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Tuesday, 20 February, 2001, 16:39 GMT
Knighthood for Tom Courtenay
Sir Tom Courtenay receives a knighthood
Courtenay: Part of a generation of working class actors
Actor Tom Courtenay has been knighted by the Queen at Buckingham Palace in recognition of his 40 years on stage and screen.

Speaking after the ceremony, Sir Tom said: "I couldn't refuse a knighthood. It's for my mother and father - they would have loved it."

The 63-year-old star of seminal 1960s films such as Billy Liar and The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner was part of a wave of working class actors.
Floella Benjamin receives her OBE
Floella Benjamin receives the OBE for services to broadcasting

The former TV presenter and chairman of the film and television organisation Bafta, Floella Benjamin, was also at the palace to receive an OBE for services to broadcasting.

It is 25 years since she made her first appearance on the children's programme Playschool.

Since then she has been a TV presenter, independent producer and author of more than 20 children's books.

Billy Liar poster
Billy Liar is Courtenay's most famous role

Sense of duty

She has promoted the Commonwealth around the world, and sits on the government's Millennium Commission alongside former Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam, and former Conservative deputy leader Michael Heseltine.

She said: "I have to keep pinching myself. You don't expect to be rewarded for what you do.

"I love my work, making sure that children feel they belong - that there is some place in life for them."

Benjamin, who arrived in Britain from Trinidad at the age of 10, added: "My roots are still with me but I feel very British and a sense of duty to my country - I want to give something back to this country which has been so good to me."


Sir Tom celebrated at a lunch with his friend and Oscar nominee Albert Finney.

Sir Tom said: "The Queen said that I'd been an actor for a long time and I told her that I'd made it by the long way round - working in the provinces.

"I rather turned my back on films during the seventies and have worked a lot in the theatre."

A double winner of the Bafta award for best actor, his role as Pasha in David Lean's 1965 classic Doctor Zhivago earned him an Oscar nomination for supporting actor.

Eighteen years later in 1983, he scored a second Oscar nomination for his part in The Dresser.

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See also:

30 Dec 00 | Entertainment
Sir Tom's life of performance
30 Dec 00 | Entertainment
Honour for Play School star
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