Richard Beckinsale (born Carlton,
Nottinghamshire, England, July 6, 1947 - died Sunningdale, Berkshire, England,
March 19, 1979) was a British actor, most famous for his role as Lennie Godber
in the popular BBC sitcom Porridge.
Beckinsale enrolled at the age of 16 at a Nottingham adult drama class and
won a place at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art as a result. He turned
professional in repertory theatre in Crewe and then made his television debut in
1969 as a police officer in Coronation Street before acquiring his first
starring role in 1970 as Geoffrey in the sitcom The Lovers.
There followed a purple patch when he was appearing in two of British TV's
most successful sitcoms at the same time. On ITV, he was playing naive medical
student Alan Moore in Rising Damp while also starring in Porridge.
He appeared in feature films of The Lovers and Porridge. His
untimely death prevented him from appearing in the film of Rising Damp.
Shortly after his 30th birthday, Beckinsale was surprised by Eamonn Andrews with
the famed 'big red book' for an appearance on This Is Your Life. At the time, he
was by far the youngest 'victim' of the show, and remained so until 28th
November 1990 when Stephen Hendry was very surprised, as he was aged only 21.
In 1979, at the age of only 31, he died of a massive heart attack at his
home. He was alone in the house at the time as his wife was in hospital and his
young daughter was staying with relatives. Beckinsale had expressed worries
about his cholesterol to a director friend over dinner just days earlier, but he
seemed healthy and fit and had no cardiac problems in his medical records.
Porridge co-star Ronnie Barker commented on Beckinsale's premature death
saying: "He was so loved. He hadn't done much but he was so loved that there was
a universal sort of grief that went on."
Beckinsale was an in-demand actor on stage and screen throughout his adult
life. He had just completed work on the Porridge feature film and was
midway through shooting a series called Bloomers when he died. The five
completed episodes of this series were aired posthumously later in the year. He
was also filming a movie which then had to be re-cast. Three days after his
death, the sitcom Going Straight, a spin-off from Porridge and
starring both Beckinsale and Barker, won a BAFTA award. A clearly distressed
Barker delivered a brief but emotional acceptance speech in tribute to his
In 2001, a documentary was broadcast on ITV in tribute, called The
Unforgettable Richard Beckinsale. It featured interviews with his widow -
the actress and casting advisor Judy Loe - as well as his father, brother,
closest school friend and two daughters, as well as Barker and Rising Damp
co-star Don Warrington.
Beckinsale twice married - firstly to Margaret Bradley, with whom he had a
daughter named Samantha Beckinsale in 1966. They divorced in 1971. He then
married Loe in 1977, four years after the birth of their daughter, the actress,