Ronnie Barker OBE was born on 25 September 1929. Before Porridge hit the screens, Ronnie Barker was best known for his comedy series alongside Ronnie Corbett, The Two Ronnies. This highly successful series ran from 1971 until 1987, a year before Barker's retirement from show-business.
The collaboration of Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett dates back to the 1960s in comedy shows such as "The Frost Report". This show also starred other great British comedy stars early in their career such as John Cleese. In 1971 Barker and Corbett teamed up for their own hit show which lasted for 16 years finishing a year before Barker's retirement. It was always a greatly loved show in Britain with the Christmas shows almost as popular as those of the legendary Morecambe & Wise.
Ronnie's other successful sitcom was Open All Hours in which he starred alongside David Jason playing the unforgettable Arkwright. In 1988 Ronnie played a short-sighted removals man in a comedy set in the 1930s called Clarence. This is a personal favourite of mine that was full of laugh out loud moments (all too rare in sitcoms). However, perhaps because the humour mainly came from the character's near-sightedness it never caught on and has rarely been repeated since its first run in the late 1980s. This is a shame because the show is hilarious and is also the last work Ronnie Barker did before he decided to retire.
Barker's retirement in 1988 left a big hole in British entertainment. It is good that he ended his career on a high as that is how he will always be remembered. However, I somehow feel that his brilliance would never have gone stale. He did come out of retirement for a small role in "The Gathering Storm" about Winston Churchill as well as appearing in the TV Movie "My House in Umbria". He even made one last appearance as Fletch in "Life Beyond the Box - Norman Stanley Fletcher" in 2003. This had apparently given him the taste for more TV work but sadly, it was not to be.
Ronnie Barker has been seen on our screens from time to time at awards ceremonies and the like. However, to enjoy his entertainment we must rely on repeats and videos of comic classics such as Open All Hours, the under-rated Clarence and, of course, Porridge.
Sadly, Ronnie Barker passed away on 3 October 2005 after a long illness. Rest in peace Ronnie, you will be sorely missed.
Ronnie Barker's Character was Norman Stanley Fletcher born on 2 February 1932. A hopeless recidivist, he had been sentenced to five years in prison for stealing a lorry. The brilliance of the writing along with Ronnie Barker's acting abilities allowed the viewer to sympathise with the character of Fletch despite his criminal ways. Clement and La Frenais were not scared to show the harsh realities of incarceration and punishment. A brave move for a comedy. But it worked, and then some!
Ronnie Barker is now as much a part of British History as the legendary Oozalum bird!
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