Patrick Allen

Imposing actor with tough looks
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Patrick John Keith Allen, actor: born 17 March 1927; married 1960 Sarah Lawson (two sons); died London 28 July 2006.

Patrick Allen was a prolific actor with an imposing presence. His tough, jut-jawed looks lent themselves to villainous or military roles, but his varied career also embraced Shakespeare and myriad parts in theatre, film, radio and television. He starred in the popular TV series Crane, and his distinctively resonant voice was heard on the hit single "Two Tribes", by Frankie Goes to Hollywood, and gave him steady work in later years providing voice-overs.

Born in Nyasaland (now Malawi) in 1927, Allen was raised in Canada. He made his screen début as a soldier in Robert Aldrich's thriller World for Ransom (1953), though many sources list his next screen role, a three-word part in Alfred Hitchcock's version of the hit play Dial M For Murder (1954), as his first.

He had his first major screen credit as a lorry-owning racketeer in The Long Haul (1957), with Victor Mature and Diana Dors. Other film roles included an Army sergeant in Dunkirk and an officer in I Was Monty's Double (both 1958), prior to his first leading role, as a father whose young daughter is molested by an apparently upright citizen in Cyril Frankel's Never Take Sweets from a Stranger (1960), which dealt delicately with its sensitive subject, though audiences stayed away.

Allen also worked extensively with the Royal Shakespeare Company, and it was while appearing with the company that he met the actress Sarah Lawson, who became his wife in 1960. The couple, who had two sons, appeared together as a married pair in the film Night of the Big Heat (1967) and in the radio series Inspector West (1967-71), based on stories by John Creasey.

On television Allen had a recurring role as the Bos'n and best friend of a rascally tramp-steamer engineer (Thomas Mitchell) in the series Glencannon (1960). In 1963, while appearing at Stratford-on-Avon as Achilles in the RSC's Troilus and Cressida, he was offered the starring role in the series Crane.

As soon as the Shakespearean season finished, he journeyed to Morocco to begin filming the show. He played a successful businessman who, tired of his hectic life in London, moves to Morocco where he buys a run-down beachside café and bar near Casablanca, plus a boat with which he carries out minor smuggling activities. Always one step ahead of the chief of police (Gerald Flood), he was partnered by a colourful beachcomber Orlando (Sam Kydd), a character later given his own series. Crane ran for three years, and Allen stated, "I don't think I've ever enjoyed myself quite as much."

Later he starred in another series, Brett (1971), as a dubious writer turned tycoon whose shady past is revealed by extensive flashbacks. Filmed in Malta (doubling for Mexico), it ran for 19 50-minute episodes. He had the intermittently recurring role as wicked Colonel Sebastian Moran in The Return of Sherlock Holmes (1973); won particular praise for his uncompromisingly intransigent Gradgrind in a four-part adaptation of Dickens's Hard Times in 1977; and played Sarah Ferguson's father in the TV movie Fergie and Andrew: behind palace doors (1992). His many action movies included The Night of the Generals (1966), When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (1969), The Wild Geese (1978), The Sea Wolves (1980) and Who Dares Wins (1982).

In the early 1970s, he made a series of striking commercials for Barratt Homes in which he was flown by helicopter to new housing developments. He also narrated two Public Information films in the "Protect and Survive" series, made in 1975 to advise on action to be taken in the event of nuclear fallout. On the Frankie Goes to Hollywood single "Two Tribes", which topped the UK charts for nine weeks in the summer of 1984, Allen performed a voice-over parodying the "Protect and Survive" narration.

He was voice-over artist for the 1990s comedy series The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer and Vic Reeves' Big Night Out, narrated the first series of The Black Adder (1983, and appeared in the last episode) and narrated the children's animated series TUGS (1989), playing Captain Starr.

Last year, he became the voice of the youth-orientated television channel E4, providing its often irreverent self-advertising promotions, such as its film slogan "Big Shiny Films in Your Dinky Little Home".

Tom Vallance

Comments