Bernard Archard: Star of the TV series 'Spycatcher'

Saturday 22 October 2011 22:36

Disillusioned with the experience of regular unemployment as an actor in Britain, in 1959 Bernard Archard booked a seat on the next boat to Canada, with plans to make a new start. But then he was asked to audition for the starring role in Spycatcher, as Lt-Col Oreste Pinto, a wartime Allied counter-espionage expert.

"Producer Terence Cook and I knew that Colonel Pinto – aged about 40 – was a star part, but we wanted an 'unknown' to play it," said Robert Barr, who scripted the drama. "Agents laughed. No one of star value, they said, could possibly have reached that age without being a star." But Archard was summoned, after a BBC employee recalled him as a Coal Board official in a 1958 dramatised documentary on open-cast mining, and he landed the role.

Based on the memoirs of Pinto – described by Eisenhower as "the greatest living expert in security" – Spycatcher (1959-61) charted the exploits of Pinto and his team of investigators as they relentlessly tried to root out potential spies entering Britain. The programme, which ran to four series, finally made Archard a star at the age of 43 and he became a prolific character actor in films and on television.

Three decades later, in 1992 he became familiar to soap viewers in Emmerdale as Leonard Kempinski, second husband of the serial's matriarch, Annie Sugden. Archard's time in the programme was brought to an abrupt end when Kempinski became a victim of a Lockerbie-style plane crash in 1993.

Born in London in 1916, Archard won a scholarship to train at Rada, where he lost his cockney accent, before working for many years in repertory theatre. He made his television début as a doctor in an episode of Kenilworth (1957), based on the novel by Sir Walter Scott, and was first seen on the big screen in the horror melodrama Corridors of Blood (1958), starring Boris Karloff.

Following his success in Spycatcher, Archard was frequently typecast as policemen, in long-forgotten films such as The Clue of the New Pin (1960), Man Detained (1961), The Silent Playground (1963) and The List of Adrian Messenger (1963). On television, he was HM Inspector of Constabulary on official visits to the police stations in both Z Cars (1965) and its spin-off, Softly Softly (1967). "They suddenly thought they had found someone who could ask the questions properly and I have been doing it ever since," he said.

But he was also seen in films as a vicar in Village of the Damned (1960), a Russian intelligence chief in The Spy with a Cold Nose (1966) and a priest in Fragment of Fear (1970). On television, he was frequently cast as doctors, in episodes of Danger Man (1961), No Hiding Place (1962), The Avengers (1968), The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes (1971) and Bergerac (1985, 1987).

Archard also had two roles in Doctor Who serials, as Bragen, the security chief seeking complete control of a colony of humans on the planet Vulcan, in "The Power of the Daleks " (1966) and Marcus Scarman, an Egyptologist possessed by an evil force, in "Pyramids of Mars" (1975).

Anthony Hayward

Bernard Joseph Archard, actor: born London 20 August 1916; registered civil partnership 2006 with Jim Belchamber; died Witham Friary, Somerset 1 May 2008.

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