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bobgrant1.jpg

 11th September 2008 By Paul Burton

While it's true to say that most people will remember Bob Grant (born in Hammersmith, London, in 1932) for playing the randy and quick-witted bus conductor Jack Harper in On the Buses, they probably won't know that the actor really spent some time working as a bus conductor. This was when he was working to help support his time training at drama school.

After time doing his National Serice, Grant began to make his way in the acting profession in rep. His earliest successes were with Joan Littlewood's legendary company appearing in plays such as Sparrers Can't Sing, which was written by future On the Buses co-star, Stephen Lewis (Blakey).

Grant proved himself as a writer early on by writing the book and lyrics for the West End show, Instant Marriage.

Other stage and TV work followed, but it was On the Buses which launched the actor to real stardom in 1969.

The interiors for the TV series of on the Buses were taped at LWT's then studios in Wembley. Studios which are now used for the making of The X-Factor.

The year 1971 marked the start of the making of three spin-off film version of the TV series: On the Buses (1971), Mutiny On the Buses (1972) and Holiday On the Buses (1973). All of the three films were made at Elstree Studios in Borehamwood, while many scenes were filmed around Borehamwood itself (Holiday On the Buses also had scenes filmed in Wales). Areas of Borehamwood used included Malden Road, Shenley Road and Whitehouse Avenue.

Bob Grant and his fellow buses star Stephen Lewis co-wrote several episodes of the TV series of On the Buses. But by the end of 1973, with both Michael Robbins (Arthur) and Reg Varney (Stan) by now having quit the series, the team called it a day and the Luxton Buses Depot sadly fell silent forever.

Grant then wrote and starred in a pilot for a sitcom made in Borehamwood for ATV at ATV Centre (now BBC Elstree) entitled Milk-O. This saw Grant reunited with Anna Karen (Olive from On the Buses) and swapping his role of a bus conductor for that of a Milkman. Sadly the pilot was never turned into a series.

It would certainly be interesting to see this episode now as fans like myself would relish the chance to see this pilot.

Stage work then continued to be the main source of work for Grant. Farce, musicals and pantomime credits being the forms of entertainment which mostly came his way.

Indeed, Grant continued to co-wrote and appear in farces including Package Honeymoon and Home is Where Your Clothes Are.

However, the 80s proved to be quite a challenge to Bob as work offers became less and less. This sadly caused Grant to sink into a deep depression and in 1987 it was announced that the actor had gone missing.

Following an appeal by the actress Ruth Madoc on an ITV regional news programme, Central News, at the start of 1987, and an appeal by Grant's wife, Bob returned from Dublin where he had travelled to with the intention of taking his own life.

Living not too far away from me in Leicestershire, Grant gained work in three shows at a Leicester theatre which has subsequently closed.

The first, Guys & Dolls, in for Christmas 1988, the second, Seven Brides For Seven Brothers, for Christmas 1990, and the farce When Did You Last See Your Trousers, during early 1991.

I saw Bob in both in Seven Brides For Seven Brothers and When Did You last See Your Trousers? The latter gave Grant the chance to really shine and I remember enjoying the production immensely and meeting Grant in the bar after the show. Indeed, I remember that the actor Bill Maynard was also in the audience for this show and laughed loudly at the on-stage antics of Grant and the rest of the cast.

I later started work at the theatre in Leicester where Grant had appeared and remember seeing him attend a show there during Christmas 1994. I also used to see him pop into the theatre bar on occasions at the start of 1995 for a drink.

On the two times I was lucky enough to meet and talk to him, Bob was charming.

Sadly, Bob made an attempt on taking his life during 1995 but was fortunately found in time. Subsequently he did take his life at the end of 2003 at the home he had moved to with his wife in Gloucestershire.

Bob may have left us, but the laughter he created lives on. Re-runs of the TV series and the film versions of On the Buses continue to win Grant new fans - and long may this continue.

RIP, Bob.

 

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