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James Bolam

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Title: James Bolam  
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Subject: The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (film), Straight On till Morning (film), BBC Television Shakespeare, The Plague Dogs (film), Phyllis Bentley
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James Bolam

James Bolam
Born James Christopher Bolam
(1935-06-16) 16 June 1935
Sunderland, County Durham, England, UK
Occupation Actor
Years active 1961–present
Spouse(s) Susan Jameson (b. 1941)
Children Lucy Bolam
Nigel (born Mark, stepson)

James Christopher Bolam, MBE (born 16 June 1935)[1][2] is an English actor, best known for his roles as Jack Ford in When the Boat Comes In, Trevor Chaplin in The Beiderbecke Trilogy, Terry Collier in The Likely Lads and its sequel Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads?, Roy Figgis in Only When I Laugh, Dr Arthur Gilder in Born and Bred, Jack Halford in New Tricks and the title character of Grandpa in the children's BBC programme Grandpa in My Pocket.

Early life

Bolam was born in Sunderland, County Durham, England. His father, Robert Alfred Bolam, was from Northumberland, and his mother, Marion Alice Drury,[3] was from County Durham.


After attending Bede Grammar School, Sunderland, Bolam attended Bemrose School in Derby.[4] He was formally trained at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London, and first appeared on screens in the early 1960s, initially in popular TV shows such as Z-Cars and the gritty northern films A Kind of Loving and The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner. He appeared along with John Thaw in the 1967 Granada TV serial, Inheritance.

The Likely Lads made Bolam a star during its 1964 to 1966 run. Bolam himself adapted the shows for BBC radio soon afterwards, and appeared in films such as Half a Sixpence, Otley, and O Lucky Man! before the "Lads" returned in 1973. Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? ran for two series, in 1973 and 1974 and a 45-minute Christmas special broadcast on Christmas Eve 1974.

In 1975 Bolam appeared alongside the original cast in a further BBC Radio series adapted from the 1973 TV series and in 1976 there was a further reunion in a feature film spin-off from the series, simply entitled The Likely Lads. Bolam's co-star Rodney Bewes revealed in 2005 that the two actors had not spoken since the film had been made, a period of over thirty years. The rift, according to Bewes, developed through his indiscretely telling a journalist that when Bolam's wife revealed that she was pregnant, Bolam was so startled that the car he was driving mounted a pavement and almost crashed into a lamp post.[5]

Bolam has never commented on what caused the rift, but is known for being guarded about his private life. He once remarked: "I'm having a man fix the track rods on my car. I don't want to know anything about him. Why should he want to know anything about me?"[5][6]

In 1976 Bolam made a return to straight drama, as Jack Ford in the BBC Television series When the Boat Comes In, which ran until 1981. Since then he has mostly appeared in comedies and comedy dramas, including Only When I Laugh (as Roy Figgis) from 29 October 1979 to 16 December 1982, The Beiderbecke Affair (as Trevor Chaplin) in 1985, The Beiderbecke Tapes in 1987, Andy Capp (in the title role), The Beiderbecke Connection in 1988, Second Thoughts (as Bill MacGregor) from 3 May 1991 to 14 October 1994, Midsomer Murders, Pay and Display, Dalziel and Pascoe, Close and True, Born and Bred (as Dr Arthur Gilder), and New Tricks (as Jack Halford).

On radio, in 1978 he played Willie Garvin in a BBC World Service radio adaptation of the Modesty Blaise book Last Day in Limbo. In 1982 he provided the voice for The Tod in the animated film version of The Plague Dogs. In the mid-1980s he co-starred in the original radio version of the romantic sitcom Second Thoughts, which ran for several series and was subsequently adapted for television. In the year 2000 he played Sir Archibald Flint in the Doctor Who audio play The Spectre of Lanyon Moor. He was also the narrator for the 3-part football documentary Three Lions, which aired before Euro 2000 on BBC One. The 3 episodes were about England National Team's history from the 1966 World Cup until before the Euro 2000 finals.

In 2002 he played the serial killer Harold Shipman, in Shipman, the ITV adaptation of Brian Masters' book on the case, Prescription for Murder[7] and Father Leonard Tibbings in Dalziel and Pascoe (Ser. 7, Ep. 1 Sins of the Fathers).[8] He portrayed Harold Wilson, the former Prime Minister, in the 2006 BBC documentary The Plot Against Harold Wilson. He appeared in Frank Loesser's musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying at the Chichester Festival Theatre during the 2005 summer season. He is currently playing Grandpa in the Cbeebies show Grandpa In My Pocket as the Grandpa with a magic hat, which when he put on, he was able to shrink. In 2009 he played Ken Lewis, CEO of the Bank of America, in the television dramatisation The Last Days of Lehman Brothers.

His appearances on the London stage include Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell by Keith Waterhouse[9] and Ben Elton´s play, Gasping. Bolam was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2009 Birthday Honours.[10] It was announced on 20 September 2011, that Bolam had quit the role of Jack Halford in New Tricks, just days after two more series were commissioned.

Bolam continues to work in the theatre as well as on television. During spring 2014 he appeared in the play "Bomber's Moon" by William Ivory at the Park Theatre, Finsbury Park, London.

Personal life

James Bolam lives in Wisborough Green near Billingshurst, West Sussex and Chiswick, London with his wife, the actress Susan Jameson (who co-starred with him in the TV series When the Boat Comes In, New Tricks and Grandpa In My Pocket). They have a daughter, Lucy, and two grandchildren.

James Bolam has appeared in a video protesting against oil drilling near the village of Wisborough Green in West Sussex.[11]

TV career

TV Series Name of Character Date commenced Date ceased
Z Cars Tom Potter 1963 1963
The Likely Lads Terry Collier 1964 1966
Inheritance Joe Bamforth 1967 -
Whatever happened to the Likely Lads? Terry Collier 1973 1974
When the Boat Comes In Jack Ford 1976 1981
Only When I Laugh Roy Figgis 29 October 1979 16 December 1982
The Beiderbecke Affair Trevor Chaplin 1985 -
The Beiderbecke Tapes Trevor Chaplin 1987 -
Andy Capp Andy Capp 1988 -
The Beiderbecke Connection Trevor Chaplin 1988 -
Second Thoughts Bill MacGregor 3 May 1991 14 October 1994
The Missing Postman Clive Peacock 29 March 1997 30 March 1997
Midsomer Murders Ron Pringle 1999 -
Close & True Graham True 2000 -
Grandpa in My Pocket (series 1) Grandpa 2008 2009
Pay and Display (Sit. Com.) Sydney Street 2000 -
Dalziel and Pascoe Father Leonard Tibbings 2002 -
Shipman Harold Shipman 2002 -
Born and Bred Dr. Arthur Gilder 2002 2005
Grandpa in My Pocket (series 2) Grandpa 2009 2010
New Tricks Jack Halford 2003–2012 2013
The Plot Against Harold Wilson Harold Wilson 2006 -
Grandpa in My Pocket (series 3) Grandpa 2010 2011
The Last Days of Lehman Brothers Ken Lewis 2009 -
Grandpa in My Pocket (series 4) Grandpa 2013 2014

Selected filmography


  1. ^ England & Wales Birth Register Index; Bolam, James C.; September quarter 1935; Registration District: Sunderland; Registration County: Durham; Volume 10a; Page 913
  2. ^ "Derbyshire news, views & business listings from Derbyshire's Community | This is Derbyshire". 2012-09-21. Retrieved 2012-09-25. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ James Bolam at, accessed 18 July 2008
  5. ^ a b "What did happen to the Likely Lads?". 7 August 2006. Retrieved 15 November 2010. 
  6. ^ "The first part of our A to Z guide to Sunderland". 24 September 2009. Retrieved 19 October 2009. 
  7. ^ "Shipman (TV series)". website. IMDb. Retrieved 29 December 2013. 
  8. ^ "Dalziel and Pascoe (TV Series)". website. IMDb. Retrieved 29 December 2013. 
  9. ^ "The Stage Review". Retrieved 2011-04-07. 
  10. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 59090. p. 14. 13 June 2009.
  11. ^

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