Ian Hendry ‘A Life On Screen’ 30th Anniversary Tribute
Video above: Ian Hendry – 30th anniversary tribute
[LONDON] 24th December 1984:
It’s Christmas Eve, the decorations are up, the presents wrapped, the food bought and the final rush is on before the festive season begins.
And then – like some great circus stunt – the rug is pulled from beneath us all, with the sudden news that Ian has died.
As always, his timing was impeccable.
Thirty years on – we reflect upon and remember the life and work of Ian Hendry. But let’s also spare a moment to think about the people he left behind – the one’s just out of the spotlight – who had to deal with the pain of their loss and to ‘pick-up the pieces’. His wife Sandy, his children, his wider family, friends and fans.
Ian Hendry: The Early Years
Ian’s father, James (‘Jim’), was born and educated in Glasgow, but moved to Ipswich, Suffolk in the mid 1920’s to work as a mill manager. In the evenings, whilst walking home from the docks he would glance through an office window to try and catch a glimpse of a young lady working there. In time, she noticed him too and would watch out for him passing by. That young lady was Enid, and a short time later they were married.
Ian was their first child, born in Ipswich on January 13th 1931.
Picture: Ian on bike (aged 5), his brother Donald (aged 3), parents Jim and Enid, with grandparents George and Edith Rushton. Dedham Vale, Suffolk (1936).
Good at sports, in particular cricket and rugby, Ian also developed a great love for acting from an early age and throughout his school years, he was involved in amateur dramatics. Deep down he probably always knew he wanted to be an actor.
But his parents were a product of their generation and upbringing. Practical and averse to risk, they encouraged Ian to go into a ‘safer’ career. He attended the College of Estate Management in London and in 1948, spent a year working for Bidwells at their Cambridge office.
In 1949, Ian began his National Service as part of the compulsory conscription in the United Kingdom, which was introduced after the end of the second world war. He spent two years with the 32nd Medium Regiment, R.A. During this time, Ian paced for Christopher Chataway in athletics and also ran his own motorcycle stunt team!
On leaving the army in 1951, Ian returned to work for Bidwells, this time in their London office, but his heart was really not in this career. He became involved again with amateur dramatics – with a local group in Edgware – before finally discussing things with his parents.
Realising that Ian’s heart was set on acting, his parents accepted that he needed to follow his ambition and passion and agreed to support him through acting school. In late 1952, he applied for a place at the Central School of Speech and Drama, London, where he was accepted and trained from January 1953 to 1955.
The school at that time was based in rooms at the Albert Hall and his contemporaries included Judi Dench (now Dame Judi Dench) and Vanessa Redgrave, who were both two years below him; Wanda Ventham, his future co-star in the series The Lotus Eaters, who was in the year below; and Jeremy Brett and Wendy Craig, who were in the year above him.
It was whilst studying there that he had a chance meeting with Coco The Clown which would ignite a great life-long friendship and love of the circus. In his spare time he became a stooge to Coco, learning many of his circus tricks in the process, which Ian would often perform throughout his life at any opportune and often inopportune moment!
Ian Hendry – A Life In The Spotlight
After graduating, Ian worked in repertory theatre at the Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch and later at the Oxford Playhouse. It was whilst playing Jacques in Jean Anouilh’s Dinner With The Family that Ian had his first real break. The play transferred to London’s West End and whilst there Ian received some glowing reviews from the critics. His talent was now beginning to be noticed.
His theatre work was supplemented with several small parts in films and TV shows, but it was not until he was cast in the lead – as Dr. Geoffrey Brent – in Police Surgeon in 1960, that he began to reach a much larger audience. Police Surgeon was short-lived, but Ian’s ‘star’ quality had been recognised by ABC television, who were keen to find a new vehicle for his talent. And that vehicle – after much deliberation and creative brain-storming – turned out to be The Avengers (1961).
Ian was the original Avenger, a fact which is often overlooked or unknown, even to fans of the series. This oversight has – in part – been rectified by two excellent books about the first series written by Alan Hayes, Richard McGinlay and Alys Hayes. A third book is also in the works covering the story behind Police Surgeon.
Industrial action at ABC Television halted work on Series 2 of The Avengers and at the same time, Ian was also being offered work in film. Eventually the lure of the big screen proved too much of a temptation and he left to star in Live Now Pay Later in 1962. He went on to then play the lead in Girl In The Headlines (1963), This Is My Street (1964), Children of The Damned (1964) and The Beauty Jungle (1964) as well continuing to work in various TV productions. Ian’s star continued to rise and his decision to leave The Avengers certainly appeared to be paying off.
