters.

He showed an early predilection for the piano and while attending Mannamead Junior School, within Plymouth College, received extra tuition from the housemaster's wife, an accomplished musician. Although he never pursued his early ambition to become a concert pianist, he became a proficient player and wrote his own material. Later he attended the Central School of Speech and Drama, after a brief stint as a teacher.

At the outbreak of the Second World War, he had already made several stage appearances since graduating, and was living near Luton. After serving two years with the Army he was invalided out through illness in 1942, finishing the war years helping the emergency services around Luton.

He returned to the stage in 1945, playing Beverly Carlton in The Man Who Came to Dinner, followed a year later by an appearance in Gay Pavilion, as the shy footman, and understudying Vic Oliver in The Night and the Music.

Ward made his film debut in 1947 as a French valet in The First Gentleman, a study of the Prince Regent's reign after the Napoleonic wars. The picture marked the beginning of a busy film career that contained appearances in five Norman Wisdom movies and five Carry Ons, including the part of Archimedes in Carry On Cleo (1964); he was also employed by the Boulting Brothers in several productions. His last film was Revenge of the Pink Panther (1978), playing a real estate agent.

On television, he gave a fine performance as Adrian, Eric and Ernie's neighbour in the Morecambe and Wise Show. There was the role of Penfold in Crossroads (1976) and appearances in many other top shows, including Hancock's Half Hour, The Two Ronnies, Steptoe And Son, The New Avengers and Rising Damp, as a Labour candidate.

During a career spanning nearly three decades, Ward worked with many of the profession's top names on both sides of the Atlantic. Acting remained the mainstay of his working life, but for a spell during the 1950s he studied statistics in the evenings, enabling him to work occasionally for a large American pharmaceutical company when acting jobs were scarce.

Ill health forced his retirement from acting in 1980, but repeats of many of his films continued to generate fan mail. In 1990, he was offered a part as a cardinal for the American film Eminence. Sadly, illness prevented him from accepting it.

Although during the years before his death Ward was bedridden, he always retained a lively sense of humour. From 1989 until his death, he was cared for by his close friend James Hogg.

-

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £30,000+

£16000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are looking for individual...

Recruitment Genius: IT Project Coordinator / Manager

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Mortgage Advisor - OTE £95,000

£40000 - £95000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Purchasers

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Pu...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy