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Gerald Campion (The Stage)

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2002-07-25 Stage.jpg

  • Publication: The Stage
  • Date: 2002-07-25
  • Author: Patrick Newley
  • Page: 13
  • Language: English
  • Notes: Campion appeared in Shada.

Gerald Campion, who died on July 9, aged 81, rocketed to fame in the fifties with his classic portrayal of the cake-munching Billy Bunter in the TV show of the same name. The BBC series ran for 120 episodes from 1953 until 1961. Campion was a 29-year-old father of two when he took on the role and was nearly 40 when he finished.

He was an unlikely choice for Bunter since he was not particularly fat. He was 50 Sins tall, weighed 1 1st and had recently been on a diet. Producer Joy Harrington had held a long audition process to no avail — until she saw Campion. She said: "I tookone look and realised he had Bunter's face."

Campion was a revelation in the role, dressed in loud check trousers and bow tie. His cries of "Oh crikey!" and "'Yazoo!" became national catchphrases but fame brought its drawbacks. "I had to open fetes and pie factories," the actor complained. "Sweet shops were the worst. Blokes would manhandle their kids round to face me in the middle of the shop; point to me and shout: 'There you are son — look, that's Billy Bunter."'

The show was performed live in front of a studio audience and he did each one twice, giving a repeat for evening viewers two hours later.

The day after the first transmission, The Daily Sketch published a huge photo of Campion with a headline reading "Dull, Dated, Boring" but the next day the newspaper was deluged with complaints from parents of children who had loved it and the Sketch printed them all.

Campion was born in London on April 23, 1921. One of his godparents was the actor Gerald Du Maurier. At 15 he trained at RADA and during the Second World War he served as a wireless operator in the RAF.

At the same time as he was playing Bunter, Campion was running The Buckstone, a theatrical club opposite the Haymarket Theatre. In 1956 he opened The Key Club near the London Palladium and, finally, Gerry's in Shaftesbury Avenue, which was to become one of London's most famous meeting places for actors,

"I'd run the club from 6pm till two in the morning — cooking, serving drinks, clearing up — then by eight I'd be at Lime Grove for Bunter." He admitted, that he needed amphetamines to sustain him through such a punishing schedule. Among his clubs' many members were Michael Caine, Keith Waterhouse and Tony Hancock but it was Campion who was the main attraction. A genial host, he was renowned for his anecdotes, gossip and wicked humour.

Although his creation of Bunter overshadowed his other roles, he Made a number of Other film and television appearances. He was in The Pickwick Papers (1952) and bad small parts in Half a Sixpence (1967) and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968). On television he was seen in bender, Dr Who, The World of Beachcomber, Sherlock Holmes and be was Mr Raymond in Great Expectations.

In later life he became a notable restaurateur running a series of award-winning establishments in London and Kent. "I suppose it's fitting that a man who played Billy Bunter should end up in the Good Food. Guide," he reflected.

Last year an 80th birthday party had been planned for him in London but be had undergone heart surgery and was too ill to make the journey from the South of France, where he lived with his second wife, Susan, to whom he was married for 40 years. She, and three children from his first marriage, survive him.

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  • APA 6th ed.: Newley, Patrick (2002-07-25). Gerald Campion (The Stage). The Stage p. 13.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Newley, Patrick. "Gerald Campion (The Stage)." The Stage [add city] 2002-07-25, 13. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Newley, Patrick. "Gerald Campion (The Stage)." The Stage, edition, sec., 2002-07-25
  • Turabian: Newley, Patrick. "Gerald Campion (The Stage)." The Stage, 2002-07-25, section, 13 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Gerald Campion (The Stage) | url= | work=The Stage | pages=13 | date=2002-07-25 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=31 March 2023 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Gerald Campion (The Stage) | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=31 March 2023}}</ref>