In May 1999, after a 40 year career including 100 films Oliver Reed died as he had invariably lived, Drinking With Friends while making another film is well received performance in the Blockbuster gladiator and having Risen through hammer horror films to international starred up as Bill Sikes in Oliver Reed became in his own words the biggest star this country has got With his legendary off screen exploits and blue opinions especially of his co-stars he was one of the most infamous.
All quotes belong to Oliver Reed or others, and copyright belongs to Cliff Goodwin.
In the Previous in this blog – We stand shoulder to shoulder with Oliver as he begins his national service only to find out he officially does not exist, and as he fill in the rest of his birth certificate. Being turned down but Officer Training due to his Dyslexia being unable to write in a coherent fashion. So he takes another path and goes to Hong Kong where he becomes a NCO non commissioned officer, regaling the camp and his men with ghost stories and impromptu concert parties which the men thoroughly enjoyed. Which gave Oliver the tastes and the drive to become an actor But years later Oliver himself believed the men didn’t really like him. Yet may of the men would contradict him. And when he’s national service comes to an end Oliver comes home to civvy Street only to find out the brand new suits you got Taylor Made or several years in fact decades out of date.
Chapter Five – ” I’ve got face like a dustbin, but people are learning that if you kick a dustbin over and rhododendrons drop out, it’s glorious”
Back in London, after two years left Oliver with less than £100 in savings a nice tan, a taste for alcohol and six dated suits. But the capital city was a wash with what a be actors and actresses. So after after living with his Grandmother Dardin he moves to a flat in Redcliffe Square with another would be actor Jack Burke. an Irishman man who had won a prewar Jaguar in a poker game but could never earn enough money for any petrol, but was very impressed with Oliver’s brief appearance in Value For Money.
Without an agent and one film under his belt Oliver needed 3 things to find work experience luck and a membership card to the film artist Association the extras trade union, He was able to get the card like most things from guy in a pub another actor Ned Lynch, the others he would get by a combination of sex and lies. Knowing that it wasn’t the directors or the casting agencies he needed to impress but their secretaries, so he when on a charm offensive often going on dates and fish and chip suppers with them, and getting them slip his resume and photo into the pile.
One such lady was Cherry Dearing who after two dates added his photography the extras file in Regal Films
“I agreed to go out with him because he was incredibly good looking and had this amazingly seductive voice. When he spoke he looked at you as if were the only person in the room”
Called for an audition at Twickenham Studios he told the director Sidney Smith he had recently returned from touring South Africa with a repertory company. Smith however remembered he was more impressed by Oliver “hungry face” and was given part of a Journalist so he calls his father the ask to lend his journalist’s Mac which is better that one the wardrobe department were giving him. But it would another three year before they could face being in the same room.
Hello London started Sonja Henie and Michael Wilding the plot involved a flying visit to London where Sonja a real ice-skater is persuaded to gave a charity performance. The supporting cast a clutch of British actors guest stars Stanley Holloway, Dennis Price Roy Castle and Dora Bryan. Oliver’s job was to join the gaggle of photographers sent to cover the stars arrival. He elbowed his way to the front of the press pack doing everything to get noticed, but was asked to change his clothes as he was still wearing one of his Hong Kong suits.
Making the grand sum £14, By the end 1958 the system held and he had beded his way on to four more flims.
The Square Peg one of the many from the Norman Wisdom series
Life is A Circus a comedy staring the Crazy Gang.
The Captain’s Table a second comedy staring John Gregson
But when it came to his forth The Four Just Men a cinema spin off from the popular television show, his walk on part was bumped up to a speaking role when he was recognized by the assistant director and because the actor was taken ill, Oliver was given his first eleven words on screen. The work may have been enjoyable and regular but it was never self supporting including, the £12 he received for his impromptu speaking part in his last film Oliver had so far and just £56 from his acting in Berlin covered his £6 week rent on his West Bromwich rooms and never left enough to scratch away at the arrears. So having feed his last shilling into the gas meter to light the fire he conceded to visit his Uncle Carol.
Two years early in 1956 Carol Reed was about to direct the circus drama trapeze when Oliver asks to be taken on as an extra and his uncle had refused. But he told Oliver to join the Royal Academy of Dramatic art and if not he should at least join a repertory company. But Oliver’s refused citing the fact he didn’t give a damn about the theatre films were where he wanted to be. Both men were conscious of and determined to avoid any suggestion of nepotism yet the older Reed remained convinced that meeting the right people in the right place was a good launch of an acting career and suggested that every morning Oliver should make his way and find people that could help you and pitch your tent outside the front doors and every morning say excuse me I’m Oliver Reed and I would like you to give me a job, as Oliver was leaving Carol offered the final suggestion of the afternoon to spend as much time as possible at the cinema if you think a film is bad watch it over and over again until you are convinced you know why it is bad the same with a good film only when you are convinced you know the reason the flim is good should you try to emulate those finished performances. His uncle advice only confirmed what Oliver had already decided.
In the late 1950s a cinema programme included a full length feature film a short called The b movie, pathe news real and a pearl and Dean adverts which run in sequence from early afternoon to late evening so just for the price of sixpence Oliver bought himself a place at the University of cinema.
His mother had by now read married into what Oliver disrespected the called the quack quack Society, The Sulises family had made it’s fortune by supplying rope and hawsers to every port and shipping company in Britain and they now lived in an impressive mansion in the Cheshire countryside. it was now three months since Oliver had appeared in a film. Once back in London he discovered he had some unexpected competition, David Reed whose national service was spent as an officer with the royal Military Police was now out of work and hoping to launch his own acting career. The pair would make the rounds of the Casting officers and advertising agencies each handing out glossy photographs and attempting to make contacts with little success.
Opposite Chelsea Football Club Stamford Bridge ground on the Fulham Road was it coffee bar the drinks with cheap and the dubious but friendly Italian owner appreciated the value of serving the stars of the future his favourite quote would be
“When you are famous I am famous I put up sign saying you eat here”
and it was here David Reed informed his girlfriend and future wife she was about meet his brother nothing prepared her for the ‘thing’ that walked though the coffee bar door. Mickie Reed later said she will always remember her first sight of Oliver.
“ oliver was wearing a school hanging from a chain around his neck, a white shirt tied in a knot above his bare waist and the tightest jeans you have ever seen in your life”
Oliver’s inability to read properly played a big part in his next audition as the next week’s found him scouring the stage where he spotted on the bottom page of an advertisement for a new children’s television series pressing his best Hong Kong suit and went to the address only to be told by the smug receptionist he had come to the wrong place, and by the time he got to the right address half the cast had been auditioned and the other half were queuing in the corridor but as he stood there a female producer handed him script page and with her reading the other lines Oliver acted on his own. Inside the producers office Oliver reads his part and even with the Producers as close he gets the part of Richard of Gloucester in the children’s programme the golden spur. It was impressive enough to attract the attention of an agent and the guaranteed wage of £5 a week.
Unfortunately I’m going to have to stop here for this week there seven pages left in this chapter. And even skimming over them giving a barebones idea of what happens in Oliver’s life next it will it even longer and this blog post is now and I don’t want to swap everybody in one sitting so I’m going to call this chapter blog to close.
so I hope you can join me for the rest of that chapter and until then see you next week.