Ronnie Barker

  1. Michael Crawford, Some Mothers Do ’Ave ‘Em, TV, 1973-1978.  The best-loved comic actor on UK TV during 47 years. He had to reject three of the top-rated series – Mothers was first – being too busy in his own top-rated series, Porridge, Going Straight, Open All Hours and, best of all, his 1971-1987 sketch show partnership with Ronnie Corbett – aka The Two Ronnies. And so Crawford (31, looking 25) became a superstar. His work as the young, child-like husband with no prospects in life sent Crawford on to Broadway’s Phantom of the Opera. Spencer was first created for the prat-falling UK movie comic Norman Wisdom, 58, who passed to Barker (a stout 44; his prat-falls were cleverly linguistic), who passed to Dudley Moore, 38.   All too old and incapable of Crawford’s stunts (sometimes live) as the accident-prone Frank.
  2. Leonard Rossiter, The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, TV, 1976-1979. Having worked together on The Two Ronnies, creator David Nobbs was keen to have get Barker as Reginald Iolanthe Perrin. But… as explained above, he was thoroughly booked. He was dThe Guv’nor of BBC TV comedy because unlike the previous longtime #1, Tony Hancock, Barker wrote much of his material. Nobbs regretted losing him as Rossiter proved extremely difficult to work with.
  3. Derek Jacobi, I, Claudius, TV, 1976.   A crazy BBC-TV idea! Barker had too much baggage as a much loved UK comedy icon for something so serious as Rupert Graves’s classic. Ronnie tried drama, as Winston Churchill’s butler in A Gathering Storm, 2002, four years after his retirement.
  4. Roland Culver, The Missionary, 1982.    Barker passed on being doddery in Michael Palin’s solo debut as writer and star – he often called it “Mish.” Culver doddered supremely. In his final film. .. at age 82.
  5. Denholm Elliott, Trading Places, 1982. Odd choices for snooty butler Coleman in the lives of Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy, aka The (updated) Prince and the Pauper: Barker, genial UK comedy writer-performer undser-used by movies, and the theatrical knight, Sir John Gielgud, who had already buttled to Oscar glory for Dudley Moore’s Arthur, 1980. Twenty years later, Barker buttled for Albert Finney’s Churchill in The Gathering Storm, 2002.
  6. Richard Wilson, One Foot in the Grave, TV,  1990-2001.  The third hit show Baker had to pass on made a star out of Wilson at age 54. He had kept refusing it, feeling too young to play a grumpy 60-year-old! The retired pensioner Victor Meldrew was then offered to grumpy Northern comic Les Dawson and the suave Andrew Sachs (Manuel in Fawlty Towers). As Meldrew would say and (too) often did: “I don’t believe it!”
  7. Rowan Atkinson, The Lion King, 1993.    Also in the mix to voice Zazu in the 32nd Disney toon – Bambi meets Hamlet in Africa! – were Chris Barrie, Simon Callow, David Jason, Spike Milligan, Vic Reeves, Patrick Stewart. Plus various UK comedy giants: Peter Cook and Dudley Moore; The Two Ronnies: Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett; The Goodies: Tim Brooke-Taylor, Graeme Garden, Bill Odie; and the Monty Pythons: John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, Eric Idle, Michael Pal

 Birth year: 1929Death year: 2005Other name: Casting Calls:  7