Stratford Johns
Stratford Johns, born Alan Edgar Stratford-Johns, (22 September 1925 - 29 January 2002 ) was a popular British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 stage, film and television
Television is a telecommunication medium for transmitting and receiving moving images that can be monochrome or colored, with accompanying sound...

 actor who is best remembered for his starring role as Detective Inspector Charlie Barlow in the innovative and long-running BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

 police series Z-Cars
Z-Cars is a British television drama series centred on the work of mobile uniformed police in the fictional town of Newtown, based on Kirkby in the outskirts of Liverpool in Merseyside. Produced by the BBC, it debuted in January 1962 and ran until September 1978.-Origins:The series was developed by...

, created by Troy Kennedy-Martin.

Early life

Johns was born in Pietermaritzburg
Pietermaritzburg is the capital and second largest city in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. It was founded in 1838, and is currently governed by the Msunduzi Local Municipality. Its "purist" Zulu name is umGungundlovu, and this is the name used for the district municipality...

 and grew up in South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

, where his parents had emigrated. After serving in the South African navy during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, Johns worked for a time in accountancy, but soon became involved in amateur theatre.


In 1948, he bought a one-way ticket to Britain and learned his craft working in repertory theatre at Southend-on-Sea
Southend-on-Sea is a unitary authority area, town, and seaside resort in Essex, England. The district has Borough status, and comprises the towns of Chalkwell, Eastwood, Leigh-on-Sea, North Shoebury, Prittlewell, Shoeburyness, Southchurch, Thorpe Bay, and Westcliff-on-Sea. The district is situated...

 for almost five years. He began to appear in British films from the mid-1950s, including a role in the classic Ealing comedy
Ealing Studios
Ealing Studios is a television and film production company and facilities provider at Ealing Green in West London. Will Barker bought the White Lodge on Ealing Green in 1902 as a base for film making, and films have been made on the site ever since...

 The Ladykillers
The Ladykillers
The Ladykillers is a 1955 British black comedy film made by Ealing Studios. Directed by Alexander Mackendrick, it stars Alec Guinness, Cecil Parker, Herbert Lom, Peter Sellers, Danny Green, Jack Warner and Katie Johnson...

(1955). He ran a small hotel in London during the 1950s, and was a member of the English Stage Company at the Royal Court Theatre
Royal Court Theatre
The Royal Court Theatre is a non-commercial theatre on Sloane Square, in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. It is noted for its contributions to modern theatre...

 during the Angry Young Men
Angry young men
The "angry young men" were a group of mostly working and middle class British playwrights and novelists who became prominent in the 1950s. The group's leading members included John Osborne and Kingsley Amis.The phrase was originally coined by the Royal Court Theatre's press officer to promote John...

 period when new playwrights, including John Osborne
John Osborne
John James Osborne was an English playwright, screenwriter, actor and critic of the Establishment. The success of his 1956 play Look Back in Anger transformed English theatre....

, introduced new themes to British theatre. His most famous character, Barlow, was noted for his hard edges, owing much to the changes in characterisation pioneered at the Royal Court.

In 1962 he won the part of Barlow in Z-Cars and soon became one of the most familiar and popular faces on British television. During the long run (1962–1965) of Z-Cars, he transferred his character to the spin-off series, Softly, Softly
Softly, Softly (TV series)
Softly, Softly is a British television drama series, produced by the BBC and screened on BBC 1 from January 1966. It centred around the work of regional crime squads, plain-clothes CID officers based in the fictional region of Wyvern - supposedly in the Bristol and Chepstow area of the UK...

(1966–1969), and later Softly, Softly: Taskforce
Softly, Softly: Taskforce
Softly, Softly the popular BBC television police drama series, was revamped in 1969, partly to coincide with the coming of colour broadcasting to BBC 1...

(1969–1972). He also played the voice of the mysterious "Guvner" in The Great St Trinian's Train Robbery
The Great St Trinian's Train Robbery
The Great St. Trinian's Train Robbery is a British comedy film set in the fictional St Trinian's School, released in 1966, three years after the Great Train Robbery had taken place...


In the 1970s he starred in a third spin-off series, Barlow at Large
Barlow at Large
Barlow at Large is a British television programme broadcast in the 1970s, starring Stratford Johns in the title role.Johns had previously played Barlow in the Z-Cars, Softly, Softly and Softly, Softly: Taskforce series on BBC television during the 1960s and early 1970s...

(1971,1973), which saw the character transferred to British Intelligence: it was later retitled simply Barlow (1974–1975). Although the Barlow character remained popular (and appeared in another spin-off, in which he investigated the Jack The Ripper murders), ratings for these solo spin-offs declined, and the final series ended in 1975. Barlow was seen once more in 1976, in the series Second Verdict
Second Verdict
Second Verdict was a six-part BBC television series from 1976, of dramatised documentaries in which classic criminal cases and unsolved crimes from history were re-appraised by fictional police officers...


Johns appeared as President of the Council Bradshaw in the 1970 award-winning film "Cromwell
Cromwell (film)
Cromwell is a 1970 film, based on the life of Oliver Cromwell who led the Parliamentary forces during the English Civil War and, as Lord Protector, ruled Great Britain and Ireland in the 1650s. It features an all-star cast led by Richard Harris as Cromwell and Alec Guinness as King Charles I...

with Richard Harris
Richard Harris
Richard St John Harris was an Irish actor, singer-songwriter, theatrical producer, film director and writer....

 in the role of Cromwell and Sir Alec Guinness
Alec Guinness
Sir Alec Guinness, CH, CBE was an English actor. He was featured in several of the Ealing Comedies, including Kind Hearts and Coronets in which he played eight different characters. He later won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role as Colonel Nicholson in The Bridge on the River Kwai...

 as King Charles 1st.

In 1973 Johns was named BBC TV Personality of the Year by the Variety Club of Great Britain. He also landed a cameo role as the apartheid-supporting Namib mine superintendent Zimmerman in the mini-series Master of the Game
Master of the Game
Master of the Game is a novel by Sidney Sheldon, first published in hardback format in 1982. Spanning six generations in the lives of the fictional MacGregor/Blackwell family, the critically acclaimed novel debuted at number one on the New York Times Bestseller List...

, although he went uncredited for the role.

Johns later appeared in the much-maligned Ken Russell
Ken Russell
Henry Kenneth Alfred "Ken" Russell was an English film director, known for his pioneering work in television and film and for his flamboyant and controversial style. He attracted criticism as being obsessed with sexuality and the church...

 films Salome's Last Dance
Salome's Last Dance
Salome's Last Dance is a 1988 film by British film director, Ken Russell. Although most of the action is a verbatim performance of Oscar Wilde's 1893 play Salome, which is itself based on a story from the New Testament, there is also a framing narrative written by Russell himself...

and The Lair of the White Worm
The Lair of the White Worm (film)
The Lair of the White Worm is a 1988 film based loosely on the novel by Bram Stoker of the same name and drawing upon the English myth of the Lambton Worm...

(both 1988), followed by the title-character in the mid-1980s Channel 4
Channel 4
Channel 4 is a British public-service television broadcaster which began working on 2 November 1982. Although largely commercially self-funded, it is ultimately publicly owned; originally a subsidiary of the Independent Broadcasting Authority , the station is now owned and operated by the Channel...

 series Brond.

His many stage credits include Daddy Warbucks in the original West End run of Annie
Annie (musical)
Annie is a Broadway musical based upon the popular Harold Gray comic strip Little Orphan Annie, with music by Charles Strouse, lyrics by Martin Charnin, and the book by Thomas Meehan. The original Broadway production opened in 1977 and ran for nearly six years with a blonde Annie as the poster...

- he can be heard on the original London cast album - and the Ghost of Christmas Present
Ghost of Christmas Present
The Ghost of Christmas Present is a character in one of the best-known works of the English novelist Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol. The Spirit closely resembles Father Christmas from local folklore....

 in the original Birmingham
Birmingham is a city and metropolitan borough in the West Midlands of England. It is the most populous British city outside the capital London, with a population of 1,036,900 , and lies at the heart of the West Midlands conurbation, the second most populous urban area in the United Kingdom with a...

 cast of the stage adaptation of the film musical Scrooge (1970), on the recording of which he can also be heard. His guest appearances on TV include 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...

, Department S
Department S
Department S is a United Kingdom spy-fi adventure series produced by ITC Entertainment. The series consists of 28 episodes which originally aired in 1969–1970. It starred Peter Wyngarde as author Jason King , Joel Fabiani as Stewart Sullivan, and Rosemary Nicols as computer expert Annabelle Hurst...

, Neverwhere
Neverwhere is an urban fantasy television series by Neil Gaiman that first aired in 1996 on BBC Two. The series is set in "London Below", a magical realm coexisting with the more familiar London, referred to as "London Above". It was devised by Neil Gaiman and Lenny Henry, and directed by Dewi...

, the Doctor Who
Doctor Who
Doctor Who is a British science fiction television programme produced by the BBC. The programme depicts the adventures of a time-travelling humanoid alien known as the Doctor who explores the universe in a sentient time machine called the TARDIS that flies through time and space, whose exterior...

serial Four to Doomsday
Four to Doomsday
*The working title for this story was Days Of Wrath.*Although Castrovalva was the first story aired which featured Peter Davison as the Fifth Doctor, this story was the first in the season to be produced....

(1982) and the Blake's 7
Blake's 7
Blake's 7 is a British science fiction television series produced by the BBC for its BBC1 channel. The series was created by Terry Nation, a prolific television writer and creator of the Daleks for the television series Doctor Who. Four series of Blake's 7 were produced and broadcast between 1978...

episode "Games". He had a prominent role as Calpurnius Piso in the BBC's acclaimed adaptation of Robert Graves
Robert Graves
Robert von Ranke Graves 24 July 1895 – 7 December 1985 was an English poet, translator and novelist. During his long life he produced more than 140 works...

' I, Claudius
I, Claudius (TV series)
I, Claudius is a 1976 BBC Television adaptation of Robert Graves' I, Claudius and Claudius the God. Written by Jack Pulman, it proved one of the corporation's most successful drama serials of all time...

(1976); he played Magwich in the BBC's 1981 adaptation of Dickens' Great Expectations, and the jailer in The Secret Life of Albie Sachs. In 1993, Johns appeared in the BBC period drama Scarlet and Black
Scarlet and Black (TV series)
This article is about the 1993 BBC TV miniseries and should not be confused with the 1983 film The Scarlet and the Black starring Christopher Plummer. For the novel by Stendhal see The Red and the Black....

alongside a young Ewan McGregor
Ewan McGregor
Ewan Gordon McGregor is a Scottish actor. He has had success in mainstream, indie, and art house films. McGregor is perhaps best known for his roles as heroin addict Mark Renton in the drama Trainspotting , young Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars prequel trilogy , and poet Christian in the...

 and Rachel Weisz
Rachel Weisz
Rachel Hannah Weisz born 7 March 1970)is an English-American film and theatre actress and former fashion model. She started her acting career at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, where she co-founded the theatrical group Cambridge Talking Tongues...


He was also the author of the children's book Gumphlumph; in the mid-1960s, at the height of his fame as Barlow, he read it on the children's television series Jackanory
Jackanory is a long-running BBC children's television series that was designed to stimulate an interest in reading. The show was first transmitted on 13 December 1965, the first story being the fairy-tale Cap o' Rushes read by Lee Montague. Jackanory continued to be broadcast until 24 March 1996,...

. Gumphlumph would be revived, again with Johns narrating, for the TV-am
TV-am was a breakfast television station that broadcast to the United Kingdom from 1 February 1983 to 31 December 1992. It made history by being the first national operator of a commercial television franchise at breakfast-time , and broadcast every day of the week for most or all of the period...

 children's programme Rub-A-Dub-Tub in the 1980s.

Personal life

He ran the small hotel in St Martins Lane called the St Martins Hotel; it was managed by Elizabeth Kissick-Jones, formerly Hartnell, who was the aunt of his wife Nannette. The hotel was very popular with actors and he ran it until 1976.

After several years of poor health, Johns died from heart disease, aged 76.

External links

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