John Bluthal

John Bluthal (born Isaac Bluthal; 12 August 1929 – 15 November 2018)[2] was a Polish-born Australian actor and comedian, noted for his six-decade career internationally in Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States. He started his career during the Golden Age of British Television, where he was best known for his comedy work in the UK with Spike Milligan, and for his role as Manny Cohen in the television series Never Mind the Quality, Feel the Width. In later years, he was known to television audiences as the bumbling Frank Pickle in The Vicar of Dibley. At 85 he played Professor Herbert Marcuse in the Coen Brothers' film Hail, Caesar! (2016).

John Bluthal
Isaac Bluthal

(1929-08-12)12 August 1929
Jezierzany, Galicia, Poland
Died15 November 2018(2018-11-15) (aged 89)
Alma materUniversity of Melbourne
  • Actor
  • comedian
Years active1953–2018[1]
Judyth Barron
(m. 1956, separated)

Early lifeEdit

Bluthal was born to a Jewish family in Jezierzany, Galicia, Poland (now in Ukraine).[3] Due to anti-Semitism in Poland,[4] his family emigrated to Melbourne, Australia, in 1938, when he was aged nine. He was educated at Princes Hill Central School in Carlton North and University High School in Parkville. He began his acting career in Melbourne's Yiddish Theatre and subsequently studied drama at the University of Melbourne. In 1949, he travelled to Europe and the United Kingdom, during which time he appeared in pantomime. He worked in repertory theatre in Melbourne and appeared in Australian radio dramas, as well as television productions including Shell Presents and Three's A Crowd. He also devised and produced Gaslight Music Hall, in which he starred.


Bluthal moved to the United Kingdom permanently in 1960[1] and appeared in Citizen James in 1960 for BBC television, and the long-running ITV comedy series Never Mind the Quality, Feel the Width (1967–71) in which he played Manny Cohen, a Jewish London tailor in business with an Irish Catholic tailor, Patrick Kelly, played by Joe Lynch. Also in the 1960s, he provided the voice for Commander Zero in the television puppet series Fireball XL5 (1962–63).

Bluthal had worked with Spike Milligan before leaving Australia, appearing with him in a 1958 Australian television special, The Gladys Half-Hour, in the Australian radio comedy series The Idiot Weekly. On relocating to Britain, he appeared as several characters in Milligan and John Antrobus' stage play The Bedsitting Room, which opened at the Mermaid Theatre on 31 January 1963.[5][6][7] He also appeared in The Omar Khayyam Show, a UK remake of episodes from The Idiot Weekly. He later worked extensively with Milligan on the television series Q and its radio counterpart The Milligan Show. Bluthal was able to produce many comedic and imitative voices, like Milligan's radio colleague Peter Sellers, and he was used somewhat like Sellers in Milligan's later work.

Bluthal worked extensively in British theatre. In 1960 he played Fagin in the original production of the musical Oliver! in the West End (replacing Ron Moody). His appearances at the National Theatre included Tales from Hollywood, Entertaining Strangers, Peter Hall's production of Antony and Cleopatra (with Judi Dench and Anthony Hopkins), Yonaadab, The Tempest, The Winter's Tale, and Cymbeline.

His other television appearances include the Sykes and a... episode "Sykes and a Bath", broadcast on 25 January 1961,[7] Hancock ("The Radio Ham", 1961), The Avengers (1965), The Saint ("The Happy Suicide", 1965), 'Allo 'Allo! (1984), Minder (1985), Bergerac (1990), Rumpole of the Bailey (1991), Inspector Morse (1993), Lovejoy (1994), Last of the Summer Wine (1995), and Jonathan Creek (1997), as well as appearing as Major Cheeseburger in The Goodies' episode "Clown Virus". He also replaced Ronnie Stevens in the Australian comedy/satire series The Mavis Bramston Show for the second half of 1966[8] and starred as "Enzo Pacelli" in the ABC-TV comedy television series Home Sweet Home (1982-3). Bluthal also appeared as Leonid Krasin in episodes of the Thames TV series Reilly, Ace of Spies (1983).[9] and "Chalky", a hospital patient, in the episode "I Gotta Horse" of the comedy television series Doctor Down Under (1979) the Australian series of the British television series syndicated internationally as Doctor in the House, which also starred Robin Nedwell as Dr. Duncan Waring and Geoffrey Davies as Dr. Dick Stuart-Clark).

