He left school at fifteen, becoming an upholsterer, a gas-board accounts department clerk, an inspector of spun iron pipes and a clerk in a Pipes factory before working his way through a string of other dead end jobs. "So I think he went to night school to start with." his sister Judy Yates recalls when she remembers his early days. "and got his English and Art. The two easier ones I think it was. And then went to Clarendon College and from Clarendon he went to RADA and he then, I think he found what he wanted to do." In his spare time he sang at the Folk Clubs around Nottingham and took an acting course, eventually winning a place at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts.
"We met at RADA in 1966," remembers friend David Bradley."At the time he always reminded me of a young Eric Morecambe, he had these thick rimmed black glasses and he was very sort of just naturally funny. So I suppose he got this tag of being a quite light comedy actor. Although he got a bit of trouble from one of the voice teachers who said you know 'If you don't get rid of your northern accent you'll always play dustmen.' "
At the age of 18 he married a Nottingham Secretary called Margaret Bradley who gave him a daughter, Samantha who successfully followed him into the acting profession. Their marriage unfortunately ended in divorce in 1972 after a seperation which began in 1969. Samantha and Margaret continued to live in London until 1974, when they moved to Scotland.
Richard left RADA in 1968 and moved to Crewe where he worked in Repertory. With the Crewe Rep he gained his first professional acting work, made many appearances and took the title role in Hamlet. By 1969 he scored his first TV appearance with a cameo in Coronation Street, leading him to the starring role in Jack Rosenthall's comedy The Lovers, which more than made up for the part he had lost in the Granada Television programme A Family At War. This role rocketed him to stardom and convinced him to leave behind rep work to earn £150 a week on the small screen.
During his time with the Crewe Rep, Richard fell in love with a young actress named Judy Loe. They lived together for eight years before marrying in 1977 and had a daughter named Kate who went on to become a very famous British actress. Judy remembers how he began to enjoy the trappings of fame around the time of the movie version of The Lovers. "He went a bit silly for a year," she says, "He experimented with what it was like to be the latest pin-up in the magazines. He would go to clubs in Manchester with Georgie Best." Richard's success escalated at such a speed that he was caught on the show This Is Your Life very early on, commenting "I swore blind I'd never fall for this."
While all of this was taking place, Richard was suffering from what his friend Alan Harrison says was "Probably the darkest part of his life." His first wife Margaret had moved with their daughter to Scotland in 1974 which meant that Richard had little chance to see daughter Samantha, and the pair were only reunited in time to spend about a year together before his death. The seperation was unbearable for Richard, and he still suffered from it despite the perfect life the outside world saw him as having in his beautiful Victorian House in Twickenham with a beautiful and talented young wife whom he loved, and a wonderful new daughter by her.
While his home life was lacking the important presence of his first-born child, Richard's work life couldn't be described as any less than perfect. He had gone directly from his first cameo TV appearance to a modest hit like the Lovers, and then achieved the double whammy of Rising Damp and Porridge in 1974. The year that was the most momorable or his career, filled with the work for which he will best be remembered.
In 1979 Richard began work on what would be known as his swan song, Bloomers. In the middle of making a movie that year with Stephen Frears he died of a heart attack on March 19 at his home in Sunningdale, Berkshire, the day he was meant to be rehearsing for the last show in the first series of Bloomers. His sudden loss was a tremendous shock to the country, and the entertainment industry who had prized him as their most remarkable young star.
"When I was rung up and told, I burst into tears because it was so outrageous that he should have died. He was suddenly not with us anymore. So loved, there was a universal grief that went on. The audience used to love him. We got on so well together that we were always glad to see each other in the morning for rehearsals." Porridge co-star Ronnie Barker recalls.
In her 1983 book "Innocent Voices", psychic Doris Stokes included her talks with Richard amongst children and other stars that died too young, Marc Bolan and John Lennon. The book is currently out of print.
Someone said that there's a line in the cult film Blade Runner that seems to sum up Richard Beckinsale's career a treat: 'The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long'. By the time Beckinsale died at the age of 31, he had burned brighter than most actors ever manage and left behind a legacy of three fine sitcoms and two actress daughters, Samantha and Kate.
Friend and co-star, Ronnie Barker: "He was so loved. He hadn't done very much but he was so loved that there was a universal sort of grief that went on."
This biography has been put together from the following sources: The Unforgettable Richard Beckinsale documentary, various news and magazine articles, and information kindly supplied by Margaret Bradley. Only the on screen interviews from Richard's friends and family in the documentary and the information from Margaret Bradley can be verified as I have no real access to first hand infromation on Richard and cannot always rely on media information to be correct. Please contact me if you know of any inaccuracies or changes which need to be made.