|Subject: Iain Cuthbertson, British actor
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Date Posted: 09/ 8/09 11:38:56am
From The Times
September 8, 2009
Iain Cuthbertson: actor in the TV show Sutherland's Law
Standing well over 6ft, Iain Cuthbertson was a Scottish
actor of towering presence. He was best known for his
starring roles in the television series Budgie and
Sutherland's Law. He also had a distinguished career on the
stage, and for three years he ran the Citizens Theatre in
In January 1982 he suffered a crippling stroke that left him
temporarily paralysed and unable to speak. At one time his
very survival was in doubt, but he came through. He refused
to accept that he would not work again, though it was 18
months before he was able to do so.
He was forced to give up the stage, his first love, in case
he forgot his words, and although he returned to television
and the cinema, where his lines could be displayed on crib
boards, his career never regained its former momentum.
Iain Cuthbertson was born in 1930 in Glasgow, the son of Sir
David Cuthbertson, a distinguished biochemist and part of
the team that invented the saline drip. He was educated at
Glasgow Academy, Aberdeen Grammar School and the University
of Aberdeen, where he read languages. Determined not to
follow his father into science, he finally settled for
acting only when he was 25.
He began his professional career in radio and made his first
stage appearance in 1955, when he played twin brothers in
The Man Upstairs. His early stage experience included a tour
of Lanarkshire working men's clubs, appearing before
audiences of miners, some of whom had never seen a play
In 1958 he joined the Citizens Theatre, where his parts
included Othello and Big Daddy in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. He
became general manager and director of productions at the
Citizens in 1962 and during his time there created the part
of Armstrong in John Arden's play, Armstrong's Last
In 1965 he moved to the Royal Court Theatre in London as
associate director and during his time at the Court he
played Musgrave in another Arden play, Serjeant Musgrave's
Dance, and translated and directed Alfred Jarry's surreal
play, Ubu Roi, with the comedian Max Wall in the lead.
From the late 1960s he concentrated on television. His first
notable vehicle was The Borderers, an adventure series set
in 17th-century Scotland, in which he played the canny
warden helping to settle disputes. It was a sort of Scottish
western with Cuthbertson as the sheriff.
It was followed in 1971 by Budgie, which was written by the
prolific team of Keith Waterhouse (obituary, September 5)
and Willis Hall and ran for three seasons. Adam Faith
starred as a London spiv with Cuthbertson as a rough but
endearing Glasgow gangster called Charlie Endell. The
character became popular enough to spawn a spin-off series,
Charlie Endell Esquire. Cuthbertson also appeared in Doctor
Who, Z Cars, The Onedin Line and many other long-running
television shows. In 1976 he had another personal success in
a well-crafted BBC series, Sutherland's Law, as a procurator
fiscal oiling the wheels of justice in a rural community on
the West Coast of Scotland. Resuming his stage career in the
late 1970s, he played the Major-Domo in Ariadne auf Naxos
for Scottish Opera.
Just before suffering his stroke Cuthbertson had completed
four episodes of an ITV drama, Rep, set in a seaside
repertory theatre in the 1940s. A planned second series had
to be cancelled. His first substantial television assignment
after his recovery was the children's series Supergran.
In the cinema Cuthbertson was the father wrongly imprisoned
as a spy in Lionel Jeffries's affectionate version of The
Railway Children. He played the Lord Chancellor in Scandal,
the 1988 film about the Profumo affair, and Dr Leakey in
Gorillas in the Mist, with Sigourney Weaver.
In 1997, after a long period without work, he returned to
television in an ITV drama, Painted Lady, with Helen Mirren,
and two years later he played a Scottish doctor in the film,
The Titchborne Claimant. In addition to appearing in a
couple of episodes of the television series Casualty, he had
a role in Strictly Sinatra (2001), written and directed by
Peter Capaldi, and played the ghost in a 2003 film version
From 1975 to 1978 he was Rector of the University of
Aberdeen. Although it was an honorary position he filled it
conscientiously and once drove through the night to defuse a
Cuthbertson's first marriage, to the actress Anne Kristen,
was dissolved in 1988. His second wife was Janet Mary Smith.
There were no children.
Iain Cuthbertson, actor, was born on January 4, 1930. He
died on September 4, 2009, aged 79
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