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Francis George Middlemass (28 May 1919 – 8 September 2006) was an Englishmarker actor, known as Frank Middlemass, who even in his early career played older roles. He is best remembered for his television roles as Rocky Hardcastle in As Time Goes By, Algy Herries in To Serve Them All My Days and Dr. Alex Ferrenby in Heartbeat. Middlemass was also active in the Royal Shakespeare Company and was the fourth and final actor to play Dan Archer in The Archers.

Early life

Middlemass was born in Eaglescliffemarker, on the Yorkshiremarker-County Durham border, the son of a shipping company director. He was brought up in Newcastlemarker, and educated in Stockton-on-Teesmarker. He entered the Army at the age of 19 and was wounded in the Dunkirk retreat He left the Army when he was 30 and was by then a Lieutenant Colonel.

Middlemass started his acting career in rep in Penzancemarker, Cornwallmarker and then went on to join the Old Vic Companymarker. While with them he toured North and South America, Australia, New Zealandmarker, Israelmarker, Lebanonmarker, Russiamarker, Polandmarker and the Far East. , and performed in Twelfth Night opposite Vivien Leigh. During the 1960s, he toured with Ian McKellen's Actor's Company and performed at the Nottingham Playhousemarker. He performed opposite Peter O'Toole in Waiting for Godot.

His first television role was in 1958, in Dixon of Dock Green. His other early television appearances included Z-Cars, Softly, Softly, The Avengers and Jackanory. During the 1970s and 1980s he appeared in Doctor at Large, War and Peace, Crown Court, Last of the Summer Wine, Upstairs, Downstairs, Poldark, The Sweeney and Emmerdale Farmmarker.

Television fame

It was not until 1980, when Middlemass appeared in the post-World War I drama To Serve Them All My Days, that he first took a leading role in a television series. He followed this up with a notable performance as The Fool to Michael Hordern's King Lear. He went on to play minor characters in Yes Minister, Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years (as Lord Derby), Juliet Bravo, Only When I Laugh, All in Good Faith, Yes, Prime Minister, Oliver Twist (as Mr. Brownlow), and Miss Marple, in the 1989 episode "A Caribbean Mystery". From 1992 to 1993, he appeared in 20 episodes of the police drama Heartbeat as Dr. Alex Ferrenby. Following that in 1993, Middlemass first appeared in the sitcom As Time Goes By as Rocky Hardcastle, a role that continued until 2002.

Other work

Middlemass also appeared on radio, most notably playing patriarch Dan Archer, the fourth actor to play the role, in the long-running radio soap opera The Archers. He played this role from 1982 until 1986, when the character was killed off. He joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1984 and his Shakespearean roles included Friar Lawrence in Romeo and Juliet, Quince in A Midsummer Night's Dream and Holofernes in Love's Labour's Lost. Middlemass also appeared widely in classic plays such as Rosmersholm, Heartbreak House and You Never Can Tell.

Later years

Even in his eighties, Frank Middlemass was still performing on stage, notably in The Importance of Being Earnest and toured with a one-man show called Frankly Speaking. In his final years, he made appearances in Kavanagh QC, Casualty, The 10th Kingdom, Doctors and Midsomer Murders. In 2005, As Time Goes By returned for two reunion specials, aired in Christmas that year, and this was his final television appearance. Middlemass never married, and for 40 years he had a room in the house of his friend, actor Geoffrey Toone, who died in 2005. Middlemass died in 2006, aged 87, in Northwoodmarker, Middlesexmarker.


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