Geoffrey Palmer, TV and film actor, dies at 93

Media caption,
David Sillito looks back on the career of Geoffrey Palmer

Actor Geoffrey Palmer, known for his roles in such sitcoms as Butterflies, As Time Goes By and The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, has died aged 93.

He died peacefully at home, his agent said.

Versatile and prolific, he was known and loved for his hangdog expression, lugubrious delivery and the often testy demeanour he gave to his characters.

As Time Goes By saw him star with Dame Judi Dench, a partnership they revived in Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies.

He also acted in Mrs Brown, again with Dench, and The Madness of King George.

Dame Judi, who starred in nine series of As Time Goes By with Palmer, told BBC Radio 4's Front Row programme: "Geoffrey was master of comedy, an absolute master."

Paying tribute to his "wonderful deadpan expression", she added: "I've admired him all my life. How lucky to have been in something with him for so long."

His co-star in Butterflies from 1978 to 1983, Wendy Craig, told the programme: "He was just a delight to work with, his timing was perfect."

Despite his "rather serious face", she said he was "full of fun" in person. "When he laughed and when he smiled his whole face lit up, his eyes twinkled. He was always up for a laugh and not a heavy-going serious person at all," she said.

His early television roles included appearances in The Army Game, The Saint and The Avengers and he went on to appear in Doctor Who and the Kipper and the Corpse episode of Fawlty Towers.

The Doctor Who programme listed the shows he had appeared in with a tribute on Twitter.

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Broadcaster and author Gyles Brandreth said: "RIP Geoffrey Palmer - such a wonderful actor, such a lovely guy. Brilliant at his craft and just the best company: wickedly funny. He did everything he did so well. Thanks for all the happy memories Geoffrey: we'll cherish them as time goes by."

Comedian Marcus Brigstocke, who starred alongside Palmer in BBC One sitcom The Savages, remembered him as "the kindest, most brilliant man", while Shaun of the Dead director Edgar Wright said he was "brilliantly funny".

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Comedian Eddie Izzard added: "Very sad to hear that Geoffrey Palmer has left us. I was very excited to meet him once and then had the honour to act with him in the film Lost Christmas. His work will stay with us and through that he can live on forever. Good work Sir. Rest in peace."

Actress Annette Badland said: "He was such a gifted actor and enormously good company. We worked together several times, laughed a lot and he was kind and generous. I am much saddened. Love to his family. Sleep well Mr Palmer."

Reece Shearsmith from The League of Gentlemen described him an "immaculate singular actor", singling out his performance in Butterflies.

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Palmer appeared in four series of the Carla Lane sitcom, in which he played the stuffy husband of Wendy Craig's Ria.

Yet it was his partnership with Dench in As Time Goes By for which he will perhaps be best remembered.

Image caption,
Palmer worked with Judi Dench in As Time Goes By

The BBC sitcom, about two former lovers who meet unexpectedly and later marry, ran from 1992 to 2005.

In 2018 Dame Judi described her co-star as "the naughtiest man I ever had the pleasure to work with" as she gave him a prize at that year's Oldie Awards.

In Tomorrow Never Dies, released in 1997, Palmer's combative Admiral Roebuck sparred with Dame Judi's M, the head of the secret service.

Producers Michael G Wilson and Barbara Broccoli remembered the actor as "a much beloved star of TV and film and a treasured member of the Bond family".

'His face didn't change'

Palmer's distinctive voice made him a popular choice for narration, audiobooks and adverts.

He narrated the Grumpy Old Men series and introduced British viewers to "Vorsprung durch Technik" in adverts for Audi cars.

Actress Frances Barber remembered an occasion when he had queried a residuals payment he had received for the ubiquitous commercial.

"I just called my agent and said they've put too many 0's on the cheque," she recalled him saying. "After lunch he said 'Apparently they haven't'. His face didn't change."

In his later years Palmer was seen in Paddington, Parade's End and W.E, in which he was directed by pop star Madonna.

He was made an OBE in 2004 for services to drama.

Media caption,
Actor Geoffrey Palmer on high speed rail plan

Palmer, a keen fly fisherman, campaigned against the HS2 railway line, the proposed route of which ran close to his home in the Chilterns.

"Stop this vanity project and leave our countryside alone," he told then-PM David Cameron in a 2013 video filmed for the Daily Politics show.

"I am not grumpy," he once said of his distinctively jowly features. "I just look this way."

He is survived by his wife Sally Green, with whom he had a daughter and a son.

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