His films appearances include: The Knack ...and How to Get It (1965), three Carry On films, two of the Doctor films, and also The Beatles' films A Hard Day's Night (1964) and Help! (1965), three roles in Casino Royale (1967), and two of the Pink Panther films. Bluthal also played several characters in The Great McGonagall (1974), by Spike Milligan and Joseph McGrath, based on the life of William McGonagall.[10] He portrayed an Egyptologist in the year 1914 for the first part of the film The Fifth Element (1997) and Uncle Karl in Dark City (1998). He also appeared in the comedy Beware of Greeks Bearing Guns (2000).

His later television appearances have been in the sitcom The Vicar of Dibley as the fastidious minutes-taker Frank Pickle and as the caretaker Rocko in Spirited.

He also appeared in the 2004 film Love's Brother and in the 2016 Coen Brothers film Hail, Caesar!

His final appearance was with his daughter Lisa Bluthal in her 2018 short film By Any Other Name, a comedy about a daughter dealing with her father's Alzheimer's.[11]

Personal life and deathEdit

Bluthal married actress Judyth Barron in 1956. Together they had daughters Nava and Lisa, but later separated. Barron died in 2016.[3]

Bluthal's agent confirmed on 16 November 2018 that the actor had died, aged 89, in New South Wales, Australia.[12] Following his death, fellow The Vicar of Dibley actor Dawn French said "Tons of happy laughs remembered today. Cheeky, naughty, hilarious. Bye darlin' Bluey."[13] On 22 December 2018, BBC One aired The Vicar of Dibley December 1996 episode "The Christmas Lunch Incident" with a caption at the end remembering Bluthal's death. Similarly the final episode of the lockdown edition of The Vicar of Dibley ended with a tribute just before the closing credits reading, "In loving memory of Liz, John, Emma and Roger", paying tribute to him and also three other deceased Dibley cast members (Liz Smith, Emma Chambers and Roger Lloyd-Pack).



Year Title Role Director Notes
1963 The Mouse on the Moon Von Neidel Richard Lester
1963 Doctor in Distress Railway Porter Ralph Thomas Uncredited
1964 This Is My Street Joe Sidney Hayers
1964 Father Came Too! Robert the Bruce Peter Graham Scott
1964 A Hard Day's Night Car Thief Richard Lester Uncredited
1964 Carry On Spying Head Waiter / Doctor Crow Gerald Thomas Voice
1965 The Knack ...and How to Get It Angry Father Richard Lester
1965 Help! Bhuta Richard Lester
1966 A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum Roman Chief Guard Richard Lester
1967 Casino Royale Casino Doorman / MI5 Man
1967 Carry On... Follow That Camel Cpl. Clotski Gerald Thomas
1968 A Ghost of a Chance Mayor's Assistant Jan Darnley-Smith
1968 Don't Raise the Bridge, Lower the River Dr. Pinto Jerry Lewis
1968 The Bliss of Mrs. Blossom Judge Joseph McGrath
1969 The Undertakers Brian Cummins Short
1969 A Talent for Loving Martinelli Richard Quine
1970 Doctor in Trouble 1st Cabbie Ralph Thomas
1971 Carry On Henry Royal Tailor Gerald Thomas Uncredited
1972 Nightmare Capt. John Tredinnick Jeremy Summers
1973 Never Mind the Quality, Feel the Width Manny Cohen Ronnie Baxter
1973 Digby, the Biggest Dog in the World Jerry Joseph McGrath
1973 The Flying Sorcerer Uncle Charlie Harry Booth
1974 The Over-Amorous Artist Pakistani Salesman Maurice Hamblin
1975 The Great McGonagall Mr. Giles / MacDuff / Hercules Paint / British Soldier / Policeman / McLain / Sheriff / Judge Joseph McGrath
1975 The Return of the Pink Panther Blind Beggar Blake Edwards
1976 Fantasm Professor Jungenot A. Freud Richard Bruce Uncredited
1977 Survival Kit Karin Altmann Short
1978 The Irishman Dave Donald Crombie
1978 Revenge of the Pink Panther Guard at Cemetery Blake Edwards
1980 Touch and Go Anatole Peter Maxwell
1981 Alison's Birthday Uncle Dean Findlay Ian Coughlan
1983 Superman III Pisa Vendor Richard Lester
1983 The Return of Captain Invincible Deli Owner Philippe Mora
1986 Labyrinth Goblin Jim Henson Voice, Uncredited
1992 Stan and George's New Life Stan Senior Brian McKenzie
1995 Leapin' Leprechauns! Michael Dennehy Ted Nicolaou
1996 Spellbreaker: Secret of the Leprechauns Ted Nicolaou
1997 The Fifth Element Professor Pacoli Luc Besson
1998 Dark City Karl Harris Alex Proyas
1998 RPM Grinkstein Ian Sharp
2000 Beware of Greeks Bearing Guns Stephanos John Tatoulis
2004 Love's Brother Pepe Jan Sardi
2008 Pigeonhole Old Man Nicole Tanzabel Short
2014 Milk & Honey Umberto Andrea Demetriades
Louisa Mignone
2016 Hail, Caesar! Prof. Marcuse Joel and Ethan Coen
2017 Jungle Uncle Nissim Greg McLean

TV seriesEdit

Year Title Role Notes
1958 Miss Mabel The Gardener Television film
1959 Lady in Danger Inspector Marsh Television film
1960 Man in a Blue Vase Herman Television film
1960 Citizen James Charlie 5 episodes
1961 Sykes and A... Mr. Kelly 3.04 "Sykes and a Bath"
4.01 "Sykes and a Mission"
1961-1963 It's a Square World Various Characters 14 episodes
1961 Hancock Radio voice 1.03 "The Radio Ham"
1962-1963 Fireball XL5 Commander Wilbur Zero
Jock Campbell
Various Characters
39 episodes
1963 The Benny Hill Show Willie The Kid 2.06 "The Shooting of Willie the Kid"
1963 Best of Friends 01.03 "Stars and Strife"
1963 The Larkins Martinez 5.01 "Cafe Ole"
1964-1965 The Mavis Bramston Show Various
1964 Festival Justin Thyme 1.25 "Justin Thyme"
1964 A Child's Guide to Screenwriting Various Voice, Television film
1964 HMS Paradise Gus 1.11 "And a Happy Bastille Day to You Too"
1964 ITV Play of the Week 10.15 "Drill Pig"
1964 The Saint Guido Naccaro 3.13 "The Damsel in Distress"
1965 Night Train to Surbiton Ward Television miniseries
1965 The Saint Ziggy Zaglan 3.23 "The Happy Suicide"
1965 Not Only... But Also 1.07 "Episode #1.7"
1965 The Avengers Ivenko 4.12 "Two's a Crowd"
1967 Armchair Theatre Emmanuel "Manny" Cohen 7.04 "Never Mind the Quality, Feel the Width"
1967 The Baron Giuseppe Borzo 1.26 "The Long Long Day"
1967-1971 Never Mind the Quality, Feel the Width Manny Cohen 41 episodes
1968 City '68 Arthur Somerset 1.05 "The Visitors"
1968 George and the Dragon Salesman 3.03 "The TV Set"
1968 Man in a Suitcase Berger 1.22 "Jigsaw Man"
1968 ITV Playhouse Kondu 1.28 "The Brahmin Widow"
1969 Q5 Various characters 4 episodes
1969 All Star Comedy Carnival Manny Cohen Television film
1970 Oh In Colour Various characters 6 episodes
1972-1973 Milligan in... Various characters 1.01 "Milligan in Autumn"
1.02 "Milligan in Winter"
1.03 "Milligan in Spring"
1973 The Pathfinders Corporal John Tredinnick 1.12 "Nightmare"
1973 Matlock Police Eric Sumner 3.108 "How Does Your Garden Grow?"
1973-1976 BBC2 Playhouse Sam Nicholls / Mr. Mockler / Lieberman / Dr. Einstein 4 episodes
1974 Sykes Henry 3.04 "The Band"
1974 The Last Turkey in the Shop Show Various characters Short film
1974 Charles Dickens' World of Christmas Television film
1975 The Goodies Major Cheeseburger 5.02 "Clown Virus"
1975 Comedy Playhouse Richard Armitage 15.01 "The Melting Pot"
1975 Q6 Various characters 6 episodes
1976 Whodunnit? General Malkol 4.06 "A Deadly Tan"
1976 The Melting Pot Richard Armitage 1.03 "Episode #1.3"
1976 Bluey Newsman 1.06 "Wild Goose Chase"
1977 Spaghetti Two-Step Sidney Television film
1977 The Off Show Doc Holliday 1.01 "Six of One"
1978-1980 Q... Various characters 19 episodes
1978 BBC2 Play of the Week Gleyne 2.11 "Renoir, My Father"
1979 BBC Play of the Month Ernest Friedman 14.06 "Design for Living"
1979 Ride on Stranger Joseph Litchin 3 episodes
1979 The Mismatch Television film
1979 Doctor Down Under 'Chalky' White 1.04 "I Gotta Horse"
1980 Home Sweet Home Enzo Pacelli 2 episodes
1981 And Here Comes Bucknuckle J.J. Forbes 6 episodes
1982 There's a Lot of It About Various characters 6 episodes
1983 The Kenny Everett Television Show Various characters 2 episodes
1983 Reilly, Ace of Spies Krassin 1.09 "After Moscow"
1.12 "Shutdown"
1984 ABC Afterschool Special 12.05 "The Great Love Experiment"
1984 Squaring the Circle Babiuch Television film
1984 I Thought You'd Gone Max van Damn 1.06 "Episode #1.6"
1984 'Allo 'Allo Tailor 1.03 "Savile Row to the Rescue"
1985 Minder Solly Salmon 6.03 "The Return of the Invincible Man"
1986 The Life and Loves of a She-Devil Angus Television miniseries
1987 Super Gran Inside Legg The Tailor 2.13 "Supergran and the Heir Apparent"
1988 Turn on to T-Bag Big Ed Malone 1.02 "Gangsters"
1989 T.Bag and the Revenge of the T.Set Herr Krimper 1.05 "Hazel Knutt's Muesli Bar"
1989 Storyboard Van der Moeuwe 4.02 "Snakes & Ladders"
1989 In Sickness and in Health Ricky 3 episodes
1990 Bergerac Edward Emanuelson 8.02 "My Name's Sergeant Bergerac"
1990 One Foot in the Grave Mr. Jellinek 1.04 "I'll Retire to Bedlam"
1990 T.Bag and the Pearls of Wisdom High Priest 1.07 "Tut Tut"
1990 Freddie and Max Anatol Medved 1.02 "Episode #1.2"
1991 Rumpole of the Bailey Gaston LeBlanc 6.01 "Rumpole a la Carte"
1991 Birds of a Feather Pedro 3.13 "We'll Always Have Majorca"
1992 Virtual Murder Tonu 1.04 "A Torch for Silverado"
1992 Taggart Albert Newman 8.04 "Ring of Deceit Part One"
1993 Inspector Morse Victor Ignotas 7.3 "Twilight of the Gods"
1994 A Pinch of Snuff Maurice Arany Television film
1994–2007 The Vicar of Dibley Frank Pickle 2 series and 10 specials (20 episodes)
1994 Lovejoy Popov 6.08 "Fruit of the Desert"
1995 Casualty Mr. Malinowski 10.05 "Halfway House"
1995 Last of the Summer Wine Barber 17.10 "Brushes at Dawn"
1997 Jonathan Creek Jack Holiday 1.02 "Jack in the Box"
1998 Driven Crazy Great Grandpa 1.06 "Listen Ear"
1999 Time and Tide Harry Television film
2003 Blue Heelers Sid Harrison 10.28 "Too Good to Be True"
2005 Grange Television film
2010-2011 Spirited Rocco 6 episodes


