John Hallam (1941 - 2006):
John Hallam was a busy actor whose decades-long career saw him take a wide variety of roles, on stage, in the cinema, but perhaps he was probably best known for his television work. Many of his parts depicted rough-and-tough types; his height (6’3”) and large frame made him an obvious choice thought not confined to such roles; those who knew him, however, attested that he was a lot less rough than many of the characters he portrayed.
John William Francis Hallam was born at Lisburn, County Antrim, son of a superintendent at London docks; the family were evacuated to Ulster during the intensive German bombing of those very docks. They returned to England where Hallam was a boarder in St Albans. He took up a position in a bank in London but was released, he later explained, because while his figures were correct he was unable to explain how he calculated them. He then worked for a time as a deckchair salesman on the south coast before entering the Royal Academy for Dramatic Arts (or Rada) which he attended from 1962-1964.
In 1965 he was acting under the great Laurence (later Lord) Olivier with the National Theatre Company which Olivier had just founded, playing the Stage Door Keeper in Trelawney of the Wells at the Old Vic Theatre. In 1967 he made his debut on television, in the small role of a watchman when the BBC screened Italian director Franco Zeffirelli's National Theatre production of Much Ado About Nothing. He also got married.
In 1968 came two films, thoroughly contrasting: Carry On up the Khyber, one of a long series of light-hearted, satirical comedies known especially for risqué, often blatantly so, doubles entendres: Hallam had a small part as a “Burpa” or Afghan insurgent. The second film that year was a different kind of satire, depicting hopelessly idiotic British army generals and politicians, The Charge of the Light Brigade, in which Hallam had a part as an officer. He also appeared on television, in Softly, Softly, a police drama and one of the first colour programmes.
He moved the following years into more substantial roles as Sir Meles of Bohemia in A Walk with Love and Death the director John Huston’s tale of 14th-century romance in France. In 1971 came a part as a seaplane pilot, Lieutenant Ellis in Murphy's War playing alongside Peter O'Toole, then at the height of his fame; The same year he appeared in the spectacular Nicholas and Alexandra, alongside such names as Jack Hawkins, Olivier, Harry Andrews, Janet Suzman, Michael Jayston, Michael Redgrave, Ian Holm, Tom Baker, and many other stalwarts of British theatre and film. Hallam played Nagorny the sailor-minder of the young heir to the Russian throne murdered with his entire family in July 1918. (Nagorny is murdered as well.)
In 1972 came a part in Antony and Cleopatra, directed by, part-written by, and starring Charlton Heston, a stalwart of American cinema. In 1973 he had a large part in The Wicker Man, but due to qualms on the part of the distributors the film was considerably cut including all Hallam’s scenes – which at least would have saved his character’s fate to be forced into a huge Celtic figure and immolated alive.
Back to the small screen, he played James Willoughby, rising from Lieutenant to Captain, in The Regiment which followed the Cotswold regiment from the Boer War to India at the turn of the 19th century, (1972-73); Lord Chiltern in a major period production, The Pallisers (based on Anthony Trollope’s novel, 1974-1976), a Sergeant-Major in The Four Feathers (1977), a tale of a soldier wrongly accused of cowardice; Harry Farmer in Wings (a First World War drama, centring on the Royal Flying Corps (1977-78), and Captain Parker in John Silver's Return to Treasure Island (1986). Other leading names he worked with were Michael Caine and Omar Sharif in The Last Valley and Richard Burton in Villain. In 1973 came a tough crime drama The Offence with Sean Connery; and Joss Ackland and James Cossins in Hitler: The Last Ten Days (1973; cast as Adjutant SS-Hauptsturmführer Otto Günsche this too had an impressive cast). Perhaps his most villainous role was the 19th century squire, Thomas Mallen, based on a Catherine Cookson's character, a bankrupt, rapist (including raping and impregnating his niece), violent, drunkard, and ultimately a suicide. In 1979 viewing figures reached 12 million. Other television work included Raffles, about a cultivated, gentlemanly character who moonlights as a burglar; and Return of the Saint, akind of police-spy drama. 1980 and 1981 saw roles in some fantasy-spectaculars, Flash Gordon and special-effects bonanza Dragonslayer; in 1997 came another fantasy adventure Kull the Conqueror.
Hallam’s marriage to Vicky Brinkworth, a theatrical mask-maker, produced four children; it was dissolved in 1992.
|Born:||28 October 1941|
|Died:||14 November 2006|
Internet Movie Database (imdb.com); obituary, The Independent 20 November 2006; The Stage 24 November 2006
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