'Softly, Softly' star Johns dies, aged 77

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The Independent Online

The actor Stratford Johns, best known for his television roles in Z Cars and Softly Softly Task Force, has died from a heart condition at his Suffolk home at the age of 77.

Johns, born Alan Stratford Johns in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, was one of the first and best-known faces of television police drama.

Even though his acting career stretched beyond the genre to the BBC's I Claudius and film and stage work – he won acclaim for his stage role as Daddy Warbucks in Annie – it was his police work, so to speak, that ensured his fame.

Johns was best known for his role as Charlie Barlow, first seen in Z Cars in the early Sixties. He played the character for more than a decade, first a Detective Inspector, then rising through the ranks in Softly Softly and then Barlow At Large by which time he was Detective Chief Superintendent.

Michael Whitehall, his agent, said last night: "He was an extraordinary television actor. Most actors came into television and gave stage performances but although he was very powerful he was very contained in a way that played best to the small screen. I think that was what made him so popular."

Mr Whitehall added: "He had heart problems and suffered a couple of small strokes in recent years. He was one of the biggest stars in television in his day. The equivalent of John Thaw these days."

Johns' early acting roles included parts in British films such as The Ladykillers and TV shows, including Department S and The Avengers.