Bryan Marshall

Brian Marshall

Bryan Marshall obituary in “The Guardian” in 2011.

The actor Bryan Marshall, who has died aged 81, was a solid character actor who brought integrity and realism to the parts he played on screen in Britain throughout the 1960s and 70s. Many will remember him best for his pivotal role as the duplicitous Councillor Harris in the classic film The Long Good Friday (1979), which made a massive impact at the box office with its brutal tale of a London gangland boss, Harold Shand, played by Bob Hoskins, seeing his empire being threatened by rivals from the IRA.

The drama, written by Barrie Keeffe and directed by John Mackenzie, brilliantly captures the dreary London of the 70s as it approaches a new decade of aspiration and docklands regeneration. Shand sees the development opportunities and Harris is on his payroll. For much of the film, Marshall is a silent presence, but that changes when his character gets drunk at a dinner with potential American mafia investors.

Describing himself as a self-made man who rose from the gutter, he tries to sell the idea of developing “a magnificent, high in the sky hotel, something to be proud of”, but is too loud for their liking. When it emerges that he had a hand in the IRA’s attempt to take Shand’s empire, Harris ends up being shot and killed.

Earlier, Marshall had put himself on the radar of James Bond fans when he was seen in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) as Commander Talbot, captain of a British nuclear submarine captured by a supertanker. It brought another grisly end for the actor when Talbot was killed by a grenade while storming the ship’s control room after Roger Moore’s 007 freed him and his crew.

Marshall’s talent was largely lost to British film and TV producers and directors after he moved to Australia in 1983, although he made a few returns to his homeland and was seen in Australian soaps broadcast in Britain.Advertisement

He was born in Battersea, south London, and on leaving the local Salesian college went through jobs in an insurance office and as a sales rep while acting with amateur companies. His ambition to act full-time was realised after he trained at Rada (1961-63). He found work in repertory theatres before coming to the attention of a nationwide audience during a six-month run as the fictional Brentwich United’s awkward club captain Jack Birkett in the BBC football soap United!, from its first episode in 1965 until 1966.

Marshall returned to soap in 1971 with a one-off role in Coronation Street as Trevor Parkin, who attended a horticultural lecture given by Albert Tatlock and upstaged the host by showing greater knowledge of the subject. In between, on television he played Captain Dobbin in Vanity Fair (1967), Detective Sergeant Peach in Spindoe (1968), Gilbert Markham in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1968), Dr John Graham Bretton in Villette (1970) and Captain Wentworth in Persuasion (1971).

He showed that he could carry a drama himself when he starred in two 1972 Play for Today productions – as the striking Cornish clay miner Manuel Stocker in Stocker’s Copper and Bill Huntley in Better Than the Movies – as well as Commander Alan Glenn in the third series (1976) of Warship, the property developer Ray Campion in the thriller serial The Mourning Brooch (1979) and the air freight business’s chief pilot Tony Blair (before the future prime minister found fame) in Buccaneer (1980). He was back in soap as Clive Lawson for the first two runs (1974-75) of the afternoon serial Rooms, in which he and Sylvia Kay played the owners renting out bedsits in their London house.

Another pivotal role for Marshall came in the film Quatermass and the Pit (1967), a big-screen remake of the writer Nigel Kneale’s third sci-fi serial for TV about a scientist confronting alien forces. He played Potter, a bomb squad captain identifying an unexploded device unearthed during an archaeological dig as a German V-missile. It was his fourth appearance in a Hammer Films production. Earlier he was the Russian villager Vasily in Rasputin: The Mad Monk (1966), played Tom in The Witches (1966) and was Dominic in The Viking Queen (1967).

After moving to Australia in 1983, Marshall remained a prolific screen actor. Among many appearances in television dramas, he starred in Golden Pennies (1985) as a pioneering Englishman seeking his fortune in an 1850s gold-rush mining area, and played Duncan Stewart, Australian ambassador to a fictional south-east Asian country, in the first two series of Embassy (1990-91).

His soap roles included Piet Koonig in A Country Practice (1983), Dr Jonathan Edmonds in Prisoner (retitled Prisoner: Cell Block H in Britain, 1984), Gerard Singer in Neighbours (1987) and Ron Hawkins in The Flying Doctors (1988), and he took two parts in Home and Away – John Simpson (1998) and Trevor Bardwell (2003). In 1989 Marshall hosted the first series of Australia’s Most Wanted, featuring real-life unsolved crimes.

There were occasional returns to Britain for roles that included DSI Don Roberts in two 1997 episodes of Thief Takers and a vet with a drink problem in Heartbeat in 1998.

Marshall is survived by his wife, Vicki, and their three sons, Sean, Paul and Joshua.

• Bryan Marshall, actor, born 19 May 1938; died 25 June 2019Topics

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *