Garfield Morgan: Actor best known for playing Jack Regan's boss in 'The Sweeney'

Wednesday 30 December 2009 01:00 GMT

The balding head and impassive manner that Garfield Morgan brought to many of his television roles was most prominent in The Sweeney, in which he played Chief Inspector Frank Haskins, the nervy and long-suffering boss of John Thaw and Dennis Waterman's no-holds-barred Flying Squad detectives, Regan and Carter. Haskins' disapproval of their unorthodox methods, in a programme notable for its violent action and strong language, brought him into frequent arguments with Regan. The Sweeney (1975-78) trail-blazed the next generation of police series after Z-Cars and Softly Softly, which showed that those who dispensed law and order could themselves be flawed.

Morgan's own character was just as flawed as those for whom he took responsibility. Haskins constantly had marriage problems, gulped down glasses of milk to ease the pain from his ulcer and was not immune to taking wrong decisions at work. Once, when a bank manager and female customer were taken hostage by robbers, he and Regan disagreed about whether to use police marksmen to kill the criminals or sweat it out. Haskins' decision to choose the latter led to disaster, with the manager dead and the woman hideously disfigured. As a character actor and private man who never sought fame, Morgan brought the same dispassionate manner to sitcom roles, including that of the confectionery firm owner A. C. Strain employing the Northerner grappling with moving south (Rodney Bewes) in Dear Mother... Love Albert (1969-71) and its sequel, Albert (1972).

Born in Birmingham in 1931, Morgan began his working life as an apprentice dental mechanic but decided to follow his love of acting by training at a Birmingham drama school. His first job was with the touring Arena Theatre Company, based in Sutton Coldfield. He was soon acting and directing for the stage, becoming director of productions at the Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury (1957-58), and Library Theatre, Manchester (1959-60). Later, he was associate director at the Northcott Theatre, Exeter (1976-78), and the Nottingham Playhouse (1978-80).

By then, Morgan was a prolific actor on television. He had already played villains in Z-Cars, as well as policemen and vicars on screen, by the time he was cast as Detective Chief Inspector Gwyn Lewis in the first series of Softly Softly (1966), the Z-Cars spin-off. He followed it with a string of character roles in popular series such as The Avengers (1967-69), The Baron (1967), The Saint (1967) and Man in a Suitcase (1967), before becoming a regular as Webster in the gangland drama Spindoe (1968) and Tao Gan in Judge Dee (1969), which adapted ancient Chinese detective stories. The Sweeney followed a 1974 "Armchair Cinema" pilot, Regan, which gave a clue of what was to come, with John Thaw's loud, "shoot now, ask questions later" detective inspector slamming down the phone on his "guv'nor" more than once.

Many of Morgan's subsequent regular roles were in sitcoms. He played Desmond, porter of the flats where the university-educated layabout played by Hywel Bennett lived in the later series of Shelley (1982-84), Thora Hird's fellow Salvation Army officer Brigadier Langton in the second run of Hallelujah! (1984), Tim Brooke-Taylor's boss Gerald in You Must Be the Husband (1987-88), the golf club captain George Brady in the writer Johnny Speight's The Nineteenth Hole (1989) and the Labour Party whip Norman in No Job for a Lady (1990-92, starring Penelope Keith as a female MP).

There was an element of an in-joke when the actor was reunited with Dennis Waterman in four episodes of the comedy-drama Minder (1985-9), in which he played Superintendent Mason alongside George Cole as the second-hand car salesman Arthur Daley and Waterman as the conman's bodyguard, Terry McCann. Morgan also took one-off parts in Lovejoy (1992), Heartbeat (2003), Holby City (2004) and The Bill (2005).

His film appearances were only occasional, and included The Odessa File (1974, playing an Israeli general), the comedy The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain (1995) and the zombie apocalypse picture 28 Weeks Later (2007), but he continued to act on stage throughout his years on television. He also provided the narration for four Rick Wakeman albums, including The Seven Wonders of the World (1995), and appeared with the musician in live performances.

A keen horse rider, Morgan competed in eventing and show jumping. He was secretary of the Stage Golfing Society from 2005 until his death.

Anthony Hayward

Garfield Morgan, actor and director: born Birmingham 19 April 1931; married Dilys Laye (marriage dissolved); died London 5 December 2009.

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