Reg Varney was born on July 11, 1916 in Canning Town, London, England as Reginald Alfred Varney. He was an actor and writer, known for On the Buses (1969), On the Buses (1971) and Holiday on the Buses (1973). He was married to Lilian Varney. He died on November 16, 2008 in Budleigh Salterton, Devon, England.
When the world’s first ATM opened at Barclays Bank in north London’s Enfield district 27 June 1967, Varney became the very first person to use the machine.
Suffered a stroke in 1989 which left him with an uneven heartbeat.
He learned to drive a bus and passed the test so that he could drive the bus on the public highway (this can be seen in ‘Holiday On The Buses’)
Bob Grant was trained at Rada after spending some time as a Lieutenant with the Royal Artillery. He plied his trade to begin with in Repertory and appeared on stage for many years all around the UK. His work in rep continued up to the mid-90s. He will be best remembered for his role of Jack Harper, the cheeky bus conductor with his traditional cigarette, cheeky laugh and his passion for the ladies and, of course, winding up old Blakey, the Inspector in On the Buses (1969). On the Buses was a huge success for Bob and his co-star, Reg Varney, running from 1969 to 1973 with 76 episodes and 3 spin-off films. It sold in 38 countries and is a great tribute to his comedy acting talents. In 1971 his popularity proved a little too much as his wedding to Kim was attended by hundreds of fans and it meant that everyone had to walk to the wedding! Famous other roles included Sparrows Can’t Sing (1963) and Mrs. Wilson’s Diary (1969). He toured Australia, starring in ‘No Sex please we’re British’. He also appeared on stage in musicals and pantomime. Sadly, he suffered from a depressive illness for a number of years and was found dead in his car in Gloucestershire on November 8th 2003. He was 71 years old.
Stephen Lewis, will be chiefly remembered for the comedy catchphrase: “I ‘ate you Butler!” He delivered it week after week in the hit sitcom On The Buses, a saucy slice of life that ran on ITV from 1969 to 1973. Lewis was Cyril “Blakey” Blake, a bus inspector with a Hitler moustache and delusions of grandeur. His nemesis was Stan Butler, a driver played by Reg Varney, who used his route as an opportunity to pick up stray “birds”. By today’s standards of television, On The Buses has all the subtlety and political correctness of cave drawings. But it was wildly popular, and Lewis’s comic timing reflected a considerable acting talent. Lewis entered acting in an era of social mobility that is almost inconceivable today. He was born in Poplar, East London, on December 17 1926. His first job was as a merchant seaman; he reconsidered his vocation after he was persuaded to go to a performance of the experimental Theatre Workshop group run by the brilliant Left-wing director Joan Littlewood. After the performance, the audience was invited on to the stage to meet the cast and discuss the play. Lewis enjoyed the experience and, after turning up to others, got to know the Workshop well. Eventually, Littlewood, perhaps exasperated by Lewis’s suggested stage directions, said: “You’re so blooming clever, why not do it yourself?” He agreed, auditioned and was offered a part. After a successful run, Littlewood asked Lewis if he would like to stick with the company but he said he wanted to return to the sea. The director persuaded him to stay on the stage and he made his West End debut in Brendan Behan’s The Hostage in 1958. In 1960, he wrote Sparrers Can’t Sing, a play about life in the East End that relied heavily on actors’ improvisations. It was a success and was released as a film (Sparrows Can’t Sing) in 1963, with a cast that included Barbara Windsor and Roy Kinnear – although even their talents could not sell the social realist dialogue to a global audience. The New York Times sniffed: “This isn’t a picture for anyone with a logical mind or an ear for language. The gabble of Cockney spoken here is as incomprehensible as the reasoning of those who speak it.” It was the first English-language film to be released in the US with subtitles. Throughout the 1960s, Lewis took a series of small roles culminating in a large part in the 1969 television play, Mrs Wilson’s Diary, alongside another Theatre Workshop regular called Bob Grant. That same year, he landed a role in a new series called On the Buses, which also featured Grant as a lascivious bus conductor teamed up with Reg Varney, his equally Dionysian mate. Although the show was undoubtedly rude, crude and occasionally prejudiced, it offered genuinely witty reflections on the nature of 1970s class conflict. In the world of On the Buses, workers were constantly on strike and after more money; managerial characters such as Lewis’s Blakey were exploitative snobs who thought they had authority just because they wore a badge. It was plain where the audience’s sympathies were supposed to lie: many was the time that a bus “hilariously” ran over poor Blakey’s foot or a bucket of water was tipped over his head. The cry: “I ‘ate you Butler” was born of impotent rage. Although Varney the actor was Lewis’s senior, it was still Varney’s character, Reg, that got all the “crumpet”. Lewis was only in his early forties when he took the role of Blakey, but playing ageing authority figures became his stock in trade. In the 1970s, he appeared in the television sequel to On The Buses, Don’t Drink the Water, three big-screen outings of On The Buses and two cinematic sex comedies (Adventures of a Taxi Driver, Adventures of a Plumber’s Mate). He later had parts in the films Personal Services (1987) and The Krays (1990). In 1988, he played a new character in the long-running BBC series Last of the Summer Wine – Clem “Smiler” Hemmingway – which he thoroughly enjoyed. “It’s got so much charm,” he said of the show. “I don’t think any other country in the world has comedy like that.” From 1995 to 1997, he appeared in the equally gentle sitcom Oh, Doctor Beeching! In 2007, he stepped down from Last of the Summer Wine because of ill health. Stephen Lewis remained a committed socialist. In a stroke of irony, however, in 1981 he was hired to promote CH coaches, in the character of Blakey; it was the first private bus company to break the public transport monopoly of Cardiff city council. This was exactly the kind of Thatcherite revolution of which Blakey would probably have approved. In his diaries, Tony Benn recalled campaigning with Lewis in 1984, describing him as “very direct” and “extremely amusing”. He lived until the age of 88.
