The original Avenger: a tribute to Ian Hendry

Born in Ipswich in 1931, the late Ian Hendry is one of the UK’s lost screen stars, only really remembered now by archive television buffs.  While others in his peer group became household names (Judi Dench and Vanessa Redgrave in particular, who were both in the same year at Central School of Speech and Drama), his career floundered into character parts after a strong initial start.

Now thought of as something of a cult actor (if at all), he seems to have been a complex character, ambitious, something of a hellraiser (but one who wrote songs and poetry), and with a love of the sea (spending most of his life in the spotlight living on Pharaoh’s Island in the River Thames, near Shepperton).

His full name was Ian Mackendrick Hendry, reflecting his roots with a Scottish father.  His early jobs included working as an estate agent, a stunt motorcyclist, and working in amateur dramatics as a clown’s stooge – his professional debut took place in 1956, when he was already a mature twenty-six years old, with an uncredited role on screen in the film ‘Up in the World’, and the following year appearing in a succession of stage roles at the Oxford Playhouse.

Further small roles in 1957 (in the film ‘The Secret Place’), 1958 (in a succession of episodes of the early medical soap ‘Emergency: Ward 10’), and 1959 (a small role as a rehearsing actor in the Laurence Harvey film ‘Room at the Top’; an appearance in the film ‘The October Wedding’, and episodes of ‘The Invisible Man’ and ‘Television Playwright’) led to his first major role, as the physician assisting with crime in ‘Police Surgeon’, in which he played Dr Geoffrey Brent – the surviving episode shows an actor with a raw sex appeal and personality.  Also in 1960 were appearances in episodes of ‘Probation Officer’ , ‘Inside Story’, and ‘In the Nick’, with another uncredited role in the film ‘Sink the Bismarck’ as a naval officer.

But it was the role of Brent, in a dozen episodes of ‘Police Surgeon’, that led directly to his breakthrough role in one of the great iconic series of the 1960s, ‘The Avengers’.  We may think now of this series as being about the bowler-hatted John Steed and a succession of strong-willed and physically-adept ladies, but the original premise was avenging the murder of the fiancee of Dr David Keel (Hendry), and Steed was simply a second lead.  Of the twenty-five episodes recorded for series one of ‘The Avengers’ only two and a half remain, a sad reflection of the policy of wiping unwanted television programmes no longer required for repeat screenings or overseas sales.  The sole remaining episode for years was ‘The Frighteners’, which was a revelation to me when viewing on a Channel 4 repeat screening in 1993.  It was exciting stuff, it was proper action, cops and robbers yes, but not a comedy as the series became in its later seasons.  The loss of most of the first series of ‘The Avengers’ and thus of Hendry’s compassionate, calm and yet tough Dr Keel is one of the great tragedies of archive television wipings.   He is the embodiment of my ideal television hero.

At the same time as ‘The Avengers’, Hendry would be cast in a television play called ‘Ben Spray’, an entry in the ITV Television Playhouse.  This would seem to have survived, but I have been able to track down very little information about it.

Production of ‘The Avengers’ being held up during the 1962 Equity strike, the dazzling young actor would gain the prize of a film contract, and temporarily turn his back on the security of a television lead role.  In hindsight it might be true to say that this was a huge mistake, but surely at the time it must have seemed the pinnacle of a career which had begun to catch fire – and the first film in which he played the lead, ‘Live Now, Pay Later’, a prototype of the now more familar ‘Alfie’, would seem to support that theory.  As Albert, a salesman who ascends the ladder while romancing the lady clients he encounters, Hendry is a mix of charm and energy, a wide boy who overreaches himself but picks himself up again to try another day.  In support were names like June Ritchie, Nyree Dawn Porter, and, making his screen debut, a very youthful Peter Bowles.  The film stands up well today but because of ownership issues and poor distribution is not remembered and has become rather obscure.

A frustratingly missing television role in the play ‘A Case for Treatment’ (later filmed with David Warner), followed, then an ‘Armchair Theatre’ entry, ‘Afternoon of a Nymph’ (which paired him with the actress Janet Munro, who would become his second wife, following his divorce from film make-up expert Joanna), and ’54 Minute Affair’ (an entry in the Drama ’63 series) hot on its heels.  A trio of films which were really at best comfortable B entries premiered in 1963 – ‘Girl in the Headlines’ (a decent enough watch, but not spectacular), ‘This is My Street’, and ‘Children of the Damned’.  Although still gaining leads, Hendry’s career was beginning to slow down and his descent into a character player was already in evidence.  It could be argued that ‘Afternoon of a Nymph’ was his last really interesting leading role, a drama which is frustrating to watch but also extremely absorbing due to the obvious screen chemistry between him and Munro, with whom he would go on to have a turbulent and ultimately tragic marriage.

1965 saw two memorable supporting roles, as Michael, the married boyfriend of Yvonne Furneaux in Roman Polanski’s horror thriller ‘Repulsion’, and as the sadistic Staff Sergeant Williams in the tough Army prison film from Sidney Lumet, ‘The Hill’.  In both he was excellent and managed to upstage his more showy co-stars, particularly Sean Connery in the latter film.  During the same year he appeared in two plays for television on ‘Theatre 625’, Strindberg’s ‘Miss Julie’ and Clive Exton’s ‘Are You Ready for The …’, plus a final appearance for ‘Armchair Theatre’ in ‘A Cold Peace’, and an excellent guest spot in the Patrick McGoohan vehicle ‘Danger Man’ in ‘Say it with Flowers’.

