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Lionel Blair (born Henry Lionel Ogus; 12 December 1928) is a British actor, choreographer, tap dancer and television presenter.
Blair in 2010
Henry Lionel Ogus
12 December 1928
|Occupation||Actor, choreographer, tap dancer, television presenter|
|Spouse(s)||Susan Blair (1967–present); 3 children|
Henry Lionel Ogus was born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. His parents were Jewish: Myer Ogus (a barber) and Debora "Della" Greenbaum. His father emigrated from Russia to Canada to start a new life and his wife joined him shortly afterwards.
Blair came to Britain when he was two years old. His first public performances were with his sister Joyce (1932–2006) in the Manor House Underground station air raid shelters and on the trains of the Piccadilly line during the air raids of the Second World War.
He was singled out in several reviews for his performance as one of the children in a touring performance of the play Watch on the Rhine during 1943, and attended the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford in 1944. In 1946 he joined a touring company called the Savoy Players.
Blair eventually rekindled his passion for musical theatre and began working in the West End. He gave up acting for dancing in 1947 although he subsequently appeared in the fringe production Out of the Blue (Chichester) and Who Killed Agatha Christie (national tour) among other acting credits. He took his stage name around this time, later changing it by deed poll just before he married in 1967 (his sister also decided to use the same surname professionally).
Blair came to the fore in the 1960s when, with his dance troupe, he appeared on television variety programmes. He also appeared in the films The Limping Man (1953), The World of Suzie Wong (1960), The Cool Mikado (1963), The Beauty Jungle (1964), A Hard Day's Night (1964), Maroc 7 (1967) and Absolute Beginners (1986), cameoed in an episode of The Persuaders!, and appeared in television comedy, including the short film, The Plank. In addition, he choreographed films such as Jazz Boat (1960) in which he made an uncredited appearance, and The Magic Christian (1969).
In 1972, Blair wrote a musical based on War and Peace. It toured around the UK for six months. Blair was one of the team captains on the game show Give Us a Clue from 1979 until the early 1990s, and was the second presenter of the British version of Name That Tune in the 1980s.
In 1983, he appeared as the celebrity darter for charity on Bullseye. He published his autobiography Stagestruck in 1986. In 2005, he took part in the Channel Five reality series, The Farm. Until 2005 he appeared extensively in pantomime, for which he earned up to £15,000 a week.
Blair appeared in the 2007 Christmas special of the Ricky Gervais show Extras, as himself, portraying the end-stages of his showbiz career by trying to keep up his profile by appearing on Celebrity Big Brother.
In July 2010, Blair appeared in the "Great British Dog Walks" feature on ITV's This Morning with his dog Lola. Also in 2010, he took part in the BBC's The Young Ones, in which six celebrities in their 70s and 80s attempt to overcome some of the problems of ageing by harking back to the 1970s.
In December 2010, he appeared briefly in a sketch with Ronnie Corbett and Rob Brydon in BBC One's The One Ronnie. On 24 December 2011, he appeared on the ITV program Text Santa with Ant & Dec. In 2012, he was cast in the film version of Ray Cooney's farce Run for Your Wife. On 3 January 2014, he entered the Celebrity Big Brother house with Made in Chelsea media personality Ollie Locke after being handcuffed together as part of a task set by Big Brother. He became the third housemate to be evicted on 17 January 2014.
He appeared in the British short film Evil's Evil Cousin in 2016. On 14 December 2016, he guested on the ITV panel show, Loose Women, to announce and celebrate his recent 88th birthday. The panellists presented him with a personalised cake. In 2017, Blair was one of the celebrities appearing in the BBC reality series The Real Marigold Hotel.
- "Still clued-up after 60 years", The Post, 3 December 2008
- "Who is lionel Blair" interview, radiotimes.com, 11-17 February 2017, pg. 32;
"I always used to lie about my age. I'm proud that I'm still tap dancing at 88".
- McGrath, Nick (15 February 2013). "Lionel Blair: My family values". The Guardian. London, UK. Retrieved 25 June 2013.
- Explained by Blair in the BBC programme "Back in Time For Christmas, Episode 1" (at around 18m), first aired on 14 December 2015.
- "Stage Play on Anti-Nazism". Portsmouth Evening News. 20 April 1943. p. 3. Retrieved 13 July 2018 – via British Newspaper Archive.
Lionel Blair's naivity endears him to the hearts of the audience
- "'Watch on the Rhine' has its moment at the Royal". Nottingham Journal. 25 May 1943. p. 4. Retrieved 13 July 2018 – via British Newspaper Archive.
- "Ready for the Festival". Birmingham Mail. 22 March 1944. p. 3. Retrieved 13 July 2018 – via British Newspaper Archive.
- "The Passing Hour". Northern Whig. 1 December 1950. p. 4. Retrieved 13 July 2018 – via British Newspaper Archive.
- "IMDb.com:The Magic Christian(1969) Full Cast & Crew". IMDb.com. Retrieved 14 July 2018.
- "Lionel Blair: 'I went from £15 a week to £15,000'". The Daily Telegraph. London, UK. 25 February 2013. Retrieved 25 June 2013.
- "The Young Ones". BBC. 22 December 2010. Retrieved 25 October 2012.
- "Lionel Blair evicted". Daily Mirror. London. 17 January 2014. Retrieved 20 January 2014.
- "The Doctors cast are joined by showbiz legend, Lionel Blair", BBC.co.uk; retrieved 20 September 2016.
- "Entertainers in pier rescue drama". BBC News. 21 September 2006. Retrieved 29 April 2007.