Anna Karen was born on September 19, 1936 in South Africa. She is an actress, known for On the Buses (1969), Beautiful Thing (1996) and EastEnders. Before starting her acting career, she was a striptease dancer at London’s Panama Club.
Doris Hare was born on March 1, 1905 in Bargoed, Monmouthshire, Wales. She was an actress, known for On the Buses (1969), Nuns on the Run (1990) and On the Buses(1971). She was married to John Fraser Roberts. She died on May 30, 2000 in Denville Hall, Northwood, Hillingdon, London, England.
Michael Robbins is Olive’s snobbish and hypocritical husband, he is a fervent unionist. Arthur works as a doctor/hospital porter in the city hospital but also works as a ticket collector in a railway station on 4 trains.
When he joins the Butler household as a lodger, he accidentally gets into bed with Olive, so Mum makes them marry. At the end of Series Six Arthur left the show by divorcing Olive when Robbins returned to the London stage to star with Tom Courtenay in Time and Time Again. Arthur owns a motorbike. “You stupid great lump!”- Arthur, usually to Olive.
Born in London, Robbins was a bank clerk who became an actor after appearing in amateur dramatic performances in Hitchin, Hertfordshire, where he and his family lived at the time. Robbins made his television debut as the cockney soldier in Roll-on Bloomin’ Death. Primarily a comedy actor, he is best remembered for the role of Arthur Rudge, the persistently sarcastic husband of Olive (Anna Karen), in the popular sitcom On the Buses (1969–73). Robbins and Karen provided the secondary comic storyline to Reg Varney’s comedy capers at the bus depot. Robbins also appeared in the series film spin-offs, On the Buses, Mutiny on the Buses, and Holiday on the Buses. His other comedy credits include non-recurring roles in Man About the House, The Good Life, One Foot in the Grave, The New Statesman, George and Mildred, Hi-de-Hi! and You Rang, M’Lord? He appeared as a rather humorously portrayed police sergeant in the TV adaptation of Brendon Chase.
As well as these comic roles, he assumed various straight roles in some of the major British television shows of the 1960s and 1970s: including Minder, The Sweeney, Z-Cars, Return of the Saint, Murder Most English, The Avengers, Dixon of Dock Green, The Bill and the 1982 Doctor Who story The Visitation.
Robbins’s film credits included The Whisperers, Up The Junction, The Looking Glass War, Zeppelin and Blake Edwards’ films The Pink Panther Strikes Again and Victor/Victoria’.He also had an extensive career as a radio actor, including a role in the soap opera Waggoner’s Walk and the satirical 1970s show Life is What Yer Make It.
Robbins was an indefatigable worker for charity. He was active in the Grand Order of Water Rats (being elected ‘Rat of the Year’ in 1978) and the Catholic Stage Guild, and received a Papal Award for his services in 1987. In one of his last television appearances, in A Little Bit of Heaven Robbins recalled his childhood visits to Norfolk and spoke of his faith and love of the Shrine of Our Lady at Walsingham. Michael died from cancer in Caterham, Surrey, aged 62.
On the Buses (1969–1973) Trivia
Although the character Stan Butler was supposed to be in his mid-thirties, Reg Varney was already 52 when the series began. Varney wore heavy make-up so that he would appear younger.
Bob Grant, playing bus conductor Jack, had actually worked in real life as a bus driver in order to pay his way through RADA (the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art). He mentions this in the TV interview he did on the Wogan show in 1990. The rest of the cast were also present talking about the planned new series which sadly never got made.
Reg Varney wouldn’t sit out his part all the way. He left the series in the final season, after episode 69 (entitled “Goodbye Stan”). So Varney wasn’t in the last six episodes of this series. His absence was explained by Stan moving to the Midlands, to work in a bus making factory. Inspector Blakey moved into the Butler household as a lodger, so he promoted from a bit-player to the show’s primary character. Varney did feature in the third “On the Buses” movie later on in 1973, Holiday on the Buses (1973).
Michael Robbins (Arthur Rudge) left the series after season six to concentrate on his stage work again. The first episode of the final season is called “Olive’s divorced”, so Arthur and Olive finally get divorced.
Due to a technicians’ strike during season four, seven of the thirteen episodes were made in black and white rather than colour – “Christmas Duty”, “The Anniversary”, “Cover-Up”, “Safety First”, “The Lodger”, “The Injury” and “Not Tonight”. On some of these a voice is audible directing the audience’s applause prior to the credits cutting off.
Stan and Jack’s bus is the Luxton & District Traction Company’s number 11 to the Cemetery Gates.
Doris Hare was first choice for the role of Mum. However she was unavailable for the first series, and Cicely Courtneidge was signed for the first series only.
Three cinema movie “On the Buses” pictures were made in consecutive years between 1971 and 1973 whilst this TV sitcom series On the Buses (1969) was still being broadcast on television.
The nick-name of Inspector Blake (Stephen Lewis) was “Blakey” but he was also nick-named at times “Hitler”.
Following the death of Stephen Lewis in August 2015, Anna Karen is the only surviving cast member.
As Olive, Anna Karen played a character who was presented as frumpy and uncaring of her appearance, though in real life, Karen had been a model and dancer prior to her breakthrough On the Buses role, and when she showcased her natural look during a magazine shoot in the 1970’s, viewers were shocked at just how different Karen looked from her character.