Actor John Bluthal, star of Vicar of Dibley and 'Allo Allo!, dies at 89

His career spanned 60 years


Jewish actor John Bluthal, whose most famous role was as Frank Pickle in the Vicar of Dibley, has died at the age of 89.

During his 60-year career, Bluthal also appeared in TV programmes 'Allo 'Allo!, Minder and Last of the Summer Wine and starred as Manny Cohen in Never Mind the Quality, Feel the Width, the sitcom about a Jewish and an Irish tailor which ran to six series between 1967 and 1971.

He was born in Galicia, Poland, in 1929 and escaped to Australia with his family in 1938, before moving to the UK to pursue acting in 1960.

He honed his acting skills in Melbourne’s Yiddish theatre, where he worked with some of the leading directors of the Vilna Jewish theatre, who had also migrated to the city after fleeing the Nazis.

A cousin and uncle who had lived with him in his home town of Jezierzany, a shtetl near Czortkow, in Polish Ukraine, got away to Russia and later to Israel. His uncle became mayor of Hadera; a cousin is former MK Nava Arad, who was Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's adviser on women's affairs. Uncles, aunts and cousins left behind in Galicia died in the Holocaust.

He came to England at the age of 18 just after the war. "It was my red period," he told the JC in 1995, "and I joined Unity Theatre, where I worked with Alfie Bass and Warren Mitchell."

Bluthal went on to appear in Oliver! in the West End and a Peter Hall production of Antony and Cleopatra starring Judi Dench and Anthony Hopkins.

Recently he appeared in 2016's Coen Brothers' film Hail, Caesar! playing Professor Marcuse opposite George Clooney. His also acted in three Carry On films and The Beatles' A Hard Day's Night and Help!

Comic actress Dawn French led the tributes to Bluthal, who passed away last Thursday in New South Wales, Australia.

She posted on Twitter: "Tons of happy laughs remembered today. Cheeky, naughty, hilarious. Bye darlin Bluey."

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