Patrick Allen (1927-2006)

Patrick Allen, who died in July 2006 aged 79, was one of only a handful of actors who made guest appearances in all three of Gerry Anderson’s 1970s live-action productions, although his Space:1999 role as International Lunar Commission Chairman Dexter came only in the specially-filmed framing sequences for ITC’s 1979 compilation feature Alien Attack. In UFO he was the traitorous SHADO operative Turner in Timelash and in The Protectors he played arms dealer James Leroy Mallory in A Matter Of Life And Death.

John Keith Patrick Allen was born on 17th March 1927 in Nyasaland (now called Malawi), the son of a tobacco farmer. After his parents divorced, he was brought to England by his mother but after the outbreak of war he was taken to Canada where he studied medicine at McGill University, Montreal. Work for the campus radio station led to a presenting job with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and this prompted him to abandon his studies and make a career as an actor. In Hollywood, he made his screen debut in an uncredited role as a soldier in Robert Aldrich’s debut feature World For Ransom (1954) and followed this back in Britain with a small role as a policeman in Alfred Hitchcock’s Dial M For Murder (1954). He decided to settle in the UK and went on to more significant roles in 1984 (1956), High Tide At Noon (1957), The Long Haul (1957), I Was Monty’s Double (1958) and Never Take Sweets From A Stranger (1960).

In 1959, Allen became a familiar face on television through his role as Bosun Hughes in Glencannon. Four years later, he was cast as cafe owner and part-time smuggler Richard Crane, evading the local police on the Moroccan coast in Associated Rediffusion’s popular Crane series. In 1971 he starred as a dashing business tycoon in a third television series, Brett, this time for the BBC. Between Glencannon and Brett, he also made guest appearances in series such as The Avengers, Out Of This World, Undermind, Dixon Of Dock Green, Vendetta and Journey To The Unknown, and he was a frequent visitor to the ITC series, appearing in Sir Francis Drake, The Sentimental Agent, Gideon’s Way, The Saint, The Baron, Man In A Suitcase and The Champions.

Allen had a notable starring role alongside Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing in Terence Fisher’s Night Of The Big Heat(1967) but his deep resonant tones were increasingly in demand for voiceover work on films such as Don’t Lose Your Head (1967), The Devil Rides Out (1968), Carry On Up The Khyber (1968), The Assassination Bureau (1969), The Eagle Has Landed (1976) and Force 10 From Navarone (1978) as well as dozens of film trailers. Throughout the Seventies he was the man in the helicopter in a long-running series of commercials for Barratt homes, but he acquired considerable notoriety as ‘the last voice you will ever hear’ in the government’s chilling Protect And Survive series of animated instructional films, intended to offer advice for survival in the event of a nuclear holocaust. Dialogue from the final film, Casualties, was later incorporated into Two Tribes, Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s 1984 chart topper.

Over the last three decades of the 20th century, Allen continued to work in film – in When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth(1970), Diamonds On Wheels (1974), The Wild Geese (1978), The Sea Wolves (1980), Who Dares Wins (1982), Bullet To Beijing (1995) and R.P.M. (1998) – while his television appearances included Van Der Valk, Thriller, The Winds Of War, Bergerac, The Return Of Sherlock Holmes and HTV’s 1978 adaptation of Kidnapped. He was also highly-acclaimed for his role as Thomas Gradgrind in Granada’s 1977 dramatisation of Hard Times. More recently, he had become the voice of digital channel E4 providing voiceovers for trailers and promotions, notably the channel’s ‘second chance Sunday’ strand.

Patrick Allen died on 28th July 2006. He is survived by his wife, actress Sarah Lawson, and their two sons.

Originally published in FAB 56.