Obituary: Simon Cadell

Strangers would still come up to Simon Cadell in the street and yell the catchphrase "Hi-de-Hi!". This was something he had become used to in the 15 years since the hit series Hi-de-Hi! was first shown on BBC television, believing it to be "part of the job". It was while playing the role of Jeffrey Fairbrother in the series, the scrawny, well-spoken entertainments manager of the fictitious Maplins holiday camp at Crimpton- on-Sea, that he first found fame.

But Cadell was as much at home in serious theatre as in television comedy. If on the screen he specialised in characters whose very fallibility made them appealing, on stage he was an accomplished actor who never did straight "impersonations", which he believed were dull; rather, he tried to give the audience a sense of a fully-rounded character.

Playing the part of Noel Coward in Noel and Gertie, a show which was put together by Coward's godson, Sheridan Morley, and which opened at the Comedy Theatre in December 1989, Cadell said: "You have to take what you think of the man's personality as you perceive it, and use those things and lose the rest." Cadell was himself witty, urbane and a bon viveur.

Born in 1950, Simon Cadell came from a family with a rich theatrical tradition spanning three generations. His father, John Cadell, was the son of the West End actress Jean Cadell and a distinguished actor's agent, while Simon's mother, Gillian, was the Principal of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. His sister Selina is also an actress.

As a boy in his teens at Bedales School, in Hampshire, Simon was puppyish and chubby and disliked playing rugby. At the age of 16 he ran away because he could not stand the routine. This seemed to be a recurring theme throughout Cadell's career: he was always seeking new challenges and believed "for an actor, getting stale is the cardinal sin".

His first stage appearance was in 1967 with the National Youth Theatre in the original production of Zigger Zagger by Peter Tearson. He joined the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School the same year and got his first acting job in 1969.

Cadell's ability to make people laugh was, his fellow actor John Wells said, partly in his comic sense of timing and partly being able to keep a straight face. His natural sense of irony led him to see parallels between many of the parts he played. "Fairbrother was an honest academic out of his depth - Hamlet was just another character out of his depth," he said.

In the tradition of Bob Hope or Jacques Tati, he subscribed to the belief that "It is the clown, the failure, the good-natured, averagely attractive man whom British women feel at home with as an entertainment figure."

Playing the part of Fairbrother in Hi-de-Hi! (which was screened from 1980 to 1983 and had an extended run of 35 episodes), Cadell believed he looked every inch the innocent abroad: his thinning hair brushed back and parted on the side, dressed conservatively in tweed jackets, checked shirts and ties, always managing to look awkward among his team of self- confident "yellow-coats", and wearing an expression of consternation and embarrassment. Consistently the anti-hero, he was the only member of the cast not to have any jokes written into his script. "It is the most difficult way to be funny," he said, "and that's why I get a kick out of it. I like to do difficult things and then move on." It was on the set of Hi-de-Hi! that Cadell met his future wife Rebecca Croft, daughter of the show's producer, David Croft.

Life Without George (which ran from 1987 to 1989), the television series which further popularised Cadell, was co-written by Penny Croft, his sister- in-law. He felt a certain empathy with his character Larry Wade, a prototype new man: a sensitive, caring estate agent in his thirties. Cadell considered himself a "fairly old new man". He went on to play Dennis Duval, an egotistical womanising actor in an ITV comedy series, Singles (1991). "I enjoyed gently taking the mickey out of myself and every other actor I've met," he said.

In January 1993 he received an Olivier award for Best Comedy Performance, for playing the dual roles of Aunt Augusta and Henry Pulling in Giles Havergal's adaptation of Graham Greene's novel Travels with My Aunt (1992). He took as his model for Aunt Augusta an elderly aunt of his own in Bournemouth. He withered his left arm, jutted his jaw, pursed his lips and fiddled with an invisible string of pearls. He was delighted by one of the audience claiming, "I could see the pearls."

Privately, Cadell was a superb mimic, and could be both funny and moving. He achieved wonderfully realistic impersonations of John Gielgud and could also emulate Noel Coward's breathing and phrasing while singing.

He was the voice of Blackberry in the film of Watership Down (1978), the voice of the Old English Sheepdog in the long-running television advertisement for Dulux paint, and even worked on advertising voice-overs for a baked potato and fresh gooseberries (these voice-overs, he said, allowed him the luxury of turning down bad plays). A modest man, he had no idea of the extent of his own fame and all he would concede was that "it was nice to be working".

Simon Cadell was a self- confessed family man; he took his elder son, aged six, to the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, and let him stand centre-stage, where Cadell watched his awed reaction as the stage lights came up and the curtain was pulled back, no doubt to give his son a sense of the theatrical tradition he belonged to.

In January 1993, Cadell suffered a near-fatal heart attack after giving a recital with Joanna Lumley at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, in London. The doctors singled out smoking as a contributory cause - at one stage Cadell smoked 80 cigarettes a day - but he was back at work playing in Travels with My Aunt four months after a triple by-pass operation. In September the same year, cancer was detected. Against doctors' expectations he completed work on a Screen Two film for BBC television in 1994. It was his ambition as an actor to go on improving: he vowed that he would play Hamlet again.

Alexandra Younger

Simon John Cadell, actor: born London 19 July 1950; married 1986 Rebecca Croft (two sons); died London 6 March 1996.

Arts & Entertainment
The Honesty Policy is a group of anonymous Muslims who believe that the community needs a space to express itself without shame or judgement
music
News
Waitrose will be bringing in more manned tills
newsOverheard in Waitrose: documenting the chatter in 'Britain's poshest supermarket'
Life & Style
life
Arts & Entertainment
Back in the suit: There are only so many variations you can spin on the lives or adventures of Peter Parker
filmReview: Almost every sequence and set-up in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 seems familiar from some earlier superhero film
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
Jack Gleeson as Joffrey Baratheon in Game of Thrones
tv
Life & Style
Father and son: Michael Williams with son Edmund
lifeAs his son’s bar mitzvah approaches, CofE-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys he’s experienced in learning about his family’s other faith
Arts & Entertainment
Ian Anderson, the leader of British rock band Jethro Tull, (right) and British guitar player Martin Barre (left) perform on stage
musicJethro Tull frontman leads ‘prog rock’ revival
Sport
Gareth Bale dribbled from inside his own half and finished calmly late in the final to hand Real a 2-1 win at the Mestalla in Valencia
sport
Arts & Entertainment
Who laughs lass: Jenny Collier on stage
comedy... writes Jenny Collier, the comedian whose recent show was cancelled because there were 'too many women' on the bill
News
House proud: keeping up with the Joneses now extends to children's playhouses
newsLuxury playhouses now on the market for as much as £800
News
news
Life & Style
Stir it up: the writer gets a lichen masterclass from executive chef Vivek Singh of the Cinnamon restaurants
food + drinkLichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines
Extras
indybest
Arts & Entertainment
Ken Loach (left) and Mike Leigh who will be going head to head for one of cinema's most coveted prizes at this year's Cannes Film Festival
filmKen Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
News
The academic, Annamaria Testa, has set out on her website a list of 300 English words that she says Italians ought to stop using
newsAcademic speaks out against 'Italianglo' - the use of English words in Italian language
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit