Kaye in 1974
|Born||Gordon Irving Kaye
7 April 1941
Huddersfield, West Riding of Yorkshire, England
|Died||23 January 2017
Knaresborough, North Yorkshire, England
|Other names||Gordon Kaye|
Kaye was born in Huddersfield, West Riding of Yorkshire, an only child. His mother, Gracie, was 42 when he was born. His father, Harold, was a lorry driver and in the ARP during the Second World War and at other times worked as an engineer in a tractor factory.
When young, Kaye played rugby league for Moldgreen ARLFC before studying at King James's Grammar School, Almondbury, Huddersfield. He worked in hospital radio in Huddersfield (interviewing the Beatles in 1965), and worked in textile mills, a wine factory,[clarification needed] and a tractor factory.
Kaye had appeared in a radio play directed by Alan Ayckbourn and also in a television play from Manchester. Ayckbourn suggested that he audition for the Bolton Octagon Theatre; he was offered a contract and his roles there included Pishchik in The Cherry Orchard followed by roles in The Homecoming, The Imaginary Invalid, Luther and a double-bill of Oedipus and Cyclops.
He made his TV debut as a railway guard in the BBC's Yorkshire mill drama Champion House (1968) and played small roles in such films as The Party's Over (1965), starring Oliver Reed. Having been seen by Pat Phoenix in Little Malcolm by David Halliwell at Bolton, he was cast as Bernard Butler, the nephew of Elsie Tanner (Phoenix), in the soap opera Coronation Street in 1969. He later made an impression on producer/writer David Croft following guest roles in It Ain't Half Hot Mum and Come Back Mrs. Noah.
He appeared in the 1978 comedy short The Waterloo Bridge Handicap, starring Leonard Rossiter, and featured as Dimes in the feature film version of Porridge (1979) alongside Ronnie Barker. He also appeared in the drama series All Creatures Great and Small and in the private detective series Shoestring. In 1981, Kaye appeared as Frank Broadhurst in the children's drama serial Codename Icarus.
Kaye appeared in three episodes of Croft's British department store sitcom Are You Being Served? and was later offered the lead role in a series he had written called Oh Happy Band!, but Kaye was unavailable and the part went to Harry Worth. Oh Happy Band! lasted one series. In 1990, Kaye played the fictional local television presenter Maynard Lavery in an edition of Last of the Summer Wine.
He played Dr Grant in a television adaptation of Mansfield Park and Lymoges, Duke of Austria in the 1984 BBC production of King John by Shakespeare. He also toured in the National Theatre production of As You Like It, as Touchstone.
In 1993, he made a guest appearance in a Christmas special of Family Fortunes, in which he served as team captain and placed host Les Dennis on a special "Double Big Money" round for Dennis to score more than one hundred points to double the charity prize money, which he did.
In 1982, David Croft sent Kaye the script for the pilot episode of 'Allo 'Allo! inviting him to play the central character of René Artois. He accepted and appeared in all 84 episodes (the main series ran from 1984, two years after the pilot, until 1992) and 1,200 performances of the stage version.
Kaye returned as Rene Artois in a 2007 one-off television revival of 'Allo 'Allo! and in a stage show in Brisbane, Australia, at the Twelfth Night Theatre in June and July, alongside Sue Hodge as Mimi Labonq and Guy Siner as Lieutenant Gruber. The other characters were portrayed by Australian actors, including Katy Manning, Steven Tandy, Chloe Dallimore, and Jason Gann.
Kaye's autobiography, René and Me: An Autobiography (co-written with Hilary Bonner), was published in 1989. In the book, he described his experiences as a shy, gay, overweight, typecast youth. The unusual spelling of his name (usually spelt "Gordon") was the result of a British Actors' Equity Association typing error.
Kaye suffered serious head injuries in a car accident during the Burns' Day storm on 25 January 1990. Although he could not remember any details of the incident, he retained a scar on his forehead from a piece of wooden advertising boarding that had smashed through the car windscreen. Writing in his memoirs, 'Allo 'Allo! co-writer Jeremy Lloyd said he visited Kaye in hospital, adding, "I believe part of his recovery was due to his agent getting a video and showing reruns of 'Allo 'Allo! to remind him who he was." While recovering in hospital from emergency brain surgery to treat injuries sustained in the accident, Kaye was photographed and interviewed by Sunday Sport journalist Roger Ordish. He sued the newspaper, but the Court of Appeal held, in Kaye v Robertson, that there was no remedy in English law for an invasion of privacy.
Kaye's funeral service was held at Huddersfield Parish Church on 17 February 2017. His co-stars from 'Allo 'Allo! Vicki Michelle, Sue Hodge and Kim Hartman all attended, as did Ken Morley from Coronation Street, who gave a tribute. The unofficial Yorkshire anthem "On Ilkla Moor Baht 'at" was sung at the service.
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- René and Me: An Autobiography (with Hilary Bonner). Pan Books, London, Sydney, Auckland, 1990, ISBN 0-283-99965-9), p. 102.
- "On This Day: 25 January 1990" – BBC Online
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- Kandohla, Tracey (25 January 2017). "Tragic dementia battle of 'Allo 'Allo star: Gorden Kaye died after secret two-year fight with the disease that left him unable to recognise family... or himself". Daily Mail. Retrieved 27 January 2017.[better source needed]