“You play to your strengths in this game, and my strength is as a bald-headed, rough-looking Yorkshireman”.
Brian Glover (2nd April 1934 – 24th July 1997) was an English character actor, writer and wrestler (known as Leon Arras – The Man from Paris).
Glover was born in Sheffield, West Riding of Yorkshire, but grew up in Barnsley. His father was a wrestler, performing as the “Red Devil” Charlie Glover and Brian followed in his footsteps – initially as Erik Tanberg, the blond from Sweden and later as Leon Arras..
He attended Barnsley Grammar School and the University of Sheffield, where he supplemented his student grant with appearances as a professional wrestler, going under the ring name In 1954 he married and became a teacher at the same Barnsley school where he had been a pupil. He taught English and French from 1954 until 1970, some of it at Longcar Central School Barnsley where he met Barry Hines who was also teaching there.
He managed to combine this with regular performances as wrestler “Leon Arras” across the world – Glover became Leon after the real Leon Arras missed an advertised show and had to take his place.
Glover’s first acting job came playing Mr Sugden, the comically overbearing sports teacher in Ken Loach’s film Kes (a job offered to him when Barry Hines, who wrote the film, suggested him to the director).
Although untrained, Glover proved to be a skilled and flexible character actor, using techniques learnt during his wrestling career. His trademark bald head, stocky build, and distinctive voice, along with his Yorkshire accent, garnered him many roles as tough guys and criminals.
Glover’s performance in Kes led to parts at the Royal Court Theatre, London, notably in Lindsay Anderson’s The Changing Room (1971). A season with Britain’s Royal Shakespeare Company followed, where appropriately enough his roles included Charles the wrestler in As You Like It, and as Peter in Romeo and Juliet. For the Royal National Theatre he appeared in The Mysteries (as God, creating the world with the help of a real fork-lift truck), Saint Joanand Don Quixote.
In 1972 Glover popped up in Coronation Street, further tv appearances followed in Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads?, The Regiment, and The Protectors.
He played Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and had a recurring role in the classic sitcom Porridge as dim-witted prison inmate Cyril Heslop who, when accused of being illiterate, utters the memorable line “I read a book once! Green, it was.”
He played Quilp in The Old Curiosity Shop, and lent his voice to a number of animated characters, including the “gaffer” of the “Tetley Tea Folk” in a long-running series of television advertisements for Tetley tea, the voice behind the slogan, ‘Bread with nowt taken out‘ for Allinson’s bakery and the voice of “Big Pig“, the mascot for the long running Now That’s What I Call Music! album series, appearing on the TV adverts for Now 3, Now 4 and Now 5.
Further TV roles came in Centre Play, The Sweeney, Not on your Nellie, Dixon of Dock Green, The WIld West Show, Jabberwocky, Secret Army, The Famous Five, Target, Return of the Saint, Hazell, Sounding Brass, and Minder.
In 1978, Glover co-wrote and starred as a wrestling promoter/mc in Send in the Girls. The episode featured many well known wrestlers of the time including Kendo Nagasaki, Jim Breaks, Brian Maxine and Giant Haystacks. It alsoi featured Michael Elphick, Floella Benjamin and Annie Ross.
On the big screen, Glover appeared in An American Werewolf in London, The First Great Train Robbery, The Company of Wolves, Jabberwocky, Alien 3, Leon the Pig Farmer and as General Douglas in a Bollywood hit 1942: A Love Story. He appeared seven times in Play for Today, in three of them as part of a recurring trio of Yorkshiremen: The Fishing Party, Shakespeare or Bust and Three for the Fancy.
His performance in The Mysteries secured additional work in the commercial theatre. The Canterbury Tales (West End) was followed by a return to television and the Play for Today series, both as writer and performer and, in turn, more screen roles. Glover went on to play “Lugg”, the endearing rogue manservant to Albert Campion in the series Campion and the role of a crook, “Griffiths”, in the Doctor Who story Attack of the Cybermen in 1985.
Furthermore, he played Edouard Dindon in the original London cast of La Cage aux Folles. In 1991 he starred in the second episode of Bottom – “Gas” – as “Mr Rottweiler”. His last film was John Godber’s rugby league comedy Up ‘n’ Under (1998). He was also the voice for the UNO Upholstery TV adverts in 1995 and 1996.
Glover also wrote over 20 plays and short films. In 1982 he was a guest presenter in series six of Friday Night Saturday Morning, a late-night BBC chat show.
In 1995 Glover returned to his love of wrestling when he co-wrote and starred as Johnny Pecs in the tv series Rumble. The series also featured Lesley Joseph, Steven Hartley, and Stephen Marcus.
Sadly, Glover developed a brain tumour and died in a London hospital on 24 July 1997. He is buried in Brompton Cemetery, London.