His first marriage to Joanna – a make-up artist who he had met through his work – ultimately ended in divorce. A significant factor in the break-up was Ian’s first meeting with Janet Munro, who he worked with on Afternoon Of A Nymph, an Armchair Theatre production (1962). The two fell in love and they were married in 1963.
Ian continued to be in demand in the 1960’s, with significant film highlights including The Hill (1965, dir. by Sidney Lumet), Repulsion (1965, dir. by Roman Polanski) and Vendetta For The Saint (1969) as well as numerous TV appearances including the lead in two series of The Informer (1966/1967) – sadly now lost, presumed wiped.
As the decade drew to a close, Ian starred in The Southern Star (1969) with Orson Welles, George Segal, Ursula Andress, and Harry Andrews (with whom he made five films) and Journey To The Far Side Of The Sun (1969) – aka Doppleganger – with Roy Thinnes, directed by Robert Parrish with a screenplay by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson. Whilst not huge commercial successes, they were significant roles in films with good casts and budgets.
The 1970’s started relatively strongly for Ian. He starred in the film The McKenzie Break (1970) as well as continuing to appear regularly in television programmes and series.
In 1971, Ian probably felt he had lost out on the lead role in Get Carter (1971, dir. by Mike Hodges) to Michael Caine, but still went on to give a great performance as Eric Paice for which he was nominated for a BAFTA. The story behind the filming of Get Carter is retold in Ian’s biography, but suffice to say there were times when egos combined with a bit too much alcohol caused some on and off-screen tensions – which no doubt improved some of the scenes!
The 70’s, however, also marked a change in Ian’s fortunes, with the loss of his second wife, Janet Munro who died in 1972. They had already divorced in 1971, but this was almost certainly a watershed moment in his life as he tried to deal with the grief. Ian’s fondness for a drink was already well-known – it was certainly not uncommon back then for the bigger stars to like more than a tipple – but increasingly it became destructive to both his health, personal and professional life.
Ian continued to work in television, with smaller parts in films, but increasingly the promise of the really big breakthrough waned. He did, however, get the lead playing Erik Shepherd in the successful TV series The Lotus Eaters (1972/73), written by Michael J. Bird – in which he starred opposite Wanda Ventham, who played his wife Anna.
Wanda and Ian were good friends of the screen as well:
I too rate Michael’s work highly and of course after The Lotus Eaters 1972/73 we became great friends.
Michael and Ian were both very underrated. Their talent will be missed. Ian should have been an international star – and Michael was full of original ideas, which were never commissioned. He had some wonderful stories to tell and masses of ideas – The Lotus Eaters could have gone on for some considerable time had it not been for Ian Hendry’s health.”
In 1975, Ian married Sandy who he had met a year or two earlier. She played a vital role in providing love and stability to both Ian and the children.
Ian produced some good work during this period, most notably in TV series like The Sweeney (1975), The New Avengers (1976), The Return of The Saint (1978) and in films such as Tales From The Crypt (1972), Theatre Of Blood (1973), The Internecine Project (1974), Omen II (1976) and one of my personal favourites, a small uncredited cameo in McVicar (1980).
He also returned to the stage, touring with plays such as Motive(1976) and The Owl and The Pussycat (1977). But the really meaty roles, the ones which would have provided him with the platform to really showcase his undoubted talent didn’t materialise.
His work was almost universally well-received, by the critics and his peers alike, but the decline of the British film industry during this period combined with his personal issues led to a decreasing number of substantial roles.
John Nettles, discussed his admiration for Ian with Gabriel Hershman, as part of his research for the biography. In 1983, John worked with Ian on Bergerac (ep. Campaign for Silence) and talked about Ian’s talent:
“I admired him beyond measure. He was the most extraordinarily gifted actor. He had the ability to hit a line dead centre so there was no possibility of disbelief in the audience and so that you couldn’t see the joins.
He was an actor of his time who managed to transcend his time and even transcend the quality of the script.”
In a career spanning four decades, Ian starred in 30+ films, 600+ televisions appearances as well as notable performances on stage and radio. Despite his personal issues and setbacks, that is still a prodigious output which would be the envy of any aspiring actor today.
