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Harry H Corbett Alert Me

Harry H Corbett
Originally printed on March 21, 1982 in the Family Announcements.
Viewed by 26223 Visitors.

Actor Harry H Corbett OBE, best known for his starring role in the long-running television sitcom Steptoe and Son, died on 21 March, 1982, aged 57.
Mr Corbett, who had a reputation as the actor’s actor and was described by writer Alan Simpson as the ‘English Marlon Brando’ , was, ironically, performing the lead role in a Shakespeare tragedy when he was approached to play Harold Steptoe.
Although Steptoe and Son made Mr Corbett a star, it subsequently ended the development of his acting career as he became permanently associated with the character of Steptoe in the public eye.
Harry Corbett was born on 28 February, 1925, in Burma (now Myanmar) while it was still a British colony. His father was an officer in the British Army who was stationed in the country as part of the colonial defence forces. When Harry was three, his mother died and he was sent to England to be raised by an aunt in Wythenshawe, Manchester.
Mr Corbett joined the military himself, serving in the Royal Marines during the Second World War and, following his discharge, trained as a radiographer. He went on, however, to take up an acting career, initially in repertory theatre.
In the early 1950s he added the middle initial ‘H’ to his name to avoid confusion with the then-popular television entertainer Harry Corbett, who was well known for his act with the puppet, Sooty. He would often joke that the ‘H’ stood for "h’anything".
From 1958, he began to appear regularly in films and first came to public attention as a very serious, intense performer in contrast to the reputation he would later gain as a sitcom actor. He also made guest appearances regularly in television dramas such as The Adventures of Robin Hood and Police Surgeon.
A chance meeting with writers Ray Galton and Alan Simpson, who were at the time basking in the success of their groundbreaking project, Hancock’s Half Hour, was to change Mr Corbett’s life. He later said: "I had met Galton and Simpson and told them how much I admired their work ... I never envisaged in a thousand years going into light entertainment.
"I looked at what was on television and the only thing making any social comment was the Hancocks, the Eric Sykes, this kind of half-hour comedy programme … I did envy them. Anyway, they remembered this conversation, clearly, and this thing about the rag and bone men thumped through the door. I read it, and immediately wired back: 'Delicious, delighted, can't wait to work on it'."
Production of the series was made stressful by his strained relationship with his co-star, Wilfrid Brambell, whose alcoholism caused him to be ill-prepared for rehearsals. By the end of their time on the series, they were not on speaking terms outside of takes and a subsequent tour.
Although at first fame and regular work must have been welcome, Mr Corbett soon became frustrated by the lack of acting opportunities he now had. He found that any additional work tended to be bawdy comedy roles or loose parodies of his now alter-ego, Harold Steptoe. When he tried again to play Shakespeare roles, all the audience could see him as was Steptoe and it failed to work.
Mr Corbett’s later work included pantomime and stage plays, some comedy films, including Carry on Screaming in 1966 and Terry Gilliam’s Jabberwocky in 1977. As with many other British comedy programmes of the era, two Steptoe and Son films were also released. In 1972 he was awarded an OBE for services to entertainment.
Within two days of being discharged from hospital after suffering his first heart attack in 1979, Mr Corbett appeared in pantomime at the Churchill Theatre in Bromley, Kent. He was then badly hurt in a serious car accident but still appeared shortly afterwards in the BBC detective series, Shoestring, with his facial injuries still obvious. His final role was in an episode of the drama series The Mole, which was transmitted two months after his death.
Mr Corbett married twice; firstly to the actress Sheila Steafel and then to Maureen Blott who bore him two children. His daughter Susan Corbett is an actress, best known for the role of Ellie Pascoe in the BBC television adaptation of Reginald Hill’s Dalziel and Pascoe detective novels.
Mr Corbett died of a massive heart attack in Hastings, Sussex, and was buried in the Churchyard at Penthurst, East Sussex.

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Tributes (20)

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Audrey binder nee williams

30 April 2018
I loved your films all my life .great actors never ever die just rest will see you again soon9 love audrey in kent


27 December 2017
Harry your passed away when i was 3 but i was brought up on Steptoe and still watch it today and never get bored with it. A timeless sitcom that always makes me smile and lifts me when I'm down. Thank you for the gift of steptoe. RIP Harry


25 November 2017
Loved Harry H.Corbett still watch him now got all DVDs Steptoe and Son watch when feeling down wonderful comedy when l see Harry's daughter Suzanna on TV like looking at her father again.May they both rest in peace what a legacy they have left for us to enjoyxx LINDA A LOYAL FANxx

Keith hunt

04 November 2017
r i p

Peter Hamilton

25 October 2017
What a great man and actor still watch his work on DVDs and his films multi talented the world was robbed when he passed away so sad

Susan Simms

12 October 2017
Fantastic comedy...absolutely loved it and still watch it today...such a shame Harry H..died so young...he seemed a lovely man...would have liked to have met him...

Susan Simms

12 October 2017
Fantastic comedy...absolutely loved it and still watch it today...such a shame Harry H..died so young...he seemed a lovely man...would have liked to have met him...


27 September 2017
still watching the re-runs of Steptoe and Son. You were an absolute asset to the acting profession, and we miss you very much xx


09 August 2017
Mr Corbett was a legendary actor, a privelage to grow up watching on television. I still love his shows. He wilp never be forgotten. RIP Harry x

greatly missed

elizabeth ann morton

21 May 2016
Harry u are still missed after all these years u passed away when i was 3 but i was brought up watcging steptoe and we all miss u. You live on always through fans and family

greatly missed

elizabeth ann morton

21 May 2016
Harry u are still missed after all these years u passed away when i was 3 but i was brought up watcging steptoe and we all miss u. You live on always through fans and family

rest in peace


27 September 2014
you were our favorite were gifted and your talent made you stand out among your live on in our hearts and minds.thank you for the happy memories.Burdett family

to a good actor

Sharon Edge

04 January 2013

this man has given me hours of entertainment he is still sorely missed.



07 October 2012


Remember Harry...

David CantelloYour name

05 June 2012

I read your hands at a charity event in Surrey in 1975 and your donation to the charity was generous in every way. I enjoyed your company that afternoon. Rest in Peace. God Bless

From Martin to Harry

martin dolan

31 July 2011

I am watchin u on TV as i wright this message. Steptoe & Son Rides again.



Brilliant Actor


20 June 2011

When I was a little girl, I used to watch Steptoe & Son and I used to tell my mom that I was going to marry you when I was grown up!

I still watch the re-runs of Steptoe & Son and I think you were absolutely brilliant.

Perhaps I'll get a chance to meet you when I come to the other side.



Jennifer Harvey

06 June 2011

What a truly wonderful actor Harry H Corbett was

Thanks for the laughs Harry

Lynette (Sydney)

25 December 2010

I was watching reruns of Steptoe and Son with my son tonight , Christmas Day, and we had a ball.

Thanks Harry for the laughs, especially on this special day. Merry Christmas to you wherever you are.


george goodwin

24 September 2010

Hi harry in 1956 my farther died,i was 4yrs old we had to move out of ower house and move into a small flat.My mother went out to work she locked me in my only entertainment was a small tv set the highlight of my week was steptoe n son. i thank you for keeping me sane i live in wythenshawe now close to were you lived in the 1930s 40s ,i met an old man in the park walking his dog he told me he was a school mate of yours .sleep tight harry may the angles look over you george g

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