Just A Minute blog

A blog on the BBC radio programme Just A Minute

Location: Wellington, New Zealand

January 02, 2007

JAM guest dies

Have only just heard that JAM guest William Franklyn died a couple of months ago.

He appeared four times on JAM, in 1984, 1985 and 1986. He was good fun as he clearly knew the others well, without doing enough to suggest he should have apopeared more often. he was teased nicely by Peter Jones, my favourite memory from his shows.

A nice obit from The Daily Telegraph follows.

William Franklyn

William Franklyn, who died yesterday aged 81, was a character actor on stage and television, but was equally well known for his voiceovers in commercials – his tour de force in that department was as the debonair globe-trotter in the advertisement for Schweppes tonic water, in which he whispered sexily: "Schhh… you know who."

This award-winning television campaign (which boosted sales by nearly £1 million) was created by the advertising agency Ogilvy and Mather; the slogan was the brainchild of Royston Taylor, who had tried to think of a way of promoting the product without mentioning its name. The "Schhh… " was supposed to suggest a bottle of tonic water being opened.

The commercials placed Franklyn in exotic locations surrounded by swarms of beautiful women; he appeared in more than 50 of them between 1965 and 1973, later observing: "They were great fun, but they typecast me."

Franklyn was often seen on the stage, but although he confessed that he would have liked to have played Hamlet, he had no general ambition to play the classic roles. His suave, easy style, however, earned him many and various opportunities on the small screen. In Thames Television's Paradise Island he played a sex-hungry ship's entertainments officer stranded on a desert island with a vicar (Bill Maynard); in a different vein, he was link man for the quick-fire gag show What's On Next.

William Leo Franklyn was born in London on September 22 1925, the son of Leo Franklyn and Mary Rigby, both of whom were actors. He spent his childhood in Australia, where his father, an established comedian, was busy touring. While his father was away, Bill attended Haileybury School in Melbourne.

As a child he was terrified by the theatre, associating it with being dragged, blushing, through dressing-rooms peopled by half-naked women. At the age of 11 the family returned to Britain and Bill was sent to boarding school, which was evacuated during the war to Luscombe Castle, Devon. He made an early appearance on stage at the Savoy, as one of a squad of Panamanian sailors in a conga line in My Sister Eileen. He then served as a paratrooper in Palestine.

After demobilisation Franklyn pursued his acting career in earnest, appearing at Southsea in Arsenic and Old Lace, and going on to rep at Ryde, Margate and Northampton. At Windsor he played the lead in plays such as Night and Day, Relatively Speaking and Springtime for Henry. He also appeared at the King's Head, Islington, where Rattigan's In Praise of Love gave him a more subtle role, which he tackled with his usual confidence.

Franklyn got his break in the West End in The Love of Four Colonels, and went on to become one of the early stars of ITV, appearing in its first broadcast play, Mid-Level. This was the start of a long career in television, which included appearances in The Makepeace Story; The Last Flight; Top Secret; No Wreath for the General; No Cloak, No Dagger; Latterly; Masterspy; and The Purple Twilight. More recently he had parts in Lovejoy, Doctors and French And Saunders. He was a regular contributor to BBC radio programmes, and in 2004 took over from the late Peter Jones as the voice of the Book on Radio 4's Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy.

Throughout his career Franklyn's regular voiceover and commentary work provided him with a steady income, and he fitted in theatre work when he could. He appeared in London in plays such as Tunnel of Love, There's a Girl in My Soup and Ghost on Tiptoe, as well as in thrillers such as Deathtrap, Dead Ringer and A Touch of Danger.

On the cinema screen Franklyn featured in Quatermass II (1957) and in Roman Polanski's Cul de Sac (1966). Other screen credits included Fury at Smugglers' Bay (1958); Pit of Darkness (1962); The Legend of Young Dick Turpin; The Intelligence Men (1965); and The Satanic Rights of Dracula (1973).

In 1969 Franklyn directed an Italian production of There's a Girl in My Soup, even though his knowledge of the Italian language went little beyond Linguaphone lesson one. When he was provided with an interpreter, Franklyn observed: "The Italians are too busy talking among themselves to hear what language is being used."

Franklyn could tear up a script on the set, or announce at a rehearsal (with the author well within earshot) that he had put in a few of his own one-liners to liven things up a bit. But he was warm-hearted and friendly, and always conscientious.

He hated periods of inactivity, and at one time – when acting opportunities were scarce – he turned his hand to the antiques business. His hobbies included philately and squash, but his principal recreation was cricket.

As a young man he had had a trial for Essex as a fast bowler, and he continued to play into old age, though by then he had metamorphosed into a leg-break specialist. He was for many years a prominent member of The Stage's Cricket Club; he also ran his own team, the Sargent Men, which raised money for the Malcolm Sargent Cancer Fund for Children.

William Franklyn married first, in 1952, Margot Johns. They divorced in 1962, and in 1966 he married the actress Susanna Carroll, among whose roles was that of a Drahvin in Dr Who.

By his first marriage he had a daughter, the actress Sabina Franklyn; by his second he had two daughters: Francesca, a film producer, and Melissa, also an actress.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had no idea that William Franklyn had even died. I remember his appearances on JAM, he was quite funny and definitely had an ear for storytelling and for fighting with the rules with the best of them though, and certainly had some good comraderie with the other panelists.

I know he was part of the show 'Quote, Unquote', and I also know that he was actually the original choice to voice the character of Danger Mouse, and did lend his voice to the character for pilot episode only.

Also, I do believe that he lent his talents to a Doctor Who audio drama about a year or so ago.

Bill, you shall be missed.

5:07 am  

Post a Comment

<< Home