We could easily focus on the regrets. What might have been if…..but that would mean us being drawn into the realms of fantasy – for Ian to have had a different lifestyle, for circumstances to have been different, for him to have made different career choices, for his talent to have fully appreciated and rewarded with the kind of roles he deserved. And so on….
Instead I choose to focus on what was…..a charismatic, complex, creative, gifted, emotional, multi-faceted, generous, much-loved and yes, at times, troubled man – who has left us with some great memories.
Picture: Ian Hendry, Michael Caine, George Sewell and Michael Klinger relaxing in between shoots. Get Carter (1971)
Ian Hendry: A Script For His Life
Despite this prolific body of work, Ian was in danger of becoming a forgotten man as the years passed by. Much of his work is still available but the story of the man himself was fragmented and often limited to his issues in later years. His life, achievements and legacy deserved much more than that.
That has, to a certain extent, been rectified by the publication of the first biography on Ian. Thoroughly researched and well-written by Gabriel Hershman, Send In The Clowns – The Yo Yo Life of Ian Hendry creates a compelling narrative for his life. But this is certainly no ‘coffee-table’ book. The biography makes no attempt to rewrite or ‘airbrush’ history. Ian’s up-and-down life is reflected in the book’s title and Gabriel pulls no punches in confronting the issues with drink that Ian struggled with throughout his adult life.
But the book also tries to redress the simplistic tabloid press portrayal of Ian. There was so much more to him than that. Despite his issues, he was a gifted actor and writer, admired by his peers and loved by many.
The looming publication date for the biography was the impetus needed for me to finally create this website, having purchased the domain name ianhendry.com a year or so earlier.
The biography, the books and this website are just small ways to help keep Ian’s memory alive.
In trying to find the right words for this tribute to Ian, I decided that I would pass that task on to others – his fans.
Ian was always very appreciative of his admirers, his ‘public’ as he also described them, and it only seems right – as part of this tribute – to give them a voice.
Here is a collection of personal thoughts and messages from some of those who knew and loved him.
They are drawn from correspondence to this site, the Official Ian Hendry Youtube Channel, the Official Ian Hendry Facebook Page and a number of articles on the web, including Louise Penn’s very thoughtful article The Original Avenger – A Tribute to Ian Hendry.
“Ian Hendry had two qualities that separated him from other actors, charisma and screen presence. The menacing power of his performance in The Hill and Get Carter are two very obvious examples, but he could be subtle with it too.
For me, Ian will always be Erik Shepherd of The Lotus Eaters. He was born for the role and his pairing with Wanda Ventham was a match made in heaven, they could so easily have been husband and wife. Effortless style, combined with the skill to portray emotion with just a look or facial expression, made his portrayal of the central character a rock solid performance that was the foundation of the series. For me it was his finest work.
Rest in peace Ian, your work lives on.”
Picture: Ian Hendry and Wanda Ventham in The Gold Robbers (1969). The two would reunite on as the Shepherds in The Lotus Eaters.
“…..one of the greatest British actors of this or any era.”
Picture: Ian Hendry in Vendetta For The Saint (1969)
“I spoke to Gerry Anderson about Ian Hendry, who starred in Anderson’s film Doppelganger/Journey to the Far Side of the Sun. He confirmed that IH was at times shockingly drunk on set, but that he was a lovely bloke. He was also very physically dextrous, and would walk up to Gerry at the studio bar on his hands and say ‘evening boss’!
He seemed always able to get work, which I read as meaning that he was well-liked in the business.”
Commenting on ‘The Original Avenger – A Tribute To Ian Hendry’
Picture: Ian Hendry And Roy Thinnes In ‘Journey To The Far Side Of The Sun’ (aka Doppleganger 1969)
“Ian Hendry was one of those rare gems….a brilliant actor who made magic wherever he found himself. My particular favourite role of his was in Children of the Damned (MGM 1963 ) where he appeared alongside Alan Badel. I found his character in this film one of the great “ordinary” heroes, and I often watch this film to remind myself what a national treasure Ian ought to have been considered in his life. RIP Ian…..a wonderful soul!”
Commenting on the Official Ian Hendry YouTube Channel
Picture: Ian Hendry in Children of the Damned (1963)
The presence of Hendry in any production means you’ll end up watching him to the exclusion of practically everyone else around him. There haven’t been many mentions of him in “The Hill”. A role in which his cap, pulled down and covering his eyes in shadow, adds extra malevolence. A very distinctive looking actor; Roman centurion haircut, sideburns and “eyes like pissholes in the snow”.
