George Sewell (1924-2007) b. London, England, UK.
Recognisable film and television character actor whose lived-in looks were perfectly suited to portraying shady villains and police roles.
George Sewell was born on August 31 1924 at Hoxton in the East End of London. His father was a printer and his mother came from a family of florists. He left school at 14 and following his father into the printing trade. At the start of WWII he worked repairing bomb damage before joining the RAF in 1943; but the war ended before he had completed his training as a pilot and he was demobbed almost immediately.
During the immediate post-war years, Sewell worked as a street photographer, carpenter, assistant road manager and drummer in a small rumba band. In 1948 he joined the Merchant Navy and became a steward on cruise ships of the Cunard Line, circling the world three times. On his return, he used his knowledge of languages to work as a motor-coach courier for a travel company before making a late entry into acting in 1959.
He made his debut with a small role in Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop production of Frank Norman and Lionel Bart’s musical comedy Fings Ain’t Wot They Used T’Be in the West End in 1960. Sewell went on to star in two more Littlewood productions; Sparrers Can’t Sing and Oh What a Lovely War!
He continued to make regular appearances on television, among his more notable parts being that of Col Alec Freeman in the science fiction series UFO (1970-73), Detective Chief Inspector Alan Craven in 25 episodes of Special Branch, a 1970s television drama series made by Euston Films, and George Smiley’s minder in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1979). Twenty years later, Sewell played Supt Frank Cottam, a send-up of his own Special Branch character, in The Detectives, with Robert Powell and Jasper Carrott.
On the cinema screen, Sewell appeared in several important early films, including Sparrows Can’t Sing (1962), shot on location in Stepney and Lindsay Anderson‘s bleak This Sporting Life (1963). A long and successful screen career followed for Sewell with the role of Barney, the tallyman, in Up the Junction (1965), a small role in Loach’s first feature film, Poor Cow (1967), as well as Get Carter (1971), the gritty gangster classic set in Newcastle.
He was still working until recently, making television appearances in Doctors and The Bill (both 2005) and, 2006, in Casualty.