It was with great sadness that I today learned of the death of the British actor Peter Vaughan.
He had a varied and distinguished career, but I will always remember him best as "Genial" Harry Grout in the classic 1970s television sitcom Porridge, which was set in a prison.
In Porridge the Harry Grout character was the prison's "Mr. Big", who appeared to control most things which occurred in the institution, and who inspired fear and apprehension in his fellow inmates as well as the staff.
The character only appeared in three episodes of the show, as well as the 1979 movie spin-off, but the impact of Vaughan's portrayal, and the superb writing of Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, made it seem like he was a permanent fixture. Vaughan managed to convey an effortless but almost avuncular menace, and his scenes with Norman Stanley Fletcher (played by Ronnie Barker) were particularly memorable and amusing.
Interestingly, Peter Vaughan also appeared in an excellent episode (entitled "Stay Lucky Eh?") of the groundbreaking crime show The Sweeney, playing a character not totally dissimilar to Harry Grout, with the difference that he was "on the outside".
However, the Harry Grout character remains as one of the most enduring and fascinating in British sitcoms, and as an illustration of Peter Vaughan's talents.