Ronnie Barker

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Ronald William George "Ronnie" Barker, OBE (25 September 1929 – 3 October 2005) was a British actor and comedian. He was known for his roles in various British comedy television series, such as The Frost Report, as Norman Stanley Fletcher in Porridge, The Two Ronnies and as Albert Arkwright in Open All Hours. Apart from being a performer, he was also noted as a comedy writer both under his own name and the pseudonym Gerald Wiley, which he adopted to avoid pre-judgements of his talent.

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Early life

Barker was born Ronald William George Barker on 25 September 1929 in Bedford, Bedfordshire, England to Leonard and Edith Barker.[1][2] His father was a clerk for Shell Oil.[2] He had two sisters; one older, Vera and one younger, Eileen.[1][3] The family moved to Cowley, Oxfordshire when Barker was four.[4]

As a child, Barker enjoyed dressing up,[1] and developed a love of the theatre, often attending plays with his family. The first play he saw was Cottage to Let and he once skipped school in order to see Laurence Olivier in Henry V; he frequently stood outside the stage-door to collect autographs, his first being the actress Celia Johnson.[5] Barker attended the City of Oxford High School for Boys.[2] He found his talent for humour at school and developed his musical ability by singing in the choir at St James church.[5][6] He got in to the sixth form a year early but felt what he was learning would be of no use to him in later life and so left as soon as he could.[5] After leaving school he trained as an architect but gave it up after six months, as he felt he was not skilled enough. Barker took his sister Vera's job as a bank clerk at the Westminster Bank (after she had left to become a nurse).[2][7] Barker harboured dreams of becoming an actor. He worked in amateur dramatics for eighteen months while at the bank, as an actor and stage manager, making his first appearance in A Murder Has Been Arranged as the musical director of the play-within-a-play.[7] Eventually he gave up his job to become a professional actor.[4] His father was not supportive of his acting ambition.[6]

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