Rodney Bewes, star of The Likely Lads, dies at 79

Rodney Bewes (right) with James Bolam in early 1970s sitcom Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads?
Rodney Bewes (right) with James Bolam in early 1970s sitcom Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? Photograph: Moviestore/Rex/Shutterstock

The actor Rodney Bewes, best known for his role as the northern working class hero Bob Ferris in The Likely Lads, has died aged 79.

His agent, who said he would have turned 80 next week, made the announcement on Tuesday afternoon.

BBC controller of comedy, Shane Allen, said Bewes was beloved for his portrayal of Ferris.

“It’s one of the all-time great BBC sitcoms; timeless in its humour and will be enjoyed for decades to come,” he said. “He was a much loved man and our thoughts go out to his family and friends at this sad time.”

League of Gentlemen star Mark Gatiss tweeted:

Performer Alison Moyet tweeted:

Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais’ much-loved BBC sitcom ran from 1964 to 1966 and was followed by a sequel in colour, Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads?, in 1973 and 1974.

Bewes had a famously stormy relationship with his Likely Lads co-star James Bolam, who played Terry Collier.

Their falling-out was sparked by Bewes recalling a story about Bolam and his wife in a newspaper interview in 1976 – the same year a poorly received film version of the sitcom was released. The actor called his co-star to apologise after the piece was published, but Bolam hung up and never spoke to Bewes again.

In one of his last interviews, Bewes told the Mirror: “I would love to be friends with him [Bolam], but he doesn’t want to be friends with me. I can’t be like Jimmy, I can’t be that angry – we’re different animals.”

Born in 1937 in Morley, West Yorkshire, Bewes suffered from asthma as a child. He studied at Rada but dropped out. After appearing in TV shows including Dixon of Dock Green and Z-Cars, his northern accent helped him win the role of Tom Courtenay’s friend in the film Billy Liar in 1963.

He went on to take the leading role in the Newcastle-set sitcom and its sequel alongside Bolam, Brigit Forsyth and Sheila Fearn.

In between his two stints on the BBC sitcom, which was watched by millions of viewers, Bewes’ roles included Mr Rodney on the Basil Brush Show in 1968-69.

He also starred in his own ITV sitcom, Albert! from 1969 to 1972. Although Bewes’ television career had largely ended by the mid-1980s, he continued to perform on stage over the following decade.

He divorced first wife Sylvia Tebbitt in 1963 and a decade later married Daphne Black, who died in 2015. Bewes is survived by a daughter and three sons.