In 1966 Hendry again landed a major television role in ‘The Informer’ – of which all twenty-one episodes are sadly lost.  This was a very popular series which led to an appearance on the greatest showcase on children’s television at the time, the storyteller on ‘Jackanory’.   Then it was back to the familiar tread of character roles in the films ‘Cry Wolf’ and ‘The Southern Star’, while also finding time to appear in Roger Moore’s tongue in cheek series ‘The Saint’ in the two-part episode ‘Vendetta for the Saint’, enjoyable fluff as you would expect for that series.

In 1969 he first teamed with his future ‘Lotus Eaters’ co-star Wanda Ventham in an episode of ‘The Gold Robbers’, while a sci-fi re-imagining of the story of Don Quixote in 1970 placed him in the comedy ‘The Adventures of Don Quick’ (of which one episode of six survives).  1971 was a year of some disappointment as he lost out on the plum lead role of Jack Carter in ‘Get Carter’ to Michael Caine (the second such loss, as he had been considered for ‘Zulu’ back in 1963; however, this time he had been cast before Caine came along).  He had to be content with a supporting role of driver Eric Pace instead, a pivotal role, but clearly a crushing disappointment, and the tension between the actors made for a couple of crackling scenes in the finished film.

By 1971 Hendry’s marriage to Janet Munro had disintegrated, with both of them reported as having problems with alcohol.  Their divorce was quickly followed within a year by Munro’s death at the age of thirty-eight from an heart attack, a blow from which her ex-husband never recovered.  They had two daughters together, Sally and Corrie.  Hendry went on to marry Sandra Jones, who had been the girls’ nanny, and a further daughter, Emma, was born to the couple.

Appearances in ‘The Persuaders’, ‘Suspicion’, the film ‘The Jerusalem File’, and ‘Tales from the Crypt’ eventually led to what he (and I) consider to be his best role on television, that of Erik Shepherd in ‘The Lotus Eaters’.  His portrayal of the recovering alcoholic settled in Crete with his mysterious wife was outstanding.  This series should have propelled him back to the public consciousness, but it does not seem to be the case, and although well received, the series ended in 1973 after 15 episodes, partly due to his failing health due to alcoholism and his growing reputation for being difficult to work with (a perception Wanda Ventham dismisses, however, in an interview on the DVD release of the series).

The Vincent Price film ‘Theatre of Blood’ was the first time I ever saw Ian Hendry in anything, as the head of a group of critics who had given their honest opinion on the acting talents of the ham actor Richard Lionheart, who then vows to dispatch them all in the manner dictated by Shakespeare.  Fellow critics include Harry Andrews, Dennis Price, Robert Morley, Arthur Lowe, and Coral Browne, and they were dispatched in inventive and gory methods.  In an interesting twist of fate, Lionheart’s daughter was played by Avengers lovely Diana Rigg.  Anyway, once I saw this film I was smitten by this attractive and dynamic actor (who had died by the time I first saw the TV showing) and I have been interested in him ever since.

His last really good film role was as the geek in ‘The Internecine Project’ in 1974, which starred James Coburn – another film which does not get much exposure nowadays.  Nervy and bespectacled, Hendry was as watchable as ever, and definitely a high point in a starry cast.  But by the time he guested in ‘The Sweeney’ (and played stooge to Tommy Cooper on one of his shows) he was starting to show signs of deterioration on the screen, which was sad to watch.  There would be occasional glimpses of the old Hendry in appearances in ‘Thriller’ (in the episode ‘Killer With Two Faces’) and ‘The New Avengers’ (in the episode ‘To Catch A Rat’, where he is greeted by Patrick McNee’s Steed as ‘old friend’) but they were getting few and far between.  A double episode of ‘Supernatural’ is probably best left in the past, as should his appearance with moustache as Thrush Feather in Joan Collins’ ‘The Bitch’ in 1979.  However in 1978 he appeared on stage at the Yvonne Arnaud in Guildford in a production of ‘Lady Windermere’s Fan’, so he must have still be able to perform with lucidity at times.

The television series ‘For Maddie With Love’ reunited him with Nyree Dawn Porter and took some focus away from his widely publicised money problems (following attempts to pay off former wife Munro’s debts), and recent sight of an episode (on the Network release ‘Soap Box’) confirms that this was a good role for him – if perhaps a little insensitive, as he was cast as a husband dealing with the impending death of his wife – and I hope the series gets a full DVD release.  In the same year, 1980, he appeared in the film ‘McVicar’ in an uncredited role, but a memorable one.

His final years, it seems, were troubled ones but he remained employed to the end, in episodes of ‘Smuggler’ and ‘Bergerac’, in a recurring role in ‘Jemina Shore Investigates’ (from which he was unfortunately fired due to his drinking and unreliability), and finally, in the soap ‘Brookside’.  Perhaps he was regarded with fondness by colleagues in the business who made allowances for any shortcomings.  A sad final public appearance on Patrick Macnee’s ‘This Is Your Life’ in 1984 closed the curtain on a long but sometimes rocky career, and Ian Hendry died on Christmas Eve that year from an internal haemorrhage, his health and looks destroyed at the age of just fifty-three.

I don’t believe in dwelling on the personal problems on those in the public eye, but the story of Ian Hendry and his decline is a heartbreaking one.  Blessed with good looks and talent when he first appeared on the screen, his star quickly fell (some say due to his refusal to wear a toupee once he started losing his hair), and he was unjustly replaced in some key roles in which he would have shone.  Perhaps he just never found the right role to keep him up there as a leading star.  I feel he has also been dismissed as simply a drunk or a tragic figure when there was undoubtedly much more to the man.  Much of his work has been lost or become unavailable, which means he can not properly be assessed alongside his peers born around the same time (Peter O’Toole, Richard Harris, Sean Connery, Michael Caine, Michael Jayston, Ian Holm, David Janssen, Robert Vaughn, Robert Shaw).  I feel that were more work to come to light he would be reassessed as one of our great acting talents.

For me, Hendry should have been one of our greatest film exports, and whether it was fate or his own doing, the fact that this did not happen is a missed opportunity.  I salute the original Avenger, with affection.

Ian Hendry’s television roles – the ones which were wiped:

  • Emergency: Ward 10 (all his appearances)
  • Television Playwright (27 episodes of 20 missing, including Ian’s)
  • Inside Story (complete series missing)
  • Probation Officer (78 of 109 episodes missing, including Ian’s)
  • Police Surgeon (12 episodes of 13 missing)
  • The Avengers (only 2 and a half episodes of series 1 remain)
  • BBC Sunday Night Play: A Suitable Case for Treatment
  • Blackmail: The Case of the Phantom Lover / The Man Who Could See
  • ITV Play of the Week: Beyond the Horizon
  • The Informer (complete series missing)
  • Jackanory: Stories from East Anglia and the Fens (all Ian’s episodes missing)
  • The Adventures of Don Quick (5 of 6 episodes missing)
  • Late Night Theatre: We’re Strangers Here

Existing, but not commercially available:

  • Drama ’63: 54 Minute Affair
  • Armchair Mystery Theatre: Time Out of Mind / Flight from Treason
  • Theatre 625: Miss Julie / Are You Ready For The …
  • ITV Play of the Week: Crossfire / On the Island
  • Armchair Theatre: Afternoon of a Nymph / A Cold Peace
  • ITV Sunday Night Theatre: A Summer Story / Dangerous Corner / Love Doesn’t Grow on Trees
  • ITV Playhouse: The Tycoon / A Splinter of Ice / The High Game / Thursday’s Child
  • Dial M for Murder: Contract
  • Churchill’s People: March on Boys
  • Shades of Greene: The Man
  • Killers (full series)

72 thoughts on “The original Avenger: a tribute to Ian Hendry

  1. Nice tribute.

    In addition to your missing list, there were also numerous appearances as the mysterious ‘Mr X’ in Calling All Boys (1956), three Murder Bags (2 in 1958, 1 in 1959), a Crime Sheet (1959) and something called Language of Love (1964) which he hosted.

    Existing but not yet commercially available are also The Frighteners: Bed and Breakfast (1972), Village Hall: Battleground (1975) though series one of the latter is already scheduled by Network, so the second series (from which Ian’s edition comes) may be on the horizon.

    Lastly, as far as I know, two editions of The Informer survive – the first and the penultimate.

    1. Thank you so much for your additional information Simon, much appreciated, and always glad to hear of ‘good news’ when it comes to surviving material.

  2. I spoke to Gerry Anderson about Ian Hendry, who starred in Anderson’s film Doppelganger/Journey to the Far Side of the Sun. He confirmed that IH was at times shockingly drunk on set, but that he was a lovely bloke. He was also very physically dextrous, and would walk up to Gerry at he studio bar on his hands and say ‘evening boss’!

    He seemed always able to get work, which I read as meaning that he was well-liked in the business.

    1. What a fabulous story Ian – it seems to me that this was someone who was loved and valued by everyone he worked with, despite any of the drawbacks he might have had. What I don’t like is some reviewers rubbishing all his performances and dismissing them as ‘slurry’ or ‘boozy’ when really, when you watch his work, he was a professional and a great technician, even if he was on the bottle a lot of the time. Wanda Ventham alludes to this in her interview about The Lotus Eaters where she says that even after spending all night in the bars he was still able to act everyone else off the screen. I can’t say that in Journey to the Far Side of the Sun anything untoward shows on the screen either. So to claim otherwise is simply unfair, IMO. I know that his memorial plaque states ‘he cared and we loved him for it’ so it seems clear that his family held him in high regard too, which is all any of us can aim at in life.

  3. Ian was indeed very well liked by colleagues despite his drinking. He appeared in quite a lot of stage productions between 1976 and 1978 and you can’t be drunk on stage. People who saw these appearances thought he was very good too. Yes, he had a drink problem but his performances were always excellent.
    I’ve been researching Ian’s life for quite some time and all his fellow actors speak highly of him. He should have been a big international star. It’s a crime that some of these golden oldies have been wiped!
    A nice tribute! Well done, Louise!

  4. Thanks for taking the time to comment, Gabriel – much appreciated. Sadly I am far too young to have seen Ian on stage (I was only a child when he died) and although it’s a shame we have so much missing from his screen career we have a lot of exceptional stuff left, and that’s always good. I’m glad someone out there is doing a lot of research as the only published stuff on his life that seems to be around is that chapter in the Fallen Stars book which was just depressing. People are much more than their personal problems – and when someone produces such good work despite a dehabilitating illness, which is what alcoholism is, they are to be admired, not ridiculed (or pitied), IMO.

  5. Louise, I didn’t much like the chapter on Ian in Fallen Stars. I could have written it in half an hour. Nothing inaccurate per se but it barely skimmed the surface.
    I’ve conducted extensive interviews with many of Ian’s colleagues with a view to getting a proper biography written. It will happen but it takes time. The biography will concentrate on Ian’s talent and wonderful performances.
    You might also like to listen to some of the great songs Ian wrote in collaboration with Robert Ponton. In particular, Moments was a classic.
    Ian was a man of many talents. He was dreadfully underrated, although not by his fellow actors.
    I’ll keep in touch

    Gabriel Hershman

    1. Thanks Gabriel – I have already found the Ponton channel and you’re right, the songs are great. I read somewhere that Ian also wrote a song that he pitched for Sammy Davis Jnr but I guess that never happened.

      As you say, an interesting guy. Best of luck with your project.

  6. Hello,

    I first became aware of Ian Hendry via photos in my various The Avengers books.

    I first experienced his acting in Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter. He played Kerro, a formidable character in a wayside pub or tavern. The main thing which hit me was his voice: “Laugh,” he ordered another man there. “You’re not laughing. . . . Laugh.” His voice was heavy but soft, battered-sounded, almost cracking at times, nearly hoarse. It was especially effective the way he spoke and threatened this other character, as he stood there in a black leather waistcoat. (This film also had John Carson whom I thought was excellent. He looked so much like Robin Ellis’s Poldark in this I kept double-taking.)

    I saw both series of The Lotus Eaters recently in the US. Hendry to me was usually the most interesting part. He had an expressive face which made him interesting to watch. Maybe it’s a cliche but he seemed to blend formidability with vulnerability. That might be an ingredient of his screen presence.

    I’m crushed to read of all of these lost tapes and films. I want to believe that someone somewhere has some stashed away.

    Considering that many find the balding, battered-but-vital look appealing, the toupee issue was shortsighted on the parts of those in charge of which actor got which role.

    I didn’t know Hendry wrote songs and poetry. That link appears to be dead, but I found another one:

    That shows his speaking voice to great effect, and some clever wordplay.

    I watched Theatre of Blood largely on the strength of seeing Hendry in The Lotus Eaters. The fencing scene with Hendry was great.

    Let’s hope, via the power of the Internet, more things come to light.

    With a toast and a word of thanks to I.H.,

    Eric Bryan

    1. Eric, thanks for stopping by and posting such an eloquent tribute of your own. I do agree with everything you have said. ‘Formidability with vulnerability’: I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. The Lotus Eaters in particular showcases that, so does early work like This Is My Street. I’ve seen him described as either a hard man (as per The Hill) or a twitchy nervous type (as per The Internecine Project) and although he could play those roles, and play them well, he had more to offer and a much wider range. I recently saw the Don Quick episode where he made a foray into comedy and even then he was interesting to watch. It’s a pity much of his earlier work either isn’t commercially available or is lost, as is the case for many of the actors born in the 20s and 30s and working in television in the 50s and 60s. Even in some of his later work which wasn’t that good as a whole his contribution usually was worth a look. And thanks for the reminder about Kronos, must dig out my old VHS! (And you’re quite right about John Carson and Robin Ellis being almost twins, I’ve always thought that)

  7. Hi Louise,

    I met Ian briefly before his death over a period of about 2 years. His daughter used to attend the same school as my two sons (Wessex Gardens Junior School, Hendon Way, London ) and I saw Ian and his then wife a number of times either picking his daughter up after school or more memorably at the schools sports day! I spoke to him a few times either in the playground and knew who he was but never made that clear to him. By the time I met him he had more or less finished his acting career as his illness had taken hold and he was not being employed very much. The last time I spoke to him he mentioned he was filming something at either Shepperton or Elstree studios at the time but I am at a loss to remember what it was or exactly what studio he was filming at.

    When I spoke to him he was obviously under the influence and you could smell the whisky but non the less he came across as a very kind and charismatic man who was chatty and interesting! I knew where he lived in Golders Green and heard of his death from people at the school and what the cause was which was solely as a result of his alcohol problem.

    I thought he was a fabulous actor and deserves the respect he is due but unfortunately the history of his personal problem left a big mark on an otherwise fantastic actor and father!

  8. Hi Ray

    How lovely to hear from someone who knew Ian in his later years. I was watching his 1981 episode from ‘Smuggler’ yesterday and thinking that it was a sad ending really to a bright career.

    However, we have lots of other great things to remember him by and although it is sad that he was unable to beat his personal issues it is wonderful that he is thought of with such affection by colleagues, friends and fans.

    TThanks so much for adding your contribution here.

  9. The actress in Live now pay later was June Ritchie, not June Christie

    1. *facepalm* Not only do I of course KNOW this but this post has over 100 views and you’re the first one to notice! Thanks Daniel!

  10. Thanks Louise, and all those who added comments, for the information about Ian Hendry. I just recently watched “Children of the damned” again, and was struck by his moving acting in the role of the psychologist who tries to avert the violence directed at the children.

