Arthur Brough (5 feet 2 inches (1.57 m)) originally wanted to become a teacher, but failed to gain such employment, and worked in a solicitor’s office. He found this job too mundane and he began to take an interest in the theatre. After indulging in amateur theatricals, Brough attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in the mid-1920s. After graduating, he joined a Shakespearean theatrical troupe, where he met his wife-to-be, actress Elizabeth Addyman. After they married, they used their wedding dowry as collateral to rent the Leas Pavilion, a repertory theatre in Folkestone, Kent. They had one daughter, Joanna, who was educated at Ashford School for Girls. Arthur Brough ran the company (“The Arthur Brough Players”) and acted in the shows and, once the new Folkestone rep was established, he established new repertory companies in Bradford, Bristol, Blackpool, Keighley, Leeds, Lincoln, Oxford and Southampton, as well as other acting companies throughout the country. With the outbreak of World War II, he enlisted in the Royal Navy, in which he served for the duration of the war. His service included helping with the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940, his ship returning to the rescue scene several times.
Following demobilisation, he resumed his acting career and reopened the Folkestone rep. Many prominent actors began their careers with the Arthur Brough Players, including Peter Barkworth, who appeared in The Guinea Pig in 1948: Eric Lander, later a star of the TV series No Hiding Place, in 1949: Polly James in the 1960s: and Anne Stallybrass, who started out as ASM in 1960 and went on to play Ida the maid in Pool’s Paradise by Philip King; as well as appearing in The Aspern Papers, Candida, and A Taste of Honey at the little Folkestone theatre. Others included Andrew Jack: Sydney Sturgess, who went on to marry Barry Morse: and Trevor Bannister, who would later act alongside Brough in Are You Being Served? In those days a local repertory company would present a fresh play each week, to rival the cinemas, with a small stable cast rehearsing one play by day, whilst performing what they had rehearsed the previous week each evening, with a mid-week ‘tea’ matinee. Since there was a limited number of actors in the company for economic reasons, they often had to play characters far from their own age or appearance. Brough took his company on tour, and helped establish rep companies in Southend and Eastbourne.
With the rise of television, Brough predicted the eclipse of repertory theatre as a viable entertainment form. In the 1960s he began seeking roles in the mass media, appearing in small roles in movies and television. His daughter, Joanna Hutton, said this about his forecast of the decline of repertory theatre: “He was very astute and unsentimental about it. He realized the era was over and that he must diversify”. According to his daughter, he first found it hard adjusting from stage to screen. “He realized how hammy he was. He used to take the mickey out of himself; he’d always acted in a Shakespearean manner and suddenly realized he had to tone down his performance for film”. One of the first jobs Brough did away from the stage was the film The Green Man with Alastair Sim, in which he played the landlord of the eponymous hotel. He had a minor role opposite Jayne Mansfield in The Challenge (1960), and made guest appearances in TV shows such as Upstairs, Downstairs (Episode 3.2), Dad’s Army, Z-Cars, The Persuaders, Adam Adamant Lives!, Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) and Jason King. He also continued to appear in theatrical productions, including Half a Sixpence (1967), playing a shopkeeper. The Folkestone Rep continued until 1969 before closing at the time that Brough’s wife Elizabeth began to suffer ill-health.
In 1972, Arthur Brough was cast as Ernest Grainger in the BBC sitcom Are You Being Served? by Jeremy Lloyd and David Croft. Initially a pilot episode in the Comedy Playhouse slot, it was well received and commissioned for a series in early 1973. Set in a fading department store, Brough played the senior menswear salesman, with assistants Mr. Humphries (John Inman) and Mr. Lucas (Trevor Bannister). The show became enormously popular, with an audience of 22 million in 1979, and ran until 1985. After the show completed its fifth season in 1977, all was going well when, on Easter Sunday 26 March 1978, Arthur Brough’s wife of 50 years, Elizabeth, died, and the emotionally devastated Brough announced he was quitting acting. According to his daughter, he stayed with her for a few weeks, during which time Jeremy Lloyd and David Croft made contact to say they were writing him into the next series. However, Arthur Brough died just two months after his wife, on 28 May 1978, in Folkestone. Croft decided not to have another actor take over the part of Mr. Grainger, so his character in Are You Being Served? was replaced by Mr. Tebbs, played by James Hayter.
- February, 26, 1905
- United Kingdom
- Petersfield, Hampshire, England
- May, 28, 1978
- United Kingdom
- Folkestone, Kent, England
- Golders Green Crematorium
- Golders Green, London, England