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 James Booth

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PostSubject: James Booth   Thu Apr 08, 2010 10:46 pm

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James Booth (born David Geeves; 19 December 1927 - 11 August 2005) was an English film, stage and television actor and screenwriter. Though handsome enough to play leading roles, and versatile enough to play a wide variety of character parts, Booth naturally projected a shifty, wolfish, or unpredictable quality that led inevitably to villainous roles and comedy, usually with a cockney flavour.

He was born in Croydon, Surrey, England on 19 December 1927, the son of a probation officer. He was educated at Southend Grammar School, which he left aged 17 to join the army. He rose to the rank of captain. He spent several years working for an international trading company. However, his interest in acting soon took priority. He was trained at RADA and he made his first professional appearance as a member of the Old Vic company, before joining Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East in 1958. The Workshop's musical Fings Ain't Wot They Used T'Be became a hit and Booth, who played its most pungent character, looked poised for stardom. Producer Irving Allen signed Booth to an exclusive contract with Warwick Films. The sixties, and especially the early sixties, represented the most active period of Booth's movie career, with Zulu being the film for which he is best remembered. He will also be remembered for playing the part of Kenny Ames, a pornography baron living in enforced exile in Spain, in series 2 of Auf Wiedersehen, Pet in 1985.

Though many observers expected Booth to become a major star, Booth's acting career stalled and nearly died. In interviews, Booth was surprisingly forthcoming about the reasons for his professional difficulties. These included his appearance in the flop Twang!, his alcoholism, his unaggressive approach to selling himself, his lack of connections, and his own failure to work hard because everything came so easily to him at first. Booth also turned down the lead role of Alfie.
When no one would offer Booth an acting job,he tried his hand at screenwriting and found a market for his services in Hollywood. From the mid-seventies to sometime in the nineties, Booth lived in southern California and worked primarily as a screenwriter, with occasional film or TV appearances.
In late life Booth moved back to England. He never retired.

He married Paula Delaney in 1960 and they had two sons and two daughters. He died in Hadleigh, Essex on 11 August 2005 aged 77. His last film - Keeping Mum - was dedicated to his memory.


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PostSubject: Re: James Booth   Fri Apr 09, 2010 8:38 pm

Obituary James Booth

December 19, 1927 - August 11, 2005

Popular British actor who made a speciality of playing charming rogues

JAMES BOOTH made a memorable impression as the reluctant hero Private Henry Hook in Zulu (1964), but although it was a major part in a classic movie and Booth had leading roles, often as charming rogues, in other films in the 1960s and early 1970s he never quite cemented his position
as a top-flight star.

In Zulu he got the role of the cockney malingerer in preference to Michael Caine, who played an effete, upper-class officer instead. But, fearing the dangers of typecasting as a Cockney, Booth subsequently turned down the title role in Alfie (1966), which ironically went to Caine and completed his transformation into one of Britain's biggest international stars.

Lead roles dried up, and Booth endured fallow periods, but he kept bouncing back in films and on television in the UK and US, with recurring roles in Auf Wiedersehen, Pet (1986) and Twin Peaks (1990-91). During the 1980s he also found work as a script writer on action movies, such as American Ninja 2: The Confrontation (1987).

Booth was born David Geeves in 1927 in Croydon, Surrey. His father worked for the Salvation Army and he had a peripatetic childhood, living where his father's work took the family. After his father's death, they moved from the East End of London to Southend, where Booth first became involved in amateur drama, although he was well into his twenties before he considered acting as a career.

He had a stint in the Army and trained for management in a foreign mining company's London offices, before winning a scholarship to study at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. He got his first professional acting job when the stage manager Paula Delaney asked RADA to suggest someone who might be appropriate for a role as a gangster. Several years later Booth and Delaney married, and the union lasted until his death.

After a spell as a "spear- carrier" in a series of Shakespeare plays at the Old Vic in London, Booth joined Joan Littlewood's celebrated Theatre Workshop company in Stratford East in the late 1950s. There one of his biggest successes was the musical Fings Ain't Wot They Used T'Be. It was a straightforward drama, without music, a portrait of seedy life in Soho, when it arrived unheralded at Littlewood's offices.

Booth recognised the name of the author, Frank Norman, as that of an ex-convict who had recently written the book Bang to Rights, and showed the manuscript to Lionel Bart, who added songs. It opened at the company's Theatre Royal in 1959 and transferred to the West End, where it ran for two years. Booth played a pimp.

His film career began in 1959 when he played the gangster Spider Kelly in two comedies, Jazzboat and In the Nick. He had a small role in The Trials of Oscar Wilde (1960) and starred in Littlewood's comedy-drama film Sparrows Can't Sing (1963), playing the role of a returning seaman, with Barbara Windsor as the unfaithful wife.

