One of the best known Australian actors working in Britain during the sires and early seventies, Charles Tingwell was nothing short of an acting legend in Australia. His passing at the age of 86 mourned both in the artistic community and among the general public, so much so that we was granted a state funeral in Melbourne.
Tingwell began his acting career on radio whilst still a teenager, going on to Sydney commercial station 2CH to become Austra1ia’s youngest radio announcer. At the outbreak of war he joined the Royal Australian Air Force and flew Spitfires in 75 combat missions as part of 680 Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron. After the war Tingwell returned home and began acting alongside his radio career with such success that he got a part in the 1952 Hollywood production The Desert Ratswhich starred Richard Burton. He turned down the chance of a long contract and instead moved with his wife Audrey to Britain, achieving success in the long running soap opera Emergency – Ward 10 and featuring as the harassed inspector Craddock in the Margaret Rutherford Miss Marple films.
Tingwell was also a popular TV guest star, appearing as evil advertising executive Benjamin Kinthly in the 1966 Adam Adamant Lives! episode The Sweet Smell Of Disaster and Doctor Neville in the classic The Avengers story Return Of The Cybernauts.
He also wrote and directed for the stage, setting up his own theatre company with his fellow Emergency – Ward 10 stars John Alderton and David Butler and from 1970 had a two year run in London’s West End in the lead role of the comedy There’s A Girl In My Soup. In this busy period he also worked for AP Films and Century 21 Productions supplying character voices for Thunderbirds‘ second season and the film Thunderbirds Are Go. He stayed on for Captain Scarlet And The Mysterons, but was unavailable for future Supermarionation series, returning for the featured role of Captain ‘Beaver’ James in the 1970 UFO episode Mindbender.
A family holiday to Australia proved life changing to Charles Tingwell when he was offered a regular role in the filmed TV crime drama Homicide, which had been running since 1964. He decided to take the job and return to his homeland in order to put something back into the Australian film and TV industry. The arrival of the internationally known Tingwell was seen as a casting coup for Homicide and his Inspector Reg Lawson became a mainstay of the series until production ended amidst some controversy in 1976.
He stayed in Australia for the rest of his life, appearing in productions both large and small including the occasional international hit, such as the 1980 film Breaker Morant and becoming a star all over again in his mid-seventies in the 1997 film The Castle. He always felt it a privilege to be working and he carried on right to the end, his final production to be released before his death on 15th May 2009 was as Winston Churchill in the 2008 TV film Menzies And Churchill At War. In hospital during his final illness Charles Tingwell was still learning lines for his next part.
Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said Tingwell was “in every sense an Australian legend. He is so much a part of the Australian character as it’s been shaped and as it will evolve in the future”.
Originally published in FAB 63.