Guest Actor Biography
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Tony Caunter

Miller, Murdersville

by Pete Stampede

My mate Barney Agnew will probably never speak to me again unless I take this opportunity to point out that Tony Caunter, who plays the genuine village policeman seen imprisoned in "Murdersville," is a regular in the dreary but highly popular soap opera EastEnders (BBC, 1985- ), in which he apparently plays a dodgy second-hand car dealer called Impotent Roy. Before that, he had been a familiar face in series episodes, usually as either cop or crook, and seemingly balding right from his earliest showings. He had a minor role in Sidney Lumet's excellent military prison drama The Hill (1965), starring Sean Connery, but with one of Ian Hendry's best film roles as a sadistic "sweat," and Roy Kinnear as another inmate. The same year, he was in Michael Caine's first and best outing as Harry Palmer, The Ipcress File (1965), but subsequent films have been few.

Several roles on Doctor Who (BBC, 1963-89) seemed to average out at each decade of the show's life. He was first seen with William Hartnell in the long-lost, politically incorrect (all the actors playing Saracens were browned-up Caucasians) "The Crusade" (1965), also with Julian Glover; he was later an interplanetary rebel in "Colony in Space" (1971), with Jon Pertwee, and lastly did "Enlightenment" (1983), by which time Peter Davison was the Doctor. He also turned up in Who's sister series Blake's 7, "Deliverance" (BBC, 1978). For Avengers producer John Bryce, he was in an episode of John Thaw's first starring series, Redcap, "Information Received" (ABC, 1966), which also guest-starred Professor Keller himself, Michael Goodliffe. Caunter was a reliable heavy in several ITC series episodes, beginning with The Baron, "You Can't Win Them All" (ATV/ITC, 1966), also with Peter Bowles and directed by Avengers and Prisoner man Don Chaffey; unfortunately, the transatlantic concessions that let down a lot of the ITC series were highlighted in a scene where Caunter beats up a fellow convict, sneeringly saying "I suppose 'e brought you some cigarettes and candy!" Would a real Cockney villain say "candy" rather than "sweets"? I think not. Still for Avengers directors, he did The Saint, "The Organisation Man" (ATV/ITC, 1967) directed by Leslie Norman, father of Barry "You can't say fairer than that" Norman; The Champions, "The Gilded Cage" (ATV/ITC, 1968) and Department S, "The Man in the Elegant Room" (ATV/ITC, 1969), both directed by Cyril Frankel, the latter also featuring Stratford Johns.

He was a regular in Queenie's Castle (YTV, 1970-72), which saw Diana Dors, at the time her film career subsided into Shelley Winters-type roles, conceding that her sex symbol days were over by taking the title role of a North Country matriarch in this sitcom; her character may have been called Queenie, but her castle was a flat in a high-rise tower block, with a rumbustious family, including Caunter as her brother in law (a key role had been written for her husband Alan Lake, but he was unable to take part, due to the minor inconvenience of being in prison at the time). It was created and written by Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall, but was reputedly nobody's finest hour (it never turns up in re-runs). It was followed by All Our Saturdays (YTV, 1973) another vehicle for Dors—her character was even called Di Dorkins—in which she managed a rugby team; again, this had Caunter in support, but only lasted for one series.

Returning to guest roles, Caunter was in two fondly recalled fantasy series. He was a henchman called Six in Ace Of Wands, "One and One are Four" (Thames, 1970), in fact the first of this series centering on a heroic magician in white flares, here doing battle with Madame Midnight; however, this story, like most of the series, has since been wiped. Caunter then did an episode of the utterly charming Catweazle, "The Wogle Stone" (LWT, 1971), which also guest-starred Kenneth Cope. He was a regular support in another Northern sitcom, Beryl's Lot (YTV, 1973-77). Again working with John Thaw, and Julian Glover, The Sweeney, "Queen's Pawn" (Thames, 75) saw him as one of a gang of right wrong 'uns, at whom Thaw, with great relish, snarls that he's kept in with the boss "so you can go on being what you've always been! A brainless thug!" Later in the episode, Thaw has Caunter kidnapped by a hired group of heavies in Clockwork Orange-type pig masks; the sight of him being chased by them across desolate West London locations, clad only in his underpants, is both memorable and unintentionally hilarious. He was a cop again in The Professionals, "Long Shot" (LWT/Avengers Mark 1, 1978), and had a regular role as one in Juliet Bravo (BBC, 1982-83), a not terrifically exciting but popular series about a policewoman. He started on EastEnders in 1997.

Jim Caunter, Tony's youngest son, writes: "What about 1983 to 1997 - how can you miss out his Henry Diamond in Big Deal? You also missed out his role in SOS Titanic with Harry Andrews. They're just two of my favourites."

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Page last modified: 5 May 2017.

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