- Stuart Wagstaff
Stuart Wagstaff AM (born
February 13, 1925in Great Durnford, Wiltshire, England, UK) is an Australian television and stage entertainer.
Wagstaff grew up on a farm with his parents and two older sisters. His father was very strict and emotionally abusive, and he received little affection from his mothercite web | author=| date= February 2, 2006| title=Talking Heads - Stuart Wagstaff | format= | work=Talking Heads | url=http://www.abc.net.au/talkingheads/txt/s1576591.htm| accessdate=2006-11-24] . However, his mother frequently took Stuart and his sisters to see plays and pantomime, generating an early interest in the theatre. At the age of 11 he was
sexually abusedby a farm handcite web | author=| date= February 2, 2006| title=Talking Heads - Stuart Wagstaff | format= | work=Talking Heads | url=http://www.abc.net.au/talkingheads/txt/s1576591.htm| accessdate=2006-11-24] .
In September 1940, at the insistence of his father, he joined the
Royal Navyas an apprentice aircraft mechanic in the Fleet Air Arm, and served at naval air stations and on aircraft carriers until the end of the war, but considered himself to be a poor mechaniccite web | author=| date= February 2, 2006| title=Talking Heads - Stuart Wagstaff | format= | work=Talking Heads | url=http://www.abc.net.au/talkingheads/txt/s1576591.htm| accessdate=2006-11-24] . He frequently volunteered for ships' concert parties to further his interest in acting.
After the war he joined the Windsor
Repertoryas an assistant stage manager, occasionally taking small roles in plays. He then joined Whitley Repertorywhere he took part in up to 48 plays plus four weeks of pantomimeeach year, as well as a few West End appearances and some film and television.
Wagstaff first came to Australia in 1958 to appear in the
J C Williamsonproduction "Not in the Book". In 1959, J C Williamson's put Stuart into the original " My Fair Lady" production with which he was associated for the next four and a half years, the last two and half playing Professor Henry Higgins, through all the Australian and New Zealand capital cities. Following this he took over the male lead in the stage musical " The Sound of Music".
The 1960s: Television
In 1964 he appeared as the host of the
Channel 7variety show " Studio 'A'" and in 1965 he replaced the late Eric Baumeas the "Beast" on the Channel 7 daytime show, Beauty and the Beast. This production was to establish him as one of Australia's firm television favourites. During this two and a half year period with Beauty and the Beast, he also appeared in leading roles in several stage productions including "There's a Girl in My Soup", "Present Laughter", "Private Lives" and several theatre restaurant revues.
In 1968 he became host of a major "Tonight" show on the Seven Network and later transferred to the
Nine Networkin the same type of format. During the following three years he hosted several shows on the Nine Network, including " In Melbourne Tonight", "The Sound of Music" and a regular late night interview show.
Wagstaff's suave style - today it would be called "cool" - led to his advertising
Benson and Hedgescigarettes, with the memorable tagline "When only the best will do ... and isn't that all the time?".
On 23 January 2003
Chris Beckof The Ageinterviewed Wagstaff:
"By his own account he is a workman-like actor who has been largely ignored for film and television roles because, he says, "I did 116 Benson and Hedges commercials and I was very heavily identified. It was irritating because I love movies."
"People often ask me if I have any regrets about doing those commercials because I think a lot of people - young, impressionable people - might have taken up smoking as a result. And I suppose I have regrets about that. But...we didn't know then. So, I can't have regrets about something I didn't know."
The "Non Smokers' Movement of Australia" website (issue 18, May-June 1997) wrote:
Smoking Frontman Expresses Late Regrets
"Stuart Wagstaff, who made a career from 116 Benson and Hedges commercials spanning two decades has disclosed he regretted his lucrative liaison with the tobacco industry. He is quoted as saying, "One thing that concerns me deeply in the light of what we know today is that I might have been instrumental in people starting smoking. The company policy was that the ads were intended to make people who accept smoking change brands but, of course, people must have indeed have started as a result of it. And that I regret. [...] Cigarettes "(sic)" advertising on TV was banned in Australia in September 1976, but in April 1997 Wagstaff revealed that the company kept paying him "for nothing" until 1993 -- 17 years later. "They believed whenever a group of people saw me they thought, subliminally, Benson & Hedges. So they kept me on the payroll. I didn't argue."
After a 3 year stint in
Hollywood, working in film and television, he returned to Australia in 1975 and was immediately kept busy with TV appearances all over the country, including being a regular panellist on Channel 9's " Celebrity Squares", then two years as permanent panellist on Channel 0/10's " Blankety Blanks", plus seven seasons as the host/presenter on the ABC's "Stuart Wagstaff's World Playhouse".
Apart from television he is active in his first love, the theatre. In late 1979 Stuart appeared again as Professor Higgins in "My Fair Lady" and a successful national tour followed, in which production he was also co-producer. About this time he also produced Sydney and Melbourne seasons of the American stage comedy "
Father's Day". In 1981 Stuart toured as the Narrator in the highly successful " Rocky Horror Show" starring Daniel Abineriand repeated that with a second tour a few years later, which also featured a young Russell Crowe.
The 1980s: Australian Theatre
1982 saw the production of "Noises Off" and this too, with Stuart in the lead, had a very successful national tour. In 1983 he played the lead in "Blithe Spirit" at
Marian Street Theatrein Sydney and then went on to host the "Midday Movie" and "Friday Night Movies" on the Seven Network for two years.
The late 1980s and today
Television guest roles in the 1990s included appearances in "GP", "
Rafferty's Rules", " A Country Practice", "All Saints" , Stuart appeared often on " The Midday Show" and appearances on " Good Morning Australia". He has made several appeances on Channel 7 Perth's Telethon. The late 1980s and the 1990s have seen Wagstaff on stage with Sydney seasons and subsequent tours of "Noises Off" (again), "Black Comedy", "The Winslow Boy", "Lend Me A Tenor" and in Gershwin's musical, "Crazy For You". Wagstaff also appeared in the role of Old Cookson in the spectacular theatrical production of "Pan" at the Capitol Theatre. Cameron Mackintosh’s production of "Oliver" sees Wagstaff returning to the stage in the role of Mr Brownlow.
Member of the Order of Australia
On 26 January 1998 Wagstaff was created a Member of the
Order of Australiafor "service to the community, particularly through the channel 7Perth TelethonTrust by raising funds for charities that support children's medicalresearch" [cite web | url=http://www.itsanhonour.gov.au/honours/honour_roll/search.cfm?aus_award_id=870036&search_type=quick&showInd=true | title=It's an Honour | accessdate=2007-06-30] "
The Journalist" (1979) .... Courtney Lewers
Bit Part" (1978) (TV) .... Uncredited
All at Sea" (1977) (TV) .... Mr. Arthur Pickering
The Dick Emery Show in Australia" (1977) TV Series .... Various Characters
Is There Anybody There?" (1975) (TV) .... Uncredited
For Pete's Sake" (1974) .... Man in Chandelier Store ... aka July Pork Bellies
Sunstruck" (1972) .... Uncredited
Seagulls Over Sorrento" (1960) (TV) .... Uncredited
* "A Night to Remember" (1958) .... Uncredited
* "" (2005) (TV) .... Himself
Blankety Blanks" (1977) TV Series .... Himself - Panelist
Name That Tune" (1975) TV Series .... Himself
In Melbourne Tonight" (1957) TV Series .... Himself (1970)
* "Beauty and the Beast" (1964) TV Series .... Himself (1966-1968)
* "All Saints" playing "Reg Howard" in episode: "Revelations" (episode # 1.20) 30 June 1998
Temperatures Rising" playing "Thornton" in episode: "Healer Man" (episode # 2.18) 15 August 1974
The Partridge Family" playing "Head Waiter" in episode: "The Last of Howard" (episode # 4.7) 27 October 1973
* "Whiplash" playing "Lieutenant Hoffman" in episode: "The Adelaide Arabs" (episode # 1.34) 14 October 1961
* "Whiplash" playing "Jimmy Quicksilver" in episode: "A Portrait of Gunpowder" (episode # 1.22) 22 July 1961
* "Whiplash" playing "Jimmy Quicksilver" in episode: "The Remittance Man" (episode # 1.11) 29 April 1961
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