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The Times (08/Aug/2006) - Obituary: Patrick Allen

(c) The Times (08/Aug/2006)

Patrick Allen (March 17, 1927 - July 28, 2006)

Actor who specialised in authoritarian film and TV characters and attracted a youthful following late in his career

Patrick Allen was a square-jawed actor who specialised in authoritarian figures in a string of films and television series and was a master of the commanding voiceover. He featured on Frankie Goes to Hollywood's No 1 hit single Two Tribes, and recently found a youthful following working with the comic Vic Reeves and on E4.

John Keith Patrick Allen was born in 1927 in Nyasaland (now Malawi), where his father was a tobacco farmer. After his parents returned to Britain he was evacuated to Canada during the war and stayed on to finish his schooling.

He spent two years studying medicine at McGill University, but a skiing accident interrupted his studies.

He found himself spending more and more time broadcasting on the university radio. This led to work as a narrator for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and he decided to become an actor. He went to Hollywood, where he had several bit parts before landing his first big film, Alfred Hitchcock's version of Frederick Knott's Dial M for Murder (1954), in which he played a police detective.

He came back to Britain in the late 1950s and joined the Shakespeare Memorial Company at Stratford-upon-Avon. He married the actress Sarah Lawson and they worked together on stage several times at Stratford and later appeared as a married couple in the science-fiction horror film Night of the Big Heat (1967) with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. Allen then starred in the BBC radio series Inspector West, based on the John Creasey books. The series, which ran until 1971, featured Lawson as Roger West's wife, Janet.

Earlier, while playing Achilles in Troilus and Cressida at Stratford, Allen landed the role of the eponymous Richard Crane in the Associated Redifusion television series. For 39 episodes, running from 1963 to 1965, Allen played the businessman who escaped the London rat race to run a bar in Casablanca, complete with an exotic helper, Halima, played by Laya Raki, and his partner in export/import/smuggling business, Orlando (Sam Kydd).

He later recalled that filming the series in Morocco was one of his happiest working experiences. Despite some tough action sequences, he avoided injury, until a bar stool was accidentally knocked over on the night before he was to return to Britain, breaking his toe.

In the 1950s and 1960s, he appeared in a handful of films, including I Was Monty's Double (1958), with John Mills, Leslie Philips and Marius Goring; Tread Softly Stranger (1959), a melodrama with George Baker and Diana Dors; and When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (1969). He also appeared in episodes of Dixon of Dock Green, The Avengers and The Saint.

During the 1970s he was in a series of television adverts for Barratt Homes, in which he would be seen apparently dropping into new housing developments by helicopter. He also narrated the Government's Protect and Survive instructional videos, including two telling people what to do in the event of nuclear fallout.

To further his voiceover work he also set up and ran a recording studio as well as a video post-production house. His films at this time included Puppet on a Chain (1970), starring Sven Bertil Taube and Barbara Parkins, in which he played a Dutch police inspector, and the Africa mercenary adventure The Wild Geese (1978) with Richard Burton, Stewart Granger, Roger Moore and Richard Harris. Two years later he appeared with Moore again, as well as Gregory Peck, Trevor Howard and David Niven, in The Sea Wolves, a wartime adventure set in India.

In 1984 he re-recorded a few lines from his nuclear-fallout warning videos for the Frankie Goes to Hollywood antiwar anthem Two Tribes, which spent several weeks at No 1.

He was the narrator on the first TV series of Blackadder in 1983 and appeared in the last episode of the final series, Blackadder Goes Forth. His youthful following continued with Vic Reeves and also with irreverent voiceovers for E4 promotions.

For 14 years he was the compère of Advent in Knightsbridge, a carol concert in West London.

Off screen Allen was a complete contrast to the gruff military characters he often portrayed, being a soft and gentle man whose great love was fishing and the solitude and calm that it brought.

He is survived by his wife and two sons.

Patrick Allen, actor, was born on March 17, 1927. He died on July 28, 2006, aged 79.