Much-loved actor best known for hilarity in role of Mr Lucas in Are You Being Served?
• Trevor Bannister, actor. Born 14 August 1934 in Wiltshire. Died 14 April 2011 in Surrey. Aged 76.
Trevor Bannister, who played the delightfully disorderly ladies man Mr Lucas in the hit BBC sit-com Are You Being Served?, found national fame when he accepted the role of the menswear salesman. He balanced the high camp comedy of Mr Humphries (John Inman) and spent most of his working day eyeing up the charms of Miss Brahms (Wendy Richard). When she died two years ago Bannister gave a moving address at her funeral.
Although he was to appear in numerous other television dramas, Are You Being Served? (which ran for thirteen years and is much repeated on the digital channels) made Bannister one of the most recognisable faces on the small screen. "We loved working with each other on that show" Bannister told an interviewer. "We had a lot of respect for each other. I think that fun and enjoyment conveyed itself through the screen."
Trevor Bannister attended the Modern School in Salisbury. After national service he studied at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts and then worked with repertory companies before, in 1960, joining the cast of Billy Liar, led by Albert Finney in the west end. His good looks and mop of dark hair proved ideal on television and he was seen in such dramas as Dr Finlay's Casebook, The Saint and Softly, Softly. From 1968 Bannister was given more substantial parts: a wartime spiv in The War Of Darkie Pilbea, The Dustbinmen and then he returned to the west end in the comedy hit Move Over Mrs Markham. After that Bannister was offered the role of Mr Lucas in a pilot episode of Are You Being Served?
Bannister was to play Mr Lucas, the young, penniless, womanising junior salesman, with a rare sense of comedy. He often fed such lines as, "Mr Humphries, are you free?" to Inman who then delivered the famous reply ("I am free, Mr Lucas") with rapturous glee. But Bannister never tried to take over the comedy and his character was rather put-upon. He was always unsuccessful with his advances to Miss Brahms - though that didn't stop him trying again.
Written by David Croft and John Lloyd, Are You Being Served? was set in the fictional department store, Grace Brothers, and ran from 1972 until 1985. The show was originally planned as a vehicle for Bannister - he wanted to share top billing with Mollie Sugden - but as the sitcom developed other characters rather took over.
Bannister added much to the hilarity of the show and took on the authority figures in some memorable episodes. On one occasion Inman was rehearsing for the store's pantomime with Bannister playing Little Boy Blue. The episode ended with Bannister and Inman doing a pas de deux - around the store with many innuendos - as the credits rolled.
Bannister was always impressed with how Croft and Lloyd created their shows. "They cast the show with infinite care and knew exactly what all the cast could do. I was the young rebellious one while Mollie Sugden the outrageous one. We all fitted. We had all worked for them before and we were all friends."
He remained with the show until 1980 and only left after a clash of filming for the show and a lengthy tour he had been offered for a play called Middle Age Spread which was to include a long tour. The BBC refused to accommodate Bannister's request to alter some filming dates and regrettably he left the show, just as it was taking on a cult status.
After leaving the series Bannister played Peter Pitt in the 1988 BBC sitcom Wyatt's Watchdogs and was also seen in Keeping Up Appearances and The Avengers.
In 1967 he played a colour-blind decorator in Coronation Street, returned to the soap in 1972 and in 2006 became a central character as the resident solicitor acting for Mike Baldwin when he rewrote his will. Bannister then joined the BBC's Last of the Summer Wine where he played the golf captain but in 2008 in a new year's special Bannister was given a name - Major Toby Mulberry Smith - and became a regular in the series. Bannister much enjoyed playing such an establishment character.
In 2006 he returned to the theatre and gave an acclaimed performance as Sir John Tremayne in the 70th anniversary production of the Noel Gay musical Me And My Girl which toured theatres all over Britain.
Bannister, a keen golfer, died after a heart attack His first marriage to Kathleen was dissolved and he is survived by three sons of that marriage and his second wife Pamela.