Peter Butterworth

Last updated 09 January 2020

Peter Butterworth (1919-1979)
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Peter William Shorrocks Butterworth

Born: Tuesday 4th February 1919
Died: Tuesday 16th January 1979 (age: 59)

Peter Butterworth  was an English comedy actor and comedian, best known for his appearances in the Carry On series of films. He appeared in seven early episodes of Doctor Who in 1965 as the 'The Meddling Monk' who is noted as being the first recurring Doctor Who villain. He was married to the actress and impressionist Janet Brown.

Before his acting career started, Butterworth served as alieutenant commander in the Royal Navy during theSecond World War. He was captured in the Netherlands in 1940 and later escaped through a tunnel from Dulag luft, near Frankfurt, in June 1941, where he covered 27 miles (43 km) over three days before a member of the Hitler Youth captured him. Afterwards he joked that he could never work with children again. Two other attempts to escape were made during his time there but he never got beyond the campgrounds.

Whilst at Stalag Luft III  he met Talbot Rothwell, who later went on to write many of the Carry On films. Rothwell and Butterworth formed a duet and sang in the camp shows, where booing and catcalls covered the sounds of an escape tunnel being dug by other prisoners. Butterworth was one of the vaulters covering for the escapers during the escape portrayed by the book and film The Wooden Horse. Butterworth later auditioned for the film in 1949 but "didn't look convincingly heroic or athletic enough" according to the makers of the film. To compensate for this the director Jack Lee, named the character played by Leo Genn "Peter", after Butterworth.

Butterworth came to notice after appearing in pantomime around the UK and made his first film appearance in 1948. His first role was in the Val Guest film William comes to town. Guest and Butterworth would become close friends and the two would work on a further seven films together during their careers. His first major success was on Television in the Terry-Thomas sketch show How do you view? in which he played the chauffeur "Lockitt". Butterworth also presented successful programmes aimed at children in the 1950s including Whirligig and Butterworth Time. He continued to take minor parts in films and would go onto appear alongside actors including Sean ConneryDavid Niven andDouglas Fairbanks Jr during his career.

Butterworth's association with the Carry On series started in 1965 in Carry on Cowboy where he played the part of "Doc". He was put in touch with the creator of the series, Peter Rogers, by his friend Talbot Rothwell, the writer of Carry On Cowboy and who had written the previous four films. Out of the fourteen actors who were considered to be the "Carry On team", he was the sixth most prolific performer in the series, making sixteen film appearances, two Christmas specials, the television series in 1975 and the west end theatre productions which also toured the country, alongside Sidney JamesBarbara Windsor, and Kenneth Connor.

Butterworth appeared in two of the most famous films in the series Carry on Screaming in 1966 andCarry on up the Khyber in 1968. It was the latter which established Butterworth as an important member of the Carry on cast of actors. Playing the part of Brother Belcher, a missionary working on behalf of a campaign to save fallen women, he first appears in the film giving a sermon in the market place and becomes somewhat distracted by a pretty native woman who lures him into a back room of a nearby building. The encounter is then caught by Captain Keane and Sergeant Major McNutt (Roy Castle andTerry Scott). Brother Belcher is then blackmailed into helping them overthrow The Khasi of Kalabar (played by Kenneth Williams).

Butterworth returned to playing bigger parts within the Carry On films in 1972. In Carry On Abroad, he played 'Pepe' the manager of an unfinished hotel, who greets his unexpected guests in the guise of the builder, the porter, the receptionist and telephone operator. He spends the first half of the film furiously trying to placate and accommodate them and the last half desperately trying to save the building from a flood, and whilst all this is going on, put up with his nagging wife Hattie Jacques.

Butterworth remained with the series until the final film, Carry On Emmannuelle in 1978.

Having appeared in many of Val Guest's films during the beginning of his career, he also made three appearances in the films of Richard Lester. He appeared in Lester's film version of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum in (1966). Ten years later he appeared consecutively in The Ritz[13]and Robin and Marian (1976) alongside Sean ConneryRichard Harris, and Audrey Hepburn.[14] He had an uncredited cameo part in the film version of the musical Oliver! as a shopkeeper in court, and made a special appearance in an episode of Dad's Army called The Face on the Poster. In 1975 he was the subject of an episode of This Is Your Life whereby Eamonn Andrews surprised him while he was shopping in SelfridgesLondon. Friends who took part in the show included Terry ScottTalbot Rothwell,Jimmy Jewell John Casson and Rupert Davies. Butterworth's wife and their two children, Tyler and Emma were also at the recording. When the Carry on films finished in 1978, Butterworth began to concentrate on straight roles, taking a small part in the feature film The First Great Train Robbery with Sean Connery,[15] and the Alan Bennett play "Afternoon Off" both from 1978. Both productions were released posthumously in 1979 on February 2 and 3 respectively.

He married the actress and impressionist Janet Brown in 1947 at St. Mary's Church, Bryanaston Square,Marylebone after being introduced to one another by Rothwell. Brown later became famous for her impersonations of Margaret Thatcher on TV during the 70s and 80s. Their son Tyler Butterworth is an actor and is married to the actress Janet Dibley. They also had a daughter, Emma (1962�1996), who died aged 34.

In 1979, whilst The First Great Train Robbery was on general release, Butterworth was starring as Widow Twankey in the pantomime Aladdin at the Coventry Theatre. When the show had finished, he went back to his hotel following the evening's performance. His failure to return for the following day's matinee show caused alarm, and he was found dead in his room from a heart attack. Out of respect, the remainder of the pantomime's run was cancelled. Butterworth was buried in Danehill Cemetery, in East Sussex. Following his death, the producer of the Carry On Films, Peter Rogers, called Butterworth "A thoroughly nice bloke and a dear friend".