In case case of doubt, do a little more than you have to
Best known for his role as foul mouthed Alf Garnett in Seventies sitcom Till Death Do Us Part, Warren Mitchell was also an acclaimed dramatic actor who won two Olivier awards and a BAFTA in his long-spanning career.
Born Warren Misell to an actress mum, his father was a china merchant whose Russian-Jewish parents had emigrated to London. As an air cadet during the Second World War, Warren began studying chemistry at Oxford University, where he became pals with Richard Burton.
The studies ended when the pair were sent to Canada to begin flight training. Influenced by Burton’s prowess at declaiming Shakespeare – and with women – Warren decided to pursue acting and won at RADA. After an initial struggle to find work, Warren landed a job as a DJ on Radio Luxembourg – which prompted his name change – before a role hit Fifties sitcom Hancock’s Half Hour proved a breakthrough. Radio, film and TV roles came thick and fast.
Bigoted Alf Garnett was satire, although some failed to see the joke. Praised by one fan for “having a go” at immigrants, “actually” replied Mitchell – whose personal philosophy was the antithesis of Garnett’s – “we’re having a go at idiots like you.”
Mitchell’s career went from strength to strength, particularly in dramatic roles on stage in plays by Pinter, Miller, Shakespeare and Moliere.
Spending much of his time in Australia, Warren took up dual nationality, still treading the boards in London’s West End well into his eighties, despite enduring a painful nerve condition.
After suffering a stroke in 2004, he was back on stage in a gruelling one-man show just a fortnight later. His family paid tribute to a “complex, difficult, brilliant, annoying, mischievous and hugely entertaining’’ man when he died just two months shy of his 90th birthday.