Discovering Roy Kinnear

Hello and welcome to this edition of Vintage Media Millennial. In this post, I want to discuss an actor I’ve always known yet didn’t know the full extent of his portfolio until recently.

While researching for a film review recently, I glanced at the name of a cast member in the production with much interest; British actor Roy Kinnear. Although he died a few months before I was born in 1989, Kinnear is one of those faces I have a vivid memory of seeing regularly on television.

Most recently, I caught an episode of Les Dawson’s Blankety Blank on Challenge TV, where Kinnear served as one of the panellists. It may have been the presence of the piano-playing comedian, but Kinnear was coming across differently from how I had perceived him previously. I’d seen him play a lot of bit character parts in things, where he’d have his moment and then exit the scene. A show such as Blank allowed me to see him an active participant for around half an hour as himself; at which point he came across like one of your dad’s mates he sometimes has a drink with down the pub; I found great comfort in this.

My first memory of seeing Kinnear on screen was as George Roper’s friend in George and Mildred. I was lucky to have caught this show, as the hit ITV sitcom from the 70s was a staple of Granada Plus back in the early 2000s. Roy was a perfect accomplice for the titular character, and never failed to raise a smile.

For me, Kinnear’s most underappreciated role was as narrator to Woodland Animations’ Bertha in 1985. The 13-episode children’s series, following the adventures of a group of factory workers and their living machine, was a perfect showcase for the actor’s talent; Providing gentle characterisations to scripts laced with subtle wit, charm and unexpected satire. Aside from an outdated cultural depiction, Roy’s performance sets up the world perfectly; Bringing together a group of voices he had developed over a long period.

It is perhaps his role as Mr Salt in 1971’s Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, for which he is most remembered. The film, starring Gene Wilder, was a staple of wet weather indoor lunchtime when I was in primary school. However, the psychedelic elements stick in my mind more than Mr Kinnear. Yet it’s upon viewing it as an adult that I notice his prescience in the surreal tunnel scene. I always love when a British actor features in a piece of iconic American cinema, and it couldn’t be more so.

Speaking of iconic cinema, did you know he voiced Pipkin in Watership Down? Were you aware of his contribution to the character of Bulk in the animated series Superted? If the answer is no and you’re just discovering him yourself, you’ll be seeing him a lot more in the future.

Thank you for reading this edition of Vintage Media Millennial. If you have any opinions on the above subject, please leave a comment below.

Jamie Dyer

Jamie Dyer is an experienced writer, broadcaster, musician and social media marketer. He enjoys Old Time Radio, vintage TV, collecting vinyl and supporting the New York Knicks.

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