Birthday: July 6, 1947
Died At Age: 31
Sun Sign: Cancer
Also Known As: Richard Arthur Beckinsale
Born in: Carlton, Nottinghamshire, England
Famous as: TV & Film Actor
Died on: March 19, 1979
place of death: Sunningdale, Berkshire, England
Cause of Death: Heart Attack
Richard Beckinsale was an English actor who became a household name in the 70s owing to his acting skills particularly in the TV series ‘Porridge’, where he portrayed the widely loved character of Lennie Godber. However, he died early, before making further name in the entertainment world and Hollywood. But the real talent gets its due when it deserves, and Richard later earned a massive respect among the audiences and his peers and is still known as one of the best comic actors. He started his acting career with sitcom ‘The Lovers’ in 1970 and apart from TV, he also made commendable appearances in films such as ‘Rentadick’ and ‘Three for All’. ‘Going straight’ was a spinoff of one of the most successful sitcoms of all times titled ‘Porridge’, in which Richard happened to have the lead role. He died tragically due to a heart attack in his early 30s. Post mortems showed that he had a terminal heart condition. He was father of Kate and Samantha Beckinsale, who became big actors later.
Childhood & Early Life
Richard Beckinsale was born in Nottinghamshire in England on 6th July 1947 to an average middle class family of Arthur Beckinsale and Maggie Barlow. His father was a legal executive, while his mother was a homemaker. Richard grew up in a fairly small house with a sister Judy and was keen on acting since his early days. He would practice famous movie lines in front of the mirror and his sister and as he grew up a bit more, his parents just knew that this kid was destined to become an actor, as his comic timing was exceptionally brilliant.
His love for acting and drama, somehow hampered with his academics and he became a below average student, eventually getting denied an admission in a grammar school. At the age of 9, he joined the drama classes of the school he was in, and in a retelling of ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’, he played the role of Dopey, one of the dwarfs. His performance was met with applause and Richard gained further confidence.
After that show, he continued with the school drama group and confronted his father about his career choice in the future. His father, being a very practical man, asked him to leave the ‘impossible’ dream of being an actor, and rather concentrate on the academics. Once he was out of the high school, he started doing odd jobs and paid himself for the night classes to study English and Arts. Clarendon College was the ideal spot for him to learn the basics of acting and he got himself admitted there. Richard also sang in the nightclubs at that time in order to earn some extra pocket money. But his career took a dramatic turn when he was accepted in the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts.
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At RADA, Richard became one of the most popular actors, mostly due to his impeccable comedy timing and he was strongly advised by the coaches and mates that he should drop that northern accent in case he wanted to succeed as an actor. After spending sometime at RADA and learning the basic tricks of acting, Richard knew it was the time to go out into the field and start working if he wanted to survive and in the year 1968, he made the hard choice of leaving RADA, in search of better work opportunities.
He knew where all the acting school graduates went for work, he made a move to Crewe and joined the Repertory theatre there and started working in their productions, making minimal money. He continued auditioning during this time and even though he wanted to work in the films, he thought starting from TV was the best course of action and rightly so, in 1969, he got his very first acting role for the TV series ‘Coronation Street’, where he played the role of a cop.
A year later, his very first lead role came his way in form of ‘The Lovers’, where he played a young lover named Geoffrey. Although the show wasn’t a mammoth success, what it did was, it brought Richard and other stars in the public’s eyes and Richard’s comic timing resonated with the audiences very well. Like most sitcoms at that time, ‘The Lovers’ was also converted into a movie later.
He then was seen in ‘Rising Damp’ in the early 70’s, a sitcom which would change his life and career. It was considered as the best English sitcom of its time and along with that, he was also starring in another sitcom ‘Porridge’, a comedy series where he was playing a prisoner. Richard was living the dream as both the sitcoms were highly popular and Richard’s acting abilities were becoming apparent to a larger audience. His film roles in the following years include ‘Rentadick’ in 1972 and ‘Three for All’ in 1975. Richard was in the most comfortable state of his career during the mid 70’s as more offers were raining in and he was appearing in many more TV shows in small roles.
However, 1977 brought bad news for Richard as both of his most successful shows ‘Porridge’ and ‘Rising Damp’ saw him quitting. And although there was no dearth of film or TV roles, Richard found himself trying very hard to repeat the success of the two sitcoms, but he couldn’t. But somehow, he starred in ‘Going Straight’, which happened to be a spin off series for ‘Porridge’, the success wasn’t the same, but Richard, like always, was successful in generating laughs from the audiences.
In 1997, Richard also worked in the radio comedy series titled ‘Albert and Me’ and the film based on sitcom ‘Porridge’ was his very last project in that year, as a tragedy was awaiting the Beckinsale family.
Death & Legacy
Richard Beckinsale was shooting a BBC sitcom named ‘Bloomers’, when he first found out that something was wrong with his body. He had checkups done but the doctors found nothing wrong and told him to eat a bit better and workout. He started getting sicker and even collapsed on the sets quite a few times. On 19th March 1979, Richard finally succumbed to a massive heart attack, causing his sad untimely demise. The subsequent post mortem report suggested that he had congenital heart failure and he could have been cured if the diagnosis had been done with extreme precaution and attention to detail.
Richard married Margaret Bradley at a very early age of 18, and the couple gave birth to a daughter named Samantha, who later became an actress. Samantha went on to live with her mother when Richard divorced her in 1974. Richard met Judy Law, while studying at RADA and the couple fell immediately in love, and got married in 1977. Before that, they already had a daughter named Kate Beckinsale, who happens to be one of the most successful British actresses of present times.
In the year 2000, a documentary was made on Richard Beckinsale titled ‘The Unforgettable Richard Beckinsale’. The film features all the close friends and family members of Richard talking about his life and journey. Richard was a happy man and kept everybody around him happy as well. When he started getting sick, he joked about dying and never took life very seriously.