by Darren Senior
Robbie The Robot
Frank Thornton (Frank Thornton Ball) b Dulwich, London 15/1/1921 d Barnes,London 16/3/2013
A popular and busy character actor since the fifties, London born and the son of Rosina Mary (nee’ Thornton), his grandfather on his mother’s side was from Brighouse in West Yorkshire and Thornton Square in the centre of town is named after him, (Frank confirmed this to the author), his father was William Ernest Ball. As a child Frank always wanted to act, however his father who had a position in a bank was against this and ensured that when his son left school, Frank had attended Alleyn’s School and gained a proper job in insurance. However Frank had other ideas and enrolled at the London School of Dramatic Art and attended classes in the evenings.
After two years at the insurance company, he was invited to be a day student and he persuaded his father to allow him leave his insurance job and finance his day studies in acting. When war broke out Frank was evacuated with the drama school to safer places within England. His first professional acting job was a tour in Ireland. In 1945 Frank married fellow actress Beryl Evans and the couple remain married today and have one son and three grandchildren. Frank went into the RAF in 1945 and completed two years National Service, leaving in 1947. On being demobbed Frank joined a local repertory company.
Frank, who was later to specialise in comedy made his screen debut in 1950 in BBC Sunday Night Theatre, and to date has notched up well over one hundred television and film contributions. Frank’s screen career was slow to develop and numerous small often uncredited roles followed. Until the late fifties when better roles started to come his way. In 1957 he starred as PC Cox in Dixon of Dock Green, later in 1959 he starred in a couple of episodes of William Tell, and he was cast in nine episodes of the drama series The Four Just Men as an auctioneer. Then in 1961 Frank played a character called Pepe in The Prisoner, later in the year he was a patient in the famous episode of Hancock called ‘The Blood Donor’.
By the early sixties he was a regular in some well remembered television series which included Hugh And I (1962), Benny Hill (1963) and in 1964 he was cast as Commander Fairweather in the comedy series HMS Paradise, he was to appear in twenty five episodes. In 1965 Frank played a bank official in the Peter Roger’s comedy film The Big Job. The following year Frank played Mr Jones in Carry On Screaming and this was to be his only contribution to the series, but he shares some funny scenes with Jim Dale and Harry H Corbett. Later appearances in the sixties included The Champions (1969), Crooks and Coronets (1969) and an uncredited role in The Magic Christian (1969) which starred Peter Sellers and Beatles drummer Ringo Starr.
The seventies proved to be the most productive time of his career he started by playing a character called Tom Stoddart in The Rise And Rise Of Michael Rimmer which starred Peter Cook. In 1971 he played the Master of Ceremonies in Up The Chastity Belt. A year later he starred in the film version of Bless This House as Mr Jones, then in 1972 he was a regular on The Reg Varney Revue. In 1973 he was cast as Mr Russell in the film version of Steptoe and Son Ride Again, Frank also was a regular in the series appearing in five episodes from 1962-73. Frank’s most memorable role from 1972 to 1985 was playing Captain Peacock in Are You Being Served, which also starred Wendy Richard, John Inman and Molly Sugden, he later returned as Captain Peacock in the spin off series called Grace and Favour which ran for two years from 1992.
Back in the seventies Frank also appeared in other shows such as The New Avengers (1976), The Goodies (1971-77) and in 1983 he starred in The Kenny Everett Show, Frank scaled down in the nineties and he was the subject of This Is Your Life in 1998, but since the turn of the century he has been seen in Gosford Park (2001), Holby City (2004) and since 1997 he has played Truly in Last Of The Summer Wine until the series finally ended in 2009. Frank died in his sleep at his Barnes home.
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Michael Sharvall-Martin (Michael Ernest Martin) b Herne Bay,Kent 2/2/1944 d Wincanton, Somerset 28/10/2010
Michael trained in stage management at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. His acting debut was in 1965 at the Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham. He adopted the stage name Michael Sharvell-Martin because there was already an actor called Michael Martin.
His television debut was not until 1970 when he appeared in an episode of Up Pompeii! With Frankie Howerd. From then he appeared regularly as a guest on numerous shows which included The Best Of Benny Hill (1974), Space 1999 (1976) and Dave Allen at Large (1971-79).In the early eighties Martin in best remembered for being a regular in three well known sitcoms or comedy shows; The Kenny Everett Show (1982-83), No Place Like Home (1983-84) and Terry and June (1980-85).
After the mid-eighties Martin’s concentrated more on theatre as he appeared in numerous comedy farces and pantomime roles. His last television appearance was in Doctors in 2005. Sadly in early 2010 he was diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus and died later in the year, he a window and two daughters.
Little is known about Arnold other than he was a dancer and choreographer and he was responsible for a number of songs on the show, he played Robbie the robot in the episode of the same name in Here Come The Double Deckers!