Warren Mitchell as Solomon in The Price
He told me that he had performed Visiting Mr Green in Australia with his son Daniel, and how he had won an Olivier Award for another play called The Price, in which he played a similar role.
He was very interested to hear that my grandad had been a Lancaster bomber pilot during WW2 as Warren Mitchell had also been in the RAF.
He was very friendly and quietly spoken, unlike some characters he has played!!
I asked him about the episode in Till Death Us Do Part where they drew a face on his bald head. Alf thought he was a good comedian because everyone was laughing, little realising they were laughing at him!
Warren Mitchell was not the first choice actor for the part of Alf Garnett. Speight had intended the role for Peter Sellers but he refused it, and neither Lionel Jeffries nor Leo McKern were available at the time. Mitchell made such an impact as the elderly, loud-mouthed, bigotted dockworker from Wapping in London's East End, that the iconic series was born. Alf referred to his long-suffering wife Else (Dandy Nicholls) as 'the silly moo' and his socialist son-in-law Mike (Anthony Booth) as the 'randy Scouse git'. It was the era before 'political correctness' took hold and people became sensitive to racial language, so it was not uncommon for words like 'nigger' and 'coon' to pour from Alf's mouth.
Mitchell's cinema debut was in Manuela (1957) but the medium was not a particularly successful one for him. In most of his films he plays small character parts like the Watchman,
Warren Mitchell was born Warren Misell in London in 1926. His grandparents were Russian-Jewish immigrants, and his father was a glass and china merchant. Warren's interests, as a boy, were acting and football (he has always been a keen supporter of Tottenham Hotspur).
I met Warren Mitchell when he came to Nottingham's Theatre Royal with Visiting Mr Green in December 2007. I had arranged to meet Warren backstage after the performance and I was able to chat with him for a few minutes.
I asked him if he would sign my photograph of Alf Garnett. When he saw it he smiled and said, "Oh, it's that old sod!" He also signed my autograph book and I had several photographs taken with him.
His TV debut was in 1955, as Oliver Cromwell in The Children of the New Forest, and soon after, he was appearing regularly on TV alternating between sitcom, and straight (sometimes live) drama. He had his first title role in ITV's Three Tough Guys (1957) and had frequent appearances in the series The Avengers, Danger Man and The Saint.
Mitchell studied at RADA but also learnt a lot during his time at the Unity Theatre where he took a number of leading stage roles - usually of older men due to his premature baldness.
He joined the RAF during WW2 and whilst there he took the opportunity to do a 6-month chemistry course at Oxford University as such courses were available to servicemen at that time. Also on the course was Richard Burton who convinced Mitchell that acting would be the career to follow.
Warren Mitchell will always be remembered for his character Alf Garnett. He was first cast in the role in a 1965 pilot edition of what was to become the long-running TV series Till Death Us Do Part written by Johnny Speight. This ran for 10 years and was followed by its sequel In Sickness and in Health which ran for another 7 years.
Till Death Us Do Part led to several 'spin offs'. In 1969 there was Johnny Speight's film version which saw the family during the Blitz, and Alf's later attempts to avoid having his house pulled down because of redevelopment. In 1976, Mitchell did a solo stage show The Thoughts of Chairman Alf at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East. Mitchell later toured with this for years and it was twice shown on TV (in 1980 and 1994). In 1997 he was in the one-off TV special An Audience With Alf Garnett.
Although the Alf Garnett character dominated Mitchell's life for many years, he was active in many other things as well, especially TV & theatre. He starred as an MP in ITV's Men of Affairs (1973); played Shylock in the BBC production of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice (1980); and was a factory manager in the comedy So You Think You've Got Troubles (1991). Other TV appearances have ranged from Have I Got news For You (1997) to The Last of the Summer Wine Christmas Special (2001).
It is in the theatre that Mitchell has shown his real abilities as an actor. He has starred in two Harold Pinter plays - as Davies in The Caretaker at the National Theatre in 1980, and then as Max in The Homecoming at the Comedy Theatre in 1991. In 1979, he won much critical acclaim, and an Olivier Award for his per-
Mitchell married Connie (actress Constance Wake) in 1950 and they have three children - Rebecca, Daniel and Anna (also known as the actress Georgia Mitchell).
Warren Mitchell in Visiting Mr Green (2007)
Pepe Valiente in The Curse of the Werewolf (1961), Spencius in Carry On Cleo (1964), Abdul in The Beatles film Help! (1965) and Popov in Diamonds For Breakfast (1968).
However, he did occasionally play a lead role, like Fred Midway, an ambitious salesman, in All The Way Up (1970); Bamber the 'know-it-all' head removal man in The Chain (1984) and I.Q.Patel in Foreign Body (1986), a comedy about a poor Indian impersonating a doctor in British Society.
formance as Willy Loman in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman. By then, he was spending much time in Australia, in heavyweight stage roles such as Shakespeare's King Lear on the back of his fame and notoriety - Till Death Us Do Part had been a big hit down under, and he ultimately adopted dual British-Australian citizenship.
Daniel & Warren Mitchell in Visiting Mr Green
Warren Mitchell & David Sturzaker in
Visiting Mr Green
June Whitfield & Warren Mitchell in the
Last of theSummer Wine: Christmas Special (2001)
Warren Mitchell and wife, Connie
Warren Mitchell in 1960
As Capt. Jason in The Avengers (1963)
As Marco in The Saint (1963)
As Pepe in Curse of the Werewolf (1961)
As Spencius in Carry On Cleo (1964)
Diamonds For Breakfast (1968)
With Rita Tushingham in
Bernard Hill & Warren Mitchell
on the cover of The Chain
Warren Mitchell as Alf Garnett
Una Stubbs, Warren Mitchell & Anthony Booth
in Till Death Us Do Part
Warren Mitchell in
An Audience With Alf Garnett
Warren Mitchell in Have I Got news For You
Warren Mitchell as Willy Loman in
Death of a Salesman
Warren Mitchell as Solomon in The Price
Some of these YouTube videos of Alf Garnett are VERY funny!!
In 2006, at the age of 80, Mitchell appeared with his son Daniel Mitchell in Jeff Baron's Visiting Mr Green at the Ensemble Theatre in Sydney, Australia. In 2007, Warren Mitchell went on
tour with the play in Britain,
with co-star David Sturzaker.
An Olivier Award came Mitchell's way in 2004, for his performance as the ninety year old furniture dealer, Solomon, in another play by Arthur Miller, The Price, at the Apollo Theatre, although Mitchell has said on more
than one occasion that he "doesn't set a lot of
store by prizes."
Warren Mitchell signed my photograph of him as Alf Garnett
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Warren Mitchell (1926-2015)
Warren Mitchell passed away on 14th November 2015, aged 89.