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Paul Eddington CBE (18 June 1927–4 November 1995) was an English actor best known for his appearances in popular television sitcoms of the 1970s and 80s, including the The Good Life, Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister.

Early life

Eddington was born to Albert Clark Eddington and Frances Mary (née Roberts). A Quaker, he attended Sibford Schoolmarker, Sibford Ferris, Oxfordshire.


He began acting with Entertainments National Service Association (ENSA) set up to entertain British troops during World War II but was asked to leave when it became known that he was a pacifist and a conscientious objector. Eddington moved into repertory theatre in Sheffieldmarker and made his first appearance in TV drama in the 1950s, as a regular cast member of The Adventures of Robin Hood (first shown 1955), initially as minor characters and eventually as Will Scarlet. He also had roles in early episodes of The Prisoner and The Avengers and the final episode of The Champions. He also had a supporting role in Hammer Films' The Devil Rides Out and appeared as a "straight man" (substituting for regular stooge Henry McGee) in a 1976 episode of The Benny Hill Show.

Rise to fame

Although he worked as an actor all of his life, Eddington was in his late forties before he became a household name. He rose to prominence through The Good Life, first screened by the BBC in 1975 and still being repeated in 2009. It tells the story of a suburban couple who decide to give up work and become self-sufficient. Eddington was cast in a supporting role as neighbour Jerry Leadbetter, with Penelope Keith as his wife, Margo. Originally intended as mere bit parts, the Leadbetters quickly became essential to each episode and their roles expanded until they had equal standing with the two "stars".

Eddington's fame grew further as the star of the hit comedy series Yes Minister, first screened in 1980, later to become Yes, Prime Minister - said to have been former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's favourite TV programme. He played the title role of Jim Hacker until the show's close in 1988. This role led him to be shortlisted for the BAFTA award for Best Light Entertainment Performance four times, though he lost out to his co-star Nigel Hawthorne on all four occasions.

While filming for Yes, Prime Minister, Eddington was diagnosed as having cutaneous T cell lymphoma, a type of haematological cancer that affects the skin, but he continued performing on stage and television; for years he kept his illness a secret from all but his friends and co-stars. His last roles were in The Camomile Lawn, a 1992 TV dramatisation of Mary Wesley's novel, and as the voice of Badger in The Adventures of Mole (1995).

Awards and honours

Eddington was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1987 and in 1992, won the Critics' Circle Theatre Award for Best Actor, for his performance in No Man's Land.

Final years

His autobiography, So Far, So Good, was published by Hodder & Stoughton in 1995. Shortly before his death that year, Eddington made a moving appearance on the television series Face to Face, discussing his life, career and disease with Jeremy Isaacs. On that show Eddington reconted a question asked of him - “A journalist once asked me what I would like my epitaph to be and I said I think I would like it to be ‘He did very little harm’. And that’s not easy — most people seem to me to do a great deal of harm. If I could be remembered as having done very little, that would suit me.”

He died as a result of skin cancer, shortly after the interview, in Southwarkmarker, London, and was survived by his wife, Patricia Scott, and their three sons and daughter. BBC1 aired a half-hour tribute to him on 15 July 2001 called Paul Eddington: A Life Well Lived.


  1. Face to Face with Jeremy Isaacs, shows the beginning of Isaac's 1995 interview with Eddington.
  2. Deaths England and Wales 1984-2006
  3. Who's Who 2009

Further reading

External links

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