Frank Thornton (January 15, 1921 - March 16, 2013) was an English actor who is best known for playing Captain Peacock in Are You Being Served? and its sequel Grace & Favour' (Are You Being Served Again) and as Truly in Last of the Summer Wine.


Early lifeEdit

Frank Thornton Ball (he would later drop his surname professionally) was born in Dulwich, London, the son of Rosina Mary (née Thornton) and William Ernest Ball.[1] He wanted to act from an early age, but his father, who worked in a bank, wanted him to get a 'proper' job and so he got a job working in insurance after leaving[2] Alleyn's School. He soon enrolled at a small acting school, the London School of Dramatic Art, and did evening classes. After two years working at the insurance company, Frank Thornton was invited to become a day student at the acting school and persuaded his father to finance his studies.[2]

During the Second World War Thornton was evacuated along with the drama school and his first job was touring with four plays in Ireland.[2] On 5 June 1945, he married actress Beryl Jane Margaret Evans[2] in West Wickham, London and they had a daughter, Jane. He did his war service as an officer in the Royal Air Force and was demobilised in 1947.[2] Almost immediately after, Thornton joined a rep company. His first credited role was in the 1954 film Radio Cab Murder.


After working on stage and in films during the 1950s, Thornton became a familiar face on British television, specialising in comedy. He was a regular on It's a Square World, and appeared in classic British sitcoms such as Hancock, Sykes, The Goodies and Love Thy Neighbour. He also appeared in the Danger Man episode "The Assassin" as Pepe in 1961.

He appeared alongside Benny Hill, Frankie Howerd, Harry Worth, Reg Varney and Spike Milligan in their comedy shows. He appeared in five episodes of Steptoe and Son during its original run from 1962 to 1965, and in 1973 appeared in the film Steptoe and Son Ride Again and that year's television Christmas special, the most recurring actor in the series other than the main stars Wilfrid Brambell and Harry H. Corbett. In 1974 he made a rare appearance in television drama, as Prince Albert in the second episode of Fall of Eagles. From 1966-68, he starred in the BBC radio comedy The Embassy Lark, a spin-off of The Navy Lark.

He continued to appear in films, mostly comedies, during the 1960s and 1970s, including Carry On Screaming!, alongside Steptoe and Son star Harry H. Corbett The Early Bird, The Bed Sitting Room, Up the Chastity Belt, Some Will, Some Won't alongside Thora Hird, Wilfrid Brambell and Ronnie Corbett and No Sex Please, We're British, as well as TV sitcom spin-off films. He also appeared, albeit uncredited in the 1970 film The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes as the one-armed doorman for the Diogenes Club.

Thornton is best known for playing Captain Peacock in the long-running BBC comedy series Are You Being Served? from 1972–85, and he later reprised his role for Grace & Favour from 1992-93. In 1984 he starred as Sir John Treymane in the hit London musical Me and My Girl earning rave reviews and an Olivier Award nomination.

In 1980, he joined John Cleese in the BBC Television Shakespeare production of The Taming of the Shrew. In 1997 he took the role of Herbert 'Truly' Truelove in Last of the Summer Wine, replacing Brian Wilde who had suggested him for the role. He remained with the show until its final episode in 2010. He can also be seen in the film Gosford Park (2001) as Mr. Burkett.

Following the death of Trevor Bannister on 14 April 2011, Thornton was one of the two last surviving members (the other being Nicholas Smith) of the original cast of Are You Being Served?.[3] [4]


External linksEdit

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