Tom Adams made his bid for cinema stardom in the mid 1960’s with his performance as Charles Vine, spy in “”Licensed to Kill” and “Where the Bullets Fly””, He gave terrific performances in both movies. He was born in London in 1938. He began his career on television in “Emergency Ward Ten”. He died in 2014.
His “Guardian” obituary
The tall frame and dark good looks of the actor Tom Adams, who has died of cancer aged 76, made him a natural for casting directors. He will be best remembered on the big screen for his role as Dai Nimmo, the RAF officer in charge of “diversions”, in the 1963 prisoner-of-war drama The Great Escape, alongsideRichard Attenborough, James Garner and the rising star Steve McQueen. The money he earned from the classic movie enabled Adams to buy his first car after years of earning a pittance on stage and teaching English and drama at a London school.
“It was a lovely summer,” Adams recalled of filming in Germany, talking to the journalist Sinclair McKay last year. “I had a hell of a time.” It also gave him an insight into the power of stardom. “Whatever it was about Steve McQueen … I couldn’t put my finger on it,” he said. “There he was, about 5ft 7in, skinny, but on nights out in Munich, if he walked into the bar, the women – whoomph! – would be around him.”
Television producers spotted Adams and cast him in the hospital soap opera Emergency – Ward 10. He spent six months of 1964 as one of its long list of heart-throbs, the senior registrar Guy Marshall, whose storylines included examining a young woman who had fallen from a window while cleaning. The ITV mogul Lew Grade axed the serial in 1967, but later said it was one of his biggest mistakes. Five years later, he found a replacement with General Hospital and Adams joined it as Dr Guy Wallman (1975-78) when it moved from an afternoon to a peak-time slot.
In the meantime he had played Major Sullivan (1973-75) in the BBC counter-espionage drama Spy Trap. Adams was in it from the second series, replacing the government intelligence service’s agent Commander Anderson (played by Julian Glover), whose job was to track down “subversives”. Then came a leading role in an established series, The Onedin Line, the late-19th-century saga starring Peter Gilmore. In 1977, Adams took over from Michael Billington as Daniel Fogarty, a rival ship’s captain whose affair with Onedin’s spoiled sister, Elizabeth, produced an illegitimate son, William. At the end of Adams’s first series, Fogarty returns from Australia a rich man and marries Elizabeth. Later, he becomes an MP, then British ambassador to Turkey, but comes a cropper in the final series, screened in 1980, drowning when his ship is sunk. Adams followed The Onedin Line with the star role in The Enigma Files (1980), as Detective Chief Inspector Nick Lewis, who is transferred to a desk job and stirs up a hornets’ nest when he investigates unsolved cases. It failed to get a second series.
Son of David, a commercial chauffeur, and Lillian (nee Bennett), he was born Anthony Adams in Poplar, east London, and later took Tom Adams as a stage name. After national service in the army, he joined the leftwing UnityTheatre, in London, then worked with repertory companies. In between jobs, he taught at Cardinal Griffin secondary modern school, Poplar.
After his run in Emergency – Ward 10, Adams starred as the mathematician turned secret agent Charles Vine in the low-budget James Bond film spoof Licensed to Kill (1965), described as “bargain basement” 007 by one critic. However, it was popular enough for him to reprise the role in Where the Bullets Fly (1966) and Somebody’s Stolen Our Russian Spy (1967). Adams played a psychotic killer, complete with false teeth, in the horror film The House that Dripped Blood (1971) and starred as the brutal mastermind behind a bank robbery in The Fast Kill (1972).
His other TV roles included Commander Vorshak, leader of Sea Base 4, in the 1984 Doctor Who story Warriors of the Deep, Ken Stevenson in Strike It Rich! (1986-87), a drama about news agency shareholders receiving a windfall, and Malcolm Bates (on and off from 1987 until 1991), looking for a reconciliation with his estranged wife Caroline, in Emmerdale Farm (later Emmerdale).
When acting roles became fewer, Adams’s rich, velvety tones led him to commercials – in the 1980s and 90s, he was the “face” of the DFS furniture store and the “voice” of the TV channel E4. He enjoyed playing golf and watching cricket, and was the author of Shakespeare Was a Golfer (1996).
• Tom Adams (Anthony Frederick Charles Adams), actor, born 9 March 1938; died 11 December 2014
The above obituary can also be accessed online here.