  1. ^ a b John Bluthal – AusStage
  2. ^ "Vicar of Dibley actor dies, aged 89". 19 November 2018. Retrieved 29 November 2018 – via
  3. ^ a b "Sydney actor who played Frank Pickle in Vicar of Dibley". Sydney Morning Herald. 22 November 2018. Retrieved 24 November 2018.
  4. ^ "John Bluthal obituary". the Guardian. 19 November 2018. Retrieved 20 March 2021.
  5. ^ Milligan, Spike, & Antrobus, John (1973) The Bedsitting Room. Tandem: London. First published in Great Britain by Margaret & Jack Hobbs, 1970. Published by Universal-Tandem, 1972.
  6. ^ Scudamore, Pauline (1985). Spike Milligan: A Biography. London: Granada. ISBN 0-246-12275-7. pp.203–204
  7. ^ a b McCann, Graham (2006). Spike & Co. London: Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 0-340-89809-7. (a)p.158, (b)pp.215–216
  8. ^ 'Mavis Star Leaving' Sydney Morning Herald 16 June 1966 p. 1
  9. ^ "John Bluthal". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 7 July 2016.
  10. ^ Lewis, Roger (1995). The Life and Death of Peter Sellers. London: Arrow Books. ISBN 0-09-974700-6. p.935
  11. ^ "Vicar Of Dibley Star John Bluthal Dies Aged 89". 17 November 2018. Retrieved 18 November 2018.
  12. ^ Knox, David (16 November 2018). "Vale: John Bluthal". TV Tonight.
  13. ^ "Dawn French leads tributes after Vicar of Dibley star John Bluthal Dies". Retrieved 18 November 2018.

External linksEdit