Then came Zulu, the epic celebration of Rorke's Drift, one of the most famous battles in British military history when about 130 British soldiers successfully defended a mission station against 40,000 Zulu warriors. He played Private Hook, the drunken malingerer who shows true courage under fire and wins the Victoria Cross -the characterisation proved controversial with claims that Hook was really a model soldier.

Booth starred in Ken Russell's comedy French Dressing (1964) as a deckchair attendant who undertakes to give a dull seaside resort a new image, and he then played a hapless village bobby who climbs the career ladder by accident in The Secret of My Success (1965), with Shirley Jones, Stella Stevens and Honor Blackman.

He was reunited with Bart on Twang!!, a musical about Robin Hood. It tied him throughout 1965 and he had a percentage deal, but the show flopped, bankrupting Bart and setting Booth's career back years. "I was just known as `that actor who'd been in Twang!!'," he said in one interview. "Nobody wanted to know." He was out of work for a year before getting back together with his Zulu co-star Stanley Baker in the thriller Robbery (1967).

The comedy The Bliss of Mrs Blossom (1968) gave him a plum role as Shirley MacLaine's lover. It took a true story from the early 20th century - about a woman who lived with her husband but kept a lover in the attic - and adapted it for the Swinging Sixties, with Richard Attenborough as the husband.

Other films include Revenge (1971), in which he co-starred with Joan Collins; the comedy Rentadick (1972); That'll Be the Day (1973), playing David Essex's father; the thriller Brannigan (1975), with John Wayne, and the sex comedy I'm Not Feeling Myself Tonight (1976).

By the mid-1970s his career appeared to be stalling. He had a reputation as a hellraiser, he lost a fortune in the property crash and he decided to start afresh in the US. There were supporting roles in Airport '77, The Jazz Singer (1980) and Zorro, the Gay Blade (1981), while he also worked as a scriptwriter, mainly on genre action movies.

His most notable later performances were on the small screen in Auf Wiedersehen, Pet, in which he played the expat crook Kenny Ames, and Twin Peaks, as Ernie Niles, a newcomer with a shady past.
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PostSubject: Re: James Booth   Thu Apr 22, 2010 10:13 pm

James Booth was a major figure in the British film and theatre world in the 1960s, specialising in playing cheerful cockneys with a touch of larceny. The trade magazine Variety once described him as "a punchy blend of toughness, potential evil and irresistible charm."

The tall, broad-shouldered actor was particularly associated with two icons of the period, Joan Littlewood and Lionel Bart. He starred in Littlewood's screen version of Sparrows Can't Sing, and on stage he had leading roles in the Bart musicals Fings Ain't Wot They Used T'Be and Twang! His best remembered screen role was as the heroic soldier in Zulu, but his career stalled in the 1970s due to his reputation as a drinker and hell-raiser. "I've always been hot-tempered," he confessed, "over-egotistical and in some ways violent." Settling in the United States, he became a successful character actor, appearing in David Lynch's cult television series Twin Peaks, and he also became a writer of note, scripting mainly action movies.

Born David Geeves in Croydon, Surrey, in 1927, he was the son of a probation officer. He attended Southend Grammar School, but left at 17 to join the Army, attaining the rank of Captain. He was working in the offices of a mining company when, at the age of 24, he began to take part in amateur dramatics and was persuaded to apply for a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. He trained there from 1954 to 1956 in the same class as Albert Finney, Peter O'Toole, Alan Bates and Richard Harris.

While there he met the producer Irving Allen, who later gave him a film contract, and the stage manager Paula Delaney, whom he married in 1960. He was to say later, "I don't know what kind of mess my life would be in today if it hadn't been for Paula and Irving. I'm a very insecure person. I've always needed someone to give me security. And they both did".

He made his stage début, as James Booth, with a season at the Old Vic, "spear-carrying" in eight Shakespeare plays. In 1959 he joined the British People's Theatre Workshop, Joan Littlewood's company, which had its home at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East. He played an IRA officer in her production of The Hostage, then was given a starring role in Lionel Bart's musical about East End life Fings Ain't Wot They Used T'Be, which featured Miriam Karlin, Barbara Windsor, Yootha Joyce and Toni Palmer among its other players. In her autobiography, Windsor confesses that she found him "gorgeous" and that they had "a little affair".

The show had started life as a set of pages of dialogue written by Frank Norman, an ex-prisoner, and offered to Littlewood, who saw the potential for a musical and enlisted Bart to write a score, which he did in two weeks. The semi-improvised show about work-shy "Teddy Boys", small-time crooks, soft-hearted prostitutes and "bent" policemen opened in 1959 in Stratford and ran for six sell-out weeks. Later in the year Littlewood re-staged it with some major revisions, and in February 1960 it transferred to the Garrick Theatre, in the West End, where it was a great success, running for two years.