  11. Hi Louise
    Gabriel again! It could be worth corresponding about a few matters. I can send you Ian’s This is Your Life if you want to see it, for example. It was done in 1978. It’s quite an upbeat programme with affectionate tributes from Ian’s friends like Wanda Ventham and Ronnie Fraser. Also Ian’s parents and children appear.
    I’m determined to get a proper biography of Ian published.
    Congratulations again on your work!

    1. Hi Gabriel – I would love to see this and yes, corresponding would be great. Thanks for the kind words. I’ll email you soon.

  12. Dear Louise, I was very intrigued to read your lengthy and detailed tribute to Ian Hendry. I’m an actor and my father was a soldier so it was ‘The Hill’ in which he struck me so forcibly. I find most modern actors’ attempts to portray military men negligible – but Ian’s performance as Williams has never been bettered. My father and I both knew men like that in the Army – he exhibited a suppressed violence and a near-erotic glee in the misfortunes of his charges in that film. Unforgettable. Thank you for this tribute. Did you know that there was a Desert Island Disc programme devoted to him – unfortunately unobtainable via the website at the moment?

    1. Simon, thanks for commenting. The Desert Island Disc programme is one which is lost, I believe. But I was intrigued to find many tracks I recognised on his list!

      I agree with you about The Hill – superb. Appreciated your taking the time to visit, thanks again.

  13. At last, someone who has written a balanced and considered account of Ian Hendry’s career!

    I have been a huge fan of Ian Hendry since I first saw Get Carter some 23 years ago, he was the acting highlight of the film for me, and I became a fan there and then.

    I have watched as many of his performances as possible, an interesting one being in The Passenger, a Jack Nicholson vehicle in which Hendry has a role as Martin Knight, an associate of Nicholson’s character who travels to Spain to seek the missing Nicholson.

    There was a fansite called Ian Hendry:True Brit at one time, but it seems to have disappeared.

    Thanks for a great summary of a great actor.

  14. Ian was brilliant in The Hill and Get Carter. I thought his role in The Passenger was a bit of a throwaway one, undeserving of his great talent. I’m told he only did it because he wanted Antonioni on his CV.

    I hope that Ian’s fans like Iwan Williams will read my biography of Ian Hendry. “Send in the Clowns – the Yo-Yo Life of Ian Hendry” will be published early in 2013. And thanks again to Louise for this tribute site.

    Gabriel Hershman

    1. Dear Gabriel, I would be very interested to get a copy of your biography of Ian Hendry but couldn’t see mention as yet of it on Do you have any publication details? I am glad that there will be a book on him. Like many, I found him mesmerising in The Hill. Yours sincerely, Simon Furness

      1. Hi Simon/Louise,

        I am literally rounding off the book now and will self-publish via Lulu and I estimate it will be available at some point in the New Year. No ISBN just yet. I haven’t got into that yet. And, of course, I still have “a day job” of some sorts to attend to. But I have 98 percent of the text done and many photos. It’s 90 000 words long and I believe is a long overdue tribute. You will be pleased to know that many big names admired Ian enormously and were pleased to contribute. People like Roger Moore, Judi Dench, Honor Blackman and John Nettles.

        And like you, Simon, I believe his performance in The Hill was masterful. It was his finest hour on screen. Actor Michael Jayston (who did not appear in this) told me he thought Ian should have been Oscar-nominated.

        Bob decided to leave Facebook for a while. I’m not sure why. I heard that from a mutual friend. Ian and Bob’s songs are fully covered in the book.

        Watch this space…
        Gabriel Hershman

      2. Hi Gabriel, Good news about the forthcoming publication. Have you listened to the DVD extras on Get Carter and Polanski’s audio commentary to Repulsion – Caine and Polanski have some interesting and revealing insights into Ian’s character and behaviour, arising from his illness (alcoholism). This doesn’t for diminish his wonderful work in both films, though. best wishes, Simon

      3. Yes, I’m aware of Polanksi’s and Caine’s comments. And Ian’s alcoholism damaged his career certainly and I think he would have admitted that – in fact he did. It’s all covered in the book. I hope you like it when it appears.

        Best Wishes
        Gabriel Hershman

  15. I most certainly will read the biography as soon as I can obtain it. I have of course read Julian Upton’s ‘Fallen Stars …..’ book, the chapter on Ian Hendry being rather dispiriting, but appreciated nontheless. I have read Ricky Tomlinson’s account of working with Hendry on Brookside, as he was a huge fan of his and was shocked by the state of Hendry’s health when he met him.

    I have quite a collection of Ian Hendry’s performances, including the fairly rare two part Vendetta for the Saint episodes, in which he has a substantial role. I agree that the role he had in The Passenger was a minimal one, but was intruiging to see him in such an unusual film.


    1. I’ve only seen the feature release of ‘Vendetta’, does the two-parter add a lot to the plot?

      The Passenger is a bit of an odd one (as is Repulsion in many ways) but it is worth picking up.

      Incidentally all traces of his musical collaboration with Bob Ponton seems to have been pulled from YouTube, and Bob has withdrawn his page from Facebook. Does anyone know why – Gabriel?

      1. Firstly, I feel I should really refer to Ian Hendry as Ian and not just as ‘Hendry’ from now on, as it is a rather cold way of referring to my favourite actor.

        Ironically, I have only seen ‘Vendetta’ as a two parter, so am unable to compare it with the commercially released feature film. Basically, it’s very much a typical Saint epsiode, however, Ian’s menacing performance adds hugely to it and contrasts well with Roger Moore’s sometimes foppish character.

