Patrick Brock

by David Godolphin
Having known Patrick Brock since 1964, I now write to tell you of his death this April. Patrick Brock was an actor who shared with CLASSIC IMAGES' readers his reminiscences of such stage and screen stars as Noel Coward and Joan Crawford.

Born in Dublin in 1915 and initially using the name Cecil Brock, he joined the famous Gate Theatre in 1934 just after Orson Welles had left. Michael MacLiammoir was a leading light of the Gate then, as was Dan O'Herlihy, a distant cousin of Patrick's destined for Hollywood. Another young actor, hailing from Yorkshire, joined the Gate Company at this time and took lodgings with Patrick and his mother - a young man named James Mason.

As Cecil Brock, Patrick made his London debut at the Westminster Theatre in the Gate's production of Hamlet in 1935. Many of the plays he appeared in over the next ten years are now forgotten titles, except perhaps Juno and The Paycock (1937). His last stage role, in 1959, was as Emile in Noel Coward's Look After Lulu which starred Vivien Leigh and Anthony Quayle.

Producer Sidney Box had seen Patrick/Cecil on stage and brought him into movies in 1943 in Men of Rochdale. Among other films he was in Caravan, The Wicked Lady, The Man Who Was Nobody, and (again for Sidney Box) Lilli Marlene (1950). His radio work included that pioneer of British soaps, Mrs. Dale's Diary, now almost a camp classic!

His TV work began in 1953 with roles in BBC "gritty dramas" and "swashbucklers" alongside Errol Flynn, Douglas Fairbanks, and Paulette Goddard and continued through to Granada's acclaimed Edward and Mrs. Simpson in which, now using the name Patrick Brock (who he sometimes pretended was the son of Cecil!), he played King George V's secretary. His last TV role was as Stacey Keach's butler in the miniseries Princess Daisy. If only he could have been Dudley Moore's butler in Arthur!

But if Patrick was not destined for stardom, he met and worked with many who were. And in later life he turned these contacts and acquaintances into the articles familiar to readers of CLASSIC IMAGES. The stars he knew included, of course, James Mason and Vivien Leigh but also Dawn Addams, Maureen O'Hara, Laurence Harvey, and many others.

He claimed to have discovered a beautiful child called Peggy Cummins at a Dublin tram stop in 1938 and introduced her to the Gate Theatre Company, although this is not how Miss Cummins remembers the start of her career. Peggy, like the author of the present article, now lives on the Sussex coast, as does Diana de Rosso, Pamela Mason's half-sister who wrote a delightful memoir of her superstar brother-in-law.

Correspondence with Ramon Novarro, Joan Crawford, and Gloria Swanson blossomed into friendships on Patrick's visits to Dan and Elsie O'Herlihy in Malibu. Closest of all was lovely Mae Clarke, whose photos adorned his room at the Actors' Rest Home in Northwest London where he spent the last two years of his life. Mae gave him a carnelian ring he wore to his dying day. Barbara Stanwyck first had given the ring to Frank Fay who later gave it to Mae. (This ring now passes to Princess Lilian of Sweden, a friend of Patrick's from the 1940s whose first husband was London actor Ivan Craig.)

Going through Patrick's effects after his death, I found a treasure trove of long newsy letters from Mae (I also found a wonderful signed photo of a more notorious Mae, Mae West, which now has pride of place in my hall!)

Patrick's prodigious memory made him a great boon to the rest home, which is full of aging British thespian types (and chanteuse Elizabeth Welch, now 92 but still beguiling). He could recall almost the entire body of work of every resident, more sometimes than they remembered themselves. He will be missed by them as well as by his many friends.

1950s' matinee idol Anthony Steel (still dashingly handsome at 80 and still working for British TV) and Peggy Cummins (charming and elegant at 70-something) were among those who attended his funeral service near the rest home. Patrick would have been very pleased about that.


David Godolphin's novel "Florence of Arabia," a ribald comedy about sex and assassination in the Persian Gulf, is not yet available in a US edition; but it can be obtained from www.amazon.co.uk by those who may be interested in this friend of the friend of the stars, a sometime candidate for the Methodist Mission Field who now writes politically incorrect fiction.


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