michael_gothard_archive: (Default)
A fan of Michael's, Belsizepark, had sent a card to M.T. at Shirlock Road to request a meet-up. As there was no response, she decided to leave a message at the house. It was 1st or 2nd July 1999, the weekend after what would have been Michael's 60th birthday.

“The door was open, and I saw a woman … a 'Phoebe Cates' type. When I entered the house I asked her if she was M.T., and then introduced myself.
Read more... )
michael_gothard_archive: (wild)
Angharad 24 was lucky enough to hear from Xavier, a friend of Michael’s, who got to know him pretty well during the late eighties.

Xavier and the others in his group – all now professional musicians – were about 20 years younger than Michael. Michael was very happy to find a younger generation so interested in jazz and blues, and they became friends. He seemed to enjoy the company of younger people, and they enjoyed his.

Michael was a really very nice bloke, who was generous and open most of the time. He was not at all egotistical; rather Xavier thought him self-effacing, and burdened by self-doubt, which probably had a detrimental effect on his career.

When they first met, Xavier had never heard of him, and was only told that he had been in films such as “For Your Eyes Only” and “The Devils” by the others. Michael never spoke much about his films, and didn’t name-drop, though he had acted with some of the best-known actors of the century. He did express frustration at being offered ‘hit-man’ roles, and hoped he would be given a chance to get out of them, but said, ‘nobody wanted me.’

Xavier felt sure that playing a part well meant more to Michael than money or fame.

He loved music and just wanted to learn more. He played saxophone and drums well, but even in music, Mike would have moments where he would say “Oh, I’m no good at this.” Xavier thought he was self-taught, because he would ask for help with reading difficult music.

The whole group loved “Some Like it Hot”, and Michael thought that Marilyn Monroe was a great actress.

He had around three different girlfriends in the years 1989 – 92. He said he wouldn’t have minded marriage but did not want children. Unfortunately, most of the girls he’d been with had wanted them. He liked children, but had no ‘paternal feelings.’

Once, a young female punk walked into the bar where they were meeting, and drank out of a bottle. Michael asked why women thought they had to dress up and behave like men to get liberated, and said these young women didn’t know they were born! His grandmother and mother had lived very hard lives, but they came through it and bettered themselves while retaining their femininity. “My mother always made sure that she dressed nicely and kept her appearance and femininity throughout” (or words to that effect). Nevertheless, Xavier thought Michael was definitely in favour of equality.

Michael had a fierce hatred of Thatcher. He was a champion of the working classes, and Xavier thinks he would have voted Labour.

Xavier and the others knew of Michael’s depression. He told them he could go for weeks on end just not wanting to join the rest of the world, and that at one time he’d had to drop out of a project in the early stages, because he just couldn’t force himself to go to the studio. He also said that making and listening to music soothed him.

Xavier was out of the country and hadn’t seen Michael for about a year when he heard of his death. The whole group were very upset.
michael_gothard_archive: (circa 1982)
Former girlfriend N.B. mentioned that during the time she was with him, 1984 - 87, Michael had jammed with fellow musicians, including Clive Bell.

In answer to my questions about these times, Clive had this to say:

"For about a year or so, Mike, myself, and a few others, used to meet for jam sessions, where we attempted to play jazz; it was very amateurish. We never played outside the
house.

Mike used to play the sax, and sometimes the flute, while I played the piano.

Later, Mike found other more experienced or professional musicians, and for a while even studied jazz with the bass player Peter Ind. But after our first brief moments we never played music together again, although we were friends, and remained so until his death."
michael_gothard_archive: (circa 1982)
N.B., a former girlfriend of Michael’s, was kind enough to talk to me, and answer some questions. Here is what she told me:

"I was amazed at hearing about your project. I am sure Michael would have been even more surprised to find people still honouring his work as an actor some twenty years later. He wouldn't feel he was worth the trouble."

Getting to know Michael

"I got to know Michael on a crisp spring Sunday morning in 1984 in the “Brasserie Dome”1 in Hampstead. He sat there having his cappuccino and reading the Sunday paper. I was having breakfast with a friend of mine. I was living in London as an au-pair, and so was my friend; we cherished our fee day away from the family where we lived and worked.