        Others in my collection are Ian’s excellent performance as Roy Gates in the ‘Yesterday’s Hero’ episode of Return of the Saint, as Lord Croxley in The Persuaders ‘The Time and The Place’ episode, and I also picked up Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter quite recently, where Ian’s fairly short cameo as the thuggish Kerro almost steals the film. This film was of course written and directed by Brian Clemens, so I’d like to think that he always bore his old friend in mind when casting parts in productions that would suit him, it’s just a shame that he didn’t write him a more substantial part.

  16. How great to find a tribute site to my favourite actor! My parents used to go on about the Lotus Eaters when it was first screened and inveigled me to watch it. I expected to be bored, but was instead captivated. I loved the mythological structure to the series, the bar and boat Cretan lifestyle and, most of all, Ian Hendry. He was twice my age, but I decided from then on that I preferred older men! I think, as someone says above, it is that intriguing combination of formidability and vulnerability which makes him such an appealingly nuanced actor.

    I subsequently watched everything he appeared in on television and film, and saw him on stage at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford. My father was at a loss as to what his wife and daughter saw in that “bald old bugger”, but was kind enough to treat us to this performance. It would have been about 1974 I suppose. I can’t remember what play it was – I think it was a sort of farce with a plot similar to Dial “M” for Murder, and co-starred George Cole and Honour Blackman. I didn’t then know about his drink problem, and there was absolutely no hint of it on stage – he was charming and funny in the role. I was very sad when I did learn of his difficulties and saw evidence of the decline. My interest in him has waned over the years, but vestiges still remain – otherwise I would not be looking at this site!

    I’ve long wished there existed a biography and I’m delighted to see here that soon there will be. I will be fascinated to learn more about what I’m sure was a complex and conflicted personality. Save a copy for me!

    1. Hi Rowena, I read your comments about Ian Hendry with interest. I became a big fan of his after watching him in The Hill. Usually, actors don’t do a good job of portraying military types – but I thought he was spot on with this one. I think it was Oscar Wilde’s Lady Windermere’s Fan in which he appeared in 1978 at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre alongside Michael Cochrane, Jenny Quayle and Moira Lister. Like you, I’m looking forward to his biography. Best wishes for Christmas and the New Year, Simon Furness

      1. Hi Simon….no it definitely wasn’t Lady Windermere’s Fan, or the cast list you mention. I wish I’d kept the programme, I guess it didn’t occur to me I might want to recall these details nearly 40 years later!

    2. Hi Rowena, thanks for stopping by. I couldn’t agree with you more although, alas, I did not have the opportunity to see Ian on stage. I envy you!

      The Lotus Eaters is magnificent, isn’t it? A real tour de force. This man had talent even in the roles which were really not up to scratch. We’re the poorer for losing him so young.

  17. Hi All,
    Ian appeared in a play called Motive opposite Honor Blackman and George Cole in early 1976, touring for three months. It opened at the Yvonne Arnaud theatre in February that year. It was a murder mystery written by Larry Cohen. Plenty more information about Motive in my forthcoming biography.
    Lady Windermere’s Fan was in late 1978. In between those plays, Ian also toured in Otherwise Engaged and The Owl and the Pussycat. These were all three-month runs, touring throughout the UK.

  18. I’m running through “The Lotus Eaters” at the moment and marveling at Ian’s performance, he is so natural you really can’t tell he’s acting. Is that a true story about Michael Bird holding a shotgun to Ian when he was being difficult in rehearsals?
    I’ve also just watched The Hill, what a horrible creepy so and so he plays in that, in fact it’s Ian and Harry Andrews that act the socks off everybody else especially Connery who was the big star at the time.
    I’m also curious about Ian’s performance in The Sweeney where a lot of people seem to think that his illness is showing on screen, now I don’t agree, I think that is pure acting. The scene with him threatening the old boy in his shop is really disturbing.
    Thanks for your tribute

    1. Hi David, I’m not a fan of that Sweeney episode really but I’m not sure why. He’s good in it … but he’s been better. I totally agree about The Hill – Sean Connery is not bad, but he is definitely overshadowed.

  19. The reason for posting this comment was that I had a dream about Ian last night. Please don’t jump to any conclusion’s! In 1966 I was in a pub Called The Rose & Crown in Thorpe near Chertsey, Surrey with my lovely girlfriend Brenda and who should walk in to have a drink but Ian, he had driven from Shepperton to our local for a pint. We spoke to him for about an hour and both of us were knocked out by his easy attitude to talk to bearing in mind he was quite a star by then. He came across as a shy man and was very supportive of all his fellow actors. I think he should have gone on to even greater things as I felt he was a brilliant actor, none better than in The Hill. Kindest regards to all fans. Jerry.

    1. Thanks Jerry. From what I can gather your dream might be an accurate depiction of this talented and complex man!

  20. To David,

    The story about Michael J Bird taking a gun to Ian is true but I think the whole incident should be taken as a bit of play acting. As Bird’s widow told me, Michael was as much an actor as the others.

    I have talked extensively to Ian’s co-stars on The Lotus Eaters and he was generally popular with them all. Wanda Ventham and Maurice Denham became lifelong friends and Julia Goodman liked him too.

