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.