As the pimp, Tosher, Booth had one of the show-stopping numbers, "The Student Ponce" ("He'll end up earning a fortune, but only by using his bonce"). Littlewood later said of him, "At all hours you'd find him propping up the bar, a cynical, witty, impossible character, lanky and agile, with his own peculiar way of tackling life, and acting."

In 1962 Booth spent a season with the Royal Shakespeare Company, his performances including a memorable Edmund to Paul Scofield's King Lear in Peter Brook's production of the play. The same year, Booth played Mick in Harold Pinter's The Caretaker, at the Oxford Playhouse.

Booth made his screen début in 1959, with the role of the gangster Spider Kelly in Jazzboat, starring Anthony Newley, a role he reprised in the sequel, In the Nick (1960). He gave a fine performance as blackmailing Alfred Wood in The Trials of Oscar Wilde (1960) and a broadly comic one in In the Doghouse (1961), with Leslie Phillips. He had a starring role opposite Barbara Windsor in Joan Littlewood's only film as director, Sparrows Can't Sing (1962). Although its title was more refined than the original stage version's - Sparrers Can't Sing - the film still had to be sub-titled in much of America because of the cockney dialect. A mild comedy, it is notable today for its great cast of character performers who were Littlewood alumni, including Booth, Windsor, Yootha Joyce, Roy Kinnear, Victor Spinetti, Avis Bunnage, Brian Murphy and Murray Melvin.

Booth's flair for comedy was particularly displayed in the first feature film directed by Ken Russell, French Dressing (1963), and the following year he had a memorable screen role as Private Henry "Hookie" Hook, the unlikely hero of Zulu, the rousing account of the famous battle of Rorke's Drift in 1879. Also in 1964 he starred at the Comedy Theatre as the non-confirmist hero of Herb Gardner's play A Thousand Clowns. He then starred as a cockney Robin Hood in Lionel Bart's disastrously ill-fated musical Twang! (1965), which cost the composer all his savings.

Booth then had prominent screen roles in the films The Secret of My Success (1965), as a naïve policeman, The Bliss of Mrs Blossom (1968), as Shirley MacLaine's secret lover who adopts a multitude of disguises, and Robbery (1967), as a Scotland Yard inspector who nails all but one of a bunch of train robbers.

He headed a distinguished comedy cast in the patchy Rentadick (1972), written by John Cleese and Graham Chapman, and played the father of would-be rock star (David Essex) in That'll Be the Day (1973). But he had a surprisingly small part supporting John Wayne in Brannigan (1975), and a role the same year in the "sexploitation" film I'm Not Feeling Myself Tonight was indicative of the downward path of his career at the time.

In 1975 he appeared on Broadway as James Joyce in Tom Stoppard's play Travesties and accepted an offer to work as a writer in Los Angeles. He took minor roles in American movies, including Airport 77 (1977) and The Jazz Singer (1980), and appeared in such television shows as Gunsmoke, Bonanza, Mission: Impossible and Charlie's Angels, while writing scripts for both film and TV. He co-wrote the screenplay for the comedy starring Farrah Fawcett-Majors, Sunburn (1979), and he acted in several action movies that he also wrote, including Pray for Death (1985, a superior kung fu thriller), Avenging Force (1987) and American Ninja 4 (1991). He found his greatest international fame playing the cowardly ex-convict Ernie Miles in Twin Peaks (1990).

Returning to the UK, he had television roles as charming con-men in Minder and Auf Wiedersehen, Pet, and he was still acting this year, with a role in the forthcoming film Keeping Mum, starring Rowan Atkinson.
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PostSubject: Re: James Booth   Fri Apr 23, 2010 7:38 pm

hi,
when the film Zulu forst premeired some of Pvt Hooks relatives watched it and ended up being disgusted in the way he was portrayed.
does anyone know was it his children or grandchildren or other?

thanks in advance,

joe
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Neil Aspinshaw

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PostSubject: Re: James Booth   Thu Aug 19, 2010 8:54 am

Going back over some old digital camera memory cards I found this image of James Booth, with Harry my son at the Zulu weekend, Woolwich 14.2.2003.
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PostSubject: Re: James Booth   Thu Aug 19, 2010 8:34 pm

Neil. Thats a really nice photo. Thanks for sharing it. Was your son aware of who he was, and who he played in Zulu.
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PostSubject: Re: James Booth   Wed Aug 25, 2010 2:22 pm

Chelmsie

Harry could recite the whole film dialogue before he was six, Hook was his favourite character, he still knows his Victorian military, here he is seven years on with us in the Diehard Company



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PostSubject: Re: James Booth   Wed Jul 26, 2017 7:01 pm

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PostSubject: Re: James Booth   Wed Jul 26, 2017 8:34 pm

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PostSubject: Re: James Booth   Wed Aug 16, 2017 8:28 pm

From the 1968 film..The Bliss of Mrs Blossom.. JB now in
the scot's Guard's.

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I have just downloaded this film, look's a bit creaky and
ancient now.
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