Obituary: Richard Vernon

Richard Evelyn Vernon, actor: born Reading, Berkshire 7 March 1925; married 1955 Benedicta Hoskyns (one son, one daughter; marriage dissolved 1989); died London 4 December 1997.

In an acting career spanning over 40 years, Richard Vernon brought character and distinction, plus a roguish wit and droll humour, to the aristocrats, ministry officials and military men for which his tall, distinguished bearing made him particularly well suited. He will be fondly remembered for such roles as the disapproving bowler-hatted city gent to whom John Lennon says "Give us a kiss" in A Hard Day's Night, the eccentric white- haired Slartibartfast of The Hitch- Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, or more recently Joanna Lumley's father in Class Act.

Born in Reading in 1925, he was educated at Leighton Park and Reading School. His family had a seagoing background, and Vernon's love of sailing equalled his passion for acting. At 18, he enlisted in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve and served during the final months of the Second World War. Stationed in Kowloon at the war's end, he produced, directed and starred in a production of Shaw's Heartbreak House for the Combined Services Club, causing his commanding officer to comment at the end of his service, "Vernon is an excellent dinghy helmsman and amateur actor: in his spare time he performs his duties satisfactorily."

After training at the Central School of Speech and Drama, Vernon made his London stage debut in 1950 in the play Stratton, and three years later had great success as Mr Darling (one of his favourite roles) in Peter Pan at the Scala. Other West End successes included Any Other Business (1959, as Charles Parkin MP), and an effectively droll comic performance as Richard Greatham in the 1968 revival of Coward's Hay Fever.

His screen career gained momentum in the Sixties with roles in such films as Village of the Damned (1960), the Edgar Wallace thriller Clue of the Twisted Candle (1960), Losey's The Servant (1963) and in 1964 three major films, Asquith's The Yellow Rolls Royce and the superior Bond movie Goldfinger (as a ministry official), not to mention his memorable cameo in the Beatles film.

On radio his many roles included Lord Emsworth in several P.G. Wodehouse serials, but it was on television that Vernon found greatest fame. In 1965 he starred in the comedy-thriller series The Man in Room 17, in which he and Michael Aldridge were two spy seekers who tracked their quarry from the seclusion of Room 17 by means of their superior intellects. Subsequently Vernon was featured in such great successes as Upstairs Downstairs (1971- 75), Edward the Seventh (1975), The Duchess of Duke Street (1976-77), and, with waist-length hair and strikingly garbed in flowing robes, the eccentric Slartibartfast in the science-fiction satire The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1981).

In 1955, while acting in Canterbury, he married an actress in the company, Benedicta Leigh, by whom he had two children, a boy and a girl. In the mid-Seventies he toured with Phyllis Calvert in The Reluctant Debutante and later roles included the films The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976) and Gandhi (1982), the play Pack of Lies (1983) and on television John Mortimer's epic series chronicling English life since the Forties, Paradise Postponed (1986), and such series as Casualty and Lovejoy.

Vernon continued acting until the onset of Parkinson's two years ago. In 1986, while appearing with David Jason in the West End revival of the farce Dry Rot, Vernon was featured on This Is Your Life in which the actress Wendy Craig, who starred with him in the television series Nanny (1981), testified to his genial nature and commented, "He had the wickedest twinkle of any actor I've ever worked with."

News
i100
News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
News
peopleHis band Survivor was due to resume touring this month
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese and DiCaprio, at an awards show in 2010
filmsDe Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
News
i100
News
In this photo illustration a school student eats a hamburger as part of his lunch which was brought from a fast food shop near his school, on October 5, 2005 in London, England. The British government has announced plans to remove junk food from school lunches. From September 2006, food that is high in fat, sugar or salt will be banned from meals and removed from vending machines in schools across England. The move comes in response to a campaign by celebrity TV chef Jamie Oliver to improve school meals.
science
Life and Style
Red or dead: An actor portrays Hungarian countess Elizabeth Báthory, rumoured to have bathed in blood to keep youthful
health
Arts and Entertainment
James Dean on the set of 'Rebel without a Cause', 1955
photographyHe brought documentary photojournalism to Tinseltown, and in doing so, changed the way film stars would be portrayed for ever
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
News
i100
Sport
Tom Cleverley
footballLoan move comes 17 hours after close of transfer window
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
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

C++ Quant Developer

£700 per day: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Developer C++, Python, STL, R, PD...

Java/Calypso Developer

£700 per day: Harrington Starr: Java/Calypso Developer Java, Calypso, J2EE, J...

SQL Developer

£500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL Developer SQL, C#, Stored Procedures, MDX...

Front-Office Developer (C#, .NET, Java, AI)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Front-Office D...

Day In a Page

Chief inspector of GPs: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

Steve Field: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

The man charged with inspecting doctors explains why he may not be welcome in every surgery
Stolen youth: Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing

Stolen youth

Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing
Bob Willoughby: Hollywood's first behind the scenes photographer

Bob Willoughby: The reel deal

He was the photographer who brought documentary photojournalism to Hollywood, changing the way film stars would be portrayed for ever
Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

Scorsese in the director's chair with De Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
Angelina Jolie's wedding dress: made by Versace, designed by her children

Made by Versace, designed by her children

Angelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Anyone for pulled chicken?

Pulling chicks

Pulled pork has gone from being a US barbecue secret to a regular on supermarket shelves. Now KFC is trying to tempt us with a chicken version
9 best steam generator irons

9 best steam generator irons

To get through your ironing as swiftly as possible, invest in one of these efficient gadgets
'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing