Bryan Johnson

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b. 18 July 1926, London, England, d. 18 October 1995. An actor and singer who enjoyed considerable success in the field of popular music on the UK Variety stage, and on records and radio during the late…
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b. 18 July 1926, London, England, d. 18 October 1995. An actor and singer who enjoyed considerable success in the field of popular music on the UK Variety stage, and on records and radio during the late 50s and early 60s. Johnson had acting ambitions from an early age, and as a teenager was noted for his distinctive voice, which invited comparisons with celebrated actors such as Laurence Olivier and Robert Donat. His big break came when, after taking a few minor Shakespearian roles in repertory for Sir Donald Wolfit, the great actor-manager cast him as the Fool in his King Lear. In the subsequent period he also appeared at the Old Vic in plays by Ibsen, Rattigan, and Chekov, directed by Tyrone Guthrie. However, Johnson also had a great affection for the world of music hall, and after leaving Wolfit’s company in the early 50s, he played leading roles in numerous regional musicals, appeared in cabaret, and shared Variety bills (including those at the London Palladium) with star names such as Benny Hill and Dick Emery. In 1956 he had some initial success with a cover of Eddie Fisher’s UK hit, ‘Cindy, Oh Cindy’, and ‘All Of You’, one of the hits from Cole Porter’s score for the musical Silk Stockings. Johnson also frequently appeared on television programmes such as The Jimmy Logan Show and Words And Music. In 1960 he reached a wider television audience when he sang Britain’s entry in the Eurovision Song Contest. ‘Looking High, High, High’ was placed second and reached the UK Top 20. Ironically, his brother, Teddy Johnson (with his wife Pearl Carr), had reached the same position in the contest in the previous year with ‘Sing Little Birdie’. In 1961 Johnson released The Million Sellers Sing-Song, but by this time the beat boom was beginning to burgeon, and ballad singers were becoming passé. Later, he diversified into many other areas of showbusiness, and in 1988 a chance meeting with the Irish poet and dramatist, Patrick Galvin, led to Johnson mounting a one-man show about Oscar Wilde. The London production of The Importance Of Being Oscar was well received, and critics once again praised his voice with its ‘gorgeous antique diction’. In the early 90s, as versatile as ever, he was taking leading roles in traditional Christmas pantomimes.