Of many great TV detectives have there ever been better than DCI Morse and DI Regan?
The brilliant John Thaw somehow managed to convey the blokey, sexist, irascible Regan in The Sweeney and then turn on a sixpence to portray the intellectual, sensitive, irascible Morse in the series of the same name.
The Sweeney was our favourite TV cop show during the 1970s. At the time we lived in East London and one evening we arrived home from work quite late to grab a quick sandwich before going out to meet friends in the pub. After a couple of minutes there was an almighty thumping on the door of our flat. When Michael opened the door he was pushed to one side by first one large, leather-jacketed six-footer followed by three more shouting “Police! Stand aside!”
Wow! Were we on Candid Camera or being raided?
After the visitors had stormed around the sitting room, up the stairs and back down again, they came to a halt and apologised for the intrusion. Apparently the flat we’d recently moved into was previously occupied by the mother of a criminal who’d escaped custody earlier that day. Our flat had been under observation for several hours waiting for someone to appear. And when we came home the Flying Squad thought they’d got their man.
Needless to say we made the most of the experience when we got to the pub and our own episode of The Sweeney went down into Murray history.
John Thaw was born in Manchester in 1942. After a difficult childhood in which he was abandoned by his mother, he somehow managed to secure a place at RADA and trained to be an actor. He worked on stage and television in a number of small parts including a role in Z Cars. His first big role was in The Sweeney (1975 – 78) followed by a sit-com Home to Roost (1985 – 90). Then Morse (1987 – 2000) plus Kavanagh QC (1995 – 2001). Over the years he appeared in many other films, TV dramas and stage plays.
His performance as Tom Oakley in Goodnight Mister Tom (1998) was a delight and earned him the most popular TV actor award from the National Television Society.
Thaw was diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus in June 2001. He underwent chemotherapy in the hope of overcoming the illness, and at first had appeared to respond well to the treatment. However, just before Christmas 2001 he was informed that the cancer had spread and the prognosis was terminal. He died on this day in 2002 just seven weeks after his 60th birthday.
In 2006, a plaque honoring Inspector Morse was unveiled at the police station in Oxford where the fictional TV drama character was based. Colin Dexter, author of the Morse novels, attended St Aldates police station to formally uncover the tribute. The Jaguar car used in the TV series by Morse was also at the event.
A fitting celebration of a fine actor and an iconic TV detective.
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