John Bluthal (born Isaac Bluthal; 12 August 1929 – 15 November 2018) 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).
12 August 1929
|Died||15 November 2018 (aged 89)|
|Alma mater||University of Melbourne|
(m. 1956, separated)
Bluthal was born to a Jewish family in Jezierzany, Galicia, Poland (now in Ukraine). Due to anti-Semitism in Poland, 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 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. 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, 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 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). 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. 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).
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.
Bluthal's agent confirmed on 16 November 2018 that the actor had died, aged 89, in New South Wales, Australia. Following his death, fellow The Vicar of Dibley actor Dawn French said "Tons of happy laughs remembered today. Cheeky, naughty, hilarious. Bye darlin' Bluey." 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).
|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|
|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|
|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
|2016||Hail, Caesar!||Prof. Marcuse||Joel and Ethan Coen|
|2017||Jungle||Uncle Nissim||Greg McLean|
|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
|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"|
|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"|
- John Bluthal – AusStage
- "Vicar of Dibley actor dies, aged 89". 19 November 2018. Retrieved 29 November 2018 – via www.bbc.com.
- "Sydney actor who played Frank Pickle in Vicar of Dibley". Sydney Morning Herald. 22 November 2018. Retrieved 24 November 2018.
- "John Bluthal obituary". the Guardian. 19 November 2018. Retrieved 20 March 2021.
- 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.
- Scudamore, Pauline (1985). Spike Milligan: A Biography. London: Granada. ISBN 0-246-12275-7. pp.203–204
- McCann, Graham (2006). Spike & Co. London: Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 0-340-89809-7. (a)p.158, (b)pp.215–216
- 'Mavis Star Leaving' Sydney Morning Herald 16 June 1966 p. 1
- "John Bluthal". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 7 July 2016.
- Lewis, Roger (1995). The Life and Death of Peter Sellers. London: Arrow Books. ISBN 0-09-974700-6. p.935
- "Vicar Of Dibley Star John Bluthal Dies Aged 89". unilad.co.uk. 17 November 2018. Retrieved 18 November 2018.
- Knox, David (16 November 2018). "Vale: John Bluthal". TV Tonight.
- "Dawn French leads tributes after Vicar of Dibley star John Bluthal Dies". Retrieved 18 November 2018.