Ronnie Barker Poster

Trivia (62)

He was awarded the OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) in the 1978 Queen's New Year Honours List for his services to entertainment.

He was the father of the actress Charlotte Barker, the actor Adam Barker and Larry Barker (born in 1959).

He became well-known for the hugely popular radio comedy series "The Navy Lark", in which he played various characters. The series was conceived by fellow actor Jon Pertwee and was based on his experience in the Royal Navy during the Second World War. Barker later admitted that the two of them would often find themselves almost paralytic with laughter during rehearsals for it.

Although a great comedy actor in his own right (Porridge (1974), Open All Hours (1976)), he is perhaps best known for his longstanding comic double-act with Ronnie Corbett in The Two Ronnies (1971).

Despite opting to appear frequently in drag in The Two Ronnies (1971) as part of a sketch, he intensely disliked dressing as a woman.

He was one of the actors originally wanted for the part of Claudius in I, Claudius (1976), but it eventually went to Derek Jacobi.

At the end of The Two Ronnies (1971), they would always close with Ronnie Corbett saying "Well, it's Goodnight from me", to which Ronnie Barker would reply "And, it's Goodnight from him".

Whilst on holiday in Australia, he was approached by a man who asked "Hey, are you that Ronnie Barker?". Ronnie calmly replied in a mock Australian accent "Sorry mate, a lot of people say that, but I ain't him."

His first job was that of a stage hand at The Oxford Playhouse, Oxford, UK. At that time the theatre was a rep and one night Ronnie was thrust on stage to cover for someone - the rest, as they say, is history. Although considered a comic actor he has portrayed a vast array of characters - especially on the stage - and was considered one of Britain's finest character actors.

His best friends were Ronnie Corbett and David Jason.

He claimed that making Open All Hours (1976) was the happiest experience of his career.

In 2004, he received a lifetime achievement award from the British Academy of film and Television Arts. He earned three other BAFTA awards as well.

He initially trained as an architect but decided that he did not have the necessary talents. His first paid job was as a bank clerk.

Mr. Barker's funeral was held in the leafy surroundings of Banbury Crematorium in Oxfordshire where his body was taken in a Volvo hearse. Banbury is just a few miles from his home village of Dean near Chipping Norton where he operated an antique shop the last few years of his life.

The UK's Sun newspaper announced his death with a front page depicting a pair of black horn-rimmed glasses sitting in a spotlight, with the headline "Goodnight from him".

He was encouraged to go into show business by Frank Shelley.

In 2004, he agreed to do another series of The Two Ronnies (1971) (with Ronnie Corbett) for BBC-TV after renewed interest following Barker's Bafta tribute (2004). It was 17 years since the duo last appeared together on TV screens.

In 1988, he retired from acting to run an antiques business.

In the 1970s, Barker and Corbett were two of the highest-paid performers in British television. In 1979, he and Corbett took their families to Australia for a year which enabled them to avoid paying the year's income tax, which then stood at 83% in the UK for top earners. Many film stars and rock stars also left the UK in the 1970s for the same reason.

His nickname for David Jason on Open All Hours (1976) was "little feed".

He wanted to end Open All Hours (1976) after three years, even with audiences of more than 15 million.

He liked to send poems to David Jason. He was constantly playing with words and was very quick at composing verses. He sent one to Jason to commemorate his knighthood in 2005.

Known for being a perfectionist, he monitored David Jason's raspberries carefully for volume, tone and duration on The Two Ronnies (1971) whenever performing "The Phantom Raspberry Blower" sketch; Barker directed him in a sound-booth doing a raspberry version of the 1812 Overture. Jason joked in his autobiography that he would gladly re-stage it at the Royal Albert Hall, and considered "making farting noises into a microphone" one of the most profound jobs he's ever had at the BBC, and proud of his contribution to "that little moment of comic history".

He was known for being genial, open, always looking for what was funny in any situation, and quick-witted.

He lived quietly and shunned the spotlight. He always put family first and hardly ever attended big social events.

David Jason wanted to work with Barker years before Open All Hours (1976) and did as a guest star on Porridge (1974). He believed it profoundly affected the course of his life. He always considered him a mentor whenever they worked together. He never understood why Barker left ITV for the BBC, because he wasn't in the know. He considered working with Barker in an entire series a dream outcome, and the two became close friends. He claimed Barker was very wise and if he thought something was OK, that was good enough. He also believed he was there on the series to be Barker's stooge, and got frustrated when episodes ran long and his part had to be edited down just to feed Barker.

He was a great collector from antique and junk shops. He liked collecting things to have them around, but was never interested in anything valuable, just what appealed to him. He collected little porcelain statuettes of 1920s bathing belles; toy soldiers, boxes of cigarette cards, some unopened; thousands of postcards; albums of the seaside from the turn of the century and one with postcards made of silk, etc. His home was considered a house of wonders, and the walls were covered with wonderful pictures, of all shapes, sizes and styles. David Jason described his house as a treasure trove. He had a driver who took him and Jason looking for bric-a-brac. The tinier and the more offbeat the shop was, and the further it was into the middle of nowhere, the happier he was.

When David Jason was knighted in 2005, he wished Barker had been there to share it with everyone. Jason felt Barker was more deserving of a knighthood, but had died two months previously. But earlier in the year, when Jason's knighthood was announced, he sent him one of his poems to commemorate the event, and at Jason's after party he declaimed it, so Barker was there in word.

