Steptoe actorDied when: 72 years 302 days (873 months)
Star Sign: Aries
British Comedy Guide TVRADIOFILMONLINELIVEPEOPLE>Search Comedy.co.ukBCG Features Comedy Chronicles Wilfrid BrambellComedy ChroniclesSteptoe & Son.Albert (Wilfrid Brambell).Copyright: Associated London Films Limited.Wilfrid Brambell: A brush with the lawGraham McCann.Written by: Graham McCannPublished: Saturday 22nd February 2020Back in the 1960s, one of the gravest off-screen dangers faced by on-screen sitcom stars centred on sexuality - or, more specifically, homosexuality.
The fact that homosexuality remained illegal in Britain until 1967 meant that, at least up until that time, any gay actor in a sitcom (or, of course, anywhere else on the stage or screen) lived in fear not only of being beaten up, blackmailed or exposed, but also prosecuted and potentially even imprisoned.
The consequence was that many actors were forced to lead two separate lives, a fake one in public, a real one in private, and some of sitcom's most memorably heterosexual characters were actually played by gay actors, whose careers would have been ruined if their true sexuality had ever been revealed.
One such performer, who came as close as was possible to suffering such a sad and sorry fate, was Wilfrid Brambell.
In the summer of 1962, at the age of fifty, Wilfrid Brambell suddenly became, within a matter of weeks, one of the biggest sitcom stars in Britain by playing the growling, gurning, grumbling old rag and bone man Albert Steptoe, alongside the younger Harry H.
Corbett as Harold, in the first series of Steptoe And Son.In the autumn of 1962, however, just a few months later, he was within a whisker of swapping stardom for public shame and professional ruin.
The reason was that, while audiences quickly came to love Brambell for his brilliant portrayal of the down-to-earth, no-nonsense and fiercely masculine old man Steptoe - a character who would wince in disgust at anything he regarded as 'soft,' 'effeminate,' 'poofy' or 'poncey' - the Metropolitan Police already had him marked down on their lengthy list of covert homosexuals, and, now that he had been elevated to the status of television celebrity, his value as a potential 'prize' arrest had suddenly been radically inflated.
He was thus being watched intently - not only for what he did on the screen, but also, more pointedly, for what he did off it.
It was known, for example, that he was something of a loner.Ever since he had moved to London from his native Dublin shortly after the end of the Second World War, he had remained a solitary and seemingly rootless figure.
He moved from one small apartment to another on a fairly regular basis, as a perusal of the phone books of the time underlines: in the early 1950s, for example, his address was 31 South Audley Street, W1, phone number: Grosvnor 1474; in 1955 it changed to 40 Whitehall Gardens, NW6, ACOrn 7574; two years later it was 111 Fellows Road, NW, PRImrose 1270; and by the start of the 1960s, and during his early years in Steptoe And Son, it was 10 Lynton Court, Horn Lane, W3, with the telephone number ACOrn 3803.
Henry Wilfrid Brambell (22 March, 1912 – 18 January, 1985) was an Irish television and film actor and comedian, best remembered for his role in the television series Steptoe and Son.
He also performed alongside The Beatles in their debut film A Hard Day's Night, playing the fictional grandfather of Paul McCartney.