It’s with great sadness that Cult Faction must report the death of actor Warren Mitchell, most famous for his role as the iconic comedy character Alf Garnett.
Warren Mitchell was born to a working class family in Stoke Newington London on the fourteenth of January 1926. From early on in his life he showed an interest in acting and attended the ‘Gladys Gordons Academy of Dramatic Arts’ from the age of seven.
Whilst on basic training for the RAF in 1944 he met the actor Richard Burton, who would become a lifelong friend. It was Burton who would later persuade Mitchell to give up his degree in Chemistry & Physics and become an actor. On Burtons advice Mitchell enrolled in a two year course at RADA and began the road to becoming a professional actor.
After RADA he would spend a short time as a DJ on ‘Radio Luxemburg’. Blessed with natural timing Warren slipped easily into the world of comic acting. He was a regular on some of the most popular TV and radio shows of the 1960s; and would also pop up in small roles in many British films from the era including ‘The Beatles’ ‘Help’.
In real life Mitchell was a Tottenham Hotspur supporting, socialist, who was patron of the British Humanist Society and an atheist of Russian Jewish descent. This was nothing like his most famous character; the bigoted cockney West Ham fan known as ‘Alf Garnett’. First portraying Garnett in a one off pilot for the BBC; the original run of ‘‘Till death do us part’ was from 1965 to 1975 and included a 1969 feature. He would also reprise the role in 1981’s ‘‘Till Death’ sequel, ‘In Sickness & in Health’ which ran from 1985 to 1992 and the one off special ‘An Audience with Alf Garnett’ in 1997.
On reading the pilot script Mitchell immediately saw what writer Jonny Speight was trying to do. Warren would rejoice in telling real life bigots, when they congratulated him on Garnetts world view, it was them he was mocking and not the minorities; they were just too stupid to see it.
Although best known for his comedic roles Mitchell had a varied career. Taking in everything from Shakespeare to Python and TV dramas to childrens programs. Rarely out of work it was only after a stroke in 2004 that he finally retired.
Warren Mitchell will be fondly remembered as one of the greatest comic actors of his generation. A massive influence of both his contemporises and those who followed. On hearing of Warrens death Ricky Gervais tweeted ‘Alf Garnet was one of the most influential and important characters and performances in comedy history. RIP Warren Mitchell’. Both Warren and Alf will be missed.