He was particularly devastated by Richard Beckinsale's death. He was so upset he couldn't work for several days.

He attended David Jason's 50th birthday party; he parked his car in a neighbouring drive so as not to spoil the surprise. He delivered a speech at the party. Jason said it was a lovely, high-spirited evening and the nicest of surprises, but he wasn't surprised though, because all the lights were off when he arrived - something his wife never did.

On one occasion, while David Jason was a guest in Barker's house, Jason got slightly drunk and couldn't sleep; he saw a door and assuming it led to a flat roof, decided to get some fresh air to help him sleep even though he couldn't see a thing beyond the door. Jason reconsidered after worrying about cutting his feet on any stones. The next morning Jason found the door led to nowhere but a 30ft drop to a disused mill wheel; Barker had a balcony built to prevent any more near tragedies.

He was considered a legend in the British TV business and was admired by many fellow professionals.

He thought about retiring at age 56 after the deaths of Eric Morecambe and Tommy Cooper and working himself into an early grave was playing on his mind. He decided to retire on New Years Day, 1988 at the age of 59. David Jason was disappointed but respected his decision.

A memorial service was held for him at Westminster Abbey, London on 3 March 2006.

He underwent heart bypass surgery in 1996 and suffered a pulmonary embolism in 1997.

He was a heavy smoker until 1972, when he gave up after having a pre-cancerous growth removed from his throat.

A year before his death he chose not to undergo heart valve replacement surgery and his health rapidly declined.

According to Doctor Who (1963) script editor Terrance Dicks on the DVD commentary for Doctor Who: Planet of the Daleks: Episode Three (1973), Barker was considered by producer Barry Letts for a guest role in the series, then starring his friend Jon Pertwee, until inquiries discovered that he would have been too expensive due to the higher fees paid to actors in the light entertainment department of the BBC than the drama department.

Following his death, the Writer of the Year Award at the British Comedy Awards was renamed in his honour.

He wrote the play Mum for his daughter Charlotte Barker in 1998, which was performed at The King's Head Theatre, but garnered a negative response, with Barker stating it got "the worst notices of any play in the history of the theatre.".

A bronze statue of him sculpted by Martin Jennings, and showing him in character as Norman Stanley Fletcher, was unveiled at the entrance of the Aylesbury Waterside Theatre in September 2010 by his widow Joy, David Jason, and Ronnie Corbett.

He was considered to voice Zazu in The Lion King (1994).

He turned down the role of Lord Fermleigh in The Missionary (1982) that went to Roland Culver.

He rejected an offer to play Falstaff in in a Royal National Theatre production of Henry IV, Part 1 & 2 in 1987.

He turned down the role of Coleman in Trading Places (1983) that went to Denholm Elliott, his co-star in Robin and Marian (1976).

In his home town of Oxford, a Wetherspoons pub on George Street is named after his Four Candles sketch.

He turned down the role of Victor Meldrew in One Foot in the Grave (1990).

He turned down the role of Reginald Perrin in The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin (1976).

He turned down the roles of Frank Spencer in Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em (1973).

In 2015, the Ronnie Barker Comedy Lecture (also referred to as The Ronnie Barker Talk) was commissioned by the BBC at the instigation of the head of comedy commissioning, Shane Allen. The first lecture was given in August 2017 by Ben Elton, whose lecture focused on the future of the British sitcom.

He 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.".

In private, he annotated a copy of A Book of Nonsense by Edward Lear, penning punch lines of his own for each limerick. On the title page he wrote, "There was an old fossil named Lear, Whose verses were boring and drear. His last lines were worst - just the same as the first! So I've tried to improve on them here." The annotated copy of Lear's book, signed and dated November 2001, was auctioned in 2012.

He 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. David Jason, Richard Briers, Josephine Tewson, Michael Grade, and Peter Kay all read at the service, while others in attendance included Ronnie Corbett, Stephen Fry, Michael Palin, Leslie Phillips, Lenny Henry, Dawn French and June Whitfield. A recording of Barker's rhyming slang sermon from The Two Ronnies (1971) was played, and while the cross was in procession in the aisle of the abbey, it was accompanied by four candles instead of the usual two, in reference to the Four Candles sketch. Barker was the third comedy professional to be given a memorial at Westminster Abbey, after Joyce Grenfell and Les Dawson.

Before becoming an actor, Ronnie Barker was working as a bank clerk. Then, after he had been accepted to join a particular Repertory Company, he immediately gave his notice at the bank.

Seldom granted interviews, preferring to maintain a low profile when not working.

Gained critical notices for his dramatic acting, as well as for his comedy.

According to his daughter, Ronnie Barker's popularity tended to impinge upon his private life. For example: when the Barker family were on holiday somewhere along the English coast, her father usually stayed at the hotel whilst his family would be out for the day. Ronnie Barker knew that the general public might approach him all the time if he joined his wife and children.

He started as a bank clerk in Oxford at £1,11shillings and 6d a week.

In show business since 1948.

His favourite comedians were Morecambe and Wise, Max Wall, Spike Milligan and Tommy Cooper.

Was an idol of fellow comic, Rik Mayall.

His son Adam was born in 1947, Laurence in 1959 and daughter Charlotte in 1961.