John Challis

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John Challis
John Challis at Shrewsbury 2013 (cropped).jpg
Challis in 2013
Born
John Spurley Challis

(1942-08-16)16 August 1942
Clifton, Bristol, England
Died19 September 2021(2021-09-19) (aged 79)
EducationOttershaw School
OccupationActor
Years active1964–2021
Spouse(s)
  • Jean Robertson
    (m. 1966, divorced)

    (m. 1981; div. 1985)

    (m. 1987; div. 1988)

    Carol Davies
    (m. 1995)

John Spurley Challis (16 August 1942 – 19 September 2021) was an English actor. He had an extensive theatre and television career but is best known for portraying Terrance Aubrey "Boycie" Boyce in the long-running BBC Television sitcom Only Fools and Horses (1981–2003) and its sequel/spin-off The Green Green Grass (2005–2009), as well as Monty Staines from the seventh series onwards in the ITV sitcom Benidorm (2015–2018). Challis was an established stage actor, making appearances for companies including the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre.

Early life[edit]

John Spurley Challis was born on 16 August 1942 in Clifton, Bristol, England.[1] An only child,[1] his family moved to Southeast London when he was one year old.[2] He grew up in Epsom, after the family moved to Surrey.[3] Challis attended the state boarding Ottershaw School near Woking, Surrey.[4] His father was Alec, a civil servant with the Admiralty who became secretary to the energy minister; he was a strict disciplinarian. His mother was Joan (née Harden), a former ambulance driver who performed in amateur dramatics and taught drama in schools.[5]

After leaving school, he worked as a trainee estate agent,[6] before he "ran away with the Argyle Theatre for Youth".[7]

Career[edit]

Television and radio[edit]

When offered work in television, Challis, who was 6 feet 1 inch (1.85 m) tall, often found himself typecast as doctors, soldiers and police officers.[8] His first television role was in the BBC soap opera The Newcomers in 1967. Another early television role, also in 1967 was as a thief who stole Ena Sharples' handbag in Coronation Street; he would later have a recurring role in the series as Detective Sergeant Norman Phillips from 1975 to 1977. 1969 he played in the gangster drama Big Breadwinner Hog, and between 1971 and 1975 Challis made regular appearances in Z-Cars as Sergeant Culshaw.[9]

The sitcom Bloomers (1979), starring Richard Beckinsale, was written about Challis's experience working at a garden centre while taking a break from acting.[10]

A role in the John Sullivan sitcom Citizen Smith led to Challis being cast as Terrance Aubrey "Boycie" Boyce in Only Fools and Horses (1981—2003), which became his best-known role.[11][12] Sullivan also created a spin-off for Challis, The Green Green Grass (2005—2009).[13] The outdoor scenes of The Green Green Grass were filmed at his then home at Wigmore Abbey, surrounding fields and local villages.[14]

Challis in November 2013, with crew from HMS Talent

His other television appearances include Dixon of Dock Green, Thriller, The Sweeney, Doctor Who (The Seeds of Doom), Dracula, Beau Geste, Juliet Bravo, Bloomers, Ever Decreasing Circles, Doctor Snuggles, Chance in a Million, The Bill, One Foot in the Grave, Open All Hours, The New Statesman, Don't Wait Up, Soldier Soldier, Brass Eye, My Family, In Sickness and in Health, Benidorm and Heartbeat.[15] During his appearance in a 1997 Channel 4 mockumentary Brass Eye television episode "Decline", he was tricked into believing Clive Anderson had been shot by Noel Edmonds.[16][17] In 2006 he took a cameo role in BBC's The Impressionists as Station Master Garre Saint Lézasr.[18] In the 2008 episode "Is Jeremy Quite Safe?" of Last of the Summer Wine he guest-starred as a retired jewel thief with fanciful stories of his past exploits in the South of France.[19] In 2012, he narrated the National Geographic Channel series Strippers: Cars for Cash.[20]

On BBC radio, he played an interrogator in the play Rules of Asylum by James Follett, broadcast by BBC Radio 4 in 1973.[21] He also played Dibden Purlew in Getting Nowhere Fast from 2001 to 2004.[22]

He became an honorary citizen of Serbia, where Only Fools and Horses remains hugely popular. In 2020, Challis made the documentary Boycie in Belgrade, exploring why the show was so beloved in the Balkan country.[23][24][25]

Theatre[edit]

Challis performed many stage roles, including with the Royal Shakespeare Company in the 1960s and the National Theatre.[26] His first performance in London's West End was in Portrait of a Queen in 1965 at the Vaudeville Theatre.[27][28] In 1977 he played a leading role at the Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond, in Sam Walters’ production of Václav Havel’s play The Memorandum.[29] In 1979 he went on tour of the US with Tom Stoppard's play Cahoot’s Macbeth.[27]

His work at the National Theatre included productions of On the Razzle (1979) and The Rivals (1983), with Michael Hordern, and Laughter on the 23rd Floor with Frank Finlay.[27] In a 1993 tour with the National he starred along with Barbara Windsor, Kenneth Waller, and Christopher Villiers in a production of Entertaining Mr Sloane by Joe Orton. He appeared with Sue Holderness ('Marlene' in Only Fools and Horses) in Ayckbourn's Relatively Speaking, Time and Time Again and How the Other Half Loves, and the National Theatre's own production of Boycie and Marlene.[29]

In 1995, at the height of the success of Only Fools and Horses, as an established Shakespeare actor he returned to the stage to appear in Richard III and A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, and in 2000 he played Malvolio in Twelfth Night, at Stafford Castle and he performed at Ludlow Castle in As You Like It in 2011.[29][30]

He was also featured regularly in pantomime productions in which he usually played the roguish or wicked roles, such as for example, Captain Hook in Peter Pan at the Plaza Theatre, Stockport, a role he reprised in 2018 at the Theatre Royal, Nottingham. He also appeared in pantomime at Weston Playhouse in winter 2011–12 playing Ebenezer in Aladdin and as King Rat in Dick Whittington at the Plaza over Christmas 2013 and New Year 2014. [29] [31] In 2013, Challis occasionally contributed to the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Live Tour as the narrator.[32] In 2014, he began a theatre tour of his one-man show titled Only Fools and Boycie, which charted his life before, during and after his time as Boycie.[33]

Personal life[edit]

Challis in 2007

Challis was married four times. His first wife, Jean Robertson, was a stage manager;[34] His second and third wives were actresses Debbie Arnold and Sabina Franklyn.[34] He married his fourth wife Carol Davies in Brighton in 1995 and in 1998 bought the Abbot's Lodgings at Wigmore Abbey Grange, Adforton, Herefordshire, which they proceeded to renovate.[34][35][36] Challis had no children.[35]

Challis was a patron of the British Hedgehog Preservation Society.[37] He was an Arsenal supporter.[38] Challis wrote two volumes of autobiography, Being Boycie and Boycie & Beyond.[5] In 2016, he wrote Wigmore Abbey: The Treasure of Mortimer about the renovation of his house's gardens.[39][14]

Through Twitter, Challis became friends with American actor and musician Ice-T, with the pair exchanging gifts although never meeting in person.[40]

Challis died of cancer on 19 September 2021, aged 79.[1][8][41][42][34] Tributes were paid by a number of fellow actors and entertainers including his Only Fools and Horses co-stars Sir David Jason and Sue Holderness, as well as Ice-T, Paul Chuckle, Piers Morgan and Sheila Ferguson.[43][44]

Filmography[edit]

Film[edit]

Year Title Role Notes Ref(s)
1964 Where Has Poor Mickey Gone? Tim [45]
1971 Say Hello to Yesterday Salesman Uncredited [46][47]
1981 Burning an Illusion Man in Car [45]
1985 Defence of the Realm Challis [45]
1989 Spotters General cast [45]
1998 The Tichborne Claimant Rous the Landlord [48]
2000 Five Seconds to Spare Shopping Centre Manager [49]
2001 Dream Toby [50]
Subterrain [51][52][53]

Television[edit]

Year Title Role Notes Ref(s)
1967 The Newcomers Harry Kapper 5 episodes [1]
1967 Z-Cars Detective Constable Armitage 2 episodes [45]
1967 Coronation Street George Naylor 2 episodes [54]
1968 City '68 Hospital Doctor Episode: "The Old Country" [45]
1968 Virgin of the Secret Service Captain Kirby Episode: "The Rajah and the Suffragette" [55]
1968 Mr. Rose Detective Constable Jackson Episode: "The Frozen Swede" [45]
1968 Softly, Softly DC Rankin 2 episodes [56]
1969 Big Breadwinner Hog First Operative Episode: "Self-Discipline Is Its Own Reward" [45]
1969 Who-Dun-It Rev. Lindsay Whittaker Episode: "An Embarrassment of Murder" [57]
1969 Dixon of Dock Green Ray Episode: "Obsession" [27][58]
1969 Canterbury Tales Farmhand Episode: "The Shipman's Tale" [59]
1969 Strange Report Soldier Episode: "Report 7931: Sniper – When Is Your Cousin Not?" [60]
1971 Brett Riordan Episode: "All the King's Horses..." [61]
1971–1975 Z-Cars Sgt. Culshaw 11 episodes [45]
1971 Crossroads Jim Wright 9 episodes [62]
1972 ITV Sunday Night Theatre Factory Guard Episode: "The Last Journey" [63]
1974 Who Killed Lamb? Casson TV film [45]
1974 Dracula Stockton-on-Tees Clerk TV film [64]
1974 Crown Court Detective Inspector Stoddard Episodes: "The Messenger Boy: Part 1" and "The Messenger Boy: Part 3" [45]
1974–1977 Coronation Street DC Norman Phillips 8 episodes [54]
1975 Drive Carefully, Darling 'Ego' Instructional film [45]
1975 Nightingale's Boys Pete Episode: "Decision" [45]
1975 The Sweeney Skef Warren Episode: "Stay Lucky Eh?" [45]
1975 The Legend of Robin Hood Castle Guard Episode: "Part 5" [45]
1976 Doctor Who Scorby All 6 episodes of The Seeds of Doom [45]
1976 Open All Hours Bread Man Episode: "Well Catered Funeral" [65]
1976 Thriller Peter Episode: "Sleepwalker" [45]
1976 The Cedar Tree Leonard Barnet Episodes: "Mice at Play Part 1" and "Mice at Play Part 2" [45]
1976 The New Avengers Soldier (unbilled) Episode: "Dirtier by the Dozen" [66]
1979 Doctor Snuggles Various Voice; All 13 episodes [45]
1979 Bloomers Policeman Episode: #1.3 [45]
1980 Citizen Smith Chief Inspector Humphreys Episode: "The Letter of the Law" [45]
1980 Play for Today Victor Mintell Episode: "Number on End" [45]
1981 Play for Today Harry Episode: "Before Water Lilies" [45]
1981 Play for Today Voice role Episode: "A Turn For The Worse" [45]
1981–2003 Only Fools and Horses Aubrey "Boycie" Boyce 33 of 64 episodes [67]
1981 Sink or Swim Man at Door Episode: "Ecology" [45]
1982 Beau Geste Corporal Dupré 4 episodes (part 4–7) [45]
1985 Late Starter Policeman Episode: #1.5 [46]
1985 Storyboard Billy Cato Episode: "King & Castle" [45]
1985 In Sickness and in Health Policeman Episode: #1.1 [68]
1985 Juliet Bravo Taylor Episode: "Hostage to Fortune" [45]
1985 Howards' Way Morris 2 episodes [45]
1986 Chance in a Million Policeman Episode: "And What Shall We Do for a Ring?" [69]
1986 Strike It Rich! Big John Episode: "Suspicions" [70]
1986 Roland Rat: The Series Policeman Episode: #1.6 [71]
1986 Lenny Henry Tonite Various Episode: "Gronk Zillman" [45]
1987 C.A.T.S. Eyes Stark Episode: "A Naval Affair" [45]
1987 Ratman Police Chief 2 episodes [72]
1987 Alas Smith and Jones Mexican Hotel Receptionist Episode: #4.4 [73]
1987 Ever Decreasing Circles Maintenance Man Episode: "Half an Office" [74]
1988 40 Minutes General cast Episode: "Scarfe's Follies" [45]
1988 Wish Me Luck Victor Travussini 5 episodes [45]
1988 Don't Wait Up Man in Jewellery Shop Episode: #5.2 [75]
1988 The Bill Ian Gore Episode: "Runaround" [76]
1988 Casualty Harry Episode: "Living Memories" [77]
1992 Sitting Pretty Boris Voice; Episode: "Anniversary Waltz" [78]
1992 The New Statesman General Giray Episode: "A Bigger Splash" [78]
1992 One Foot in the Grave Jack the Burglar (voice) Episode: "Beware the Trickster on the Roof" [79]
1992 Sitting Pretty The Trainer Voice; Episode: "Happy Birthdays" [78]
1993 Then Churchill Said to Me Major Harry Bouchet Episode: "Nanny by Searchlight" [80]
1996 Soldier Soldier Police Superintendent Episode: "Delayed Action" [81]
1997 Wing and a Prayer DS Doughty Episode: "The Ties That Bind" [46]
1998 Heartbeat Stan Fraser Episode: "Where There's a Will" [82]
2005–2009 The Green Green Grass Aubrey "Boycie" Boyce All 32 episodes [45]
2006 The Impressionists Station Master Episode: #1.2 [83]
2007 My Family Jacob Marley Episode: "Ho Ho No" [84]
2008 Last of the Summer Wine Jeremy Episode: "Is Jeremy Quite Safe?" [27]
2015–2018 Benidorm Monty Staines 15 episodes [45]
2015 Doctors Freddy Prenton Episode: "Vapour Trail" [85]
2016 Are You Being Served? Captain Peacock TV film [65]
2018 Sooty Henry Witham-Smythe Episode: "Just Desserts" [86][87]
2020 Državni posao Aubrey "Boycie" Boyce Episode: "Dostavno vozilo" [88]

Books[edit]

  • 2011, Being Boycie, Wigmore Books Ltd., ISBN 978-0956906106[89]
  • 2012, Boycie & Beyond, Wigmore Books Ltd., ISBN 978-0956906113[5]
  • 2016, Wigmore Abbey: The Treasure of Mortimer, (photography by Alex Ramsey), Wigmore Books Ltd., ISBN 978-0956906144[90]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]