GERALD CAMPION DIES AT 81

Born 23rd April 1921; Died 9th July 2002

The actor who played Bunter in all 120 episodes of the BBC TV series from 1953-1961 (which was when Frank Richards died) has sadly passed away. He was 81. Gerald Campion also played the parts of those other Greyfriars students Cherry, Wharton and Mauleverer in 1953. Here is how his passing was reported in The Mirror on 12th July 2002.

Campion was in his 30's when he first appeared as the greedy schoolboy in the 1950's BBC series. He became one of the best known faces on television as a generation grew up loving the programme. Each week Bunter would get into scrapes at Greyfriars School which often ended in a caning from Mr Quelch. Catchphrases such as "crikey","yarooh" and "I say you chaps", were copied by his young fans. Campion went on to star in films such as Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Carry On Sergeant. A spokeswoman said of his death: "It was due to heart problems." He lived with his second wife of 40 years, Susan, in southern France.

Here's an interview with Gerald from the Radio Times during the mid-1950's about the series:-

Playing Bunter my Eton collar gets scratchy, the stud digs into me and with the old padding, I used to feel as though I was wearing overcoats. I get a sort of closed-in sensation and have the idea that everyone's against me - until I remember how very kind everyone is, especially the make-up department and the stage- and floor- managers, who all seem to realise how uncomfortable I can get and do their best to help.

The lines are very difficult to learn as they are so repetitious. I remember one episode in which Bunter was evilly pretending that his mother was ill so that he could go home, and had to say the broken line: "But sir - my mother -" eighteen times during the half hour. Kynaston Reeves (Quelch) and I nearly went mad trying to learn this, and I ended up saying "But sir - my mother' in the most unlikely places.

I have never been able to discover how the various producers who work on Bunter feel about it. They are all delightful, of course, and remain (I hope) my friends, but I have a sneaking feeling that the job is given to them as a sort of punishment. Shaun Sutton, who once produced six Bunter's, has never quite got over it. Whenever I see him in BBC corridors or in the restaurant he greets me with whoops and yells. "Yarooh!" he shrieks wildly at me. I call back "Beast!" in order to humour him. "I say, you fellows!" he counters, and is delighted with my reply, "Go and eat coke!"

He actually produced my favourite episode, in which I played both William George Bunter and his studious, athletic cousin Sammy Bunter. This was managed by exposing only one side of the film while I, dressed as Sammy, played the scene, leaving pauses for Billy's dialogue. I then changed clothes, the film was re-wound, and then the other strip was exposed with me as Billy, answering Sammy's questions. We did it in one go and congratulated ourselves, as a slip on anyones's part would have meant starting all over again.

It would be nice if the BBC could show some of these classics again - that's if they've still got them of course. We all know about the missing Dad's Army and Likely Lads episodes.

Although you were a bit before my time Gerald, I 've read about your work and can only say, "Thanks Gerald" - Al

Click here for BUNTER theme tune

 

"I say you fellows, what about some grub"

Billy Bunter confronts his form master, Mr. Quelch (Kynaston Reeves).

Gerald in his later years