James Hayter (1907-1983)

James Hayter as Friar Tuck

I recently received an email from Elina Lampart asking permission to use some stills and pages of information from my blog regarding the great character actor James Hayter. She runs a site dedicated to the classic TV series Are You Being Served, in which he appeared as the cantankerous Mr Tebbs.

In Walt Disney’s Story of Robin Hood (1952), Hayter played one of the most memorable Friar Tuck’s of all-time and went on to re-create his famous role for Hammer Films A Challenge for Robin Hood in 1967. But in his long acting career he starred in countless film, stage and television productions.  He is probably best remembered for being the voice of Mr Kipling Cakes and James Onedin’s father-in-law in the costume drama, The Onedin Line.
But towards the end of his long and illustrious acting career, Hayter was chosen by comedy writer and producer, David Croft, to appear as a new assistant in his successful TV series Are You Being Served. Croft said:

"James Hayter had not worked for me before, but he was a well known featured player in movies over here,” Croft remembers, “and as far as I was concerned was the only candidate providing he was available and willing to play the part."
So as the mischievous Percival Tebbs, Hayter appeared in 6 episodes of Are You Being Served. Unfortunately for many years, Mr Kipling Cakes had used his distinctly fruity voice, for their advertisements on British television and the company did not like the character he now portrayed in this series.
They thought the personality of the character he portrayed was unpleasant and had an air of indignity that might put the viewing public off buying their “exceedingly good cakes”!

Hayter at first argued that he was free-lance and could chose to play any character he desired, but when Mr Kipling Cakes finally offered him three times his BBC salary for the next series, not to do it and terminate his contract, he accepted.
The cast of Are You Being Served were very disappointed to see such a successful comedy talent leave, but he confessed, “if they are prepared to pay me three times as much not to it, then I won’t do it– at my time of life, I have no more ambition.”

James Hayter died in Spain aged 75 on 27th March 1985.

This is the link to Elina’s very informative web site dedicated televisions classic comedy series Are You Being Served and the career of James Hayter.

This blog also has 20 pages of information on the life and career of James Hayter and many pictures and stills. Also, don’t forget to vote for your favorite Friar Tuck of all time in the side-bar.


Clement Glen said...

James Hayter

'Are You Being Served' TV Comedy Series.

Mr Kipling Cakes

Friar Tuck

Walt Disney's Story of Robin Hood (1952)

Neil said...

At the age of 44, James Hayter had the two best film parts of his long career - the title role in The Pickwick Papers and The Story of Robin Hood both made in 1951 and released in 1952. My grandchildren in Australia love Are You Being Served and we watch the DVDs quite often when we are out there. I personally didnt think he fitted that well in the series although to be fair he was only in six episodes as Clement points out - I hadn't realised there were so few. In the early fifties, character actors such as James Hayter would often be making a film by day and then in a stage play in the West End in the evenings. I always remember Roger Livesey the actor saying that when he was filming 'I Know Where I'm Going' with Wendy Hiller, he was doing a West End stage play at the same time so when they went on location to the Scottish Highlands they had to use a double and the location scenes were then cleverly fitted into to studio shots and close-ups.

Oliver Murrihy said...

I love James Hayter as Friar Tuck. But he would be my third choice after Eugene Palette (1938) and, best of all, Willard Louis in Douglas Fairbanks' 1922 "Robin Hood". And don't forget Sebastian Cabot (a Louis lookalike) in MGM's 1952 "Ivanhoe". I also like Michael McShane (another Louis lookalike), but my absolute unfavorite Friar Tuck is Niall Maginnis - a good actor in many other parts, but badly miscast in this.