24 May 1926
Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Scotland, UK
|Moira (died 1997)|
|Awards||British Comedy Awards
1997 Lifetime Achievement Award
Oldie Camper of the Year, 2008
BAFTA for Light Entertainment Performance, (1959, 1972, 1981)
Stanley Baxter (born 24 May 1926) is an award-winning Scottish actor and impressionist, known for his highly popular British television comedy shows The Stanley Baxter Show, Baxter On..., Time For Baxter, The Stanley Baxter Picture Show, The Stanley Baxter Series and Mr Majeika.
He began his career as a child actor on BBC Scotland. In a long career he has worked with some celebrated colleagues in a wide range of productions in radio, theatre, television and films. He has also written a number of books based on Glasgow.
The son of an insurance manager, Baxter was born in Glasgow, Scotland. He was educated at Hillhead High School, Glasgow, and schooled for the stage by his mother. He began his career as a child actor in the Scottish edition of the BBC's Children's Hour. He developed his performing skills further during his national service with the Combined Services Entertainment unit, working alongside comedy actor Kenneth Williams, film director John Schlesinger and dramatist Peter Nichols, who used the experience as the basis for his play Privates on Parade.
After the war Baxter returned to Glasgow taking to the stage for three years at Glasgow's Citizens' Theatre. Following success on the radio with Jimmy Logan, Howard & Wyndham Ltd invited him to star in pantomime at the Theatre Royal in Glasgow followed by the Half Past Eight Shows, and their successors the Five Past Eight Shows at Glasgow's Alhambra Theatre. He moved to London to work in television in 1959. In 1969 he performed in the original production of Joe Orton's then controversial farce What the Butler Saw at the Queen's Theatre in the West End with Sir Ralph Richardson, Coral Browne and Hayward Morse. Baxter nurtured the stage careers of Alyson McInnes and John Ramage. Baxter remained a great favourite on the Scottish pantomime circuit, especially at the King's Theatre, Glasgow, up until his retirement in 1992. He starred, in pantomime, with popular Scottish stars, Jimmy Logan and Una McLean.
During the 1960s, Baxter had his own show on BBC Radio Scotland. In 1994 he returned to radio, taking the role of Noël Coward in the BBC World Service Play of the Week, Marvellous Party directed by Neil Cargill. Written by Jon Wynne-Tyson, it also starred Dorothy Tutin as Coward's lifelong friend, Esme Wynne-Tyson (Jon's mother). Also with Cargill, he read Whisky Galore and Jimmy Swan - The Joy Traveller for BBC Radio, providing the voices of all the characters.
After a lengthy spell in self-imposed retirement, he appeared in 2004 in a series of four half-hour radio sitcoms for BBC Radio 4, entitled Stanley Baxter and Friends; the success of this has led to further series entitled The Stanley Baxter Playhouse in 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2013 and 2014, and Two Pipe Problems with Richard Briers in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Two further plays in this series were broadcast in 2013 with Geoffrey Palmer taking the Richard Briers role. In 2009 Eddie Izzard presented The Stanley Baxter Story on BBC Radio 2.
Baxter was known for his impressions of famous people, particularly the Queen (referred to in the context of the shows as 'the Duchess of Brendagh'). The Stanley Baxter Show ran between 1963 and 1971 on BBC One, and the Stanley Baxter Picture Show from 1972 to 1975 on ITV; the six-part Stanley Baxter Series was made by LWT in 1981. Eight one-hour TV specials were made by LWT and the BBC between 1973 and 1986.
Baxter guest-starred in an episode of The Goodies and later appeared in the lead role in Mr Majeika, developed from the books by Humphrey Carpenter, a children's show about a magic teacher, expelled from Walpurgis (the wizard land) for failing his professional examinations. He later stated that he had wanted to retire after his spectacular hour-long shows had been axed and that the move to children's television was a "purely financial" arrangement. In Bing Crosby's final Christmas special, taped for CBS in the UK just a few weeks before Crosby's death in 1977, Baxter played multiple roles, including a butler, cook and - in one skit opposite a cracking-up Crosby - the ghost of Bob Hope's court jester ancestor. Having retired in 1990, Baxter returned for a one-off Christmas 2008 special for ITV, containing a mix of archived and new material, with celebrity comedians commenting on Baxter's influence on their lives and careers.
Baxter appeared in a number of films, including Geordie (1955), Very Important Person (1961), The Fast Lady (1962), Crooks Anonymous (1962) and Father Came Too! (1963), the last four alongside James Robertson Justice, together with the animation Arabian Knight (1995).
He has written a number of books based on the language of Glasgow, as developed in his Parliamo Glasgow sketch, and on the humour of the city;
Baxter was brought up in the West End of Glasgow, in the third block of a set of mansion flats. He lived there from the age of 5 until he married at 26 years of age. He later lived in Highgate, north London. He was married for 46 years. His wife Moira died in 1997. In August 2014, Baxter was one of 200 public figures who were signatories to a letter to The Guardian expressing their hope that Scotland would vote to remain part of the United Kingdom in September's referendum on that issue.
All six of Baxter's hour-long ITV specials were released on a two-disc DVD set in 2005 as The Stanley Baxter Collection with a further two-disc DVD set being released in 2006 under the title The Stanley Baxter Series & Picture Show featuring both of his series of half-hour shows for ITV. In 2008 a five-disc DVD box set was released titled The Stanley Baxter Television Set. The set includes both half-hour ITV series that Baxter made for ITV and six of his ITV specials. It also includes two of the feature films he made with James Robertson Justice The Fast Lady and Father Came Too!.