    Gabriel Hershman (author of Ian’s forthcoming biography Send in the Clowns – the Yo Yo Life of Ian Hendry)

  21. Been watching a few of Ian’s performances this week. The Protectors episode is terrible, not Ian’s performance, he can only act with what he is given but it just looked really cheap and nasty. I enjoyed The New Avengers episode,apart from his rather dodgy accent he is very good in it. I wish he’d had more screen time with McNee. The Danger Man episode is good but he doesn’t have a big part in it as obviously it’s a vehicle for McGoohan who is very good. Sadly his illness is showing in The Return of the Saint and I found that a bit of a struggle to watch. The treat for me was The Crossfire play from 1967 excellent performances all round especially from Ian and Peter Wyngarde and it was nice to see Roger Delgado. I’ve also located a Granada series from 1975 called Village Hall, Ian was in an episode called Battlefield. Sadly he’s a bit slurred in this but there is still that edge to him, I think it’s something in his eyes, an ability that all top actors have.

    1. I generally rather like The Protectors, but Ian’s episode, Thinkback, isn’t up to standard. The script is by Brian Clemens, recycles the plot from his 1969 Avengers episode Requiem. Ian gives a perfectly good performance, but it just ain’t there on the page!

      1. Quite right, as I said you can only act with what you’re given. I’ve just watched the Cooper episode with Ian and it’s a really funny sketch. I really don’t know how Ian keeps going here, it just shows his true professionalism. I would like to upload it to you tube but the copyright is held by Network and they often have purges on there to remove their stuff. In fact a lot of Ian’s stuff comes under Network.

    2. I haven’t seen Crossfire, would like to. The Village Hall episode isn’t bad, but I agree with you about it not quite being top notch. The New Avengers episode I really do like, and it is nice to have the circus link back to his real life start in the business. I have his Van der Valk episode too but haven’t watched it yet – that was quite late in his career, I think?

      The real loss for me (other than series 1 Avengers, obviously) was A Suitable Case for Treatment. Yes, David Warner was fabulous in the film version but I really would like to see the TV original, sadly presumed lost, with Ian in the lead. Another loss (if true – I’m sure Gabriel can confirm) was the fact that Ian was considered for the role of Cowley in The Professionals. Much as I have time for Gordon Jackson I would have been intrigued to see someone with a little more fire and danger tackle the part.

      1. I have heard about Ian being considered for the part of Cowley but I don’t think he would have been well enough to take on such a large role. They were still making The Professionals in the early 80’s. In her interview Wanda Ventham seems to be implying that the reason The Lotus Eaters ended was Ian’s poor health and that was in 1973.Of course if Ian had been fit and well in the late 70’s he would have been marvelous as George Cowley

      2. David, I agree with you but if you are looking at an ‘ideal world’ or ‘parallel universe’ it would have been very interesting. I was intrigued by Wanda’s interview about The Lotus Eaters. She seemed to imply that Ian’s alcohol dependency didn’t impact on his work during that time, although he was taking the split from his wife hard. I think it is true that this series was planned to co-star with Ian with Janet Munro which could have been a huge mistake, or a great success. Another one of those ‘don’t knows’.

      3. Am I correct in thinking that Janet Munro had died by the time the second series of Lotus Eaters was being filmed? Also Louise let me know if you want to see the Crossfire play. You can contact me via direct email if you like

  22. I’ve uploaded the Tommy Cooper sketch on YT because I want other people to enjoy it who haven’t seen it. Hope Network don’t see it!

    1. Nice upload David. I think this sketch is a bit hit and miss myself but good to see it on YT so that people can enjoy it who don’t wish to take a punt on the whole DVD.

      1. I think that Ian certainly had a gift for comedy. He had immaculate timing and gestures. People tend to forget that he really started out as a light comedian. Has anyone seen the sketch he did with Dick Emery the following year? He was also very good in that.

  23. I too have seen that particular Protectors epsiode mentioned above, though it’s some time ago now. It was watchable enough, however, The Protectors suffered I believe through only being 30 minute episodes, not allowing therefore for sufficient plot and character development. Has anyone seen Ian’s episode of Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense? As regards his Sweeney episode, it isn’t the best role he’s ever had. I sometimes think he may have been better in the Brian Blessed role as the brains behind the blag, rather then the brawn. He drives a nice Ford Capri in the episode though!

    1. Agree with you about The Sweeney – to me Ian in that part buries his leading man charisma in the service of his character. Admittedly he is starting to look rather weathered at this point.

      On the subject of his hairline, Ian did wear a toupee at least once, in Doppelganger (aka Journey to the Far Side of the Sun). It’s an unobtrusive one that hides his bald spot without disguising his receeding hairline. I’m glad he didn’t wear one as a rule though – it wouldn’t have suited his screen personna.

      I heard a very sad story about Ian recently from the actor Tom Adams, who shared an agent with him. At some point in the early seventies Ian went on the wagon and was cast in a big British-based feature film. Unfortunately he then turned up at the theatrical costumiers Nathans and Bermans for his costume fitting roaring drunk and was very rude to the staff. Word got back to the producers and he was fired.

      A very sad story about a fine actor and, by all accounts, a lovely man when not in the grip of his addiction.

