Paul Eddington

Paul Clark Eddington CBE (18 June 1927 – 4 November 1995) was an English actor best known for playing Jerry Leadbetter in the television sitcom The Good Life (1975–78) and politician Jim Hacker in the sitcom Yes Minister (1980–84) and its sequel, Yes, Prime Minister (1986–88).

Paul Eddington

Paul Eddington 2.jpg
Born(1927-06-18)18 June 1927
St John's Wood, London, England
Died4 November 1995(1995-11-04) (aged 68)
Southwark, London, England
Years active1940s–1995
Patricia Scott
(m. 1952)

Early lifeEdit

Eddington was born at Paddington in London to decorative artist Albert Clark Eddington and Frances Mary (née Roberts); he was raised in St John's Wood.[1] The family were Quakers – Albert Clark Eddington being related to the Somerset shoemaking Clark family and the scientist Sir Arthur Eddington[2] – and Eddington was brought up by his parents with strict family values. His father had been "emotionally shattered" on his return from the First World War, which led to Eddington being a life-long pacifist.[2] Eddington attended Sibford School, Sibford Ferris, Oxfordshire. In 1952, he married Patricia (née Scott).


Having registered as a conscientious objector, Eddington began his acting career as a teenager with Entertainments National Service Association (ENSA) during the Second World War.[3] He worked for Sheffield Repertory Theatre, a theatre company based at Sheffield Playhouse, and made his first TV appearance in 1956 as a regular cast member of The Adventures of Robin Hood. Initially he played minor characters, but in the fourth season (1959–60), he played Will Scarlet.

He had a leading role in 'Liberty Bar', a 1960 episode of "Maigret", BBC TV series, playing 'Harry Brown',[4] an Australian entrepreneur. He had roles in episodes of The Avengers (1963), The Prisoner (1967) and the final episode of The Champions (1969). He was a main cast member of the television series Frontier (1968). He also had a supporting role in Hammer Films' The Devil Rides Out (1968), an episode of Van der Valk in 1972, and appeared as a "straight man" (substituting for regular stooge Henry McGee) in a 1976 episode of The Benny Hill Show. He also appeared in most episodes of the ATV series Hine (1971). In this he played Astor Harris, a member of an arms-dealing firm named Pendles. Eddington appeared as civil servant Strand in the last series of Special Branch (1974).

Career peakEdit

Although he was an actor for all his adult life, it was not until Eddington was in his late forties that he became a household name because of his role in The Good Life, first screened by the BBC in 1975,[3] and written by John Esmonde and Bob Larbey. The sitcom focuses on a suburban couple who decide to give up conventionally paid work and become self-sufficient in their suburban garden. Eddington was cast as Jerry Leadbetter, a neighbour of the main characters, and Penelope Keith played his wife, Margo. Originally intended as small parts, the Leadbetters soon became essential foils for the two stars. He also appeared in a single episode of another Esmonde and Larbey sitcom, Get Some In! in 1977.

Eddington's profile was raised further when he played the title role of Jim Hacker in the comedy series Yes Minister (1980–84) and Yes, Prime Minister (1986–88). He was shortlisted four times for the BAFTA award for Best Light Entertainment Performance for the series, but he lost out to his co-star Nigel Hawthorne on each occasion.

During 1987 Eddington appeared as Sir Joseph Porter in H.M.S. Pinafore in Australia.[5] His last roles included Guy Wheeler, a corrupt property developer in the Minder episode The Wrong Goodbye (1989); as Richard Cuthbertson alongside Good Life co-star Felicity Kendal in the TV dramatisation of The Camomile Lawn (1992); the voice of Badger in The Adventures of Mole and Justice Shallow in Henry IV (1995); a BBC adaptation of Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part 1 and Henry IV, Part 2.[6] He was reunited with another Good Life co-star Richard Briers in a run of the play Home in 1994.[7]

Eddington read extracts from Sir Winston Churchill's A History of the English-Speaking Peoples for the award-winning BBC Radio series This Sceptred Isle; he died midway through the production, and his place was taken by Peter Jeffrey.

Awards and honoursEdit

Eddington was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 1987 New Year Honours.[3][8]

Final years and deathEdit

Eddington's autobiography, So Far, So Good, was published in 1995. On 30 October 1995 (five days before Eddington's death), the BBC aired an edition of Face to Face in which he discussed his life, career and battle with lymphoma.[9][10] On that show he was asked how he would like to be remembered:

A journalist once asked me what I would like my epitaph to be and I said I think I would like it to be, 'He did very little harm'. And that's not easy. Most people seem to me to do a great deal of harm. If I could be remembered as having done very little, that would suit me.

Eddington had been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, known as mycosis fungoides, when he was 28. The ailment was to cause his death eventually, but in the intervening four decades, Eddington and his immediate family kept his condition private. It only became public knowledge in 1994, when Eddington responded to press speculation about his darkening skin and hair loss.[7]

Eddington died in Southwark, London, on 4 November 1995.[11] He and Patricia, his wife of 43 years, had three sons and a daughter.[12]

Selected filmographyEdit

Year Title Role Notes
1956 The Secret of the Forest Museum tour leader
1956 Sailor Beware! Bearded Sailor Uncredited
1958 The Diary of Samuel Pepys Sir William Coventry 8 episodes
1959 Jet Storm Victor Tracer
1959 Desert Mice Army Officer Uncredited
1960 The Man Who Was Nobody Franz Reuter
1964 Ring of Spies Johnnie Uncredited
1968 The Devil Rides Out Richard Eaton
1972 The Amazing Mr Blunden Vicar
1973 Baxter! Mr Rawling
1974 Fall of Eagles George Plekhanov TV mini-series, 1 episode


  1. ^ Eddington gave his place of birth as St John's Wood in a Desert Island Discs interview with Roy Plomley in August 1981.
  2. ^ a b Quakers and the Arts: "Plain and Fancy" – An Anglo-American Perspective, David Sox, Sessions Book Trust, 2000, p. 65
  3. ^ a b c Benedick, Adam (7 November 1995). "OBITUARY: Paul Eddington". The Independent. Archived from the original on 25 May 2022. Retrieved 12 June 2014.
  4. ^ Osborn, Andrew (5 December 1960), Liberty Bar, Maigret, retrieved 2 January 2022
  5. ^ The Pirates of HMS Pinafore, accessed 26 May 2019
  6. ^ Brooke, Michael. "Henry IV (1995)". BFI Screenonline. Retrieved 10 June 2015.
  7. ^ a b Mackinnon, Ian (1 June 1994). "Actor reveals he has rare skin cancer: 'Yes Minister' star refuses to let illness remove him from centre-stage". The Independent. Archived from the original on 25 May 2022.
  8. ^ Supplement to The London Gazette, 31 December 1986, p. 8, accessed on 9 December 2013 Archived 6 October 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Face to Face with Jeremy Isaacs (see 1995 programme)
  10. ^ The Face on the Screen: Death, Recognition and Spectatorship, Therese Davis, Intellect, 2004, page 19
  11. ^ "Tributes flow for Paul Eddington, 'a brave man and a fine actor'". The Independent. 7 November 1995. Retrieved 22 July 2014.
  12. ^ Who's Who 2009

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit