Famous York actor Francis Matthews dies, aged 86

Famous York actor Francis Matthews dies, aged 86

Actor Francis Matthews, who has died aged 86

Francis Matthews was the voice of Captain Scarlet

First published in News York Press: Photograph of the Author by

YORK-BORN actor Francis Matthews, who found fame as gentleman detective Paul Temple and as the voice of Captain Scarlet, has died after a short illness at the age of 86.

Francis Joseph Matthews was born in York on September 2, 1927, and was the son of Rowntrees’ factory shop steward Henry Ernest Matthews and Kathleen, nee Empson.

He was born in Holgate Nursing Home and spent his early childhood in New Earswick, before the family moved to 106 Lawrence Street. He attended St George's School in York and later St Michael’s Jesuit College in Leeds, before starting his theatrical career in the Leeds Rep.

He went on to National Service in the Royal Navy but returned to the theatre after demob, completing his apprenticeship in rep across the country before a successful film career in British and European studios.

In 1956, while shooting Bhowani Junction with Ava Gardner, he reportedly took the actress - then married to Frank Sinatra - to his parents’ suburban home.

Said to be bored with studio orders to be seen out and about as pre-publicity for her films, Ms Gardner rebelled and took up Matthews’ offer of tea with his Mum and Dad.

The actor’s sister later reported coming home from work to find the best china deployed and the world’s biggest film star sitting in the front room.

In 1962, Matthews met his wife actress Angela Browne when filming a BBC series in the Hebrides, and the couple married the following year.

In 1967, puppeteer Gerry Anderson approached Matthews to voice the main character of his follow-up series to Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons. Then, in 1969, the BBC gave him the role which many still associate with him: playboy detective Paul Temple, alongside Ros Drinkwater as his wife Steve and George Sewell as their down-at-heel sidekick.

Sixty one-hour episodes were made in colour before the series ended in 1971, by which time he was a household name.

Angela Browne died after a short illness in 2001, but Francis Matthews continued to work with guest appearances in The Royal, Taggart and Jonathan Creek among others, until illness forced him to retire.

His last major performances included playing Herr Schultz in Cabaret in the West End aged 81.

Although he moved from York at a young age, Mr Matthews often spoke fondly of the city and regularly returned for many years to visit relatives.

He told The Yorkshire Evening Press in 1971 that he hoped to retire to York. Three years later when he appeared in Sign of the Times at York Theatre Royal, he told the newspaper: "It's the first time at this theatre for me and the realisation of a boyhood ambition. I always wanted to work here and wrote letter after letter begging to be allowed to play here, but I never managed it. I still have aunts and uncles up here and after we've got this opening over, I hope I can visit them."

Fifteen years later, while starring in The Old Country at the Grand Opera House, he told the Evening Press that York was still in his soul, and recalled briefly attending dance classes opposite the Opera House as a young boy.

He is survived by his sons Paul, Dominic and Damien, five grandchildren, his brother, the actor Paul Shelley, and his sister Maura. His brother Anthony had pre-deceased him.

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