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George Sewell

Last updated 09 January 2020

George Sewell (1924-2007)
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George Sewell

Born: Sunday 31st August 1924
Died: Monday 2nd April 2007 (age: 82)


George Sewell  was an English actor.

The son of a Hoxton printer and a florist; Sewell left school at age 14 and worked briefly in the printing trade before switching to building work, specifically the repair of bomb-damaged houses. He then trained as a Royal Air Force pilot, though too late to see action during World War II.

After his demobilisation, Sewell joined the Merchant Navy, serving as a steward for the Cunard Line, on the RMS Queen Mary and RMS Queen Elizabeth on their Atlantic crossings to New York. He worked as a street photographer, assisted a French roller-skating team and was drummer and assistant road manager of a rumba band. He also travelled Europe as a motor coach courier travelling around Europe for a holiday company.

Ages 35 Sewell auditioned for a production by Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop of Fings Ain't Wot They Used T'Be. He went on to star in two other Littlewood productions, Sparrers Can't Sing (1962) and as Field Marshal Haig in Oh! What a Lovely War (1963) which later went to Paris and Broadway. The experience garnered from stage acting led to a long career in both film and television.

For many years Sewell was the gritty face of crime and law enforcement in a huge array of television series. Amongst his early roles, he was the tallyman in Ken Loach's TV play Up The Junction (1965), a criminal who runs off with a teenage girl in Softly, Softly (1966), a hard-nosed building engineer in The Power Game (1965–66), a cowardly informer in Man in a Suitcase (1967), and a seedy private eye in Spindoe (1968). In 1970 he played Colonel Alec Freeman in the first series of Gerry Anderson's live-action science-fiction drama UFO.

In 1973, Euston Films reinvigorated the TV series Special Branch, formerly a videotaped series starring Derren Nesbitt. Sewell was brought in to play the defining character of DCI Alan Craven. The show ran for two seasons with Sewell, and is very fondly remembered - not least as a stylistic forerunner of crime drama The Sweeney (in which Sewell also appeared - as a villain). Later Sewell was to parody this role as Supt Frank Cottam in the Jasper Carrott/Robert Powell comedy, The Detectives.

Later television appearances include Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1979), in which he played Mendel, and the Doctor Who story Remembrance of the Daleks, (1988), in which he played a fascist called Mr Ratcliffe. He also appeared frequently in cinema films, notably This Sporting Life (1963), Poor Cow (1967) and Get Carter (1971).