Obituary: Terence Longdon

Rada graduate who appeared in Ben-Hur, Carry On films and Coronation Street

Terence Longdon, actor.

Born: 14 May 1922, in Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire.

Died: 23 April, 2011, in Oxford, aged 88.

Although he was never a big name, Terence Longdon was a very familiar face in British films and television from the 1950s to the 1980s. And it says much for his acting range that his curriculum vitae includes Ben-Hur and Helen of Troy, central roles in four Carry On films and a recurring character in Coronation Street.

Longdon appeared in four of the first five Carry On films, before making a conscious decision to break away from the series because he did not want to be pigeon-holed. Many years later, in an interview at a convention, he made the point that the mainstays were great comedians whereas he was "just a proper actor".

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Classically trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (Rada), Longdon played Lysander in the Old Vic's 1954 production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, which took him to New York and brought him to the old Edinburgh Empire (now the Festival Theatre). He was Patroclus (Achilles's ill-fated chum) in Helen of Troy and Drusus in the record-breaking Oscar winner Ben-Hur.

Possessed of a patrician air and a slightly startled expression, Longdon often played military officers and provided a dash of romance and glamour in the early Carry On films. He filled the title role of a pilot in the TV series Garry Halliday in the late 1950s and early 1960s and had a stint as Elsie Tanner's boyfriend in the 1980s.

The son of a businessman, Longdon was born and grew up in Nottinghamshire. He left school shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War and enlisted in the Fleet Air Arm, where he trained as a pilot.

He served on aircraft carriers, protecting convoys, and also got involved with the entertainment side.

After Rada, he worked as an assistant stage manager in Sheffield and then pursued his career as an actor in London's West End and in Stratford-upon-Avon, where he played young Prince Hal to Anthony Quayle's Falstaff in Henry IV Part I.

By the early 1950s he was also beginning to get parts in films and television and he was a Battle of Britain pilot in the film Angels One Five. He made a couple of films with the young Sean Connery before Connery became James Bond - the wartime melodrama Another Time, Another Place and the military comedy On the Fiddle.

At this point Longdon was doing mainly drama and appeared on television with Roger Moore in Ivanhoe. However he also turned up in Doctor at Large before joining Kenneth Williams, Charles Hawtrey, Kenneth Connor, Bill Owen and William Hartnell in Carry on Sergeant, the first in what was to become a classic British film series, in 1958.

He played an upper-class recruit, obsessed with women, in Carry on Sergeant.He was a journalist with appendicitis, who is also researching a feature on the health service, in Carry on Nurse; a smooth-talking conman in Carry on Constable; and the wonderfully-named Montgomery Infield-Hopping, one of the recruits at the Helping Hands jobs agency in Carry on Regardless.

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The role had originally been intended for Leslie Phillips, but Phillips left the series before filming on Regardless began.

By this time Longdon had done Ben-Hur and had the starring role in Garry Halliday, so he decided to leave the Carry On cavalcade.

Garry Halliday was a commercial airline pilot, but every week he found himself flying into some new adventure in a new exotic location. It ran to 50 episodes between 1959 and 1962.

There was an air of Biggles about it and it was beginning to seem quite old-fashioned by 1962.

The following year its place was taken in the BBC Saturday teatime schedules by a new-fangled science-fiction series called Doctor Who, with Longdon's erstwhile Carry On co-star William Hartnell.

The sort of dashing, aristocratic heroes in whom Longdon specialised were generally beginning to seem anachronistic alongside the rougher charm of the likes of Connery, and major film and television roles were to prove increasingly elusive.

During the 1960s Longdon made guest appearances on such popular series as Danger Man and The Avengers, but worked mainly in theatre.

He spent a couple of years performing in William Douglas Home's The Secretary Bird in the West End and a national tour brought him to the King's Theatre in Glasgow in 1968. He played the role of the lover more than 1,000 times.

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He had small parts in the films The Wild Geese and The Sea Wolves, and in the early 1980s he had the recurring role of Wilf Stockwell on Coronation Street. He was a friend of Mike Baldwin and has a relationship with Elsie Tanner.

Wilf left his wife and wanted to move in with Elsie, but she turned him down.

Longdon was married to the actress Barbara Jefford in the 1950s.

They later divorced. He is survived by his second wife, Gillie, and by a stepdaughter.