Glynn Edwards, actor. Born 2 February 1931, in Penang, Malaysia. Died 23 May, 2018, in Edinburgh, aged 87.
Glynn Edwards never quite became a household name, but his face was immediately familiar from dozens of films and television series, most notably Minder in which he played Dave, the barman at the club frequented by aspiring entrepreneur Arthur Daley (George Cole) and his gofer-cum-bodyguard Terry McCann (Dennis Waterman).
Minder was one of the biggest hits of the 1980s, attracting more than 16 million viewers at its peak. While Cole and Waterman were the stars – the Dumb and Dumber of British crime drama – Edwards was pretty much a fixture on the show, alternately listening to and turning a deaf ear to their dodgy schemes. He was the sensible, slightly world-weary one.
The rapport between Cole, Waterman and Edwards became a very popular element in the show and Edwards’ part was expanded as the series developed. He had a great ability to combine a smile with a frown and a look of scepticism. He went on to appear in 95 out of 109 episodes between 1979 and 1994, which is more than Waterman, who did not appear in later series.
Repeat fees ensured Edwards’s financial security and latterly he split his time between homes in Spain and in Edinburgh, where he had family connections – his daughter Rebecca and her husband Stuart managed the Cramond Inn in the 2000s. He fell in love with the city after coming up for a visit.
Edwards was born in 1931 in Penang in then Malaya where his father was a rubber planter. His mother died shortly after he was born and Edwards spent his early years with grandparents in Southsea in Hampshire before his father remarried and took over a pub in Salisbury.
Edwards admitted he was a “total dunce” when he left school at 15 and shipped out to Trinidad, where he worked firstly in sugar cane farming and then as compere of calypso shows for tourists. He also began acting, initially as a hobby.
In his early 20s he returned to England and studied at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London before forming his own touring company, which is how he met his first wife Yootha Joyce, who later played Mildred in the sitcom George and Mildred (1976-79).
Edwards had a recurring role in the drama series Sir Francis Drake in the early 1960s. “It was early days for TV, we never ever put to sea,” he recalled. “The ship was made of cardboard and they wobbled the cameras to make it look like we were sailing.”
He and Joyce joined Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop company and appeared in many of their productions, including Lionel Bart’s long-running cockney musical Fings Ain’t Wot They Used to Be. Edwards and Joyce divorced in 1968, but remained very close friends until her death in 1980, aged just 53.
He would marry twice more – his second marriage was to the former Benny Hill girl Christine Pilgrim. That marriage also ended in divorce. He is survived by his third wife Valerie, to whom he was married for more than 30 years. They had five children between them.
Edwards had the chance to appear in Littlewood’s original stage production of Oh, What a Lovely War! in 1963, but opted instead for the role of real-life hero Corporal William Allen VC in the classic film Zulu, with newcomer Michael Caine. He never regretted the choice and it did much to raise his profile.
He was Charles Bovary in a 1964 BBC production of Madame Bovary and had recurring roles in the soap opera The Newcomers (1965-66), The Main Chance (1970-75) and Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em (1978), as Mr Lewis, an increasingly infuriated neighbour of Frank Spencer, played by Michael Crawford with whom Edwards had been friends since they worked together on Sir Francis Drake.
Edwards also appeared in numerous films, including The Ipcress File (1965), one of many productions in which he played a policeman; the classic crime drama Get Carter (1971), which reunited him with Michael Caine, whose character stabs him; Under Milk Wood (1972), with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor; and Burke and Hare (1972), in which he was the infamous Edinburgh bodysnatcher William Hare and Derren Nesbitt was William Burke. The cast also included Yootha Joyce and Christine Pilgrim.
Edwards was sceptical when offered the role of Dave the barman at the Winchester Club in Minder.
“It was just one day’s work initially,” he said, “and seeing the script made me realise why – there was only a couple of lines to say. My agent persuaded me to accept it, explaining that the part may grow and of course it did.”
The Winchester was very much Arthur Daley’s HQ – he seemingly never went home to the unseen wife ‘Er Indoors. However, no one predicted Edwards would still be playing the role 15 years later. The character did not even have a surname at the outset.
“In one episode I had to sign for a delivery at the Winchester Club, with the camera filming over my shoulder which meant viewers would see everything I wrote,” Edwards recalled. “I said to the director, ‘I can’t just sign as Dave – I need a surname.’ After much deliberation we chose Harris.”
A friendly, familiar face, with a no-nonsense, down-to-earth screen persona, Edwards was also popular with advertisers. “I earned ten times as much money from Bran Flakes as I did from the whole of Zulu,” he said.