Richard Coleman: Actor who made his name in '... And Mother Makes Three'

Anthony Hayward
Saturday 14 February 2009 01:00

In the 1970s, the actor Richard Coleman was one of the best-known faces on television, starring with Wendy Craig in two archetypal sitcoms of domestic mayhem.

Coleman joined her in thesitcom ...And Mother Makes Three,in which Craig played a dithering young widow, Sally Harrison, tryingto hold down a job while bringing up her two sons, with some assistance from her Auntie Flo. Sally metColeman's character, David Redway – himself a widower, with a daughter – towards the end of the second seriesin 1972, when he bought the vet'spractice where she worked as asecretary.

A year later, by which time David was running an antiquarian bookshop, the couple were married in an episode that hit No 1 in the television ratings. Inevitably, the resulting chaos followed in the newly titled ...And Mother Makes Five (1974-6).

Both series were created by the writer Richard Waring and followed his previous sitcom, Not in Front of the Children, which starred Wendy Craig in another family saga.

Coleman was born Ronald Coleman in Peckham, south London, in1930, and followed National Serviceby becoming a trainee salesmanfor the clothing manufacturer Aquascutum. After performing Shakespeare plays in pubs with the Tavernersamateur theatre company, he wonthe Leverhulme Scholarship to RADA in 1951 and, on graduation twoyears later, was awarded the Principal's Medal.

The actor changed his professional name to Richard Coleman to avoid confusion with the film star Ronald Colman and was soon appearing at Worthing Repertory Theatre in Sailor Beware! (1954) alongside Peggy Mount in the role of the fearsome, prospective mother-in-law who began her runof dragon-like characters on stageand screen. The following year, he transferred with her to the Strand Theatre for the show's successful West End run.

Although he did not appear in the film version with Mount, Coleman made his big-screen début as a naval officer in Yangtse Incident: the Story of HMS Amethyst (1957) and landed similar roles in Girls at Sea (1958) and The Navy Lark (based on the BBC radio sitcom, 1958). He also played the baddie Metellus in the biblical epic Ben-Hur (1959).

But it was in television that the actor's future lay. He had regular roles as Nick Allardyce in The Adventures of Ben Gunn (1958), a six-part serial by R.F. Delderfield featuring characters from Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, the minstrel Alan-a-Dale in episodes of The Adventures of Robin Hood (1958-60) and Jack Royston in the soap opera Weavers Green (1966), set around a Norfolk country vet's practice.

Coleman also took one-off character roles in many popular television series, including Dixon of Dock Green (1963, 1964), No Hiding Place (1964, 1965), The Avengers (1966), Z Cars (1973), George and Mildred (1977) and Surgical Spirit (1991).

On stage, he enjoyed runs in the long-running Terence Frisby comedy There's a Girl in My Soup (Globe and Comedy Theatres, 1966-72), The World of Susie Wong, A Murder is Announced and The Mousetrap. Coleman also produced the Alan Ayckbourn play Absurd Person Singular on a British tour of Canada.

By the time of his last television appearance, playing a detective in an episode of the offbeat drama series Virtual Murder (1992), featuring Nicholas Clay as a psychology lecturer working with the police to investigate bizarre happenings, Coleman had moved to France with his wife, the actress Peggy Sinclair.

Ronald Coleman (Richard Coleman), actor: born London 20 January1930; married Peggy Sinclair (two daughters); died France 16 December 2008.

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