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Edward Evans obituary

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2002-01-12 Times.jpg


Edward Evans, actor, was born on June 4, 1914. He died at Longsdon, Staffordshire, on December 20, 2001, aged 87.

Widely experienced stage and screen actor, best remembered for his role in The Grove Family

Edward Evans was an early example of a little-known actor swept suddenly to national prominence by a popular television series and unable subsequently to maintain his success. His claim to fame is nonetheless substantial: from 1954 to 1957 he played the pivotal character of Bob Grove in The Grove Family, television's first adult soap opera.

Devised and written by Michael Pertwee in collaboration with his father Roland, the show was built round a lower-middle-class suburban family headed by Evans's jovial jobbing builder and his wife, played by Ruth Dunning. Completing the regular cast were their four children and a crotchety grandmother.

At its peak The Grove Family, which went out live on Friday evenings, was watched by a quarter of the British population and was the second most popular television programme after Wilfred Pickles's request show Ask Pickles. Among its admirers was Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, who visited the studios and declared that the family was "so English, so real".

Many viewers believed that the Groves were real people, and the BBC received letters asking if Bob Grove could give estimates for building jobs. By later standards the plotlines were cosy and low-key, with audiences hooked on such posers as whether Dad would be able to give up smoking.

Despite the popularity of the series the BBC was not a generous employer. Evans recalled that pay levels were a constant source of discontent. He started at Pounds 25 a week and when the series ended this had gone up only to Pounds 40. When the BBC proposed extending the show to five days a week, with a Sunday omnibus edition, it offered the actors an extra Pounds 10. When they said they expected more -Evans thought Pounds 200 would have been fairer -the idea was dropped.

When the series came to a perhaps premature end, after a change of writers and a new slot but still with a large fol-lowing, Evans, like many a soap star after him, was left to ponder the hazards of typecasting. He appeared in several episodes of a later BBC soap, Compact, set in a women's magazine office, but it was some years before he had an-other high-profile part, as Lionel Petty, owner of the corner shop in Coronation Street.

A former sergeant-major, Petty had been persuaded to buy the shop by his daughter, Sandra, so that she could further her amorous pursuit of Dennis Tanner. Evans was with the series for eight months during 1965 and 1966, but Petty's determination to run the shop on military lines did not endear him to the locals and few mourned the character's departure for Wales.

Although born in London, Evans came from a Welsh theatrical family. His father, Alfred Evans, was a comedian, and his mother was a singer under the name of Edith Earle.

Even so, Evans had to overcome parental opposition to become an actor, which he did after trying various office jobs. Before the war he did stunts and worked as an extra in Knight without Armour (with Marlene Dietrich) and Goodbye Mr Chips.

During the Second World War he served with the Army in Italy and North Africa and rose to captain. He resumed his acting career in 1946 in The Doctor's Dilemma, gaining experience in repertory far and wide. In his 60 years on the stage he probably played in almost every theatre in the country, in everything from Romeo and Restoration comedy to Ibsen and Rattigan, Little Foxes and Under Milk Wood.

He made his television debut in an Emlyn Williams play, and between 1957 and 1961 he appeared in some sixty tele-vision productions. He also worked in radio, and made television commercials such as one for Bisto, which funded his first car.

In the cinema he was often cast as a policeman, perhaps most effectively as the detective investigating the Christie murders in 10 Rillington Place. Among many other films, he appeared in The Devil's Disciple (with Laurence Olivier), Grand National Night, The Trials of Oscar Wilde and One More Time (with Sammy Davis Jr).

His later television work included supporting parts in Poldark, Dr Who and George and Mildred, and he played three different characters, albeit minor ones, in Dad's Army. He continued to act until past his 80th birthday.

In 1991 the BBC recreated the Groves, mixing new material with 1950s footage, as part of an evening of programmes in tribute to Lime Grove Studios (after which the series was named). Leslie Grantham, formerly of EastEnders, played Bob, adopting Evans's moustache for the role.

Evans's wife, Pauline, died in 1980 and he is survived by their two daughters.

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  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Edward Evans obituary | url= | work=The Times | pages= | date=2002-01-12 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=23 July 2021 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Edward Evans obituary | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=23 July 2021}}</ref>