John Thaw

John Thaw

Infobox actor
name = John Thaw CBE

imagesize = 200px
caption = Thaw as Chief Inspector Morse
birthname = John Edward Thaw
birthdate = birth date|1942|1|3|df=y
location = Longsight, Manchester, England
deathdate = death date and age|2002|2|21|1942|1|3|df=y
deathplace = Luckington, Wiltshire, England
othername =
yearsactive = 1960–2002
spouse = Sally Alexander (1964–1968) Sheila Hancock (1973–2002)
homepage =
academyawards =
emmyawards =
tonyawards =
baftaawards = Best TV Actor 1989, 1992 "Inspector Morse" BAFTA Fellowship 2001 Lifetime achievement
olivierawards =

John Edward Thaw CBE (3 January, 1942 – 21 February, 2002) was an English actor, who made his début role in the military police television drama "Redcap" (1964–1966), and subsequently appeared in a range of television, stage and cinema roles, his most popular being police and legal dramas such as "The Sweeney", "Inspector Morse" and "Kavanagh QC".


Early life

Thaw came from a working class background, having been born in Longsight, Manchester to parents John and Dorothy. He had a younger brother called Ray. He grew up in the Burnage area of the city. He attended Ducie Technical High School for Boys in Manchester. He entered the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art at the age of 17, where he was a contemporary of Tom Courtenay.


Soon after leaving RADA he made his stage début in "A Shred of Evidence" at the Liverpool Playhouse and was awarded a contract with the theatre. His first film role was a bit part in the 1962 adaptation of "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner" starring Tom Courtenay and he also acted on-stage opposite Sir Laurence Olivier in "Semi-Detached" (1962). He appeared in several episodes of the seminal BBC police series "Z Cars" in 1963–64 as a detective constable with a drink problem. Between 1964–66 he appeared as the central role of hard-nosed military policeman, Sgt John Mann, in two series of the ABC Weekend Television/ITV production "Redcap". He was also a guest star in an early episode of "The Avengers". In 1967 he appeared in the Granada TV/ITV series, "Inheritance", alongside James Bolam and Michael Goodliffe, as well as appearing in TV plays such as "The Talking Head" and episodes of series such as "Budgie", where he played against type (opposite Adam Faith) as an effeminate failed playwright with a full beard and a Welsh accent.

Thaw will perhaps be best remembered for two roles: the hard-bitten Flying Squad detective Jack Regan in the Thames Television/ITV series (and two films) "The Sweeney" (1975 – 1978), which established him as a major star in the United Kingdom, and as the quietly-spoken, introspective but well educated and bitter detective "Inspector Morse" (1987 – 2000), with specials in 1995 – 1998 and 2000.

He won two BAFTA awards for "Inspector Morse".

He subsequently played liberal working class Lancastrian barrister James Kavanagh in "Kavanagh QC" (1995 – 1999, and a special in 2001). Thaw also tried his hand at comedy with two sitcoms — "Thick as Thieves" (London Weekend/ITV, 1974) with Bob Hoskins and "Home to Roost" (Yorkshire/ITV, 1985 – 1990). Thaw is best known in America for the BBC series "A Year in Provence" with Lindsay Duncan.

During the 1970s and 1980s, Thaw frequently appeared in productions with the Royal Shakespeare Company and Royal National Theatre. He appeared in a number of films, including "Cry Freedom", where he portrayed the conservative South African justice minister Jimmy Kruger, for which he received a BAFTA nomination for Best Supporting Actor, and "Chaplin" for director Richard Attenborough.

Thaw also appeared in the TV adaptation of the Michelle Magorian book "Goodnight Mister Tom" (Carlton Television/ITV) as the title character.

Personal life

In 1964, Thaw married Sally Alexander, but they divorced four years later. He married actress Sheila Hancock in 1973 and remained with her until his death in 2002.

Thaw had two daughters: Abigail Thaw from his first marriage, and Joanna Thaw from his second. He also adopted Sheila Hancock's daughter Melanie from her first marriage. Abigail has entered the acting profession.

In her 2004 autobiography, "", Hancock, who also starred alongside him in an episode of "Kavanagh QC", revealed the extent of Thaw's alcoholism that had started in the late 1970s and caused problems in their marriage and the gaps in Thaw's career in the early 1980s and later 1990s. Thaw was eventually able to get his alcoholism under control a year before his death. Thaw was appointed a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) in 1994.

In September 2006, Thaw was voted by the general public as number 3 in a poll of TV's Greatest Stars.Fact|date=July 2008

Thaw had a noticeable peculiarity of gait, his right leg showing evidence of "dorsiflexor paralysis" or foot drop, for which there have been several explanations. Some even speculated that he had a wooden leg below the knee, or that he had contracted polio as a child. Several sources state that it resulted from an accident at the age of 15 when he tripped over a curb and broke his foot rushing to catch a bus to school. [ [ John Thaw - Biography ] ] However, in her autobiography, Hancock says that Thaw's grandfather had a withered leg and walked with a limp; Thaw apparently copied him and also walked with a limp all his life. A car accident in his early twenties exacerbated the problem.

Thaw was diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus in June 2001. He underwent chemotherapy in hope of overcoming the illness. He died eight months later, on Thursday, 21 February 2002, seven weeks after his 60th birthday, having suffered a sudden setback the previous day. At the time of his death, he was living at Sherston, Wiltshire, and was cremated at Westerleigh Crematorium in South Gloucestershire.



*1962 "Nil Carborundum"
*1962 "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner"
*1963 "Five to One"
*1965 "Dead Man's Chest"
*1968 "The Bofors Gun"
*1970 "Praise Marx and Pass the Ammunition"
*1970 "The Last Grenade"
*1971 "The Abominable Dr. Phibes"
*1972 "Dr. Phibes Rises Again"
*1976 "The Sensible Action of Lieutenant Holst"
*1977 "Sweeney!"
*1978 "Sweeney 2"
*1978 "Dinner at the Sporting Club"
*1981 "The Grass is Singing"
*1987 "Asking for Trouble"
*1987 "Business As Usual"
*1987 "Cry Freedom"
*1992 "Chaplin"


*1960 "A Shred of Evidence"
*1961 "The Fire Raisers"
*1962 "Women Beware Women"
*1962 "Semi-Detached" (with Sir Laurence Olivier)
*1969 "So What About Love?"
*1970 "Random Happenings in the Hebrides"
*1971 "The Lady from the Sea"
*1973 "Collaborators"
*1976 "Absurd Person Singular"
*1978 "Night and Day"
*1982 "Sergeant Musgrave's Dance"
*1983 "Twelfth Night"
*1983 "The Time of Your Life"
*1983 "Henry VIII"
*1984 "Pygmalion"
*1988 "All My Sons"
*1993 "Absence of War" by David Hare


John Thaw 1942-2002 An Appreciation (first published in February 2003) Revised edition is due to be published by Elius Books Internet Limited in December 2008.

External links

*imdb name|id=0857177|name=John Thaw

NAME= Thaw, John
SHORT DESCRIPTION= English film, television and stage actor
DATE OF BIRTH= 3 January, 1942
PLACE OF BIRTH= Longsight, Manchester, England
DATE OF DEATH= 21 February, 2002
PLACE OF DEATH= Luckington, Wiltshire, England

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