Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
O'Sullivan, Richard (1944-)


Main image of O'Sullivan, Richard (1944-)

As a child/youth actor through the 1950s and 1960s in multiple film parts - the Children's Film Foundation's first serial production Raiders of the River (d. John Haggarty, 1955), Louis XVI's son in Dangerous Exile (d. Brian Desmond Hurst, 1957), Elizabeth Taylor's younger brother Ptolemy in Cleopatra (US, 1963), for example - Richard O'Sullivan gained a wealth of dramatic experience before deciding to divert his talents to the world of television sitcoms. A disappointing choice, perhaps, especially since his early work (the unjustly thrashed pupil in Leslie Norman's 1961 school-reform drama Spare the Rod is one of particular note) displayed a promise for more worthwhile roles.

Following comedy appearances in such late 1960s favourites as The Ronnie Barker Playhouse (ITV, 1968) and Father, Dear Father (ITV, 1968-73; 1978-79), he joined the regular cast of LWT's Doctor at Large (ITV, 1971) as a prissy, by-the-book doctor who became such a popular foil in many of the scripts that he continued in Doctor in Charge (ITV, 1972-73). In 1972 he very nearly upstaged co-star Beryl Reid as the baffled Gander in the 6-episode sitcom Alcock and Gander (ITV), about a dubious Soho-based business partnership.

The notion of presenting a situation comedy series structured around a man sharing a London flat with two girls as something perilously permissive in 1973 seemed absurd, yet, somehow, Man About the House (ITV, 1973-76), with scripts teetering on the edge of end-of-the-pier humour, became a national favourite. Lead players Paula Wilcox, Sally Thomsett and O'Sullivan supplied the appropriate youthfulness while the excellent supporting players Yootha Joyce and Brian Murphy stole the show. The latter moved on to their own series (George and Mildred, ITV, 1976-78) while O'Sullivan's character moved into Robin's Nest (ITV, 1977-81) as a novice restaurateur.

By casting against type, Dick Turpin (ITV, 1979-82) became a personal triumph, involving some slick swordplay and Fairbanksian athletics along with a dash of unexpected Tom Jones ribaldry. Playing up the lovable rascal aspect, with a mocking sense of humour, he created a spirited character that once again attracted the viewers' curiosity.

A return to standard-format sitcom work with Me and My Girl (ITV, 1984-88), as a widower with a young daughter, and Trouble in Mind (ITV, 1991), as a psychiatrist with two daughters and a feisty wife, may have been more of a professional requirement than a fancy for the formulaic.

Tise Vahimagi

More information


From the BFI's filmographic database

Related media

Selected credits

Thumbnail image of Young Ones, The (1961)Young Ones, The (1961)

Exuberant musical in which Cliff Richard and pals fight to save their youth club

Thumbnail image of Man About the House (1973-76)Man About the House (1973-76)

Not-so-permissive sitcom about a mixed-sex flat share

Related collections

Related people and organisations