      1. Unusual that Ian was very rude to people – especially strangers – even when he was drunk. I have spoken to many people about Ian and most say he was a friendly fellow, even when he was in the grip of the grog. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. Brian Clemens made the point that sometimes people tried to help him but then “he would revert to the person you were trying to pull him away from”. It’s all down to drink and a familiar story…
        Most of the time Ian was a friendly fellow, though, just to reiterate…

  24. Sorry, I meant has anyone seen Ian’s episode of Thriller, (Killer With Two Faces), not Hammer House of Mystery……..

  25. Actually, I didn’t think much of the Thriller episode; it looks rather silly, obvious and contrived and is now very dated. Even the mental hospital at the beginning looks like a cardboard cutout and totally implausible. But Ian was good – he was good in everything. I beg to differ about the Sweeney. I thought his East End thug was spot-on! It’s all subjective though…

    1. Well, The Killer Has Two Faces is indeed a bit silly. The whole idea of ‘good twin – bad twin’ is contrived, as you say Gabriel. But it isn’t as bad as some of the other Thriller episodes (or as good as some of them!). It passes the time. The episode of The Protectors though is throwaway and pointless.

      As for the Return of the Saint episode, I really like it. I was surprised to see it was so late in the 1970s but pleased that it showed Ian in a good light. There was a little glimmer of the old magic round that time IMO, but I guess his life outside of work was taking its toll on the quality of his performances into the 1980s (early episodes of Maddie aside). The Smuggler episode for example was pitiful.

  26. I watched The New Avengers epsiode ‘To Catch a Rat’ yesterday for the first time in a while. This was, I felt, one of the better episodes, as it dealt with a proper spy story and was stronger than many of the more fantasy based episdoes. Ian plays the part of Gunner, a former british agent, and comes across well. He gives a strong performance as a man driven in his aim to expose a double agent. His obviously dyed grey hair looks a bit odd, but he gives a good physical performance.

    Barry Jackson, now best known for his regular role as Dr Bullard in Midsomer Murders, introduces himself in one scene (falsely) as Gunner’s brother. Such is his general resemblance to Ian that you could believe this to be true!

  27. At age 66 I well remember his ,’Avengers’ shows and ‘Police Surgeon’ which preceded it. Around the age of 14 or 15 it was my favourite programme. I have recently bought the 50th Anniversary Avengers DVD box set. set. It has every surviving episode ever made plus the only available episode of ‘Police Surgeon’. There is only the first 15 minutes of the first programme with Ian Hendry’ s character, plus the two surviving episodes of series one. But considering how big ‘The Avengers’ became, one has to wonder what Ian Hendry missed out on. A sad loss.

  28. Very nice tribute for Ian. Sorry I took the Bob and Ians songs of you tube, I have just uploaded two tracks on you tube Happy Again and Must Be Another Way.One can also download the whole album from itunes .Its called MR AND MRS NO TWENTY BOB PONTON and IAN HENDRY. many thanks BOB PONTON.

  29. What a splendid site. For me, nothing says the better time and place that was the UK in the 60s than Ian Hendry’s face on TV and DVD (along with Mike Pratt — similarly unsung today). Far from diminishing his import as an actor, his frequent supporting roles in TV and film only served to illustrate his range and increase his familiar presence for those of us who could only ever know him through these media.

    Sadly missed, but always returning

  30. Thanks Louise for the very thoughtful tribute to Ian Hendry and thanks also for all the great comments from everyone here too.

    Over the last year I have been helping in the background with some support for the forthcoming book, ‘Send In The Clowns – The Yo Yo Life Of Ian Hendry’ by Gabriel Hershman. Gabriel has put in an enormous amount of research, talked to many of the key players in Ian’s life and written a superb book on his life and his acting. I understand that publication is due shortly, firstly through

    In addition, I have just set up The Official Website for Ian Hendry:

    I’ve added a link to this page under the Biography section as it a great perspective on his work and the man himself. Hopefully, Louise, we can strengthen the ties between the two sites in the future.

    I encourage everyone to visit the site and also please sign our Guest Book (located under the ‘Plus’ tab in the menu).

    Thanks and best regards

    Neil Hendry

    Editor, The Official Website for Ian Hendry

    (Ian’s nephew )

    1. Thanks for visiting, commenting, and linking, Neil. I very much appreciate it. I wish you the best of success with your site.

  31. The Ian Hendry website is great, a wonderful window on the life of one of Britains greatest actors of his time. I can recommend this website to all film buffs its good to see Ian up on the web .

  32. Hi Louise, thanks for the lovely review and also to all the other contributors. I remember Ian frequenting the Golder’s Green Hotel where I worked behind the bar around 1980, I was a young Ozzie on a working holiday. Ian was a quietly spoken man, and always very polite. A great actor gone too soon.

  33. Just blown out of the water by all the loving remembrance of Ian who was a favourite actor of mine (and my Mum’s) back in the day. I always found The Hill disturbing and this was (is) definitely because of Ian and Harry Andrews but especially Ian. Lotus Eaters was a real favourite of mine and I seem to recall a second series entitled “Who pays the Ferryman” – is my memory playing tricks? So lovely that Ian is remembered with such clarity and affection as he is not the only one whom Life dealt a poor hand and thus left us too early. Keith

    1. Hi Keith, thanks for visiting and commenting. You are right about Ferryman but that had a different cast led by Jack Hedley.

      1. Thanks Louise
        I guessed I was wrong when no one else had commented. Liked Jack Hedley too although he not in Ian’s league. Was Ian ill by then or was it just a different production company.Keith

      2. He was still acting into the 80s – it was a different story line and characters, just connected by the same writer. I like both series.

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