My friend knew Michael, because he had taken her out for dinner some weeks previously and she said hello to him across the tables. She pointed out who he was and I immediately recognised him thanks to his glasses. They were the ones he wore in the Bond film “For Your Eyes Only.”
Read more... )
michael_gothard_archive: (wild)
This interview appeared in ‘X’-Films Vol.3 No 1. 1973.1 While it is more accurate, and contains less that is as demonstrably fake than the ‘interview’ in the German teen magazine “Bravo”, it contains some sections which are certainly made up, and others which seem to have been taken down incorrectly or misunderstood. Also, some of the words Michael is said to have used, such as “helluva”, and “movies” are not – according to A.S., who knew him well – in his idiom. He always said "film" or "picture". He would not have said "unprofessional part", but would have used the correct term of "non-professional part", and he wouldn't have said "'cause"... he would have said “because.” Sections which should definitely be treated with scepticism are annotated.

Interview with Michael Gothard

Michael, how did you become interested in acting as a career?

I went to acting school, but before that I originally became involved because a friend was making an amateur movie, auditioning a lot of professional out-of-work actors and actresses. He couldn’t find exactly what he wanted and I happened to be at the audition, so just for a laugh I auditioned with them and got the part. It was a typical ham movie – boy and girl walking in the park, etc. I think the new wave was very popular at that time – about ten years ago. [1962]

How long have you been acting professionally?

About 8½ years. I went to a place called the Actors Workshop, which in those days was at Baker Street, being run by an American. It was quite a good scene. The first unprofessional part I played was the movie I told you about, which, like most weekend movies, didn’t get finished. Nevertheless, I got some encouragement from these people while I was working with them, so I thought perhaps I should take acting a bit more seriously. At first I thought it was just an interesting thing to do.

What were you doing before that?

I was living in Paris for about a year, just bumming around if you like, just drifting about … I came back to England and met up with these people … I just did it for a laugh – as I was doing many things for a laugh. It only became serious when people started paying me money to do it. After all, I’d been broke for a long, long time.

So you’re not working for the moment?

No. I’m not really looking for work ’cause I was away for six months working on the Arthur of the Britons series. I came back to find a lot of things in a mess, so I can’t really work at the moment anyway. I’ve got a few things to sort out.

What’s acting like in this country at the moment?

The scene here at the moment is very quiet, and has been so for about three years or so.

How are you regarded in the trade?

A lot of people tend to consider me in some way – a word they’re fond of using – established – which to me is a joke. By established they mean I earn a regular living. Well let me tell you, to get yourself in a position where you can be absolutely sure that you work a certain number of months a year is really a very unique position to be in. I found that word very funny. I think you’re really not qualified to use that word unless you’re right at the top – if you’re a Burton or a Taylor or something. The whole thing is such a precarious sort of set up and even more so now than even a few years ago – in England, anyway. The Americans withdrew their finance 3 or 4 years ago and the film industry in this country really took a dive. Suddenly all those fat, well-paid technicians who always had permanent work suddenly found themselves in the same positions as the actors and actresses. The point I’m trying to make is that the situation in this country is so bad now that the technicians, who for years had a really nice piece of the cake, are now confronted with exactly the same situation as we are. That’s how bad it’s got over here.

The section above probably includes misquotations. A.S. suspects that Michael’s criticisms were actually aimed at "the fat cats", as he really respected "the workers", (carpenters, sparks, extras etc), and would never have been so derogatory about technicians, but would have happily been derogatory about “the suits”: producers and studio executives.

And yet, strangely enough, I’ve worked pretty consistently during this time. At the time of the boom – about six or seven years ago – when I was in the early stages of my career, I just couldn’t break in at all. I spent nearly two years out of work, during which time I did all sorts of insane things. I mean, the first job I ever did for money was a film, a 2½ hour colour feature. [Herostratus] I played the lead in it and I was on the screen from start to finish, so you could say it was a big part. The film didn’t have any success. It was experimental, a very strange thing. It had many qualities about it which just didn’t seem right. I spent a long period out of work after that, so I really started with a great flourish.

It was a helluva way to enter into oblivion. I couldn’t get into TV, I couldn’t even get an audition for theatre. But eventually I broke through and got into TV. From then on it was all right. I’ve hardly stopped working since.

So how did it all start?

