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24 September 2014

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Ronnie Barker

Ronnie Barker

Born in 1929, Ronnie Barker studied architecture and briefly considered a career in banking before choosing acting.

He trained in repertory theatre, joining Aylesbury Rep in 1948 before being invited by Sir Peter Hall to move to the London stage. Thereafter he appeared in several plays as well as 300 radio episodes of The Navy Lark.

In the 1960s Barker moved into television comedy, performing sketches on The Frost Report and meeting there his future comedy partner Ronnie Corbett.

Their Two Ronnies shows, beginning in 1971, featured some of the all-time classic sketches (Four Candles often topping public polls) and showcased Barker's rare mastery of English wordplay.

The series became a TV institution and ran for 17 years, but the perennially shy Barker famously submitted sketches under the pseudonym Gerald Wiley to ensure his work was judged solely on merit.

Further proof, if any were needed, of Barker's gift for comic acting came in the 1970s with his two great sitcom performances: as Arkwright in Open All Hours and especially as prison lag Fletcher in Porridge.

Into the Eighties, The Two Ronnies continued to pull massive audiences and Barker starred in a final sitcom as short-sighted removal man Clarence, before he retired from showbusiness in 1988 to set up an antiques shop, citing ill health.

Other than a handful of rare appearances, including as Churchill's servant in the acclaimed 2002 BBC drama The Gathering Storm, Barker remained true to his word to bow out while still at the top, although he did reunite with Corbett a last time for The Two Ronnies Sketchbook (BBC One), a greatest hits package linked by some new material from the pair.

It proved to be his final appearance. Barker died in 2005, his status assured as one of British comedy's towering talents.

Appearances by Ronnie Barker
Start YearAliasProgramme BrandCountry

As an Actor

Porridge 1973
Going Straight 1978
The Navy Lark 1959
Comedy Playhouse 1962
Open All Hours 1976

As a Performer

The Frost Report 1966
The Two Ronnies 1971

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