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Julian Glover

Vogel, Two's a Crowd
Masgard, The Living Dead
Peter Rooke, Split!
Rupert Lasindall, Pandora

by Pete Stampede

A fine, imposing actor with the ability to create an air of menace while apparently doing very little (the danger of stillness), Julian Glover here adds The Avengers to the many fantasy heroes he has opposed, on the big and small screens. Born in 1935, he began acting with the National Youth Theatre, which under the late Michael Croft gave opportunities to many fledgling actors. His earliest television credit was as The Captain in a version of Shaw's Androcles And The Lion (BBC, 1960) made for schools, with Dudley Foster also near the end of the cast list. Then, reflecting his stage background, which includes numerous seasons with the Royal Shakespeare Company, he was in An Age Of Kings (BBC, 1960), a thirteen-part chronological staging for TV of Shakespeare's History plays by producer Peter Dews; broadcast live, the extraordinary cast included Sean Connery, Judi Dench, Eileen Atkins (to whom Glover was briefly married) and Robert Hardy as Henry V. Surprisingly, a showing of all the episodes at the National Film Theatre in 1994 showed it to have stood up very well, and was sold out for most of its run. Glover, like many of the supporting actors, played several roles during the series, culminating in the Earl of Oxford in the final episodes, showcasing Paul Daneman as Richard III. He was also in a controversial Wednesday Play about mercenaries, For The West (BBC, 1965), also with Freddie Jones.

Episodic television in the 60's included the SF anthology Out Of This World, hosted by Boris Karloff, "Botany Bay" (ABC, 1962); another anthology show, Espionage, "Never Turn Your Back on a Friend" (ITC, 1964), a very rare case of Michael Powell directing for TV (wouldn't it be wonderful if Powell had done an Avengers!); Doctor Who, "The Crusade" (BBC, 1965) as Richard the Lionheart - director Douglas Camfield described Glover in an interview as probably "the first 'quality' actor to appear as a guest on Doctor Who"—this is one of many stories that only partially exist, though; The Saint, "The Lawless Lady" (ATV/ITC, 1964) and "Invitation to Danger" (1968); and The Champions, "The Fanatics" (ATV/ITC, 1968).

Inching into the 70's, he was wasted as a British Intelligence man in Jason King, "Variations on a Theme" (ATV/ITC, 1971), an even tackier and tattier than usual caper for Peter Wyngarde, with so much stock footage, and resulting appalling continuity, that the actors looked like they were taking part in different shows. Much better was a stint as a Soviet interrogator, hidden under a remarkable pair of glasses, in Callan, "That'll Be The Day" (Thames, 1972), in which Edward Woodward's loner agent, supposedly dead, is in fact enduring a spell behind the Wall. He was in a couple of episodes of Boy Dominic (HTV, 1974), a made-on-film drama series for older children that I just about remember (I was a younger child at the time).

Q.B. VII (Screen Gems, 1974) was the first American television mini-series, which like so many to follow had scenes filmed in Britain and wasted lots of fine British actors, from Anthony Hopkins on down in this case. Glover was a Polish government official, helping Ben Gazzara's all-American novelist hero attempt to prove Hopkins guilty of war crimes. The Sweeney, "Queen's Pawn" (Thames, 1975) found him on top, smoothly malevolent form as a chess-playing legal eagle whose maneouvrings result in a major East End villain (Tony Selby, seen in "The Curious Case of the Countless Clues") getting off scot-free after four "big bank jobs". Needless to say, he makes his excuses and leaves when Selby, by having a fellow gang member killed, walks straight into a trap set by Jack Regan (John Thaw). A typically daft episode of Space: 1999, "Alpha Child" (ITC/RAI, 1975) had him as an alien life force who takes over a human, in this case a small boy, which at least made a change (every bloody episode of this series seemed to have people being taken over by alien life forms!).

