Obituary: Iain Anders
Tuesday 16 September 1997
As Superintendent Jack McVitie - nicknamed "The Biscuit" - the character actor Iain Anders was a familiar face to millions of television viewers in Taggart, the gritty police series set on the streets of Glasgow. He was often seen battling with the grim-faced Detective Chief Inspector Jim Taggart, played by Mark McManus, although the series' popularity ensured its continuation after McManus's death three years ago.
During his early years in Taggart, Anders was himself sour-faced, but he later revealed a sense of humour and once appeared on the scene of a crime dressed as a Chinese mandarin after being called out as he was preparing to attend a fancy-dress party.
Grappling with the law was part of the actor's life on screen and off. Alongside his stage and screen career, Anders - born Iain Anders Robertson, of Scottish ancestry, in London in 1933 - worked as a legal executive in a leading south London firm of criminal lawyers, preparing briefs for the barristers defending its clients in court. "The policemen I meet in my legal work tend to look puzzled and then assume I must have worked as a real policeman before," he once said.
Crime seemed a constant part of both careers. Before joining Taggart, Anders frequently appeared on television as both policemen and villains, in series such as Z Cars, Softly Softly, Shoestring and Juliet Bravo. He also acted in programmes that included A Horseman Riding By, A Family Affair, Diana, A Family Man, Through a Strange Land, Jessie and Hi-de- Hi! and, during the Fifties and Sixties, performed on stage during seasons at the Byre Theatre, St Andrews, the Gateway Theatre, Edinburgh, the Queen's Theatre, Hornchurch, the Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham, and the Salisbury Playhouse.
Although Anders did not appear in Killer, the 1983 mini-series that launched Mark McManus's character of Taggart, the actor joined the resulting Taggart series (1985-) from its second, three-part story, Murder in Season (1985), which featured Isla Blair as an opera singer falsely suspected of murdering her ex-husband's new girlfriend. It attracted more than 10 million viewers in Britain, ensuring it a regular place on the ITV network.
Glenn Chandler's tough Glasgow policeman had been watched over by Superintendent Murray - known as "The Mint" - during the previous stories. But, when the actor Tom Watson decided not to continue in the role, Anders was brought in as Superintendent McVitie, "The Biscuit". The series, which is Scottish Television's most successful programme and has been screened in more than 40 countries, soon became noted for its gritty realism and location shooting on the streets of Glasgow. Anders's character mellowed over the years into a wise-cracking boss to the tough and cynical Taggart, often showing a humane side to his nature, such as on his discovery that a police officer was homosexual.
Anders is due to be seen in three Taggart stories still to be screened.
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