It sounds like such a cliché. I was walking down the King’s Road on a Saturday morning with some friends, something I very rarely do. We went somewhere for a coffee. I was with a young lady actress who was doing very well at the time. I was sitting at this table and suddenly a young guy came up to me and said, “That gentleman over there wants to talk to you. He’s Philip Saville.” I didn’t know who Philip Saville was, but it turned out he was a television director.

We went for a walk down the King’s Road, chatting away all the while and he told me about a film he was making. Apparently he wasn’t looking for actors and didn’t even know I was one, but said he was looking for a young guy to play a part in a short film he was making for TV. When he realised I was an actor, we arranged an appointment for the following day.

His office was somewhere in Shepherd’s Bush. After being out of work for two years I was very edgy and easily offendable – in as much as I was quick to take insult. Somehow we got into one of those strange interviews. He was really trying to audition me via an interview, asking me very personal questions. I got progressively more annoyed and pissed-off. I thought, ‘Here we go, another little power trip. He’s enjoying himself at the expense of another out-of-work actor.’ I’d been through that scene so many times I was really ready for battle and, well, we ended up having a flaming row – and that was that! I didn’t see him again for quite a long time and I didn’t – needless to say – get the part in that film. Then a few months later I got a phone call. It was Philip Saville.

He said he could use me for something on television with Yvonne Mitchell – a superb actress – and we ended up doing a show called The Machine Stops, which went on to win a prize in the International Festivals, and that’s more or less how I got in, how I started work again.

When I was out of work we started a lunchtime theatre group in St Martin’s Lane, in the West End. There was no money in that – we just hoped these weren’t too many in the audience, so there’d be some sandwiches left! Nevertheless, I had to stick at it, because two years out of work devastates you – you’ve go to keep your hand in. It doesn’t matter really what you do, the important thing is to work. That’s why I did a few horror films. I didn’t consider it a bum part, any more than any other part of the entertainment industry. So I tried to do that as capably as I would do anything else. I sweated over that to get it right, as I did in more serious projects, like The Devils, for instance.

Which did you prefer?

Well, the horror film was more fun – great fun, in fact – but in terms of deeper satisfaction obviously The Devils was better, but it was a much harder thing to do.

I didn’t audition for Scream & Scream Again – they asked me to be in it.

Why did they choose you?

God knows –I really can’t remember how it came about. Maybe they chose me because I was considered a new approach to the problem. The first thing that Vincent Price said to me was, “Your flies are undone.” I thought, ‘Oh, man, what a corny gag!’ They pull that on every inexperienced actor. So, that was the sole extent of my relationship with Vincent Price. The way the film was scheduled, I didn’t have to work with him. It was a very physical part, running up mountains, etc. I did most of the stunts myself. On Arthur of the Britons we did all the stunts ourselves – riding horses and fighting. It was quite a rough show. We used to take turns being in hospital. Really, we tried to schedule it so we weren’t both in at the same time. Oliver ended up with a fractured skull and was in twice for x-rays.

According to A.S., Michael moaned a fair bit about being saddle-sore while filming “Arthur of the Britons”, but never injured himself.

Strange, that I get given all these wild, extrovert parts. The part in Arthur is of a crazy, wild guy – a Saxon – who’s sometimes melancholy, sometimes explosive and violent. I play quite a few parts like that. I suppose it coincides with my natural temperament. I try not to be temperamental as an actor, but it does happen. I’ve played such a wide variety of parts.

I remember Saville with affection, because it was through him I got into this work again (I was absolutely flat broke). When I completed that show I didn’t have a penny. Normally it takes quite a few weeks before you get paid. Anyway, the night we finished recording I went into my dressing room and there was an envelope with money in it. He knew I was broke and without saying anything he arranged for me to be paid that night – as soon as I was finished. But he was a fiery bastard to work with. He shouts, screams and curses, but he’s great – tremendous energy and enthusiasm. I haven’t worked with him for many years, but I remember him as I said, with great affection. It was my big break.

You were waiting for the big break?

No, I don’t think in those terms. For me, when I work, it’s just a job, and I want to be paid for it. I don’t want promises – “This is going to bring you more work; this is going to make your career” – I’m just not interested. I’m not working for that at all. I’m working to earn a living. I enjoy it, sure I do. I’m like a man who does a job and who expects to be paid a certain rate for it. I’m not interested in promises of a great future glory. I’ve hard all that crap for years. It really doesn’t impress me very much. The only thing that impresses me is when the cheque comes in.

