Tributes to Highgate ‘Alf Garnett’ actor Warren Mitchell who has died
PUBLISHED: 11:44 16 November 2015 | UPDATED: 12:03 16 November 2015
© Nigel Sutton
Highgate actor Warren Mitchell, who was best known for playing loudmouthed bigot Alf Garnett, has died aged 89.
The Till Death Us Do Part star was in reality a left-wing socialist, the antithesis of the character he immortalised.
Born Warren Misell in Stoke Newington on January 14, 1926, he served in the Royal Air Force and completed his navigator training just as the Second World War ended.
He became a professional actor in 1951 after briefly studying at Oxford and then the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.
He sold socialist newspapers in the street, crying out with his polished, actor-trained voice, but soon developed a “working class” voice to sell more papers.
But his big break did not come until 1965, with the role of Alf Garnett in a Comedy Playhouse play, which developed into the TV series.
The satirical character with the iconic moustache was famous for being sexist, racist, homophobic and generally vile, with jokes such as: “No wonder Gandhi wouldn’t eat his dinner - they gave him Indian”.
Tributes have flooded in to Mr Mitchell from across the comedy world after the comedian’s death on Saturday.
Hampstead comic Ricky Gervais tweeted: “Alf Garnett was one of the most influential and important characters and performances in comedy history. RIP Warren Mitchell.”
Theatre director Rupert Goold wrote: “RIP Warren Mitchell. A deeply soulful and erudite man who genuinely loved the theatre.”
And author Neil Gaiman joined fans in paying tribute to the star, writing on Twitter: “Sad to hear Warren Mitchell has died. I acted with him when he played the Director on the @BBCRadio3 version of Signal to Noise. Good man.”
Although best known for playing Garnett, Mr Mitchell played a wide variety of roles throughout his career.
Other TV appearances came in Lovejoy, Waking The Dead, Kavanagh QC and Gormenghast.
On stage he received extensive critical acclaim for his performances in Arthur Miller’s Death Of A Salesman and Harold Pinter’s The Caretaker and The Homecoming.
Closer to home, in February 2007, he played a leading role in the partially successful campaign to ban open-air concerts at Kenwood in Hampstead, because of noise levels for homes nearby, including his own in Highgate.
As a result of the protests, the organisers were ordered to reduce the number of concerts, before they stopped completely last year.