Peter Blythe
Peter Blythe was a British
British people
The British are citizens of the United Kingdom, of the Isle of Man, any of the Channel Islands, or of any of the British overseas territories, and their descendants...

 character actor
Character actor
A character actor is one who predominantly plays unusual or eccentric characters. The Oxford English Dictionary defines a character actor as "an actor who specializes in character parts", defining character part in turn as "an acting role displaying pronounced or unusual characteristics or...

, best known as Samuel "Soapy Sam" Ballard on Rumpole of the Bailey
Rumpole of the Bailey
Rumpole of the Bailey is a British television series created and written by the British writer and barrister John Mortimer which starred Leo McKern as Horace Rumpole, an ageing London barrister who defends any and all clients...


Early life

Born in Yorkshire
Yorkshire is a historic county of northern England and the largest in the United Kingdom. Because of its great size in comparison to other English counties, functions have been increasingly undertaken over time by its subdivisions, which have also been subject to periodic reform...

, Blythe studied drama on scholarship at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art
Royal Academy of Dramatic Art
The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art is a drama school located in London, United Kingdom. It is generally regarded as one of the most renowned drama schools in the world, and is one of the oldest drama schools in the United Kingdom, having been founded in 1904.RADA is an affiliate school of the...

 after serving in the Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...

. He began his professional career as a repertory player with the Living Theatre Company, the Nottingham Playhouse
Nottingham Playhouse
The Nottingham Playhouse is a theatre in Nottingham, England. It was first established as a repertory theatre in the 1950s when it operated from a former cinema. Directors during this period included Val May and Frank Dunlop.-The building:...

, and the Royal Shakespeare Company
Royal Shakespeare Company
The Royal Shakespeare Company is a major British theatre company, based in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England. The company employs 700 staff and produces around 20 productions a year from its home in Stratford-upon-Avon and plays regularly in London, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and on tour across...

. He made his West End debut in 1965.

Selected Theatre Credits

Blythe was frequently associated with the director Peter Hall and the playwright Alan Ayckbourn
Alan Ayckbourn
Sir Alan Ayckbourn CBE is a prolific English playwright. He has written and produced seventy-three full-length plays in Scarborough and London and was, between 1972 and 2009, the artistic director of the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough, where all but four of his plays have received their...

  • The Creeper (St. Martin's Theatre, 1965): Maurice
  • Early Morning (English Stage Company/Royal Court, 1969): Lord Mennings
  • So What About Love? (Criterion Theatre, 1969): Robert
  • Absurd Person Singular
    Absurd Person Singular
    Absurd Person Singular is a 1972 play by Alan Ayckbourn. Divided into three acts, it documents the changing fortunes of three married couples...

    (Criterion Theatre, 1974): Sidney
  • The Clandestine Marriage
    The Clandestine Marriage
    The Clandestine Marriage is a comedy by George Colman the Elder and David Garrick, first performed in 1766 at Drury Lane. The idea came from one of William Hogarth's engravings.-Plot summary:...

    (Savoy Theatre, 1975): Sir John Melvil
  • The Return of AJ Raffles (Royal Shakespeare Company/Aldwych Theatre, 1975): Lord Alfred Douglas
  • The Chairman (Globe Theatre, 1976): Peter Frame (Clarence Derwent Award)
  • Sextet (Criterion Theatre, 1976): Roger
  • Caught in the Act (Garrick Theatre, 1981): Bill Taylor
  • The Hard Shoulder (Aldwych Theatre, 1983): David
  • Number One (The Queen's, 1984): Bernard
  • Pravda
    Pravda (play)
    Pravda is a play by David Hare and Howard Brenton. It was first produced at the Royal National Theatre on 2 May 1985, directed by David Hare starring Anthony Hopkins in the role of Lambert Le Roux. It is a satire on the mid-1980s newspaper industry, in particular the press baron Rupert Murdoch...

    (National Theatre/Olivier Theatre, 1985): Michael Quince, MP
  • The Government Inspector (National Theatre/Olivier Theatre, 1985): Artemy Zemlyanika
  • Futurists
    Futurists (play)
    Futurists is a 1986 play by British playwright Dusty Hughes. It was first produced at the Cottesloe, Royal National Theatre, directed by Richard Eyre....

    (National Theatre/Cottesloe Theatre, 1986): Lenin/Romanov
  • Woman in Mind
    Woman In Mind
    Woman in Mind is the 32nd play by English playwright, Alan Ayckbourn. It was premiered at the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round, Scarborough, in 1985. Despite pedestrian reviews by many critics, strong audience reaction resulted in a transfer to London's West End...

    (Vaudeville Theatre, 1986): Bill
  • The Living Room (Royalty Theatre Company, 1987): Michael Dennis
  • Julius Caesar
    Julius Caesar (play)
    The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, also known simply as Julius Caesar, is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1599. It portrays the 44 BC conspiracy against...

    (Compass Theatre Company, UK national tour, 1990): Cassius
  • The Hothouse (Chichester Festival Theatre; The Comedy, 1995): Lobb
  • Hedda Gabler
    Hedda Gabler
    Hedda Gabler is a play first published in 1890 by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen. The play premiered in 1891 in Germany to negative reviews, but has subsequently gained recognition as a classic of realism, nineteenth century theatre, and world drama...

    (Chichester Festival Theatre, 1996): Judge Brack
  • Peter Hall Company at the Old Vic, 1997: Waste
    Waste (play)
    Waste is a play by the English author Harley Granville Barker. It exists in two wholly different versions, from 1906 and 1927. The first version was refused a license by the Lord Chamberlain and had to be performed privately by the Stage Society in 1907; the second was finally staged in public at...

    (Sir Charles Cantilupe, MP), The Provok'd Wife (Lord Rake), King Lear
    King Lear
    King Lear is a tragedy by William Shakespeare. The title character descends into madness after foolishly disposing of his estate between two of his three daughters based on their flattery, bringing tragic consequences for all. The play is based on the legend of Leir of Britain, a mythological...

    (Duke of Albany)
  • Flight
    Flight (play)
    Flight is a play by Russian writer Mikhail Bulgakov. It is set during the end of the Russian Civil War, when the remnants of the White Army are desperately resisting the Red Army on the Crimean isthmus...

    (National Theatre/Olivier Theatre, 1998): Commander in Chief of the White Army
  • Hay Fever (Savoy Theatre, 1999): David Bliss
  • Hamlet
    The Tragical History of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, or more simply Hamlet, is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1599 and 1601...

    (Royal National Theatre, US national tour and some UK performances, 2001): Polonius/The Grave-digger
  • The Royal Family (Theatre Royal Haymarket, 2001): Gilbert Marshall
  • Mrs. Warren's Profession
    Mrs. Warren's Profession
    Mrs Warren's Profession is a play written by George Bernard Shaw in 1893. The story centers on the relationship between Mrs Kitty Warren, a brothel owner, described by the author as "on the whole, a genial and fairly presentable old blackguard of a woman" and her daughter, Vivie...

    (Strand Theatre, 2002): Mr. Praed
  • Humble Boy
    Humble Boy
    Humble Boy is a 2001 English play by Charlotte Jones. The play was presented in association with Matthew Byam Shaw and Anna Mackmin, and was first performed on the Cottesloe stage of the Royal National Theatre on August 9, 2001. [1]-Background:...

    (Gielgud Theatre, 2002): Jim
  • Henry V
    Henry V (play)
    Henry V is a history play by William Shakespeare, believed to be written in approximately 1599. Its full titles are The Cronicle History of Henry the Fifth and The Life of Henry the Fifth...

    (National Theatre/Olivier Theatre, 2003): Duke of Exeter

Film and television

Blythe worked in films only rarely and usually in minor roles; his most substantial part was also in his last film appearance, The Luzhin Defence
The Luzhin Defence
The Luzhin Defence is a 2000 film directed by Marleen Gorris, starring John Turturro and Emily Watson. The film centres on a mentally tormented chess grandmaster and the young woman he meets while competing at a world-class tournament in Italy...

(2000). Other film credits include two movies for Hammer Film Productions
Hammer Film Productions
Hammer Film Productions is a film production company based in the United Kingdom. Founded in 1934, the company is best known for a series of Gothic "Hammer Horror" films made from the mid-1950s until the 1970s. Hammer also produced science fiction, thrillers, film noir and comedies and in later...

, A Challenge for Robin Hood (1967) and Frankenstein Created Woman
Frankenstein Created Woman
Frankenstein Created Woman is a 1967 British Hammer Horror film directed by Terence Fisher. It stars Peter Cushing as Baron Frankenstein and Susan Denberg as his new creation...

(also 1967); his most successful film was Carrington
Carrington (film)
Carrington is a biographical film written and directed by Christopher Hampton about the life of the English painter Dora Carrington , who was known simply as "Carrington"...


By contrast, Blythe appeared in several dozen television series, miniseries, and movies, most notably as Samuel Ballard, QC in Rumpole of the Bailey (1983-92). He guest-starred in episodes of The Avengers
The Avengers (TV series)
The Avengers is a spy-fi British television series set in the 1960s Britain. The Avengers initially focused on Dr. David Keel and his assistant John Steed . Hendry left after the first series and Steed became the main character, partnered with a succession of assistants...

UFO (TV series)
UFO is a 1970-1971 British television science fiction series about an alien invasion of Earth, created by Gerry Anderson and Sylvia Anderson with Reg Hill, and produced by the Andersons and Lew Grade's Century 21 Productions for Grade's ITC Entertainment company.UFO first aired in the UK and Canada...

, Callan
Callan (TV series)
Callan is the title of a British television series set in the murky world of espionage. Originally produced by ABC Weekend Television and later Thames Television, it was aired on the ITV network over four seasons spread out between 1967 and 1972...

, New Scotland Yard, Special Branch
Special Branch (TV series)
Special Branch is a British television series made by Thames Television for ITV and shown between 1969 and 1974. A police drama series, the action was centred on members of the Special Branch anti-espionage and anti-terrorist department of the London Metropolitan Police.The first two series were...

, Agatha Christie's Partners in Crime
Agatha Christie's Partners in Crime
Agatha Christie's Partners in Crime is a 1983 British television series based on the short stories of the same name by Agatha Christie. It was directed by John A. Davis and Tony Wharmby, and starred James Warwick and Francesca Annis in the leading roles of husband and wife sleuths Tommy and...

, Poirot, Inspector Morse
Inspector Morse (TV series)
Inspector Morse is a detective drama based on Colin Dexter's series of Chief Inspector Morse novels. The series starred John Thaw as Chief Inspector Morse and Kevin Whately as Sergeant Lewis. Dexter makes a cameo appearance in all but three of the episodes....

, Maigret
Jules Maigret, Maigret to most people, including his wife, is a fictional police detective, actually a commissaire or commissioner of the Paris "Brigade Criminelle" , created by writer Georges Simenon.Seventy-five novels and twenty-eight short stories about Maigret were published between 1931 and...

, The Inspector Alleyn Mysteries
Roderick Alleyn
Roderick Alleyn is a fictional character who first appeared in 1934. He is the policeman hero of the 32 detective novels of Ngaio Marsh. Marsh and her gentleman detective belong firmly in the Golden Age of Detective Fiction, although the last Alleyn novel, Light Thickens, was published as late as...

, Between the Lines, Pie in the Sky, Goodnight Sweetheart
Goodnight Sweetheart
Goodnight Sweetheart is a sitcom that ran for six series on BBC1 from 1993 to 1999. It stars Nicholas Lyndhurst as Gary Sparrow, an accidental time traveller who leads a double life after discovering a time portal allowing him to travel between the London of the 1990s and the same area during the...

, Dalziel and Pascoe
Dalziel and Pascoe (BBC TV series)
Dalziel and Pascoe is a popular British television crime drama based on the Dalziel and Pascoe books by Reginald Hill, which was first broadcast in March 1996. It is set in Yorkshire, and is about two detectives...

, and Foyle's War
Foyle's War
Foyle's War is a British detective drama television series set during World War II, created by screenwriter and author Anthony Horowitz, and was commissioned by ITV after the long-running series Inspector Morse came to an end in 2000. It has aired on ITV since 2002...

(aired posthumously), among many others. His miniseries appearances included The Barchester Chronicles
The Barchester Chronicles
The Barchester Chronicles is a 1982 British television serial produced by the BBC. It is an adaptation of Anthony Trollope's first two Barchester novels, The Warden and Barchester Towers, and was directed by David Giles...

, After the War, and The Alan Clark Diaries
The Alan Clark Diaries
The Alan Clark Diaries is a 2004 BBC television serial dramatising the diaries of the controversial British Conservative politician Alan Clark.-March of the Grey Men:...

. He narrated the 1970 TV comedy special Cucumber Castle
Cucumber Castle (film)
Cucumber Castle is a British comedy film starring The Bee Gees that aired on BBC1 on 26 December 1970.-Overview:The plot revolves around two heirs, Prince Frederick and his brother Prince Marmaduke , and their dying father...

 starring The Bee Gees
Bee Gees
The Bee Gees are a musical group that originally comprised three brothers: Barry, Robin, and Maurice Gibb. The trio was successful for most of their 40-plus years of recording music, but they had two distinct periods of exceptional success: as a pop act in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and as a...



One of Blythe's plays, Tom, Dick, and Harry, was produced at the Stephen Joseph Theatre
Stephen Joseph Theatre
The Stephen Joseph Theatre is a theatre in the round in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, England that was founded by Stephen Joseph and was the first theatre in the round in Britain....

, Scarborough in 1972 directed by Alan Ayckbourn
Alan Ayckbourn
Sir Alan Ayckbourn CBE is a prolific English playwright. He has written and produced seventy-three full-length plays in Scarborough and London and was, between 1972 and 2009, the artistic director of the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough, where all but four of his plays have received their...

. He also wrote two poetry chapbook
A chapbook is a pocket-sized booklet. The term chap-book was formalized by bibliophiles of the 19th century, as a variety of ephemera , popular or folk literature. It includes many kinds of printed material such as pamphlets, political and religious tracts, nursery rhymes, poetry, folk tales,...

s, Spring and The Light.

Personal life

Blythe lived for eight years with Harriet Walter
Harriet Walter
Dame Harriet Mary Walter, DBE is a British actress.-Personal life:She is the niece of renowned British actor Sir Christopher Lee, as the daughter of his elder sister Xandra Lee. On her father's side she is a great-great-great-granddaughter of John Walter, founder of The TimesShe was educated at...

; the couple were planning to marry at the time of his death.

External links

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