Sadly, this is getting all-too frequent these days. Most recently was the passing of Richard Briers and, now, the passing of the great Frank Thornton at age 92.
Known to us all as simply Captain Peacock and, more recently, Truly Truelove in Last of the Summer Wine, Frank Thornton rivaled Richard Briers for who had the lengthiest resume. Ranging from roles in two of the best examples of British comedy that made a successful jump across the pond, ‘Till Death Do Us Part and Steptoe and Son to the more recent Are You Being Served and Last of the Summer Wine, we found a couple of gems in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum where he was a Roman sentry opposite Zero Mostel, a police inspector in The Magic Christian and this classic clip with Frank as The Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz at the 1991 Children’s Royal Variety Performance, with none other than John Inman as the cowardly lion.
As with many of the British comedy icons that we have be so fortunate to spend time with over the last X number of years for our various PBS productions which started back in 2000 with our celebration of the life and career of Mollie Sugden as she turned 80, our time with Frank Thornton was something to remember for a lifetime. Our time with Frank continued through The Funny Ladies of British Comedy, The Funny Blokes of British Comedy and Fawlty Towers Revisited ending with our most recent efforts in Best of the Britcom: From Script to Screen in 2010.
Sitting on top of that hill in the picturesque town of Holmfirth in West Yorkshire where Last of the Summer Wine was filmed and freezing while interviewing Frank during a typical Yorkshire “summer” was a time that all of us will never forget.
Always the consummate professional, Frank never mentioned the cold we experienced during the Yorkshire ‘summer’, he endured the renegade motorcycle on top of the opposing hill that seemed to enjoy wreaking havoc on our audio engineer during the interview and then took us on a tour of the town and most of the filming locations for Last of the Summer Wine.
In a clip from the 2004 production of The Funny Blokes of British Comedy for PBS, Frank talks about his most famous character, Captain Peacock.
R.I.P., Frank. Thanks for all the laughter over the years and the years to come.