Remembering Trevor Bannister (1934-2011)
(From The Telegraph)
Trevor Bannister, the actor who died on Thursday aged 74, was best known for playing Mr. Lucas in the 1970s BBC television sitcom Are You Being Served?
He also featured in many other television series, such as Silent Witness, Keeping Up Appearances, Coronation Street and Last of the Summer Wine.
In Are You Being Served? Bannister was cast as Mr. Lucas, the young menswear salesman in his twenties who, unlike his camp colleague Mr Humphries (John Inman), had eyes only for the buxom Miss Brahms, the siren of ladies’ underwear, played by Wendy Richard.
Written by David Croft and John Lloyd, Are You Being Served? was set in the fictional department store, Grace Brothers, and ran from 1972 until 1985. The show was originally planned as a vehicle for Bannister, following his success as “Heavy Breathing” in Jack Rosenthal’s ITV sitcom The Dustbinmen (1969), with Bryan Pringle and Brian Wilde.
As the luckless Mr. Lucas, Bannister’s character was a young rebellious employee in an long-established store, and one of the principal roles. But as storylines evolved and other characters came to the fore, Bannister found himself surrounded by a large ensemble and cast in a less prominent part.
He remained with the show until 1980, leaving when it was at the height of its popularity. The crunch came when he was offered a long tour with a play called Middle Age Spread.
Bannister asked the BBC to change the recording day of Are You Being Served? from Friday to Sunday so that he could appear in both. The BBC refused. “The reason I left was simple,” he maintained. “Are You Being Served? was only seven weeks’ work a year.”
Alongside his television appearances, Bannister also had a long-running stage career, mainly in farces and pantomimes, making some 35 appearances as the dame. Indeed, on the strength of his success in Are You Being Served? he was invited to perform in theatres all over the world.
Trevor Bannister was born on August 14 1936 at the village of Durrington, Wiltshire, the youngest of three children. Educated at Durrington primary school and the Modern School in Salisbury, he completed two years’ National Service before enrolling at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts.
He got his start in show business from Arthur Brough, the actor, who hired him for a repertory company in Folkestone when Bannister was only 15. He and Brough were reunited in Are You Being Served?, in which Brough played the irascible senior salesman Mr Grainger.
In 1960 Bannister made his West End stage debut in Billy Liar, with Albert Finney, and he appeared on television in 1968 as a wartime spiv in The War Of Darkie Pilbeam. Following his role as “Heavy Breathing” in The Dustbinmen, he was in a West End run of Move Over Mrs Markham before being invited to play Mr. Lucas in a pilot episode of Are You Being Served? for the Comedy Playhouse slot.
Reruns of Are You Being Served? have been shown in some 40 countries. In 1995, 15 years after leaving the series, Bannister was astonished to be recognised by an American fan in Saks Fifth Avenue store in New York.
After leaving the series Bannister played Peter Pitt in the 1988 BBC sitcom Wyatt’s Watchdogs, and had minor roles in Keeping Up Appearances, The Saint and The Avengers. Over the years he played three different characters in Coronation Street. From 2001 he was the golf captain in Last Of The Summer Wine, in 2009 becoming a regular character in the series.
In 2006 he played Sir John Tremayne in the 70th anniversary production of the Noel Gay musical Me And My Girl which toured theatres all over Britain. “He is a genuine delight,” reported Tim Walker in The Sunday Telegraph. “In turn funny, touching, intensely human, he effortlessly dominates the stage.”
Trevor Bannister suffered a fatal heart attack at his allotment in Thames Ditton, Surrey. His second wife, Pam, and three sons survive him.