Obituary: Bernard Braden

Bernard Braden, actor and broadcaster, born Vancouver 16 May 1916, married 1942 Barbara Kelly (one son, two daughters), died London 2 February 1993.

BERNARD BRADEN, the actor and broadcaster, originated the serious television consumer programme in the 1960s with On the Braden Beat and Braden's Week.

Braden was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1916, the son of a Nonconformist minister, Dr Edwin Braden, and his wife, Mary. He was educated at local schools and made his first appearance on the stage as a child at Kelowna Theatre, playing a goblin in Springtime. Inheriting his mother's musical talent, he began his adult career in 1935 as a radio singer, later becoming announcer, actor and engineer in Vancouver. His career was interrupted for a year by TB (1937) but he returned to radio writing and acting in plays for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. In 1940 he worked with a 16-year-old actress, Barbara Kelly, who became his wife two years later. They moved to Toronto, where they scored a triumph acting in the serial John and Judy on the CBC radio network. Bernard wrote and produced plays for CBC.

In 1947 Braden spent two months in Britain, again for CBC, making a series of documentaries on post-war recovery plans, material subsequently published in 1948 in a book, These English. He returned to Britain in 1949 accompanied by his wife. They soon found work, Bernard making his first BBC broadcast on the Home Service in April in the Rattigan play While the Sun Shines, followed by his television debut from Alexandra Palace in Play the Game in June. Although his professional acting experience was limited to radio, he opened at the Aldwych Theatre as Harold Mitchell in Tennessee Williams' play A Streetcar named Desire later that year. While still acting in Streetcar, Braden broadcast his first BBC radio series, Breakfast with Braden, starting at 8.15am in January 1950. This was followed by a second series, Leave your Name and Number, in which the Bradens played two Canadians living in London. The Daily Herald called it 'the BBC's biggest hit for years . . . listen tonight'.

The Bradens were portrayed on the front cover of the Radio Times in June 1950. A vision mixer recalls sitting spellbound during their audition at Alexandra Palace when a producer exclaimed 'that's television'. Together they appeared in a magazine programme, Kaleidoscope, and in 1951 they had their own television series, The Bradens at Home, the first production of T. Leslie Jackson, one of Braden's fans. Jackson described him as 'clever and original, an absolute delight to work with'. Because of her professionalism, Jackson used Barbara Kelly in What's my Line?, the long-running series that changed Sunday night for those able to watch television.

Radio was dominant but the times were changing and by the time of the Coronation in June 1953 television had ceased to be a rich man's toy. Bernard Braden was a television commentator for the Coronation, sited with Brian Johnston in Hyde Park. He also appeared in Commonwealth Cavalcade, a variety tribute, together with Joan Hammond, Ram Gopal and McDonald Bailey. The Bradens were now firmly established in Britain: another radio series, Bedtime with Braden, had started in November 1952, Barbara joining the cast previously used in Breakfast with Braden. Bernard had also broadcast three series with Gracie Fields on Radio Luxembourg, the only commercial radio station heard in Britain at that time.

When commercial television went on the air in 1955 Braden worked for both channels. He also appeared with his wife in a comedy at the Lyric Theatre in 1955 entitled Anniversary Waltz. His commercial television programmes included Chelsea at Nine (Granada TV series), and Let's Go (ABC). But he is best remembered for On the Braden Beat (ATV), the first of many consumer programmes which he presented as a late-night show. This ran from 1962 to 1968 and won a Bafta award (in 1964). The same format was used when he returned to the BBC with the title Braden's Week. Esther Rantzen was a researcher on this programme, continuing the tradition in her That's Life series. Braden was allegedly sacked by the BBC for appearing in a Stork margarine commercial but did work for the BBC later.

Although Braden worked in films, television and the stage in the Seventies and Eighties he never had the popularity he achieved in the Fifties and Sixties. At this time he added 'businessman' to his job description, running an agency for after- dinner speakers. In his Who's Who entry he describes himself as 'a freelance actor and dabbler': a modest self-description for a man who wrote plays and books, acted presented the first nationwide BBC schools programme in September 1957, chaired the Brains Trust, played Henry James on the Third Programme, and had many radio series, all performed with high professional standards which endeared him to his colleagues.

In addition to his Bafta award he was voted Light Entertainment Personality of the British Variety Club and received the Royal Television Society award for Artistry in Front of the Camera. In 1955 he was honorary Chancellor of the London School of Economics. In his first volume of autobiography, The Kindness of Strangers (1990), Braden tells of his happy married life (surely one of the longest in show-business) with Barbara Kelly, who shared his career, and their three children, Christopher, Kelly and Kim. It is not surprising that he lists 'family' among his interests. Radio listeners will remember him for his many series, his colleagues in radio and television as an all- round professional, and television history as the originator of the consumer programme.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
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 People

HR Advisor - North London / North West London

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - North London...

Finance Manager - Recruitment Business (Media & Entertainment)

£28000 - £32000 per annum + negotiable: Sauce Recruitment: We have an exciting...

HR Advisor - North London / North West London

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - North London...

HR Advisor - North London / North West London

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - North London...

Day In a Page

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past