Terence Longdon: Actor whose credits included 'Garry Halliday', the 'Carry On' films and 'Ben-Hur'
Saturday 18 June 2011
Between 1959 and 1962 the hero of Saturday-evening television was Terence Longdon as the eponymous Garry Halliday, ace commercial-airline pilot, international man of mystery and the BBC's answer to Patrick McGoohan's Danger Man.
Halliday was the sort of chap who was never fazed either by caddish smugglers or his arch-enemy "The Voice". That the series enjoyed 50 episodes is a testament to Longdon's talent for light comedy which also made him a stalwart of the nascent Carry On team in their black-and-white era.
Terence Longdon was born Hubert Tuelly Longdon in Newark, Nottinghamshire, in 1922 and educatedat Minster Grammar School in Southwell. After serving as a Fleet AirArm officer during the Second World War, Longdon studied at Rada between 1946 and 1948. On graduation, he joined the Shakespeare Memorial Company, playing Prince Hal to Anthony Quayle's Falstaff in Henry IV Part I. In 1954 he toured the US with the Old Vic Company, appearing as Lysander in A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Longdon then became a contracted artist for the Rank Organisation, but from Simon and Laura (1955) to Doctor at Large (1957), Pinewood seemingly required little more of him than to don either a tweed sports coat or a long white coat and utter the word "gosh" a great deal. A later cameo in Carry On Constable as a faintly sinister confidence trickster strongly hinted at a knack for playing smoothly menacing villains that Rank had failed to exploit. He also appeared in 1958's Another Time, Another Place, a film that uniquely combined the talents of Lana Turner, Sean Connery and Sid James.
Longdon's two best-remembered cinema roles both date from the late 1950s, albeit at opposite ends of the budget spectrum. On hearing that Ben-Hur was being shot in Italy, Longdon casually loaded his golf clubs into his car and drove from London to Rome, where his enterprise was rewarded with part of Drusus. And in 1958 Longdon was cast as an amiable, if incredibly over-age, aristocratic National Service recruit in the very inexpensive Carry On Sergeant. The film was such a vast commercial success that a second Carry On was put into production later that year; Carry On Nurse gave Longdon more scope to display his talent for deadpan comedy, as a recuperating journalist who sardonically comments on the actions of Kenneth Williams and Co.
Longdon made four Carry Ons in total, leaving after 1961's Regardless, an especially weak entry in the series which was still a work of art as compared with What a Whopper (1961), an alleged comedy in which Longdon assisted Adam Faith in his pursuit of the Loch Ness monster. The Carry Ons would not find such an ideal straight man/romantic lead until Jim Dale joined the team several years later, but by now Longdon was a TV icon in Garry Halliday, joshing with his co-pilot Terence Alexander and fighting trilby-hatted villainy. It was the actor's favourite role but sadly only one episode survives in the BBC archives.
After the end of Garry Halliday, Longdon's television career mainly took the form of guest appearances.In 1983 he played Wilf Stockwell, one of Elsie Tanner's many old flamesin Coronation Street, and he actedas an extremely po-faced foil to Victoria Wood on two separate occasions. Longdon's last starring film rolewas in the 1963 B-film Clash ByNight, in which his efforts to thwart the demented arsonist Peter Sallis were handicapped by being handcuffed to Harry Fowler. One of his final cinematic appearances was in The Sea Wolves, a Second World War-era drama set in Goa.
From the mid-1960s onwards, Longdon mainly concentrated on his stage career, starring opposite Kenneth More in William Douglas-Home's The Secretary Bird and, in 1990, taking the title role in Julius Caesar for the Compass Theatre Group. Longdon's velvety tones were used for many voice-overs and he was working until 11 weeks before his death.
Hubert Tuelly Longdon (Terence Longdon), actor: born Newark, Nottinghamshire 14 May 1922; married 1953 Barbara Jefford (divorced 1960), 2004 Gillian Conyers; died 23 April 2011.
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