Ronnie Barker-0

Ronald William George "Ronnie" Barker, OBE was an English actor, comedian and writer. He was known for roles in British comedy television series such as PorridgeThe Two Ronnies and Open All Hours.

Barker began acting in repertory theatre and decided he was best suited to comic roles. He had his first success at the Oxford Playhouse and in roles in the West End including Tom Stoppard's The Real Inspector Hound. During this period, he was in the cast of BBC radio and television comedies such as The Navy Lark. He got his television break with the satirical sketch series The Frost Report in 1966, where he met future collaborator,Ronnie Corbett. He joined David Frost's production company and starred in ITV shows including a short film.

After rejoining the BBC, Barker found fame with the sketch show The Two Ronnies  (1971–1987), with Ronnie Corbett. He starred in the sitcoms Porridge, its sequel  Going Straight and Open All Hours. He wrote comedy under his own name and the pseudonym Gerald Wiley, which Barker adopted to avoid pre-judgements of his talent. He won a BAFTA for best light entertainment performance four times, among other awards, and received an OBE in 1978.

Later television sitcoms such as The Magnificent Evans and Clarence were less successful and he retired in 1987. He opened an antiques shop with his wife, Joy. After 1999, he appeared in smaller, non-comic roles in films. He died of heart failure on 3 October 2005, aged 76.

Early Life Edit

Ronnie Barker Plaque

Plaque marking Barker's birthplace

Barker was born Ronald William George Barker on 25 September 1929 in Bedford, Bedfordshire, to Leonard (known as "Tim") and Edith (known as "Cis") Barker. Barker's elder sister Vera was born in 1926 and his younger sister Eileen was born in 1933. His father was a clerk for Shell-Mex, and this job saw the family move to Church Cowley Road in Temple Cowley, Oxford when Barker was four. Barker's biographer Bob McCabe described his childhood as "a happy time, marred by no ructions or family tensions, apart from the occasional wet sock." As a child, Barker enjoyed dressing up, particularly in his father's pierrot outfit, as well as films, comics and animals. He developed a love of the theatre, often attending plays with his family. The first play he saw was Cottage to Let and he once skipped school to see Laurence Olivier in Henry V. He frequently stood outside stage-doors to collect autographs, his first being the actress Celia Johnson.

Barker grew up in the Florence Park area of Temple Cowley, Oxford, and went to Donnington Junior School, Florence Park, Oxford and then the City of Oxford High School for Boys. Barker's chemistry textbook at Oxford was previously owned by T.E. Lawrence. He found his talent for humour at school and developed his musical ability by singing in the choir at St James's, his local church. He got in to the sixth form a year early after gaining the School Certificate but he felt what he was learning would be of no use to him in later life and so left as soon as he could. After leaving school he trained as an architect but gave it up after six months, feeling he was not skilled enough. Barker took his sister Vera's job as a bank clerk at the Westminster Bank (after she had left to become a nurse). Barker harboured dreams of becoming an actor, and took up amateur dramatics, although initially he just saw the pastime as a chance to meet girls. For 18 months while at the bank he worked as an actor and stage manager, making his first appearance in A Murder Has Been Arranged as the musical director of the play-within-a-play. Eventually he gave up his job to become a professional actor. His father did not support his acting ambition.

The Two Ronnies Edit

Ronnie Barker and Susie Silvey

Barker during filming of The Two Ronnies (with Susie Silvey)

Barker appeared in The Two Ronnies, a sketch show which aired for twelve series and eight specials between 1971 and

1987, and rose to immediate success. Barker wrote much of the show's material, roughly three-quarters, again under the name Gerald Wiley. He was heavily involved with the show's production, especially the serial. Corbett (who starred in the show with him) explained that Barker was a "perfectionist" and "as he wrote it Ronnie knew how he wanted every shot to look."

The show was considered a "national institution" with audiences of between 15 and 20 million regularly tuning in to its 93 episodes. Barker won the BAFTA for Best Light Entertainment Performance in 1971 and 1977 for the show. The Two Ronnies ended with the 1987 Christmas special.

Other work Edit

Following the success of The Two Ronnies, the BBC let Barker decide what he wanted to do. The Two Ronnies took up one third of a year to produce, allowing time for Barker and Corbett to each do a solo project. Barker's opted to produce some sitcom pilots shown as part of 1973's Seven of One. Two of these pilots, Open All Hours (written by Roy Clarke) and Prisoner and Escort (written by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais) became series. 

Barker opted to end Porridge after two series and instead focused on Open All Hours, alongside David Jason, before working on spin-off sitcom Going Straight.

Personal Life Edit

Barker met Joy Tubb in Cambridge while she was a stage manager for two plays he was in. They married nine months later in July 1957 and they had three children: two sons, Larry (born 1959) and Adam (born 1968), who became an actor, and one daughter,Charlotte (born 1962), who became an actress. Larry was named after Barker's idol Laurence Olivier. The family lived in Pinner for many years; and subsequently in a converted mill in Dean, Oxfordshire. According to Corbett, Barker was "first and foremost a family man." Joy died in January 2011, aged 78.

Barker received an OBE in 1978. He was an avid collector of antiques, books and posters and amassed a collection of over 53,000 postcards; he produced several compilation books of them including Ronnie Barker's Book of Bathing BeautiesA Pennyworth of Art and Sauce. Barker rarely appeared in public, and when he did it was almost always in character. He once said "I've always known I haven't a personality of my own, I have to be someone else to be happy. That's why I became an actor, I suppose."

Death Edit

Barker's health rapidly declined after the filming of The Two Ronnies Sketchbook (2005). He died of heart failure at the Katherine House hospice in Adderbury, Oxfordshire, on 3 October 2005, aged 76, with Joy by his side.

Barker was cremated at a private humanist funeral at Banbury Crematorium, which was attended only by family and close friends. A public memorial service for Barker was held on 3 March 2006 at Westminster Abbey, with some 2,000 people in attendance. Corbett, Richard Briers, Josephine Tewson, Michael Grade and Peter Kay all read at the service, while others in attendance included David Jason, Stephen Fry, Michael Palin, Leslie Phillips, Lenny Henry, Dawn French and June Whitfield. 

Filmography Edit



Year Film Role Notes
1958 Wonderful Things! Head waiter[101] Uncredited
1962 Kill or Cure Burton
1963 The Cracksman Yossle
Doctor in Distress Man at railway station ticket counter Uncredited
Father Came Too! Josh
1964 A Home of Your Own Cement mixer
The Bargee Ronnie
1965 Runaway Railway Mr. Galore
1967 The Man Outside George Venaxas
1968 A Ghost of a Chance Mr. Prendergast
1969 Two Off the Cuff
1971 The Magnificent Seven Deadly Sins Unnamed character In "Sloth" segment
1976 Robin and Marian Friar Tuck
1979 Porridge Norman Stanley Fletcher


Year Show Role Notes
1956 I'm Not Bothered "Bit Part" Two episodes
1960 The Terrible Choice 2nd Murderer Episode 1.7: "Macbeth: Part 2"
1960–1964 It's a Square World Various characters Two Episodes
1961 Citizen James Unknown Episode 2.7
1961–1963 Faces of Jim Various characters Series 1 named The Seven Faces of Jim

Series 2 named Six More Faces of Jim
Series 3 named More Faces of Jim
Barker appeared in several episodes in Series 1 and 2 and all six of Series 3

1962 Benny Hill Chef Episode 1.2: "A Pair of Socks"
The Rag Trade Mr Goodwin Episode 2.13: The Bank Manager
ITV Play of the Week Bundles Episode 8.5: "The Second Chef"
Drama 61–67 Harrison Episode 2.17: "The Frightened Sky"
1962 ITV Television Playhouse Pickle's O'Toole The Pinkness of It All
1962, 1972 Christmas Night with the Stars Various Characters Two Episodes
1963 BBC Sunday-Night Play Henry Wallace The Holly Road Rig
1964 How to be an Alien Various voice roles Six episodes
Sykes and A... Tramp Episode 7.6: "Sykes and a Log Cabin"
Bold as Brass Mr. Oakroyd Four episodes
1965 Armchair Theatre Unknown Episode 5.15: "The Keys of the Cafe"
The Walrus and the Carpenter Unknown Episode 1.4: "Luther and the Golden Fleece"
A Tale of Two Cities Jerry Cruncher Seven episodes
Gaslight Theatre Various characters Six episodes
Theatre 625 Crowther Rimington Episode 3.13: "Portraits from the North: Bruno"
Barney Is My Darling The 2000 Year Old Man
1966 Foreign Affairs Grischa Petrovich
The Saint Alphonse Episode 5.9: "The Better Mousetrap"
1966–1967 The Frost Report Various characters 28 episodes
1967 The Gamblers Unknown Episode 1.10: "The Glory of Llewellyn Smiley"
The Avengers Edwin Cheshire Episode 5.8: "The Hidden Tiger"
Before the Fringe Various characters Six episodes[101]
1968 The Ronnie Barker Playhouse Various characters Six episodes
1969 The Coward Revue TV Movie
1969–1970 Frost on Sunday Various characters
Hark at Barker Lord Rustless 15 episodes
1969, 1971, 1975 Play of the Month Stephen Spettigue

Henry Ormonroyd

Episode 5.2: "Charley's Aunt"

Episode 7.1: "A Midsummer Night's Dream"
Episode 11.4: "When We Are Married"

1970 Futtocks End General Futtock TV film
Not Only... But Also Poets Cornered segment Episode 3.5
'Wiltons' – The Handsomest Hall in Town Music Hall Performer
1971 Six Dates with Barker Various characters Six episodes
The Ronnie Barker Yearbook Various characters
Ronnie Corbett in Bed Various characters
1971–1987 The Two Ronnies Various characters 93 episodes
1972 His Lordship Entertains Lord Rustless Seven episodes
Comedy Playhouse George Idle

Johnnie Wetherby

Episode 12.1: "Idle at Work"

Episode 14.2: "Franklyn and Johnnie"

1973 Seven of One Various characters Seven separate pilots
1974–1977 Porridge Norman Stanley Fletcher 20 episodes
1976 The Picnic The General TV film
1976–1985 Open All Hours Albert Arkwright 25 episodes
1978 Going Straight Norman Stanley Fletcher Six Episodes
1979, 1988 The Two Ronnies in Australia Various characters
1980 Rubbish Tips Director of Rubbish Short
1982 By the Sea The General TV film
1984 The Magnificent Evans Plantagenet Evans Six episodes
1988 Clarence Clarence Sale Six episodes
1999 The Nearly Complete and Utter History of Everything Renaissance Man
2002 The Gathering Storm David Inches TV film
2003 My House in Umbria The General TV film
Life Beyond the Box: Norman Stanley Fletcher Norman Stanley Fletcher Mockumentary
2005 The Two Ronnies Sketchbook Various characters Seven episodes

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