Again working for Brian Clemens, he did an episode of Clemens' anthology series Thriller, "Good Salary - Prospects - Free Coffin" (ATV, 1975), with Kim Darby as the inevitable second-league American name, and James Maxwell also in the cast. (I haven't seen this for years, but it may have actually been set in the US, at least partly). When shown in America as part of the Wide World Of Entertainment strand, it was retitled "Mirror of Deception," complete with a strange TV-movie style title sequence added, which utterly garbled the plot and was really only added to increase the running time, a fate suffered by most of the episodes in this series. There was then a detour into SF, first with a couple of episodes of Blake's 7, "Breakdown" and "Bounty" (BBC, 1978). A return to Doctor Who came in "City of Death" (BBC, 1979), in which his urbane Count was a monster called Scaroth under a face mask; by Who standards this was above average, with location filming in Paris, a script co-written by Douglas Adams under a pseudonym, and John Cleese in a last-minute walk-on.

Glover was the Constable of France in the BBC Television Shakespeare's production of Henry V (BBC, 1979), an early entry in the Corporation's brave, but largely studio-bound attempt to preserve all the Bard's plays for posterity. (Really, An Age Of Kings was better.) He starred as Alexander Dubcek in Invasion (Granada, 1980), an impressive, made on film docu-drama recounting the Soviet invasion of the former Czechoslovakia in 1968, all the more important for having been made while Dubcek was still very much in the political wilderness. In the early 90's, following Dubcek's return to prominence after the events of 1989, and not long before his death, an edition of the same company's current affairs series World In Action showed him watching Invasion, and meeting Glover.

The Journal Of Bridget Hitler (BBC, 1981), shown in the Playhouse strand, cast Glover as an interviewer in the bizarre true story of an Irish relative of the Fuhrer. Nancy Astor (BBC, 1981), a straightforward serialisation of the life of the first female Member of Praliament, starred Lisa Harrow, of whom great things were expected at the time, but seems to have been very quiet of late, and someone completely unknown then called Pierce Brosnan—that's showbiz! Glover was supporting as a flinty peer, along with the likes of James Fox and Nigel Havers. Ivanhoe (Norman Rosemont, 1982), in itself an unexceptional remake for American TV, was, however, notable as a potential break into the big time for Douglas Camfield, who after having directed Glover in Doctor Who all those years ago, and rising through many other Who stories, had become one of the best British directors of TV episodes, including countless segments of The Sweeney and The Professionals (can't think why he never did a New Avengers); unfortunately, he died shortly after making this.

Q.E.D. (Consolidated, 1982) was another transatlantic hybrid, with Sam Waterston as an eccentric American inventor in 1900's London, called Quentin E. Deverill (geddit); Glover was a regular as a monocled villain called Kilkiss, and the series was a brave attempt, by the British independent company Consolidated Productions, at a series for American network TV. However, not only did it not last long in the States, but it failed to sell itself to any of the networks in Britain, ending up only being shown by some of the ITV regions two years later (a rough equivalent of US syndication), and then in the early afternoons.

He was perfect as the stern, autocratic Mr. Dombey in Charles Dickens' Dombey And Son (BBC, 1983), one of the many classic serials overseen by former Doctor Who producer Barry Letts, and which I recall watching on more than a few cold early Sunday evenings. By The Sword Divided (BBC, 1983-84), a Roundheads versus Puritans saga, also gave him top billing, as head of one of the warring families; funnily enough, it also went out on Sundays! Cover Her Face (Anglia, 1985) was one of a middlebrow succession of adaptations of P.D. James' equally middlebrow cases of Inspector Adam Dalgleish (Roy Marsden, seen in "Tale of the Big Why"), a dour cop with a liking for poetry; in retrospect, this was a bit of a dry run for Inspector Morse, but with lower prodoction values (like both the previous credits, it was made on videotape, not film as is the norm for such series now, which can't help but make such programmes look cheap by today's standards).

Only Yesterday (BBC, 1986) was another videotaped production, one of the last such single plays to receive a prime-time slot; Paul Scofield starred as one of a couple teetering on the brink of senile dementia, with Glover a worried son. He did both series of Wish Me Luck (LWT, 1988-89), a WW2 flagwaver centering on a team of female operatives, as a colonel called Cadogan, nicknamed "Cad". He was a regular, one of a stellar cast of readers including Sir John Gielgud, in Six Centuries Of Verse (Channel 4, 1984), also narrating an audiobook of Beowulf in the same vein. A stage play with Joss Ackland in which they were opposing lawyers in the Leopold-Loeb trial, Never The Sinner (Thames, 1989) was also televised.

David Quinlan's painstaking Illustrated Directory Of Film Character Actors lists Glover's first film as Tony Richardson's Tom Jones (1963); however, I'm sure he can be spotted in the same director's The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner the previous year, as a military type observing the climactic race. Girl With Green Eyes (1963) and I Was Happy Here (1965) were two interchangable romances; more characteristic of Glover's film work, and giving him a decent-sized role as a detective, was Theatre Of Death (1966, sometimes called Blood Fiend in the US). This Christopher Lee starrer may be nobody's finest hour, but with its gloriously over-emphatic use of colour (especially red) perfectly fixing it as a product of its time, and strangely effective endless close-ups - necessitated by the low budget no doubt - at least it has a definite visual character all its own.

He was properly upright as a colonel in Hammer's film version of Quatermass And The Pit (1967, US: Five Million Miles To Earth), surprisingly made a decade after the TV original. Unlike the studio's two Quatermass films in the 50's, writer-creator Nigel Kneale approved of this, and of Andrew Keir in the title role. The Last Grenade (1970), from Avengers director Gordon Flemyng, starred Alex Cord (where is he now?) and, incongruously, Richard Attenborough, with support from Honor Blackman, John Thaw and Glover. The Rise And Rise Of Michael Rimmer (1970), Peter Cook's only starring film away from Dudley Moore, and written by him with John Cleese and Graham Chapman, is usually only discussed as a failure for Cook, highlighting his self-conscious, immobile style of acting, and proving that Cleese and Chapman, at that time, were still sketch writers and couldn't come up with sustainable ideas. Maybe, but Glover's sequence in the film, as a blood-and-guts army officer who paralyses Switzerland by spraying everyone with cans of cold germs, enabling gold to be hijacked for Britain, has a definite Pythonic touch to it.

Glover played the Knight, in effect the narrator, in the unsuccessful film version of John Osborne's Luther (1973), and was among a strong supporting cast in Richard Lester's sideways version of the disaster film, Juggernaut (1974), which as Steven Soderbergh recently noted, "contains the definitive Roy Kinnear performance". An unpleasant credit, however, was The Brute (1976) with him in the title role, an obscure, reputedly sensationalist drama about wife-beating, directed by Gerry O'Hara, who may have made "The Hour That Never Was", but was an exploitation man for the rest of his career. It's only noteworthy in that Bruce Robinson, later to write and direct the cult film Withnail And I (1987) had a supporting role; no wonder he recently said he took up writing after realising he could do better than most of the scripts he was being offered himself.

Beginning a trio of big screen roles opposing popular fantasy heroes, Glover was General Veers of the Imperial Forces in The Empire Strikes Back (1980). He was then, ironically considering he had actually tested to play 007 himself in the early 70s, the head villain in For Your Eyes Only (1981), hailed by some as a realistic, non-gadget laden entry in the Bond series, but indistinguishable from the rest to a non-fan. By contrast, he was next in Heat And Dust (1982), one of the first efforts of the dreaded Merchant-Ivory team to break through internationally, ensuring that what films were made in Britain for the next few years would be soppy, backward-looking and frequently below average technically. Glover was seen as a dinner guest in one of the film's endless flashbacks to the 20s; Merchant-Ivory films are full of flashbacks, which makes sense as their work and their lives seem to be one long flashback.

But at the end of the decade, Glover made his strongest screen showing, as an American Nazi called Walter Donovan in Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade (1989); another chief villain, who, when he finds the Holy Grail, proves a little too hasty in sampling the contents. (His American accent was good, except for one scene where he shouted; here's "Stampede's Guide to People Doing Accents"—their real-life vowel sounds are bound to come through if they sing or shout.) He was Dr. Livesey in Treasure Island (1990), one of Charlton Heston's seemingly endless TV movie remakes of British semi-classic works; retitled Devil's Treasure, it was actually shown in cinemas in Britain, but didn't do well, the official explanation being that it was the time of the World Cup.

Also in the cast of that was his second wife, Isla Blair, who was in "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Station"; son Jamie Glover is also an actor. Still very busy in the theatre, his performance in the title role of the RSC's staging of Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2, at the Barbican Centre in London, earned him the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor in 1993.

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This bio Copyright 1999-2008 Gavin Gaughan.
Page last modified 1 January 2002.