John Nettleton, who has died aged 94, was a prolific character actor for greater than half a century. He was admired for the handfuls of classical supporting roles he took on stage, however he gained his biggest recognition on display screen. His comedian aptitude was finest exploited because the chilly, calculating Sir Arnold Robinson within the TV sitcom Sure Minister (1980-84), set within the corridors of Whitehall.
Though his presence and resonant voice invested authority within the characters he performed, Nettleton was shy and completely unstarry. He described himself as a “workman” actor, including: “I’ve acquired a pipe-smoking picture. I’m typed as a senior civil servant, a soldier, a decide, a Harley Road physician.”
Sure Minister, the biting political satire created by Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn, solid him to sort as the cupboard secretary, a scheming bureaucrat who manipulates Jim Hacker (performed by Paul Eddington), the minister within the fictional Division of Administrative Affairs, by his everlasting under-secretary, Sir Humphrey Appleby (Nigel Hawthorne).
By the point Hacker has risen to the highest job in authorities within the sequel, Sure, Prime Minister (1986-88), Sir Arnold has retired and develop into president of the Marketing campaign for Freedom of Data.
Tv fame got here to Nettleton after three many years on stage that started with Shakespeare performances in Stratford-upon-Avon, adopted by a string of West Finish roles and performs with the Nationwide Theatre firm. He was additionally singled out for credit score as, based on Peter Hepple of the Stage, a “jovially pandering” Polonius bringing humour to an acclaimed Prospect theatre manufacturing of Hamlet on the Outdated Vic (1977-78), that includes Derek Jacobi within the title position.
Nettleton was born in Sydenham, south London, to Alfred Nettleton, a manufacturing unit supervisor, and his spouse, Dorothy (nee Pratt). On leaving St Dunstan’s school, Catford, he educated at Rada, graduating in 1951 and making his skilled debut with a walk-on position within the pantomime Snow White at St James’s theatre, London. He then joined the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre firm (1952-53), taking small roles in Stratford-upon-Avon and on a 1953 tour of Australia and New Zealand.
He married the actor Deirdre Doone (born Anne Cooper) in 1954 after showing together with her on an Elizabethan Theatre tour. He then broke into the West Finish, with roles such because the police superintendent Mr McBryde in A Passage to India (Comedy theatre, 1960).
Peter Corridor, who directed Nettleton in a number of London productions, signed him as a contract participant when he shaped the Royal Shakespeare Firm. Nettleton spent 5 years (1961-66), largely on the Aldwych theatre, London, in supporting roles that included the surgeon Mr Mannoury in The Devils (1962) and Friar Barnardine in The Jew of Malta (1964).
With the Nationwide Theatre firm the next decade, he performed Jaques on a North American tour of its all-male manufacturing of As You Like It that included a run on Broadway (Mark Hellinger theatre, 1974), with Hawthorne taking part in the clown Touchstone.
Away from classical roles, he was at his comedian finest within the position of (Roy) Jenkins, Margaret Thatcher’s butler, in John Wells’s farce Anybody for Denis? on the Whitehall (now Trafalgar) theatre (1981-82).
Nettleton and his spouse teamed as much as take Raymond Briggs’s stage model of his anti-nuclear story When the Wind Blows on tour (1984-85). Each CND members themselves, they performed the aged couple Jim and Hilda Bloggs, based mostly on the author’s personal mother and father, who belief in “the authorities” within the aftermath of a nuclear assault. Later, Nettleton performed the Justice of the Peace within the 1990 Nationwide Theatre manufacturing of Alan Bennett’s Wind within the Willows adaptation.
He introduced authority to the position of Arthur Kipps, the storyteller, in Stephen Mallatratt’s thriller The Lady in Black for 2 runs on the Fortune theatre (1992-93 and 1999).
Though he appeared on tv all through the Nineteen Fifties, the primary display screen position that introduced Nettleton to the eye of critics was Charles, a principled enterprise government whose spouse walks out on him, in John Hale’s play The Noise Stopped for ITV’s Armchair Theatre collection in 1966. One critic remarked on his similarity to Alec Guinness – “the deliberate speech, the obvious under-playing, the suggestion of fireside beneath the ice”.
Nettleton continued popping up in character roles on TV. He had 5 completely different elements in Z Automobiles between 1962 and 1977, three of them as detectives, and was Francis Bacon in Churchill’s Folks (1975) and the lord chamberlain in Henry VIII (1979).
He additionally performed navy varieties – a serious in The Flame Bushes of Thika and the commanding officer of Charles Ryder (Jeremy Irons) in Brideshead Revisited (each 1981) – and was the daddy within the coming-of-age tv play East of Ipswich (1987), written by Michael Palin, and an Oxford vicar was an ape within the 1989 Physician Who journey Ghost Gentle.
The expertise for comedy he demonstrated in Sure Minister led him to be solid in a string of sitcoms. He performed Arthur Spender, one of many bosses of a fading advert company who discovers the pure abilities of his secretary (Leslie Ash) for recognizing profitable merchandise and dreaming up slogans, in The Glad Apple (1983). He then performed Lord Mountfast, who turns into the husband of Isobel (Gail Harrison), daughter of the self-made mill and mine proprietor Bradley Hardacre (Timothy West), within the second collection of Brass (1984) and had a visitor position as a vicar in Victoria Wooden: As Seen on TV in 1985.
Nettleton introduced parts of his Sure Minister character to the second run of Pretty Secret Military (1986) as Smith, a shady authorities determine utilizing to his personal benefit the rightwing group shaped by a retired main (Geoffrey Palmer) to defend the nation in opposition to ideological threats, and The New Statesman (1987-89) as Sir Stephen Baxter, an anti-pornography Conservative MP main the Marketing campaign for Ethical Regeneration.
He’s survived by his spouse and their three daughters, Sarah, Joanna and Jessica.