John Bluthal (born 28 March 1929) is a British film and television actor and voice artist, mostly in comedy. He is best known for his work with Spike Milligan, and for his roles in the TV series Never Mind the Quality, Feel the Width and The Vicar of Dibley. He has also worked in the United States and Australia, in numerous productions.
He moved to England in 1959 and appeared in Citizen James for BBC television, and in the long-running UK TV series Never Mind the Quality, Feel the Width in which he played Manny Cohen, a Jewish tailor in business with an Irishman in London. Also in the early 1960s, he provided the voice for Commander Zero in the television puppet series Fireball XL5. He appeared in the role of Fagin in the musical Oliver! at New Theatre, London. He has made dozens of film and TV shows since moving to England.
Bluthal also worked with Spike Milligan over several years, appearing with him in a 1958 Australian television special, The Gladys Half-Hour. He appeared as several characters in Milligan and John Antrobus’ stage play The Bed-Sitting Room, which opened at the Mermaid Theatre on 31 January 1963. He also worked with Milligan on the television series Q and its radio counterpart The Milligna Show. He previously worked with Milligan in the radio comedy series The Idiot Weekly and The Omar Khayyam Show. Bluthal is a man of many voices, like Milligan’s former radio colleague Peter Sellers, and he was used somewhat like Sellers in Milligan’s later work.
Some of his other television appearances include: the Sykes and a… episode “Sykes and a Bath”, broadcast on 25 January 1961, ‘Allo ‘Allo!, Hancock, Minder, The Saint (TV series) episode “The Happy Suicide”, The Avengers, Rumpole of the Bailey, Jonathan Creek, Lovejoy, Bergerac, and Inspector Morse, as well as appearing as Major Cheeseburger in The Goodies’ episode “Clown Virus”. He also appeared on the Australian comedy/satire series The Mavis Bramston Show and as “Enzo Pacelli” in the ABC-TV comedy television series Home Sweet Home.
Bluthal also appeared as Leonid Krassin in episodes of the Thames TV series Reilly, Ace of Spies.
In 1975, Bluthal took the part of Richard Armitage, described as “an Orthodox London Jew”, in The Melting Pot. This was a sitcom written by Spike Milligan and Neil Shand, which was canceled by the BBC after just one episode had been broadcast. Bluthal also appeared as “Chalky”, a hospital patient, in the episode “I Gotta Horse” of the comedy television series Doctor Down Under (the Australian series of the British comedy television series Doctor in the House, which also starred Robin Nedwell as Dr. Duncan Waring and Geoffrey Davies as Dr. Dick Stuart-Clark).
His films appearances include: The Knack …and How to Get It (1965), three Carry On films, two of the Doctor films, and also The Beatles’ films A Hard Day’s Night (1964) and Help! (1965), three roles in Casino Royale (1967), and two of the Pink Panther films. Bluthal also played several characters in The Great McGonagall (1974), by Spike Milligan and Joseph McGrath, based on the life of William McGonagall. He portrayed an Egyptologist in the year 1914 for the first part of the film The Fifth Element (1997) and Uncle Karl in Dark City (1998). He also appeared in the comedy Beware of Greeks Bearing Guns (2000).
His work with the National Theatre London included roles in Tales from Hollywood, Entertaining Strangers, Antony and Cleopatra, Yonaadab, The Tempest, Winters Tale, and Cymbeline.
He appeared in an early episode of One Foot In The Grave. His later television appearances have been in the sitcom The Vicar of Dibley as the fastidious minutes-taker Frank Pickle and as the caretaker Rocko in Spirited. He also appeared in the 2004 film Love’s Brother and in the 2016 film Hail, Caesar!.
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