Been and Gone: Farewell to Danger Mouse co-creator and a teen heart-throb
Our regular column covering the passing of significant - but lesser-reported - people of the past month.
Well-known for his work in the Daily Mirror and Punch, in the early days of his career cartoonist David Langdon's posters were a familiar sight to wartime travellers on London Transport. His creation, the bowler-hatted Billy Brown, delivered rhyming public service messages to passengers, although the somewhat pompous Billy was not always appreciated. One poster attempted to stop passengers removing blackout screening from train windows with the message: "I trust you'll pardon my correction, that stuff is there for your protection." One frustrated commuter scrawled underneath: "Thank you for the information, but I can't see my bloody station." Langdon began his career in local government but started sending cartoons to his staff magazine. He became a regular contributor to Punch magazine, where he was a master of the one-line joke. He spent most of his post-war career with Mirror newspapers but was also much in demand for advertisements, with work commissioned by companies such as Schweppes and Bovril.
The actor Richard Morant managed to be both villain and heart-throb when he played the bully Flashman in a 1971 BBC adaptation of Tom Brown's Schooldays. While incurring the enmity of viewers as he roasted young Tom against an open fire, his dashing good looks made him an object of desire for a generation of teenage girls. He continued to keep female hearts fluttering as the dashing Dr Dwight Enys in the BBC series Poldark, where a romance with the actress Keren Daniel ended in tragedy. The nephew of actor Bill Travers, he was equally at home on the stage where he won plaudits for his starring role in Noel Coward's Private Lives. He became a businessman in 2005 when he inherited an upmarket carpet and textile business in London's Notting Hill.
Danger Mouse was just one of the many characters created by the animation company, Cosgrove Hall, co-founded by Mark Hall and his partner Brian Cosgrove. The pair began making stop-frame animations in Manchester in 1969. Hall had been fascinated by puppets when he was a child and met Cosgrove when they both worked as graphic designers at Granada Television. Thames Television backed the pair, whose first major production was Chorlton and the Wheelies. It sold worldwide and made the studio's reputation. Hall was mainly responsible for the animation and the business side of the operation. They went on to produce a string of successful series including Danger Mouse, Count Duckula and a highly acclaimed version of The Wind in the Willows. In the late 1970s their work reached an adult audience when they produced the Captain Kremmen comic strip for the Kenny Everett Video Show.
When Ringo Starr quit Rory Storm and the Hurricanes to join The Beatles in 1962, his replacement was a drummer named Keef Hartley. Hartley had been a regular fixture on the Liverpool music scene of the late 1950s, where musicians often floated from one band to another. By 1967 he had attracted the attention of John Mayall and drummed on two Bluesbreakers albums before falling victim to Mayall's propensity to change his line-ups at frequent intervals. Hartley went on to form The Keef Hartley Band and played the Woodstock Festival in 1969, but they found themselves having to follow Santana on stage after the Latin American combo had wowed the audience with a high voltage set. Hartley decided to kick off with a slow number and, as he later admitted, "it went downhill from there". The band released a total of five albums and Hartley continued to work until his death.
The alliance between humans and dragons formed the basis of the best-selling novels by the writer Anne McCaffrey. Critics argued over whether she was a writer of science fiction or fantasy but she firmly rejected the fantasy label, pointing out that her dragons had been genetically engineered. She had dabbled with short stories for some 20 years before Dragonflight was published in 1968, the first of the original Dragonriders of Pern trilogy. She moved to Ireland in 1970 and struggled financially for several years. The last novel of the trilogy, The White Dragon, saw her become the first woman science fiction writer to make the New York Times best-seller list and cemented her reputation. In all, more than 20 Pern books were published, some of the latter ones written in collaboration with her son Todd.
The sleek lines of the French Train a Grande Vitesse (TGV) are the work of the designer Roger Tallon. In designing the iconic train he set out to use shape and colour to give the impression that it was one complete and seamless whole, rather than a collection of carriages coupled together. Not content with just working on the shell of the train itself, he also designed the interior fittings, making sure that the shapes of the seats and the interior lights became part of the overall look of the TGV. He began his career in the 1950s designing household appliances for companies such as Frigidaire but he soon moved into designing transport, including trains for the Mexico City subway and the cable car to the top of Montmartre in Paris. He also designed the shuttle trains used by Eurotunnel.
Among others who died in November were actress Dulcie Gray, famous for Howards' Way; the enfant terrible of British cinema, director Ken Russell; the playwright Shelagh Delaney; Wales football manager Gary Speed and the cricketer Basil D'Oliveira, whose exclusion from a tour to South Africa triggered a boycott of the country's sporting teams.