Commenting on the Britmovie Forum – Ian Hendry Thread
Picture: Ian Hendry as Staff Sergeant Williams in The Hill (1965)
“The reason for posting this comment was that I had a dream about Ian last night. Please don’t jump to any conclusion’s! In 1966 I was in a pub Called The Rose & Crown in Thorpe near Chertsey, Surrey with my lovely girlfriend Brenda and who should walk in to have a drink but Ian, he had driven from Shepperton to our local for a pint.
We spoke to him for about an hour and both of us were knocked out by his easy attitude to talk to bearing in mind he was quite a star by then. He came across as a shy man and was very supportive of all his fellow actors. I think he should have gone on to even greater things as I felt he was a brilliant actor, none better than in The Hill.
Kindest regards to all fans.”
Commenting on ‘The Original Avenger – A Tribute To Ian Hendry’
Picture: Ian Hendry and Jean Marsh in The Informer (1967)
“I first became aware of Ian Hendry via photos in my various The Avengers books.
I first experienced his acting in Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter. He played Kerro, a formidable character in a wayside pub or tavern. The main thing which hit me was his voice: “Laugh,” he ordered another man there. “You’re not laughing. . . . Laugh.” His voice was heavy but soft, battered-sounded, almost cracking at times, nearly hoarse. It was especially effective the way he spoke and threatened this other character, as he stood there in a black leather waistcoat. (This film also had John Carson whom I thought was excellent. He looked so much like Robin Ellis’s Poldark in this I kept double-taking.)
I saw both series of The Lotus Eaters recently in the US. Hendry to me was usually the most interesting part. He had an expressive face which made him interesting to watch. Maybe it’s a cliche but he seemed to blend formidability with vulnerability. That might be an ingredient of his screen presence.
That shows his speaking voice to great effect, and some clever wordplay.
I’m crushed to read of all of these lost tapes and films. I want to believe that someone somewhere has some stashed away.
I watched Theatre of Blood largely on the strength of seeing Hendry in The Lotus Eaters. The fencing scene with Hendry was great.
Let’s hope, via the power of the Internet, more things come to light.
With a toast and a word of thanks to I.H.”
Commenting on the article ‘The Original Avenger – A Tribute To Ian Hendry’
Picture: Ian Hendry with Vincent Price. Theatre of Blood (1973)
I’m an actor and my father was a soldier so it was ‘The Hill’ in which he struck me so forcibly. I find most modern actors’ attempts to portray military men negligible – but Ian’s performance as Williams has never been bettered. My father and I both knew men like that in the Army – he exhibited a suppressed violence and a near-erotic glee in the misfortunes of his charges in that film. Unforgettable.
Picture: Ian Hendry (as Staff Sergeant Williams) and Sean Connery (as Roberts) in The Hill (1965)
“I’m 71 years old. I still remember Ian Hendry’s performances in The Informer series, which were so cool and cleverly understated. There was a scene where he had to make a decision for a client in a jam and he was silent for almost a minute (so it seemed at the time) and the face close-up told you everything about what he was weighing up. That’s acting! Burton did it a couple of times in The Spy Who Came In From The Cold but Hendry held that silent acting for longer without it flagging.”
Picture: Ian Hendry in The Informer 1966/ 1967
I was a student at The New College of Speech and Drama 1967-70 and our “local” was the Bull and Bush pub opposite the College. Ian was often in the bar and was friendly with the drama students and came over as a thoroughly decent guy.
He was always approachable and was never guilty of “pushing” his star status. He was always interested in what we were studying. I remember him fondly from those times.
Picture: Ian Hendry and Britt Ekland in A Cold Peace (1965)
“I met Ian when he was married to Janet Munro and I was a musician working for Janet’s father Alex. It was in Llandudno and Ian had just filming The Hill. I spent a week with him and he was so generous and fun to be with, I always remember the smell of Gualoises cigarettes, the first time I had seen them.”
Picture: Ian Hendry – Signed photo from Live Now Pay Later (1962)
“He was a great actor, my favourite film is The Hill, where Ian played the cruel Staff Sergeant Williams He was fantastic. He was very good looking as well.”
Picture: Ian Hendry as Staff Sergeant Williams in The Hill (1965). Rare colour promotional shot.
