Bernard Cribbins celebrates his 90th birthday, and Blogtor Who wishes this amazing storyteller and comic actor a very happy birthday
Few actors get the call to join the Doctor in the TARDIS and become a companion in the Doctor Who family. Bernard Cribbins, among an already extraordinary career as he celebrates his 90th birthday, accomplished it not once, but twice. First on the big screen as PC Tom Price, who joined Peter Cushing’s Dr. Who in battling the Daleks in Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150ad. And then as Wilf Mott, grandfather of Donna Noble, alongside David Tennant’s Doctor from 2007 to 2010.
Cribbins entered showbusiness at fourteen and has spent three quarters of a century racking up an impressive list of accomplishments. Doctor Who fans will already be well aware of Cribbins’ unparalleled combination of comic clowning with real pathos to pull at the stoniest hearstrings. And it’s this ability which has served him well across eight decades. His first major role came on stage playing the two Dromios in Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors. He played twins separated at birth, both with the same name, and both servants to another set of identical twins. We can only imagine today how fantastic he would have been in such a role.
Throughout the fifties and sixties he appeared in major British comedy films, often as a hapless but loveable leading man who nevertheless manages to save the day and win the girl by the final curtain. Including among these were his first two Carry On appearances. He was a British secret agent in James Bond parody Carry On Spying in Horatio Hornblower inspired Carry On Jack. In between he found time for not one, but two top ten hits with his novelty records Hole in the Ground and Right, Said Fred.
Any one of Bernard Cribbins’ great roles would have ensured his immortality, but he has played a succession of beloved characters
In the 1970s and 1980s Cribbins transitioned, apparently effortlessly, into middle aged roles. He played a mix of loveable rogues (as in his ITV series Cuffy), kindly father figures (as in his iconic role as the porter who befriends The Railway Children), and short tempered fuss pots (as in the iconic Fawlty Towers episode The Hotel Inspectors). One of his most celebrated series, The Wombles, took fool advantage of his range as he voiced every character. He was everyone from good hearted but pathologically lazy Orinoco, to beloved, if somewhat absent minded, patriarch Great Uncle Bulgaria. His stint on Jackanory as Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit similarly secured his place in the memories of a generation of children.
Barely slowing down in recent decades, he’s moved on to loveable old men. Characters often defined by sharing with Cribbins the energy and mischief of people half their age. As well as Doctor Who’s Wilf, he’s been Old Jack in Old Jack’s Boat, and returned to his Shakespearean beginnings as Tom Snout in Russell T Davies’ adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Soon he will be appearing in a reborn series of Dad’s Army as Private Godfrey as missing episodes junked by the BBC are remounted with a new cast.
Cribbins has also recently completed his autobiography, Bernard Who?: 75 Years of Doing Just About Everything, detailing his long life and career with wit and humour.
At ninety, Bernard Cribbins has lived a life to envy. His list of achievements is long; any one of which would have been enough to make him a hero to millions. Blogtor Who wishes him a very happy birthday, and for many more happy returns.
Bernard Who?: 75 Years of Doing Just About Everything by Bernard Cribbins and James Hogg
Seventy-five years in the making and packed with entertaining anecdotes, Bernard Who? tells the wonderful story of one of the longest and most celebrated careers in show business.