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Geoffrey Palmer

Geoffrey Palmer Breath of Fresh Air.JPG
Palmer in 2008
Geoffrey Dyson Palmer

(1927-06-04)4 June 1927
London, England
Died 5 November 2020(2020-11-05) (aged 93)
Lee Common, Buckinghamshire, England
Occupation Actor
Years active 1958–2020
Sally Green
(m. 1963)
Children 2, including Charles Palmer

Geoffrey Dyson Palmer OBE (4 June 1927 – 5 November 2020) was an English actor. He was best known for his roles in British television sitcoms playing Jimmy Anderson in The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin (1976–79), Ben Parkinson in Butterflies (1978–1983) and Lionel Hardcastle in As Time Goes By (1992–2005). His film appearances include A Fish Called Wanda (1988), The Madness of King George (1994), Mrs Brown (1997) and Tomorrow Never Dies (1997).

Early life and education

Geoffrey Dyson Palmer was born on 4 June 1927 in London, England. He was the son of Frederick Charles Palmer, who was a chartered surveyor, and Norah Gwendolen (née Robins). He attended Highgate School from September 1939 to December 1945. He served as a corporal instructor in small arms and field training in the Royal Marines during his national service from 1946 to 1948, following which he briefly worked as an unpaid trainee assistant stage manager.


Palmer's early television appearances included multiple roles in episodes of The Army Game (Granada Television), two episodes of The Baron and as a property agent in Cathy Come Home (1966). After a major break in John Osborne's West of Suez at the Royal Court with Ralph Richardson, he acted in major productions at the Royal Court and for the National Theatre Company and was directed by Laurence Olivier in J. B. Priestley's Eden End. Palmer found the play so boring, however, that it put him off a stage career for good.

Two BBC sitcom roles brought him attention in the 1970s: the hapless brother-in-law of Reggie Perrin in The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin (1976–79), and the phlegmatic dentist Ben Parkinson in Butterflies (1978–1983). He also played Doctor Price in the Fawlty Towers episode "The Kipper and the Corpse" (1979), determined to have breakfast amidst the confusion caused by the death of a guest and Fawlty's inept way of handling the emergency. In 1986, Palmer appeared as Donald Fairchild in the first series of an ITV sitcom, Executive Stress, alongside Penelope Keith. He later left, and was replaced by Peter Bowles.

Palmer later starred opposite Judi Dench for over a decade in another BBC sitcom, As Time Goes By (1992–2005). In 1997, he also appeared with Dench in the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies, in which he portrayed Admiral Roebuck, and Mrs Brown, playing Sir Henry Ponsonby to Dench's Queen Victoria.

Palmer's voice-over skills led to frequent work in commercials. Campaigns he was involved with include the 'Slam in the Lamb' ads for the Meat & Livestock Commission and the Audi commercials in which he was heard using the phrase "Vorsprung durch Technik". As a narrator, he worked on the BBC series' Grumpy Old Men and Grumpy Old Holidays, as well as narrating the audiobook version of Dickens' A Christmas Carol, released in 2005 as a podcast by Penguin Books. He narrated the documentary series Little England, and he continued to appear in productions written by Reggie Perrin creator David Nobbs, the last of these being the radio comedy The Maltby Collection broadcast from 2007.

In the 2006 DVD series The Compleat Angler, Palmer partnered Rae Borras in a series of episodes based on Izaak Walton's 1653 The Compleat Angler. In 2007, he recorded The Diary of a Nobody by George Grossmith and Weedon Grossmith as an online audiobook. In December 2007, Palmer appeared in the role of the Captain in "Voyage of the Damned", the Christmas special episode of the BBC science-fiction series Doctor Who; Palmer previously appeared in the classic era of the show in the Third Doctor serials Doctor Who and the Silurians (1970) (as Masters) and The Mutants (1972) (as the Administrator). In March 2009, he joined in a sketch with the two double acts Armstrong and Miller and Mitchell and Webb for Comic Relief. In 2011, he played the reactionary father-in-law of the eponymous clergyman of Rev. in its Christmas episode.

Personal life and death

Palmer married Sally Green in 1963. They had a daughter, Harriet, and a son, Charles, a television director. Palmer lived at Lee Common in the Chiltern Hills, Buckinghamshire, and enjoyed fly fishing in his spare time.

Palmer died at his home on 5 November 2020 following a short illness, aged 93.

Awards and recognition

In the New Year's Honours List published 31 December 2004 he was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to drama. A drawing of Palmer by Stuart Pearson Wright is in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery, London.




  • At Home with the Snails (2001–2002)
  • Les Misérables as Inspector Javert (2002)
  • The Man Who Was Thursday (2005)
  • High Table, Lower Orders (2005–2006)
  • The Maltby Collection (2007–2009)
  • A Murder of Quality (2009)
  • The Screwtape Letters as C.S. Lewis (2009)
  • North by Northamptonshire (2011–2012)
  • Two Pipe Problems: The Case of the Missing Meerschaum as Mortimer Tregennis (2011)


  • The Army Game (1958–1960) as Various Characters
  • The Strange World of Gurney Slade (1960) as Television Studio Floor Manager in Episode 1
  • The Avengers:
    • "Propellant 23" (1962) as Paul Manning
    • "Man with Two Shadows" (1963) as Dr. Terence
    • "A Surfeit of H2O" (1965) as Martin Smythe
  • The Saint:
    • "The Rough Diamonds" (1963) as Pete Ferguson
  • Gideon's Way (TV Series)
    • "The Alibi Man" (1965) as Jeff Grant
  • Out of the Unknown
    • "No Place Like Earth" (1965) as Chief Officer
  • The Baron:
    • "Masquerade" (1966) as Anstruther
    • "The Killing" (1966) as Anstruther
  • The Wednesday Play:
    • Cathy Come Home (1966) as Property Agent
  • Mrs Thursday (1966) as Henry Baxter
  • Best of Enemies (1968) as Johnson
  • Doctor Who
    • "Doctor Who and the Silurians" (1970) as Masters
    • "The Mutants" (1972) as Administrator
    • "Voyage of the Damned" (2007) as Captain Hardaker
  • Colditz – Gone Away Part 1 (1972) as Doc
  • Whodunnit! (1975) as Suspect
  • The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin (1976–1979) as Jimmy Anderson
  • Butterflies (1978–1983) as Ben Parkinson
  • The Sweeney (1978) as Commander Watson in "Feet of Clay"
  • The Professionals (1978) as Sinclair in "Where The Jungle Ends"
  • Fawlty Towers- "The Kipper and the Corpse" (1979) as Dr. Price
  • The Goodies (1980) as School Headmaster
  • The Last Song (1981) as Leo Bannister
  • Whoops Apocalypse (1982) as Foreign Secretary
  • Death of an Expert Witness (1983) as Dr. Edwin Lorrimer
  • The Professionals (1983) as Avery in "The Ojuka Situation"
  • Fairly Secret Army (1984–1986) as Major Harry Kitchener Wellington Truscott
  • Executive Stress (1986 first series only) as Donald Fairchild No. 1
  • Season's Greetings (1986) as Bernard
  • Hot Metal (1986) as Harold Stringer
  • Christabel (1988) as Mr. Burton
  • Blackadder Goes Forth
  • Inspector Morse
    • "The Infernal Serpent" (1990) as Matthew Copley-Barnes
  • Bergerac
    • "Roots of Evil" (1990)as Nigel Carter
  • As Time Goes By (1992–2005) as Lionel Hardcastle
  • Mr. Men and Little Miss as the Narrator and Santa Claus (in "The Christmas Letter")
  • The Legacy of Reginald Perrin (1996) as Jimmy Anderson
  • Alice through the Looking Glass (1998) as White King
  • The Savages (2001) as Donald
  • The 1940s House (2001) as Narrator
  • Stig of the Dump (2002) as Robert
  • Absolute Power (2003) as Lord Harcourt
  • Grumpy Old Men (2003–2004, 2006) as Narrator
  • He Knew He Was Right (2004) as Sir Marmaduke Rowley
  • Grumpy Old Holidays (2006) as Narrator
  • Ashes to Ashes:
    • "Episode 8" (2008); as Lord Scarman
  • The Long Walk to Finchley (2008); as John Crowder
  • Agatha Christie's Poirot:
    • "The Clocks" (2011) as Vice Admiral Hamling
  • Grandpa in My Pocket
    • "Captain Dumbletwit's Toughest Mission Yet!" (2010) as Grandad Gillbert
  • Rev
    • "Christmas Special" Series 2, episode 7 (2011) as Martin
  • Henry IV, Part II (2012); as Lord Chief Justice
  • Royal Variety Performance (2014); as the announcer (voice-only)


  • A Prize of Arms (1962) as Cpl. Myers
  • Incident at Midnight (1963) as Dr. Tanfield
  • Ring of Spies (1964) as Police Officer (uncredited)
  • Cast a Giant Shadow (1966) as David (uncredited)
  • O Lucky Man! (1973) as Examinator Doctor / Basil Keyes
  • The Battle of Billy's Pond (1976) – First Policeman
  • The Outsider (1979) as Colonel Wyndham
  • The Honorary Consul (1983) as Belfrage: British Ambassador
  • A Zed & Two Noughts (1985) as Fallast
  • Clockwise (1986) as Headmaster
  • A Fish Called Wanda (1988) as Judge
  • Hawks (1988) as SAAB Salesman
  • The Madness of King George (1994) as Warren
  • Mrs. Brown (1997) as Henry Ponsonby
  • Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) as Admiral Roebuck
  • Stiff Upper Lips (1998) as His Butler's Voice
  • Anna and the King (1999) as Lord John Bradley
  • Rat (2000) as The Doctor
  • Peter Pan (2003) as Sir Edward Quiller Couch
  • Piccadilly Jim (2004) as Bayliss
  • The Pink Panther 2 (2009) as Joubert
  • W.E. (2011) as Stanley Baldwin
  • Lost Christmas (2011) as Dr. Clarence
  • Run for Your Wife (2012) as Man on Bus
  • Bert and Dickie (2012) as Charles Burnell
  • The Last Sparks of Sundown (2014) as Sir Buster Sparks (voice)
  • Paddington (2014) as The Boss Geographer
  • To Olivia (2021) as Geoffrey Fisher (final film role)

Recordings (spoken word)

  • Welcome to the Pleasuredome (Fruitness Mix) (1985)
  • The Diary of a Nobody (2007)

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Geoffrey Palmer para niños

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