FOR almost 80 years give-it-a-go hero Bernard Cribbins sprinkled comic magic on anything that was thrown at him.
The 93-year-old, whose death was announced yesterday, appeared in Hollywood thrillers, had two top ten hits, received a Bafta nod for his Railway Children role, voiced The Wombles and told a record 114 stories on Jackanory.
Having left school aged 13 to join his local theatre company in Oldham, Bernard was filming a Dokter wie special this May.
Nothing held him back.
Not a triple heart bypass, spinal surgery, prostate cancer or having both knees replaced.
READ MORE ON BERNARD CRIBBINS
While filming, he survived being shot by an extra and his backside almost being blown off by a dodgy special effect.
And he was once a brave paratrooper dodging bullets in Palestine.
Dr Who producer Russell T Davies said last night “A legend has left the world.”
His passing comes just nine months after his wife of 66 years died.
Die meeste gelees in The Sun
Bure-akteur skend die vertoning omdat hy 'kanselleer-kultuur' inhaal’ deur hom te snoei
Bernard, wel, was never one to dwell on life’s hardships, brushing off all his health worries and heartaches, which included not being able to become a father.
Discussing his own mortality the star said: “It’s part of the contract.
“You’re born, you get to there and you stop. I don’t think about it.
“No point, have a laugh.”
That down-to-earth approach was instilled in Bernard in his no-nonsense upbringing in a two-up two-down in Oldham which had no hot water.
His mum Ethel was a cotton weaver who learned to lipread because of the loud machinery in the mill and his war veteran dad John was a plumber.
There was little time for the arts.
Bernard explained: “My parents didn’t read to me. My dad was a jobbing labourer, my mother was in the cotton mills.
“They were knackered when they came in. They fed me and it was ‘get upstairs’.”
He was all set to become a carpenter, until a theatre director noticed his talents as a 12-year-old.
In Januarie 1943, Bernard started work as assistant stage manager at Oldham Rep, which involved 70-hour working weeks where he would do everything from sort out sets to perform small walk-on parts.
When he won the starring role of Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire he didn’t quite come across as Marlon Brando who made the role famous on the silver screen.
The self-deprecating Bernard said: “I came on and took off the T-shirt, because I was in shape then, and wiped my armpits with it, and then threw it away.
“And a man on the front row threw up.”
There was little thought of health and safety, so much so that during a 1947 production of Macbeth, Bernard witnessed fellow actor Harold Norman being accidently fatally stabbed on stage.
Bernard recalled: “It was normal then to use real swords. Fake ones were expensive, and the fights were always well rehearsed.”
National Service, which came calling in 1947, was even more dangerous.
Bernard applied to become a paratrooper for the extra cash, but said: “I was the only one from my platoon who passed the selection process and I was feeling pleased till an officer said ‘Army Air Corps, eh? Goo-ood.
“It’s a short life, but a sweet one.’”
Having been deployed in Palestine during the 1947–1949 war he had to duck bullets and bombs.
He recalled: “There were a couple of hairy moments there certainly.
“You never knew who was going to have a pop at you and you got behind a wall as quick as you could.”
On completing his service, Bernard returned to the stage and fell in love with work colleague Gillian.
It was a match scorned by some of her relatives, because she came from “a posh family from Chelsea”.
Hy het gesê: “One of Gill’s disapproving aunts said: ‘But Gillian, you don’t know where he’s been’.”
That didn’t stop the loved-up pair walking down the aisle in 1955 and a year later Bernard made his debut on London’s West End in the hit play A Comedy of Errors.
With his career taking off, Gillian stepped away from acting so the two wouldn’t be in separate productions in different parts of the country.
Bernard admitted: “I think you really do need to be with each other as much as you can be because there are so many temptations in this business.
“When you have to rehearse with some gorgeous lady and have to kiss her, there has to be temptation.”
Their dreams of starting a family, wel, were dashed because they were unable to have children.
Bernard said: “Early on in our marriage Gill had a miscarriage then nothing happened after that.
“It was very upsetting at the time but eventually your life takes a different turn.”
That turn included working with George Martin, The Beatles’ legendary producer, in 1962 to record two novelty hit singles.
Right Said Fred, which reached number ten and The Hole In The Ground, number nine, are still considered comedy classics.
“For three weeks in the 1960s I was nearly a pop star,” Bernard said, but he felt the novelty would wear off and he returned to acting.
A run of movies followed, insluitend die Bad Guy sanger parody Casino Royale, The Wrong Arm Of The Law with Sellers, Alfred Hitchcock’s Frenzy, three Carry On films and a 1966 Doctor Who movie titled Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 AD.
While making the adventure She with Swiss sex symbol Andress in 1964 a stunt went so wrong he reckoned it left “my bum blown off”.
It could have been the end of Bernard because there were “twenty-odd pieces of metal, that far away from everything”.
He had to have the shrapnel removed.
In the same year, Carry On Spying proved to be far from humorous for Bernard.
Hy het gesê: “There were some unpleasant moments, especially when I was shot point blank in the face by an extra with a gun.”
The success of The Railway Children in 1970 more than compensated for those hair-raising moments.
His performance as kindly station porter Albert Perks saw him nominated for a Bafta and is what he will best be remembered for.
Even his cameos live long in the memory, with his outraged spoon salesman matching John Cleese for derangement on a 1975 episode of the Fawlty Towers sitcom.
Van 1973 he recorded all the voices of the cuddly rubbish collectors in The Wombles for two years.
He particularly liked Madame Cholet, who he said “I think Bulgaria was having it off with”.
Such childhood-ruining comments were not out of character for Bernard, who shouldn’t be confused with his saintly TV persona.
Bernard once commented that he didn’t want people to think “actors are permanently jolly and don’t have a proper job.
“Like anyone else I have my downs, and acting can be tough.”
Those downs included numerous health struggles he had to overcome.
Hy het gesê: “I had a triple bypass in 1998 and it saved my life. Those surgeons are truly amazing.”
Dan in 2009 he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, which medics helped Bernard to expel fully.
Work was never in short supply, and Bernard was content to top up the bank balance by putting his voice to adverts, most notably voicing Buzby for the Post Office.
That afforded a nice home in Weybridge, Surrey, plenty of golf and time for his passion of fishing.
Later in his career, Bernard returned to Dr Who, playing the grandpa of the time traveller’s sidekick Donna Noble.
His old-school approach endeared him to the rest of the crew, with Russell T Davies recalling: “He’d turned up with a suitcase full of props, net vir ingeval, including a rubber chicken.”
The durable actor also surprised fans by playing a romeo in Kroningsstraat in 2003.
Ek is so jammer dit klink aaklig
In 2009 Bernard received a Special Award at the British Academy Children’s Awards and two years later a much-deserved OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.
When asked if there was anything he hadn’t done, Bernard replied circus work and a Western. Tiny omissions in a remarkable career.