Nicholas Smith, best known for his role as Mr Rumbold in the BBC sitcom Are You Being Served?, passed away on 6 December 2015 at the age of 81. He was the last surviving member of the original cast of the show, which ran from 1972 to 1985 and attracted millions of viewers with its humour and innuendo.
A Versatile and Talented Performer
Smith was born in Banstead, Surrey, in 1934, and attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. He started his career in theatre, appearing in repertory, West End and Broadway productions. He also played musical instruments, studied singing and composed his own
Smith’s television debut was in Doctor Who in 1964, where he played a character named Wells in the serial The Dalek Invasion of Earth. He also had roles in other popular shows such as The Saint, The Avengers, The Champions and Z-Cars.
The Iconic Mr Rumbold
Smith’s most famous role was that of Mr Cuthbert “Jug Ears” Rumbold, the manager of the menswear and ladieswear departments in the fictional Grace Brothers department store. He starred in Are You Being Served? from its pilot episode in 1972 until its final episode in 1985, as well as in the spin-off film in 1977 and the sequel series Grace & Favour in 1992 and 1993.
Smith’s character was often the butt of jokes from his subordinates, especially Mr Lucas (Trevor Bannister) and Mr Humphries (John Inman), who mocked his large ears, bald head and inept management skills. He also had to deal with the eccentricities of the store’s owners, Mr Grace (Harold Bennett) and Young Mr Grace (Kenneth Waller), and the rivalry between the sales staff of the two departments.
Smith’s portrayal of Mr Rumbold was praised by critics and fans alike, who found him hilarious and endearing. He had a great chemistry with his co-stars, who included Mollie Sugden, Frank Thornton, Wendy Richard, Arthur Brough, Nicholas Smith, Arthur English and Mike Berry.
Other Notable Works
Apart from Are You Being Served?, Smith also appeared in several films, such as Salt and Pepper (1968), A Walk with Love and Death (1969), The Twelve Chairs (1970), The Canterbury Tales (1972) and The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother (1975).
In 2008, he made his last television appearance as a vicar in Last of the Summer Wine. He also wrote a memoir, titled Do You Think That’s Wise?: The Life of John Le Mesurier, which was published in 2010.
A Sad Loss for the Entertainment Industry
Smith’s death was mourned by many of his colleagues and admirers, who expressed their condolences and appreciation for his work.
Smith’s death also marked the end of an era for British comedy, as he was the last of the original cast of Are You Being Served?
Nicholas Smith was a talented and versatile performer, who brought joy and laughter to millions of people with his role as Mr Rumbold. He will be greatly missed, but his legacy will live on through his work. Rest in peace, Nicholas Smith. You have been served well.