Guest Actor Biography
Page 87 of 127


Stanley Meadows

Erskine, The Hidden Tiger

by Pete Stampede

Stanley Meadows was a constant face on British TV of the 60's and 70's; his remarkable, ultra-Brylcreemed hairstyle seemed to remain constant, too. As David notes, Meadows didn't actually play the villain in this episode but, particularly in his guest roles in practically all the major British filmed series of the time, his character would generally always be a heavy, and for some reason would usually be called Harry.

He began in this vein with three turns on The Saint, beginning in its monochrome days; "Marcia" (ATV/ITC, 1964) finding Roger Moore encountering murder and scheming in the film world (hmmm, that must have kept the budget for the sets down!), with starlet Samantha Eggar as a starlet, and a rare villainous turn for Coronation Street stalwart Johnny Briggs; "The High Fence" (1965), as a villain with a grudge against Templar in a straightforward London underworld runaround, but directed by James Hill and with Peter Jeffrey also guesting; and "The Queen's Ransom" (1966), oddly cast as a Frenchman, trailing Moore and spoilt Royal Dawn Addams in the first Saint in colour, and one of Moore's own favourite episodes. Then, the original and best Randall And Hopkirk (Deceased), "Could You Recognise The Man Again?" (ATV/ITC, 1970) had Meadows as one of a family of villains, who kidnaps Jeanie (Annette Andre) to stop her testifying in court and, like all Cockney gangsters, answers only to his dear old Mum (Madge Ryan). He was a spy in The Persuaders, "The Man in the Middle" (ATV/ITC, 1971), an episode sadly wasting the fabulous Terry-Thomas, who did his usual upper-class twit number as a cousin of Brett Sinclair (Roger Moore, again), then a suspect in a plutonium robbery in Gerry and Sylvia Anderson's hugely disappointing foray into live action, The Protectors, "Blockbuster", (ATV/ITC, 1974).

He was at his most typical in the two best ever British tough-guy series; The Sweeney, "The Placer", (Thames, 1975), as Harry Poole, head of a hi-jacking racket that Jack Regan (John Thaw) goes undercover as a truck driver in order to smash—in Meadows' first scene, he asks with regard to Thaw, "Is 'e cushty?", that's a Sweeney villain's way of asking is he OK, or trustworthy; and The Professionals, "Foxhole On The Roof", (LWT/Avengers Mark 1, 1982), as a bad guy launching attacks on a hospital from the title hideout, later recoursing to a helicopter, in an episode boasting some impressive airborne action over London—better than similar scenes in "Sleeper," I'm afraid. As a character with the incredible name Ronnie Shyvers, he made Arthur Daley's (George Cole) entry into the fashion world go pear-shaped in Minder, "A Well Fashioned Fit-Up", (Thames, 1984). Just for once, he was a police inspector in a more realistic than usual Return Of The Saint, "Tower Bridge is Falling Down", (ATV/ITC, 1978), written by Minder's creator Leon Griffiths, with Templar now played by Ian Ogilvy (seen in "They Keep Killing Steed").

He had worked with Thaw before, on Bat Out Of Hell (BBC, 1966), a Francis Durbridge thriller serial with Thaw and 50's film star Sylvia Syms as a plotting couple, Dudley Foster as a dedicated inspector on the case, and Meadows—surprise, surprise!—turning out to be the killer. A step out of character was playing a tailor, again called Harry, who can't understand why his son would rather be a dentist, in a sitcom which went nowhere, Roots (ATV, 1981); sitcoms about dentists always seem doomed to failure, and this was no exception, the punning title not helping much either. Debuting in primetime on Friday nights, halfway through its run it was demoted to Sunday afternoons, and star Allan Corduner wasn't heard of again until Mike Leigh's Topsy Turvy (1999). Contrastingly, Widows (Thames, 1983 and 1985) was Lynda La Plante's successful female take on the Cockney crime genre, with the four "widows" of the title banding together to execute a robbery after their respective partners are killed; things become complicated, to say the least, for leader Dolly (Ann Mitchell) when her husband Harry (yes, Meadows!) turns out to be very much alive and dangerous. Occasional films include The Ipcress File (1965), with Michael Caine as Harry Palmer, Gordon Jackson, Nigel Green and Tony Caunter, Kaleidoscope (1966) featuring Clive Revill, and Performance (1970), the latter two in comfortable East End villain mode.

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Page last modified: 5 May 2017.

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