Friday, 14 August 2015
"I'll Get You Butler!" - Looking Back At On The Buses Star Stephen Lewis
Probably one of the most identifiable British sitcom characters of the early 1970s was Inspector Cyril Blake AKA Blakey in London Weekend Television's On The Buses. As a child I probably identified with Blakey's character more than any of the others in the show.
I don't know if it was that look of disdain when bus driver Stan Butler or cheeky conductor Jack tried to pull another skive on their bus route or Blakey's wide eyes and funny little Hitler moustache that quivered as he yelled "I'll Get You Butler!" when he found the cuprits out on yet another mishap but there was always something really funny and appealing about the character which Stephen Lewis created on screen.
Several years ago I revisited On The Buses and was disappointed that my memories of the show were not as good as watching it as a child. Many of the actors appeared to shout and yell their way through the scripts, and although the majority weren't as good as I remembered, Stephen Lewis's portrayal of Blakey still remained brilliant. It's Blakey who remains the butt of the jokes, the one who gets his comeuppance and usually the character that gets the genuine belly laughs.
Its interesting that when On The Buses came to a natural end in 1973, Stephen Lewis' Blakey character would go on to get his own spin-off series Don't Drink the Water, indicating the comical success of the On The Buses character that would constantly re-emerge in TV guest slots in everything from The Generation Game to a promotional film for bus passes in Wales over the following thirty years.
Lewis who also wrote the screenplay for the 1963 film Sparrows Can't Sing and also had recurring roles in sitcoms Last Of The Summer Wine and Oh! Doctor Beeching died at the age of 88 this week.
My favourite Blakey memory has to be in the On The Buses movie which sees him as an unwitting passenger as Reg Varney takes a double-decker Routemaster onto a skid-pan. This scene was emulated to a degree in a Look-In cartoon strip in the 1970s, a scan of which I include here.