From the day back in 1962/63 when I watched the movie Live Now Pay Later, I have been an Ian Hendry fan.
I have seen all his films.
Picture: Ian Hendry (1961). Promotional signed photo for Live Now Pay Later.
“As the archivist for Culford School, which Ian attended from 1945-47, I am most interested in any news of Old Culfordians. Being made aware of this site has honestly been the big highlight of my week.
I was also delighted to be of service to author Gabriel Hershman, Ian’s biographer, by checking the old school magazines for him for mentions of Ian and any relevant photos. From them it’s very clear to see that Ian thoroughly enjoyed his time at Culford and apart from being academically sound was a great sportsman. He was Captain of the First Rugby and Hockey Teams in 1947 and was a member of the First Cricket Team, too.
The magazines also revealed his early leanings towards the stage, from his several postively reviewed appearances in plays and comedies.”
Picture: Ian Hendry at Culford School. 1st Team Cricket XI. Back row, far right.
” I was in my old country (Netherlands) I became a fan of MJB’s [Michael J. Bird] series: Who Pays the Ferryman and Aphrodite’s inheritance and in Canada later wit my husband we were fascinated by Maelstrom. Found David’s website.. Then heard of the Lotus Eaters etc. So I just watched the Lotus Eaters a month ago and first it looked dated (well it is a bit, of course) and very calm, happily floating like a babbling brooke.
Then it hit us with a two by four, wham. We started to like it very much and found Ian quite an amazing and convincing actor (as well as co-actor Wanda Ventham and of course Stefan Gryff) and saw him in other series too.
The Sweeney had an episode he appeared in and the way he (playing the “villain”) was so upset to have shot his friend, was so convincing and heartbreaking, I will never forget that.
Picture: Ian Hendry as Erik Shepherd in The Lotus Eaters
“….a much loved actor and well thought of man. I just watch This is Your Life what a trooper to go on even with the Red Flu. I’m a little shocked they still got him to perform his one legged golf fall.
Your Uncle was a truly loved actor. And to be honest yes of course I recall the stories of drink etc, however for me at least he was an actor who truly inhabited his roles. He had real depth and a truth even when playing slightly comic or off beat rolls.
It actually made me a little bit sad when I watched Theatre of Blood last week, the League of Gentlemen actors did the commentary and you can tell are huge fans of your Uncle’s work. As I say Neil I think to people like myself there is something about your uncles work that is very personal and moving…..I only wish that Ian Knew how import is work is to so many of my generation.
So many people know Ian’s work because of the shear amount of work your uncle was part of. So many genres. I really am looking forward to reading the book. Ian’s work was always shown during the early 80s when I was growing up. Thank you for doing this for fans new and old of your Uncles work .
Picture: Ian Hendry with Roger Moore, during a break from filming The Persuaders (1972)
“I have been a long-time fan of Ian, have many scrapbooks and memorabilia of his career, and was very interested in reading Gabriel Hershman’s book on him.
I was thrilled to meet Ian when he was touring in The Owl & The Pussycat with Hilary Tindall, and managed to see him in his dressing room at Harlow Theatre in the late 70’s. He signed one of my scrapbooks and we had a really nice chat. He was a real charmer. He thanked me for several letters I had published in the press about him.
I have all his films on Dvd, and among my favourites are Live Now Pay Later, This is my Street and Girl in the Headlines. He had such a wonderful distinctive voice and just made any film great by appearing in it !”
Picture: Ian Hendry with Ronnie Fraser in Girl in the Headlines.
“I look forward to reading Send In The Clowns, I have been a fan of his work on TV and Film, I go back to the early sixties, if I knew Ian was in it, I would enjoy it.
You must be very proud of your Uncle”
Picture: Ian Hendry (as Dr. David Keel) with Patrick Macnee (as John Steed) in The Avengers Series 1 (1961)
The last words go to an actor who knew Ian at the very beginning, whilst studying at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London:
“I think he was the first student I had ever seen whom I believed had been born an actor.
He was wonderful at light comedy, and we all looked up to him and admired him enormously”
Dame Judi Dench
Picture: Ian Hendry at Central School of Speech and Drama (1953). Picture taken for Picture Post article.
He Cared And We Loved Him For It
Inscription on Ian Hendry’s Memorial, Golders Green Crematorium. London
A big thanks to all who shared their thoughts and recollections.
And lastly, as we bring this tribute to a close:
Wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year
See you again in 2015.