But you enjoy acting?

It’s a helluva profession. There are lots of good moments in it. But it’s also a very savage scene. Actors are very vulnerable. They are the most vulnerable in the whole business. For a lot of people, it’s hopeless being an actor, but not really for me. I know what it’s like to feel hopeless. There’s no guarantee. When they talk about ‘being established’ – what the hell does that mean?

But you feel a bit more secure now?

At the moment. I suppose I’ve got an image for the kids. And, judging by some of the letters we get, we’ve made some impression on the emotional life of some of the young ladies of this country! I get funny letters like “You have the most ugly beautiful face I have ever seen” or “My friends think Arthur is prettier than you, but I prefer the way you walk.”

That show was the one I got the most public notice from. I also did another TV series five years ago, called “The Three Musketeers” [The Further Adventures of the Musketeers]. I was playing the villain in that, but I used to get more fan mail than the bloody hero! So, I had an image then, but I don’t know what it was. It just depends how much you’re in the public notice.

But what about “The Devils”?

Well, I get the impression that it’s helped my reputation in the business. It was, after all, a very celebrated film. For me, it was well publicised. I got 3rd or 4th billing. I did all sorts of things in the movie – tortured Oliver Reed, ended up burning him alive and chanting Latin prayer at him. It was an exhausting film – I enjoyed doing it. The Devils was more a mental pressure, by comparison.

For the last two months of Arthur we were knee-deep in snow and rain, so physically it was a much harder part. But Russell was a very exacting man to work for – everyone jumps around. It really challenges you. You’ve really got to get yourself together and concentrate. It’s good. You really feel you’ve accomplished something. That separates the amateurs from the professionals. There’s a lot of amateurs in the business who have no right to be there, but who get away with it – people who have never really studied, who approach it in a very casual sort of way, who take up space. When you work for Russell, you feel good, ’cause you know you’re being used as a professional.

At no point in “Arthur of the Britons” does a snow scene appear. Michael may have said “mud”, because there was plenty of that.

What less challenging roles have you played?

Parts in Department S, Armchair Theatre, Thirty Minute Theatre, Out of the Unknown and Fraud Squad..

Tell me more about “The Devils.”

I played a priest on the 17th century, a fanatic. I had to speak Latin as naturally as I speak English. I had to really work on that. I spent some time in a monastery with some monks to get that whole atmosphere. I studied pages on Latin and exorcism prayers – terribly difficult things to learn. It was agony – you have to learn it like a priest would. I suggested it. Russell fixed it up for me to get into this monastery. He understands how actors work, he’s so professional. He’ll give you all the help you need. I used to get prayer books in the mail, which is incredible. Any success that man has, he deserves.

A.S. is doubtful of the monastery visit, as she thought he was a not a "method" actor. His attitude was, ‘you are an actor, so ACT! You don't need to experience it.’

Do you prefer films to TV roles?

I prefer movies. I don’t like the idea of repeating performances. You can’t compare twenty takes to doing performances every night. With a take, you can alter it. As far as I’m concerned, the more takes the better. I could go on until the sun sets. I find it a really incredible luxury.

Clearly, the question Michael is answering here is, “Do you prefer film or live theatre”, not “Do you prefer films to TV roles?” He said something similar about not repeating oneself to The Runewriter.

Tell me more about your fans.

I had a letter the other day that said, “I’m giving up David Bowie for you!” I thought, well that really must be progress. That’s not bad, is it!

Tell me about your other work.

I’ve done nude scenes. I was playing my usual wild-extrovert-killer-rapist-romantic. Raping one lady with a burning brand between my legs and being quite romantic. With another, I leap after someone with a dagger.

I did a French picture last year in New Guinea – La Valleé. I’d love to go to the States to work. I’d love someone to say, “Come over and do a picture.” That would be a lovely way to go. It’s a country that seems to be slowly torn apart by its internal problems. It’s really got to change course. I don’t think it would be easy to break in there.

What do you think about agents?

My first agent was a disaster – a bad experience. That gave me such a bad feeling about them. Two years without work. I got my own work without an agent, through Philip Saville. William Morris asked me to join them. That was the happy ending. They have a big legal department, so we try to keep the endings as happy as possible.

