Lennard Pearce was a British actor who worked extensively in theater and also in some popular British TV series. Born and raised in London, Lennard received his training as an actor at the ‘Royal Academy of Dramatic Art,’ in London. As a young theater actor in the 1930s, he performed some plays in Germany. One of his shows was attended by a few senior ‘Nazi’ officials. One of the officials who shook Lennard’s hands was Adolph Hitler. Lennard later said that he regretted not killing Hitler back then. Some of his early plays were ‘Much Ado about Nothing,’ ‘The Rivals,’ and ‘Winnie the Pooh.’ As a theater actor, he also served as a member of the ‘Royal Shakespeare Company.’ Lennard started his full-fledged on-screen career in the 1970s and made a mark with a role in the series ‘Nearest and Dearest.’ He had earlier appeared in the TV play ‘Cathy Come Home’ (1966). However, he is best known for his portrayal of ‘Grandad Trotter,’ or ‘Edward "Ted" Trotter,’ in the British sitcom ‘Only Fools and Horses.’ He first appeared in the series in 1981 and made his last appearance in it in 1984, the year of his death.
Childhood & Early Life
Lennard Pearce was born in Paddington, London, England, on February 9, 1915. He was always interested in acting as a profession and thus enrolled at the ‘Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts’ to train in acting.
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Lennard Pearce started his acting career as a theater actor in the 1930s. He traveled to many European countries for theatrical tours. During one such tour, in the 1930s, he had a show in Germany. It was attended by many ‘Nazi’ officials, including Hitler. The officers came to congratulate the cast backstage after the show was over, and Lennard ended up shaking hands with Hitler.
Lennard later recalled the incident and said that if he had known back then what he came to know about Hitler later, he would have done anything to kill Hitler then and there.
Lennard remained active in theater throughout many decades. During the Second World War, in the early 1940s, Lennard performed for the ‘Entertainments National Service Association.’ The organization did the job of providing entertainment to the ‘British Armed Forces’ during the Second World War.
In the early 1960s, he got a major career opportunity when he understudied for legendary actor Stanley Holloway as ‘Alfred P Doolittle’ in the original ‘West End’ production of the play ‘My Fair Lady.’
In 1965, he started working for ‘National Theatre’ and played key parts in many plays, such as ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ and ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.’ He also got the chance to work with some industry greats, such as Sir Anthony Hopkins and Laurence Olivier.
In 1966, Lennard got another major opportunity when he bagged a role in the play titled ‘The Rivals.’ He appeared in it as one of its two leads. The play featured him alongside David Jason, an actor he did not meet again until 15 years later.
In the mid-1970s, Lennard played ‘Owl’ in the theatrical adaptation of the popular ‘Disney’ cartoon ‘Winnie the Pooh.’ It was one of the key roles. The play was staged at the ‘Phoenix Theatre’ in London.
In 1977, he appeared in the role of ‘Mr. Witherspoon’ in the play titled ‘Arsenic and Old Lace,’ which was staged at the ‘Westminster Theatre.’
In addition, Lennard was also a member of the highly respected ‘Royal Shakespeare Company.’
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All through the first few decades of his acting career, Lennard stayed away from screen acting. He made a huge name for himself in the London theatrical circuit instead.
In 1966, he made his TV debut with the televised play ‘Cathy Come Home.’ The play about homelessness became one of the most popular TV plays in the history of British TV. In a ‘Radio Times’ readers’ poll, it was voted the “best single television drama.” A 2000 poll also rated it as the second-best British TV program ever made.
This successful beginning on TV however did not translate into more work for him. Lennard took 4 years to appear again on TV, this time, in a sitcom titled ‘Nearest and Dearest,’ which featured him in the role of a doctor.
In 1974, Lennard played ‘Cleopatra’s schoolteacher in the TV adaptation of the popular Shakespearean play ‘Antony and Cleopatra.’ It was a key role. The play also starred industry “biggies” such as Patrick Stewart and Richard Johnson.
In 1980, Lennard appeared in a supporting role in the TV series titled ‘Hammer House of Horror.’
In 1981, Lennard played a small role in the sitcom ‘Bless Me, Father.’ His role in the series was that of a clerk of the court.
Throughout his acting career, Lennard was probably best known for appearing in the sitcom ‘Only Fools and Horses.’ The sitcom featured him as ‘Edward “Ted” Trotter,’ one of its major characters. Although he had decided to quit acting due to poor health before starring in the show, he liked the role and had decided to go ahead with it. He died in 1984, in the middle of the shooting for the fourth season of the successful sitcom.
Family, Personal Life & Death
Lennard was diagnosed with hypertension in 1980, when he suddenly felt weak during a play. He was put on medication and was advised to rest. Following this, he decided to quit acting.
Lennard Pearce had also been a heavy smoker all his life. He started facing health problems in his 60s and was not perfectly well when he signed for ‘Only Fools and Horses’ in 1980. Nevertheless, he went ahead with the project.
He suffered a massive heart attack in December 1984. Following this, he was rushed to ‘Whittington Hospital,’ where he recovered. However, he suffered another attack a few days later, on December 15, and died on the spot. He was 69 years old at the time of his death.