Brian Blessed (b.1937)
Brian Blessed, born in Mexborough on October 9th 1937, is a well-known actor. He came to fame as PC 'Fancy' Smith in the BBC TV police drama series Z Cars.
Although born in Mexborough he grew up in the nearby town of Goldthorpe. As well as roaming the railway tracks and the countryside as leader of a gang of small boys, he met Picasso, Paul Robeson and George VI, and disappeared from home to cycle 11 miles to see the famous boxer, Bruce Woodcock. The idyll evaporated when Blessed was forced to leave school long before his friends, as his family could not afford to keep him there. Unhappy and solitary, he worked for an undertaker and then as a plasterer, and joined the Theatre Guild at Mexborough Schofield Technical School. After suffering a nervous breakdown at 18 and recovering with the help of his speech teacher, he began his career as an actor. He has written about his early life in his autobiography The Dynamite Kid
Blessed is renowned as a Shakespearean actor, as well as an immensely entertaining and often parodied comic figure, mainly because of his build and his instantly recognisable voice. He appeared in four of the five Shakespeare films directed by Kenneth Branagh: as The Duke of Exeter in Henry V, Antonio in Much Ado About Nothing, The Ghost of Hamlet's Father in Hamlet and the dual role of Duke Frederick and Duke Senior in As You Like It. He also appeared as the Mad King Richard IV in the first series of Blackadder in a parody of the stereotypical Shakespearean Nobleman. Other roles have emphasized his comedic abilities, notably Prince Vultan in Flash Gordon (1980) and Spiro in the BBC adaptation of My Family and Other Animals (1987).
Demonstrating his versatility, Blessed has also starred in Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats as both Old Deuteronomy and Bustopher Jones during the original London production. In 2002, under the direction of Royal Shakespeare Company director, Adrian Noble, Blessed originated the role of Baron Bombhurst for the stage musical version of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang , for which he received tremendous acclaim.
Blessed is also an adventurer. On three occasions, he has tried to climb Mount Everest (though he never reached the summit). He has successfully climbed Aconcagua in Argentina as well as Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.