Do you have other interests besides acting?

Music. I play flute, jam around with other guys. I enjoy good food and travelling which is mostly in my job. I’ve worked in Czechoslovakia, France, Australia, and the New Guinea jungle for a few months.

Do you answer fan mail?

I’ve only answered two fan letters over the years. Sometimes you get one that is so very original that you feel it might just be worth an answer. We don’t usually get to see them.

According to A.S., Michael got to see most, if not all, of his fan mail, and answered it. He was lovely with fans, always giving autographs. He insisted that he only had work because of the people who wanted to see him. She remembers helping by writing out the envelopes in which he would send his replies, and signed photos.

1 The exact publication date is not known.
michael_gothard_archive: (wild)
Music was a huge and vital part of Michael’s life – both listening and playing, though as far as we know, he never performed live in public. He is seen playing a flute in “La Vallée”, but mainly he jammed with friends. Sections below contributed by A.S., the daughter of one of his close friends.

Listening

Michael liked classical music and some rock, but his first love was jazz. He loved big band music, and we often went to live performances at the Royal Albert Hall, Michael, my father and me. Particular favourites were Glen Miller, (American Patrol, In the Mood, Little Brown Jug), Benny Goodman (the eight-minute version of "Sing Sing Sing" was one of his favourites, as well as "Hey Pachuko"), and The Syd Lawrence Orchestra.

My father and Michael also loved nightclub jazz and improvised jazz, and one of their favourite haunts was Ronnie Scott’s. They often went up to London.

Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie would all be playing at our home, often seriously loud.

They also loved Astrid Gilberto’s stuff. Michael loved the saxophone bit in the middle of "Girl from Ipanema." I can just see Michael and my father playing along to this: piano, bongos.

Michael also liked “Take Five” by Dave Brubeck, and jazz such as Miles Davis and John Coltrane was often playing wherever Michael was.

A friend of Michael’s told him about this great jazz backing band, “The Blockheads”, and he took me to see Ian Dury & The Blockheads at the Hammersmith Odeon, 1978 or 1979. Michael agreed that they were amazing musicians.

Both Michael and my father liked Dudley Moore's music. He was a great pianist.

Some other vocalists and tracks he liked were Aretha Franklin (“I Say a Little Prayer”), Nina Simone, ("My Baby Just Cares For Me", and “Feelin’ Good”) Jose Feliciano (“Light My Fire”) and Marilyn Monroe (“Some Like it Hot”), and Joan Armitrading.

He loved most of Pink Floyd. "Dark Side of the Moon" – he would sometimes sit outside listening to it and enjoying a drink and a smoke.

I love Genesis. Michael viewed them with contempt, but he took me to see them at the Lyceum in the 1970s, and Wembley in 1985; I suspect he tossed a coin with my father, and lost.

He was determined to hate it, but Genesis developed a quite jazzy sound, especially in live instrumentals, and Michael really liked the live versions of “Los Endos”, the drum duets, “Mama" and "Abacab": he called it "modern improvised jazz".

Michael also took me to a 1977 Yes concert; I suspect that was another occasion when he lost a coin toss with my father. He put “Yawn” in the programme.

Both he and my father went to see The Who with me.

He didn’t generally like pop music, but he liked Elton John's very early albums: “Madman Across The Water" and "Tumbleweed Connection."

He loved Kate Bush’s work: he felt “Wuthering Heights” was so different, and ahead of its time.

He liked Supertramp’s "Even in the Quietest Moments" and “Give a Little Bit”, and “borrowed” my “Breakfast in America” LP and took it to his room in the family home. Woe betide me if I "borrowed" any of his music without asking, but he used to help himself to mine – despite moaning about what I listened to most of the time!

He loved Classical music as well. Some I remember listening to with him are Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor, Saint Saens’ Symphony No 3 in C Minor, Hayden’s Zadok the Priest, Vivaldi’s Coronation Anthem, and Widor’s Toccata (allegro).

My father was ahead of his time with technology, and introduced Michael to Bang and Olufsen's amazing sound systems; together they chose a fabulous one, which had speakers in virtually every downstairs room.

