Saturday, April 8, 2017

Rikki Fulton (1924 - 2004)




Robert Kerr Fulton was born in Dennistoun, Glasgow in 1924. The youngest of three brothers, the family moved to Riddrie, when Rikki was three. His mother did not keep well and Rikki grew up as a bit of a loaner but with a veracious reading habit. His father had been a master locksmith but bought a newsagent and stationery shop. Fulton completed his secondary education at Whitehill Secondary School in 1939. He wanted to become an actor but initially worked in the family's stationery business. When he was 17, he joined the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve, and served until 1945. He took up straight acting and had a knack for accents Rikki worked his way through local repertory theatre, into broadcasting on the BBC Home Service (Scotland). With a foot on the ladder he gave up his interest in the stationary business to concentrate upon his acting career.



He moved to London in 1953, and became the laconic compere of The Show Band Show (Cyril Stapleton) on the Light Programme. There he worked with several luminaries including Frank Sinatra.







In 1953, he made his film debut playing a poacher in the romantic comedy Laxdale Hall (Released in the US as Scotch on the Rocks).



Rikki wanted to be a comic and started to write his own material and on his return to Scotland in 1954, became a regular on Five Past Eight at the Glasgow Alhambra and the King's Theatre in Edinburgh. Although principally based in Scotland he was invited to appear on Bernard Delfont's Sunday Show in 1959 as "the new UK comedy personality".



In 1960 and 1961, he starred in two Saturday night specials for the BBC, called The Rikki Fulton Show, with Ethel Scott (his wife) as his foil. Both shows enjoyed peek viewing. He loved pantomime and starred in "A Wish for Jamie," with Kenneth McKellar and Fay Lenore, which premiered at the Alhambra Theatre Glasgow in 1960, and its sequel "A Love for Jamie," which ran for three consecutive winters.



While working at the King's Theatre, Edinburgh, Fulton met comedian Jack Milroy. Together they created a stage double act of two gormless Corner Boys from Glasgow named "Francie and Josie". In 1962, Scottish Television featured a new series called The Adventures of Francie and Josie. which established both Fulton and Milroy as household names in Scotland. By the mid 60s, he was the star of the Rikki Fulton Hour (Scottish Television), which featured a series of hilarious sketches.



From the success of Francie and Josie, Rikki decided to return to straight roles and appeared at the 1973 Edinburgh Festival playing "Flatterie" in a pre-Reformation satire entitled ‘Ane Pleasant Satyre of the Thrie Estaitis in Commendatioun of Vertew and Vituperatioun of Vyce. He also played Andrew Fairservice in BBC TV's serialisation of Sir Walter Scott's Rob Roy (1977). Two years later he was the Laird O'Grippy in the televised adaptation of Molière's The Miser. He continued to perform regularly in pantomime , mostly notably with the Royal Lyceum Company in Edinburgh and the Scottish Theatre Company based in Glasgow. In 1978, he began Scotch and Wry series on the BBC and it continued for another 15 years. The comedy sketch show with a distinct Scottish accent became an institution at Hogmanay. The series established the character of Fulton's lugubrious television vicar the Rev I.M. Jolly. Another well-remembered character was Supercop, a glaikit police motorcyclist whose persecution of drivers always began with the words: "OK Stirling, oot the car."







In 1980, Rikki played the elder, John Fleming in The Sandyford Place Mystery: Square Mile of Murder (TV Series) and in the following year appeared as Robbie Kerr in Nothing Like a Dame. More straight roles followed with Autolycus, in the BBC Television Shakespeare production of The Winter's Tale (1981), then Lord Justice Clerk in Boswell for the Defence, (1983). Guest appearances in Bergerac (1981), The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady (1984), and Scotland's Story, an epic dramatised history for Channel Four, saw him back on the small screen. Rikki Fulton returned to cinema in 1981, with The Dollar Bottom, and shocked his Scottish fans with his cruel eyed and saturine rendition of the KGB major in Gorky Park (1983). He appeared in Bill Forsyth's Local Hero (1983) and Comfort and Joy (1984). Back treading the boards, he won acclaim in his and Denise Coffey's reworking of Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme as A Wee Touch o' Class at the 1985 Edinburgh festival.



Rikki played Dan Macphail, the engineer, in The Tales of Para Handy in BBC’s follow up to The Vital Spark. The series ran from 1994 to 1995.



In 1996, after 36 years of performing as Francie and Josie, Fulton and Milroy appeared in their "Final Farewell" at the King's Theatre, Glasgow. Rikki Fulton's last full performance on television came in 1998, his second appearance in Rab C. Nesbitt.



In 2002, Rikki Fulton was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and died peacefully at the age of 79 in 2004. In tribute to his Scotch and Wry character Supercop, police motorcyclists escorted the funeral cortège as it made its way to the Crematorium.

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