James Beck

Stanley James Carroll Beck (21 February 1929 – 6 August 1973) was an English actor who played the role of Private Walker, a cockney spiv, in the BBC sitcom Dad's Army.

James Beck
James Beck-1973.png
Beck as Private Walker in the Dad's Army episode "The Honourable Man" in 1973, just over a week before his collapse
Born
Stanley James Carroll Beck

(1929-02-21)21 February 1929
Died6 August 1973(1973-08-06) (aged 44)
Roehampton, London, England [2]
Resting placePutney Vale Cemetery, London, England
OccupationActor
Years active1961–1973
Spouse(s)Kathleen 'Kay' W Bullus (1959–1973) (his death)

Early lifeEdit

Stanley James Carroll Beck was born in Islington, north London, and attended Popham Road Primary School. His childhood was hard, with his father frequently unemployed and his mother making artificial flowers to provide a small income.

After attending Saint Martin's School of Art and doing his national service as a physical training instructor in the British Army, Beck became an actor. Prior to his broadcast roles he spent several seasons with the Unicorn Players [3] based in Paignton, Devon.

His early broadcast roles included Charlie Bell in an episode of Dr Finlay's Casebook (Series 1 episode 4, "Conduct Unbecoming", 1962), and Shylock in The Merchant of Venice in 1963, for which he gained positive reviews. He concentrated on television and was cast as a policeman in a 1965 episode of Coronation Street in a storyline concerning the collapse of a house and in a 1967 episode in a storyline concerning a train crash. He also appeared, uncredited, as a policeman in Gideon's Way (1965), and was often seen in TV drama, with one-off roles in series such as The Troubleshooters (1965, 1967, 1970) and the BBC's Sherlock Holmes with Peter Cushing in the lead ("The Blue Carbuncle", 1968).

In 1968, he was offered the role of Private Walker in Dad's Army, originally written by Jimmy Perry for himself. Perry approved of the casting of Beck: "He had the right mix of cheekiness and charm. He gave the role a bit of oomph."[4] While successful in the role, Beck yearned for the challenge of other roles.

Always in demand, he continued to work on TV programmes including A Family at War (1970) and Romany Jones (1972–73), in which he played the lead character of Bert Jones. He also recorded a pilot for an uncommissioned series called Bunclarke With an E (1973),[4] which was to be based on scripts originally written for Hancock's Half Hour and in which Arthur Lowe was also to appear.

DeathEdit

By 1973, Beck had recorded five series of Dad's Army and was working on the sixth, besides working on the radio series of the show. Location filming for series six was completed when Beck suddenly fell ill while opening a school fête[4] in aid of Guide Dogs for the Blind. He returned home and within an hour was taken to Queen Mary's Hospital, Roehampton[5] suffering from pancreatitis. He died there three weeks later, aged 44, and was cremated at Putney Vale Cemetery, where a tree was planted in his memory, with a marker bearing his name.

His death was a great shock to his fellow cast members, as well as to Jimmy Perry and David Croft. Perry has said that heavy drinking was common in show business at the time, and that he paid little attention to Beck's habit until "I saw Jimmy’s legs and they were purple. It was the last episode he appeared in before he died."[4]

In the sixth series, during the episode "Things that Go Bump in the Night", Walker is present only in the location scenes in the second half of the episode, as these were filmed weeks earlier than the studio scenes. In one of the videotaped sequences filmed after Beck's death, the platoon is aboard Corporal Jones's van when Captain Mainwaring tells Sergeant Wilson to "take Private Walker's name". Wilson writes the name "Walker" in the condensation on the window.

In the following episode, "The Recruit" (the series finale), Mainwaring reads a note written by Walker apologising for his absence, as he has gone "up the Smoke" (to London) to conduct one of his deals. This was the last time the character was mentioned. In the radio adaptations of Dad's Army, Graham Stark stood in until Larry Martyn portrayed Walker in subsequent shows. John Bardon played Walker in the stage production in 1976.

FilmographyEdit

FilmEdit

Year Title Role Notes
1968 Star! Drunken Soldier Uncredited
1970 Groupie Girl Brian Released as I Am a Groupie in the United States
Carry On Loving Mr Roxby Scenes deleted from final film
1971 Dad's Army Private Walker
A Couple of Beauties Sidney Short
1973 Love Thy Neighbour Cyril

TelevisionEdit

Year Title Role Episode
1961 Dixon of Dock Green Various 6 episodes
1961 Deadline Midnight Ambulance man 1 episode
1962 Dr. Finlay's Casebook Charlie Bell Conduct Unbecoming
Z Cars Constable The Five Whistles
1964 Taxi! Len Gladwin 5 episodes
1964-67 Coronation Street Police Sergeant Bowden 6 episodes
1966 All Gas and Gaiters Policeman The Bishop Rides Again (pilot)
1967 The Troubleshooters Dave Candy Some Days You Just Can't Win
1968 The Blue Carbuncle James Ryder
1968 Not in Front of the Children Estate Agent Home Chat
1968–73 Dad's Army Private Walker 59 episodes (last appearance)
1969 Two in Clover Dr. Molineux
1970 Doctor in the House Mr Wale What Seems to Be the Trouble
1972 The Fenn Street Gang Auctioneer Horse of the Year
Scoop Corker 3 episodes
My Wife Next Door Mr Fielding Undesirable Residence
1972–73 Romany Jones Bert Jones 14 episodes

RadioEdit

Year Title Role Episode Notes
1968 The Events at Black Tor Sergeant 5 episodes
1970, 1971 Brothers in Law Fred Tanner, Newman 2 episodes Beck played Fred Tanner in the first series (1970), and Newman in the second series (1971).
1971 Hush, Hush, Here Comes the Bolshie Man TBA 1 episode A pilot episode recorded for Comedy Parade 1971.
1971, 1972 The Motorway Men Steve 8 episodes + pilot This program's pilot episode featured alongside Hush, Hush, Here Comes the Bolshie Man on Comedy Parade 1971.
1973 Dad's Army Private Walker 20 episodes

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ GRO Register of Births: MAR 1929 1b 407 ISLINGTON - Stanley J. C. Beck, mmn = Beck
  2. ^ GRO Register of Deaths: SEP 1973 5E 1087 WANDSWORTH - Stanley James C. Beck, DoB = 21 Feb 1929
  3. ^ The Stage, 1957
  4. ^ a b c d Clark, Neil (6 August 2013). "James Beck: the Dad's Army star cut off in his prime". The Daily Telegraph.
  5. ^ The Times, death notice and obituary, 7 August 1973

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit