Ronnie Barker's remarkable versatility
as a performer can be traced back to his time in repertory
theatre, where he was able to play a wide range of
roles and develop his talent for accents, voices and
It was during this time that he met
Glenn Melvyn, who taught him how to stammer (something
he would later use to great effect in the sitcom "Open
All Hours"). Melvyn also gave Ronnie his break
into television by offering him a role in "I'm
During the 1960s, Ronnie became
well-established in radio, providing multiple voices
for "The Navy Lark" and working with comedy
great Jon Pertwee. He also became a regular face on
television, appearing in "The Frost Report" (perhaps
most memorably in a sketch about Britain's class system,
with John Cleese and Ronnie
Corbett) and playing character
roles in "The Saint" and "The Avengers".
In 1971, Ronnie teamed up with Ronnie Corbett again,
this time for a BBC sketch series called "The
Two Ronnies". This series proved enormously popular,
continuing until the late 1980s.
In addition to "The
Two Ronnies", Barker starred in the popular BBC
sitcoms "Porridge" (as a cockney prisoner)
and "Open All Hours" (as a stammering Northern
shopkeeper). In fact, only Leonard Rossiter could be
said to have rivalled him during this time for the
crown of British television's most popular comedy star.
In 1982, he revived silent comedy in "By The Sea".
Despite his extrovert performances on television,
Barker remained a quiet, retiring individual in his
personal life, much preferring to spend time with his
family rather than mix with the celebrity crowd. This
humility, combined with memories of his extraordinary
abilities, meant that he continued to be greatly respected
by his fellow professionals.
In a BAFTA special shown
by the BBC in 2004, stars as diverse as Gene
Peter Kay and Peter Hall paid tribute to his contribution
to comedy and British television in general.