Although music was very important to him, Michael could find it distracting - especially MY music - if he was trying to concentrate. There were times when he would come flying upstairs and tell me to "turn it down, or put your headphones on!" I couldn't really complain, as Michael bought me a beautiful set of Bang & Olufsen headphones.

Playing

Michael would sometimes play duets with me on the piano, to encourage me to practice. He was a good percussionist. My father had a great set of bongos, which Michael always grabbed when parties were in full swing! I think he may have played the clarinet too, and he played the saxophone later on. I remember him playing “Take Five” on the saxophone. He would get frustrated, and say he was no good, when he clearly was. I thought he was very good at all the instruments he played.

My paternal grandparents had a big old semi-detached house with huge rooms, and loads of space. Michael called them Auntie E. and Uncle G. They thought the world of Michael, and loved seeing him. They were very into music and had an old fashioned pianola which I loved. My grandmother could only play one song, and would proudly sing along to it.

Michael was very fond of Auntie E., and I remember him joining in with music sessions at their home.

My father had a group "The Rockbottomers", which – despite the name – were reportedly not bad. My father played the washboard and brushes, and later the drums; grandpa played the double bass, and someone called "Uncle Dook" the guitar: skiffle, probably. Michael totally fitted in, playing the piano. He wasn't bad with the washboard and brushes either! He sang with my father too; I don't think he could have made a career out if it, but he could hold a tune!

Auntie E. loved "Lullaby of Broadway.” We had one party where, after a few drinks, my father, Michael and other friends sang and danced along to it, which she loved. They were all really good fun, and the parties I remember were wonderful: always full of music and laughter.
michael_gothard_archive: (Paris circa 1960)
I was lucky enough to be contacted by a friend of Michael’s from his teenage years, H. He very kindly provided me the valuable new information and photos below.


‘I came across your website yesterday after seeing a rerun of 'For Your Eyes Only' and was very touched that you planted a tree in his memory.

Michael and I went to the same school, Haverstock Comprehensive in Chalk Farm in North West London, and were in the same class probably from 1953/4 till 1957.

I usually called him Mike or Mick. Michael was a close friend of mine, and was a frequent visitor to our home. My parents always treated him as a member of our family.’

Home

‘He lived with his mother in Gloucester Avenue just off Primrose Hill and I went to his place on a number of occasions.

Both Michael and his mother were very well spoken and she appeared to be well educated.

I always understood that Michael's father died at Dunkirk. Michael was born in June 1939, the Second World War started in September 1939 and the Battle of and Evacuation of Dunkirk took place in May/June 1940.’

When told that Michael’s mother was actually divorced, H. expressed the opinion that:

‘At that time, divorce tended to be frowned upon. It is possible this may have been a white lie told by his mother to explain that his father was not present.

As far as I am aware, I never met Jack Walker [Michael's 'Uncle Jack', who was on the electoral roll for the address, 1952 - 8] and I cannot remember either Michael or his mother ever mentioning him to me.’1

Character

‘Michael always chose his words carefully but he did not appear to be at all shy and was very self assured.

He was always outgoing, and as far as I was concerned I never saw him in a depressed state of mind.’

School

‘I think Haverstock was one of the first Comprehensive Schools in the country, so we were quite lucky in the education we received. All the teachers appeared to be doing their best to give us a good education. I remember our Geography teacher who became our 6th form teacher had to upgrade his qualifications to continue to teach us. He eventually became the Headmaster of another school.

The teachers were very broad minded from a political point of view – so if and when we talked politics it covered the whole gamut.

From memory the uniforms were dark blue with grey trousers and the tie was yellow red stripes.

The school had a house system. I think our house name was Camden.

Michael was a good student and always did well in exams. His good looks always attracted the girls. As far as I was aware, he did not have any particular girlfriends but he was always very popular with the girls, very self assured and confident. He may have had girl friends, but never mentioned them.

He got on well with all his teachers, his peers and other pupils.

During the time I knew him, he did not have any problems with authority.

Michael did not smoke whilst at school. I can't remember ever seeing him smoking cigarettes or anything else. He was too keen on sports and his fitness and health. There were other students who smoked cigarettes round the back of the school toilets.

Michael was an excellent athlete: good in most sports but he excelled in the 100, 200 and 400 yards races.

Sports Day - Parliament Hill Fields

Michael and senior girl at sports day on Parliament Hill Fields at the bottom of Hampstead Heath probably 1954/55.

In our last two years at school in Sixth Form, we both studied Advanced History and Geography. Because the 6th form subject classes were so small each student was virtually given personal tuition.

We were both prefects; I believe the prefects were selected by a committee of teachers together with the Headmaster.

Prefects

Michael and the prefects appointed in 1955/56.

Michael was the Head Boy in his final year at school.

During our 6th and 7th years, Michael and I, together with others, went on three geographical/geological trips together – to Dale Fort in Pembrokeshire, to the Yorkshire Dales to study the limestone areas and to Scotland on a trip from Inverness to the Isle of Skye.

Michael never mentioned his Welsh grandparents, which is strange because, as I mentioned above, we travelled by train to Dale Fort in Pembrokeshire and St David’s together. Maybe he was able to compartmentalise these things.

Dale Fort

Michael with other students at Dale Fort.

Near Aviemore Youth Hostel

Michael near Dale Fort.

Dale Fort 2

Michael and other students from the group who went to Dale Fort.

Near Aviemore Youth Hostel 2

Near the Aviemore Youth Hostel in Scotland, 1956: Michael and another student who was also in our class, and would have been 17 or 18 at the time.


I'm not certain whether Michael did his A-levels or not – probably we should assume he did take his A levels but left shortly thereafter. I do know that he did not stay to the end of the school year.

I'm not certain why he did not go on to do further education.’

Music

‘I had always been interested in music and, in particular, Jazz and took up the drums in my early teens. Michael also started to play the clarinet. Soon we had a group rehearsing at our place just off Primrose Hill.

We often listened to jazz records, traditional, mainstream and modern. On my eighteenth birthday I remember Michael giving me an LP 'Tribute to Benny Goodman' with Jess Stacy and the Famous Sidemen – I still have the LP.

Benny Goodman

I remember one time, Michael, I and another friend went to see Ken Colyer (a leading traditional jazz trumpeter in the 1950s and 60s) and his band somewhere I believe in Camden Town. I believe the gig was either at a Trade Union Club or a Communist Club.’

Dancing

‘Both my parents and Michael's mother were very keen on us learning ballroom dancing and I remember Michael, myself and another friend enrolling to learn to dance at a studio in Baker Street. We managed to learn how to get round a dance floor without any major problems, but I only ever saw him dancing either at school dances or at parties.

As far as I can remember, the only jazz club we went to together was the Ken Colyer gig and we certainly didn't dance there.’

Leaving home/school

‘I was not aware that Michael had left his home after leaving school. One reason for him travelling to Europe may have been that Conscription to the Army was still in place for all males aged 18 years and over and was so until 1960.’2

I asked: ‘Was Michael already forming leftist political opinions at this age?’

H. replied: ‘At the time we really did not get into politics. I suppose one should remember that we were in the middle of the Cold War and the Suez Crisis had just taken place in 1956 and so the population, and young people in particular, were worried about what was happening around them so travelling might not have been so bad an idea.

Prior to 1956 no American Jazz musicians were allowed to play in the U.K. In addition there were quite a few American jazz musicians living in France and other parts of Europe in order to get away from the racial intolerance in the USA and these reasons together with the urge to travel and see a bit of the world may have contributed to his going overseas.

The school actively encouraged students in linguistic studies, and this also may have influenced him in his decision to travel to France. A couple of years prior, [to leaving school] we went on a school trip to Europe.

After leaving school, I became an articled clerk to a firm of Chartered Accountants in the City and continued studying for the next five years. I lost touch with Michael and other members of our group during that time.

In some ways it didn't surprise me that Michael became an actor - when I found out I was really quite proud that I had once known and been a close friend of his.

I heard of Michael's untimely death a number of years ago which came as a huge shock.

Punting on the River Cam

Michael with two other students (also in our class) punting on the River Cam. I can't remember what we doing in Cambridge - obviously a class excursion.’

1 Baz, another schoolfriend of Michael's, who knew him from a few years earlier than H, remembers knowing that Michael's parents were separated, and that Jack Walker was a part of Michael's life.

2 Baz believes Michael failed the medical on the grounds of his poor eyesight.

The creators of this Archive are very grateful to H. for sharing these memories and photographs.

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