Obituary: Michael Bilton

Michael Bilton, actor: born Cottingham, East Yorkshire 14 December 1919; married Sally West (Marriage dissolved), secondly Valerie Newbold (marriage dissolved 1967); died Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire 5 November 1993.

A CHARACTER actor of great warmth, who won his best parts on television in later years, Michael Bilton revelled in the roles of the sexy geriatric Basil in Waiting for God and the aged gardener in a Yellow Pages commercial.

Born in East Yorkshire, Bilton followed his education at Hymers College, Hull, by serving in the Army during the Second World War. He suffered a serious stomach wound on the first day of the Battle of Alamein. After a long convalescence, he started his career as an actor with the Connaught Theatre and later became a member of the BBC's radio repertory company.

Although not a prolific film actor, he appeared in pictures such as A Taste of Honey (1961), Norman Wisdom's comedy The Early Bird (1965), Hitchcock's Frenzy (1972), the remake of The Thirty-Nine Steps (1978) and The Fourth Protocol (1987), the big-screen version of Frederick Forsyth's spy thriller, in which he played Kim Philby alongside Michael Caine.

Bilton became a well-known face, if not a household name, when he played the chauffeur Ned in the popular Seventies series To the Manor Born. He later appeared as John Gielgud's butler in Brideshead Revisited, John Mortimer's adaptation of the Evelyn Waugh novel, and as Old John in the situation comedy Lame Ducks, as well as playing Cheryl Campbell's father in Dennis Potter's Pennies from Heaven and a gentleman tramp in The Bill. He made notable cameo appearances in series such as Don't Wait Up, Casualty, Just Good Friends, The New Statesman, All Creatures Great and Small, The Upper Hand, One Foot in the Grave, Keeping Up Appearances and Grace and Favour.

But his most successful television work was as the woman-chasing Basil in three series of Waiting for God, the sitcom set in a retirement home, and as the gardener in a Yellow Pages commercial, going about his tasks with a battered lawn-mower and being called over by his employers to be told of its new replacement just when he thought he himself was about to be pensioned off.

In later years, crippling arthritis prevented him from working in the theatre. His last London West End appearance, in the early Eighties, was alongside Penelope Keith in Hobson's Choice at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are in need of a HR Manage...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - HR Consultancy - £65,000 OTE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + £65,000 OTE: h2 Recruit Ltd: London, Birmingham, M...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick