Alfred Burke

Alfred Burke (28 February 1918 – 16 February 2011)[1] was an English actor of stage, TV and film. While known for many TV roles, his most popular with the British audience was his portrayal of private eye, Frank Marker, in the drama series Public Eye, which ran for ten years on ITV, the UK's most-watched commercial national television channel.

Alfred Burke
Born(1918-02-28)28 February 1918
Peckham, London, England
Died16 February 2011(2011-02-16) (aged 92)
Barnes, London, England
Years active1946–2008
Spouse(s)Barbara Bonelle
Partner(s)Hedi Argent

Early lifeEdit

Born in London's south-east borough of Peckham, the son of Sarah Ann O'Leary and William Burke,[2] he was educated at Leo Street Boys' School and Walworth Central School. Burke started work aged 14, working at a railway repair firm in the City of London after leaving school. He became a club steward and also worked in a silk warehouse, joining a local amateur dramatics group before moving to Morley College and winning a scholarship to RADA in 1937. His acting career started two years later at the Barn Theatre in Shere, Surrey. His budding career was interrupted by the Second World War, when he registered as a conscientious objector, and was directed to work on the land.[1]


In the late 1940s, he worked with the Young and Old Vic and other companies. His London debut was in 1950 at the Watergate Theatre, appearing in Pablo Picasso's play Desire Caught by the Tail. He then spent three years with Birmingham Repertory Theatre (1950–53) and appeared in the 1954 West End hit Sailor Beware!.[3]

Burke built a solid reputation across a wide range of character roles in films and on television. Tall, sharp-featured and with a distinctively husky voice, he could be convincingly menacing or genial but cynical. In fact, he was extremely versatile and appreciated by his contemporaries for both his acting skills and unsentimental, dryly humorous approach to life. His acting career included: The Angry Silence, Touch and Go, Interpol, Yangtse Incident and Buccaneers, as well as such televised plays as The Tip and Treasure Island.

His most famous role was as the private detective Frank Marker in the ABC/Thames television series Public Eye, which ran from 1965 to 1975. His low-key, understated but always compelling portrayal of a private eye who investigated believable, real-life type of cases rather than the glamorised violence of Hollywood PI's made the series one of the most popular and highly rated detective dramas on British television.

After Public Eye ended Burke appeared in a host of guises, from Long John Silver to Pope John Paul II's father. In the television series Minder he appeared in the episode Come in T-64, Your Time Is Ticking Away as Kevin, partner to Arthur Daley in his latest scheme, a minicab service. He was also the formidable headmaster "Thrasher" Harris in Home To Roost. He played Major (later Oberst) Richter in both series of Enemy at the Door and Dr Anderson in the Bergerac episode titled Poison. Later he was seen as Armando Dippet in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

His stage career ran parallel to his film and TV career, immediately after leaving RADA in the early 40s to his final Shakespeare role less than two years before his death at 92. Burke was an actor who was always in work. He also appeared in many productions by the Royal Shakespeare Company from the 1980s to 2008, including Richard II, Romeo and Juliet, Roberto Zucco, The Tempest, Peer Gynt, Measure for Measure, Troilus and Cressida, Two Shakespearean Actors, All's Well That Ends Well and Antony and Cleopatra. In 2008 he appeared at the National Theatre as the Shepherd in a new version of Sophocles' Oedipus by Frank McGuinness.[4]


Burke died from a chest infection on 16 February 2011, twelve days before his 93rd birthday, and was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium. He was survived by his wife, Barbara (née Bonelle) and their four children: Jacob and Harriet (twins), and Kelly and Louisa (twins).

Selected filmographyEdit

Television rolesEdit


Year Title Role
1963 On the Knocker Frank

Selected drama appearancesEdit

Year Title Role Notes
1956-64 ITV Play of the Week Thirteen appearances Including adaptations of "The Birthday Party" and "The Crucible"
1959-69 Armchair Theatre Six appearances
1961-66 The Avengers Three appearances "Dragonsfield", "The Mauritius Penny", "The Girl from Auntie"
1963-64 The Saint Two appearances "The Wonderful War" and "Starring the Saint"
1965–75 Public Eye Frank Marker
1969 Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) Henry Foster Series 1, Episode 3: "All Work and No Pay"
1973 The Brontes of Haworth The Reverend Patrick Brontë
1978–80 Enemy at the Door Major Dieter Richter
1979 Minder Kevin Season 1, Episode 8
1980 Tales of the Unexpected Herbert Season 3, Episode 1: 'The Flypaper'
1981 The Borgias Giuliano della Rovere 6 Episodes, 1981
1986 Bergerac Doctor Anderson Season 5, Episode 8: ‘Poison’
1988 Sophia and Constance Mr Critchlow

Selected theatreEdit


  1. ^ a b Dennis Barker (18 February 2011). "Alfred Burke obituary". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 18 February 2011.
  2. ^ Alfred Burke Film Reference biography
  3. ^ Hayward, Anthony (19 February 2011). "Alfred Burke: Actor best known for his portrayal of the seedy private detective Frank Marker in 'Public Eye'". Independent. Archived from the original on 20 February 2011. Retrieved 16 December 2018.
  4. ^ "Oedipus – Productions". National Theatre. Archived from the original on 5 August 2009. Retrieved 16 December 2018.

External linksEdit