Picture above: Stefan Gryff and Ian Hendry in The Lotus Eaters.

A key aim of this website is to also shine a light on the fellow professionals who worked alongside Ian Hendry – on both sides of the camera and stage. Recently, it was brought to my attention by the excellent Michael J. Bird Tribute website, that the actor Stefan Gryff has died. Stefan is perhaps best known for his roles as Captain Krasakis in the TV series The Lotus Eaters [1972/73], The Major in Who Pays the Ferryman [1977] and as Charolambous in The Aphrodite Inheritance [1979] – all three series created by the writer Michael J. Bird.

Given that Stefan’s passing has been relatively unnoticed by the mainstream media, we wanted to pay our own tribute to his life and career. Since it’s creation, Chris Williams has been a very enthusiastic supporter of the Ian Hendry Tribute website and associated Facebook page. He is also a huge fan of The Lotus Eaters series and the work of Michael J. Bird. He kindly offered to write this following piece in memory of the fine actor, Stefan Gryff and in particular, elaborate on his important contribution to The Lotus Eaters.

 

Picture: Stefan Gryff with Peter Cushing – Legend of The Werewolf [1975]

In Memory – Actor Stefan Gryff

By Chris Williams:

Stefan-Erwin Gryff was born 5th May 1938 in Warsaw, Poland the son of Felix (Feliks) and Halina Gryff. When Poland was invaded by the Germans and Russians during WWII, Felix Gryff was falsely charged with spying and sentenced to death. Later his sentence was commuted to 15 years hard labour in Russian Gulag camps. Stefan and his mother somehow remained in Poland and survived the war. Stefan contracted tuberculosis aged 12 and spent months in a sanatorium. Eventually Felix was released in 1955 and returned to Poland where he was reunited with Stefan and his mother who had believed he was dead. Many members of the Gryff family died in extermination camps including both Stefan’s grandparents and two of his Aunts. It is a small miracle that they survived.

Poland was a very different place now and in 1956 Felix decided to move the family to Australia together with other members of the Gryff family who had survived the War. He waited on route in Rome for acceptance. Whilst there he wrote a book about his experiences in the Russian labour camps called ‘Red Hell’. In Australia Felix built a successful textile business and Stefan studied law at the University of Sydney and also began to get involved in acting. He practiced law in Australia, before moving to London in 1967 where he appeared in plays and theatre before moving into television and films.

In 1972, he appeared in The Lotus Eaters alongside Ian Hendry – considered to be his most famous part. He played the local police official, Captain Michael Krasakis. With his natural charisma and presence, he soon made the character his own and his performance was a significant contribution to the success of the series. Stern and official, caring, supportive, and unerringly loyal, he valued nothing more highly than his friendship with Erik Shepherd. The part required someone who could go up against Ian Hendry and match him in terms of acting and character portrayal. Stefan met the challenge head on in every scene, and it brought the best out in both of them. In the episode ‘and Hera had a sister’ Erik crassly suggests that policemen are immune to vulnerability which earns the famous rebuke from Krasakis. ‘Conscience my friend, is every man’s cross, as shame is his crown of thorns. To claim a monopoly in either is presumptuous.’ The line is delivered with perfect timing and emphasis by Gryff. These philosophical quips became his trademark.

Captain Krasakis became one of the bed rock characters of the series. He was so successful in the role that the series writer Michael J. Bird proposed a whole new series based on the character called ‘KRASAKIS’, but the BBC never went ahead with it. Despite this, Bird wrote him into his next series Who Pays The Ferryman? as ‘The Major’ – but it was still the same character. Three of the Ferryman episodes were in fact from the proposed ‘KRASAKIS’ but were now blended into the new series. He also appeared in Bird’s series ‘The Aphrodite Inheritance’ as Pan the Greek God of music and mischief – but in the guise of the humble barman Charalambous.

In later life Stefan became an acting coach and lived in London. I managed to contact his widow Amanda Gryff on the telephone and I was able to pass on condolences on behalf of the Ian Hendry website, the MJB community, and everyone who enjoyed his work. She greatly appreciated that and I’m sure she took comfort from it. She also said that he would have appreciated it too. He died 3rd June 2017, aged 79.

 

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For those wishing to find out more about Felix Gryff’s family and his life as a political prisoner, his autobiographical account titled, ‘Red Hell’, has been located in the National Library Of Australia.

 

 

 

Our heartfelt thoughts and condolences go to the family, friends and fans of Stefan Gryff.

Until next time,

Neil Hendry
Editor, Official Tribute To Ian Hendry

Further Reading

A detailed account of the life and work of Ian Hendry in the new biography:

Read: ‘Send in the Clowns – The Yo Yo Life Of Ian Hendry’ by Gabriel Hershman

Send In The Clowns - The Yo Yo Life of Ian Hendry

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