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John Horsley

John Horsley.

Actor

Born July 21, 1920;

Died January 12, 2014.

John Horsley, who has died aged 93, appeared in hundreds of plays, television shows and films, from Ben-Hur (1959) to Coronation Street (1983), but he was undoubtedly best known as the bumbling Doc Morrissey in the three series of the classic sitcom The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin (1976-79).

Leonard Rossiter played the eponymous company executive forever on the point of a nervous breakdown. Horsley was the company doctor at Sunshine Desserts who readily recognises Reggie's symptoms, but only because he has them too. "I wonder what it is," he would muse, before sending Reggie off with a prescription for a couple of Aspirin.

The son of a doctor and a professional opera singer, Horsley was born in Southend, Essex in 1920, grew up in London, developed an interest in acting at school and made his professional debut at the Theatre Royal Bournemouth in his late teens.

During the Second World War he served in a unit that staged plays for the troops, touring England, France and Germany.

After the war, he returned to repertory theatre and began appearing in small film roles playing a doctor in Hell Drivers (1957), with the young Sean Connery, making an uncredited appearance in Ben-Hur, and serving as captain of HMS Sheffield in Sink the Bismarck! (1960).

He was in his mid-fifties when the first series of The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin went out and he made an immediate impact as the incompetent, lascivious physician - pronouncing CJ, the company boss, dead, only to have him open one eye and fire him for incompetence.

And he was forever angling for another chance to examine Reggie's secretary's chest, suggesting Reggie open the window so she might catch a chill.

Horsley said: "He's a great chap to play and funnily enough popular with real-life doctors, particularly with the constant worrying about his own health."

His first love however remained theatre and he came to Stirling's MacRobert Arts Centre in the Oxford Playhouse Company's production of Bertolt Brecht's The Threepenny Opera in 1977.

Rossiter died in 1984, but Horsley reprised his character in The Legacy of Reginald Perrin in 1996. It followed the fortunes of the other characters. Reggie has passed away, but left them a fortune, with strings attached. Despite the strong cast and the quality of David Nobbs's writing, Leonard Rossiter had been the heart of the show and the sequel lasted only seven episodes.

Reggie Perrin was revived in 2009 with Martin Clunes as Reggie, though Doc Morrissey was replaced with a new "wellness" expert called Sue, who is equally incompetent.

Horsley had a recurring role as Justice Mowbray on Crown Court (1973-83), was the Bishop of Tatchester in the BBC adaptation of John Masefield's children's fantasy The Box of Delights (1984) and Sir Ralph Shawcross in the sitcom You Rang, M'Lord? (1990-93).

His last screen credit was a 1997 television adaptation of Rebecca with Charles Dance, Diana Rigg and Faye Dunaway.

He met his wife June Marshall, who was an actress, while working in Salisbury after the war. They had two daughters and were married for 40 years. She predeceased him.

BRIAN PENDREIGH

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