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Wednesday, 30 January, 2002, 17:36 GMT
TV star Stratford Johns dies
Stratford Johns
Stratford Johns: Made his name in police dramas
Actor Stratford Johns, known for his roles in police dramas Softly, Softly, Task Force and Z Cars, has died at the age of 77.

The actor had been in poor health and died from a heart condition at his home in Heveningham, Suffolk, on Tuesday night.

Johns was best known for his role as Charlie Barlow in the BBC One 1960s drama series Z Cars, alongside actor Frank Windsor.


He was one of the biggest stars in television in his day

Michael Whitehall, agent
He played the role for more than a decade, first as a detective inspector before rising through the ranks to appear in Softly Softly and then Barlow At Large.

Windsor, who also joined him in Softly Softly, paid tribute to his former co-star.

"We were regarded as the Laurel and Hardy or Morecambe and Wise of serious television, one of the great double acts," Windsor said.

"We were so used to each other, we got to the point where we were reading each other's minds to a large degree. We worked together so well, so efficiently and so quickly."

Jimmy Ellis, who played Sergeant Lynch in Z Cars, said: "He will be very sadly missed. The memories are unshakeable and very very happy."

Johns' agent Michael Whitehall said: "He was an extraordinary television actor.

"Most actors came into television and gave stage performances, but although he was very powerful he was also very contained in a way that played best to the small screen."

"He was one of the biggest stars in television in his day - the equivalent of John Thaw these days, or possibly even bigger."

Mainstay

Johns was born in South Africa and did not come to the UK until shortly after World War II.

Stratford Johns
Johns remained busy in the 1980s
One of his early roles was in the classic 1955 Ealing comedy The Ladykillers.

In the 1960s he landed parts in TV shows such as Department S and The Avengers before becoming a mainstay of Z Cars during its long TV run from 1962 to 1978.

Speaking about the show's popularity, Windsor said: "In the 60s we were getting 16 million viewers.

"When you think that only a proportion of the population had television it would probably be the equivalent of around 40 million now."

Johns transferred to the subsequent police series Softly, Softly with great success.

Daddy Warbucks

Another 1970s spin-off, Barlow At Large, where Johns was promoted to detective chief superintendent and involved with the intelligence services, was less successful.
Z Cars
Stratford Johns (c) and Frank Windsor (r) played alongside in each other in Z Cars

Though less prominent on TV in later years, Johns remained busy, appearing in two Ken Russell films in 1988, Salome's Last Dance and The Lair of the White Worm, as well as Channel 4's Brond in the same year.

He also played Magwich in the 1980's BBC series Great Expectations and Daddy Warbucks in the West End version of Annie.

His most recent TV appearance was in ITV's Heartbeat in 1998.

In recent years the actor had had heart problems and suffered a couple of minor strokes.

See also:

30 Jan 02 | TV and Radio
Johns' arresting career
22 Sep 98 | Entertainment
TV's golden oldies come out top
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