The Herbs and The Adventures of Parsley
John Smith's Ad Campaign

The role that many will remember him most for actually came very late in his career in the mid 80's.
Playing a dour Yorkshire stereotype called "Arkwright" in a series of John Smiths Beer commercials (complete with a Jack Russell called "Tonto") And a brand that was later to be plugged by the likes of Jack Dee and Peter Kay of course.

My sincere thanks to Gordon's son,Justin,for supplying pics of one of the printed ads that accompanied the tv campaign.
And you can also see the ads on Justin's YouTube page - link below.
These stills are taken from the film "Carry on Doctor"

The one where Frankie Howerd plays Mr.Bigger who's hospitalised having fallen on his coccyx (what else ?!),
Babs Windsor wears that famous heart-shaped bikini,Jim Dale hurtles around on a hospital trolley,oh and.............Gordon pops up at the end !

And despite being one of the best remembered films in the series,if anyone says they actually remember Gordon in it then I suppose I'll just have to take their word for it.
And I've picked this one largely because it's typical of the screen roles he got.

But it's also pertinent because it's from 1967,and was shot in the same year that he recorded The Herbs,when he was 41.  

He plays the "Night Porter".
And as all the patients march to Dr.Tinkle's office (Kenny Williams),he gets a few lines of protestation before Bernie Bresslaw peels off and pins him to his counter with that glass screen above his head.

 On this page ..... Gordon Rollings - A little homage to the only voice you hear throughout both series.
                             Even if you were a big fan of the 2 Herbs series,there's a pretty good chance you'd look blankly at me if I
                             mentioned the name Gordon Rollings.
                             But his is the only voice you ever hear throughout both series.

                             Not that he should really need any introduction from the likes of me.
                             Because if you narrated a kids' animation show from the mid 60's to the mid 70's,you really couldn't help                                   but be absorbed into the consciousness of millions of kids.At a time when there were still only 3 tv channels,and none of the major counter-attractions we know today like the internet,mobile phones etc

But whilst "golden era" contemporaries like Oliver Postgate (Bagpus,Clangers,Pogles,Ivor,Noggin) and Brian "Camberwick" Cant have subsequently been canonised for their work [and rightly so],Gordon's part in British animation history has been largely overlooked.

Soooo.........step forward Batley-born Gordon Rollings !
If the phrase "jobbing actor" fitted anyone,it fitted Gordon Rollings.
He filled all sorts of minor roles in tv and films.Which he combined with theatre work and commercials,
where he did both on-screen performances and voiceovers.

He had a very distinctive and descriptive face,which became more accentuated with age.
And whilst you'd struggle to put a name to it,you'd more than likely feel you'd seen him somewhere
before,but couldn't quite think where,and in what.
Because whilst he usually had limited screen time,his versatility meant he could crop up anywhere
And his "little & often" approach invariably meant he did !

His film roles were less auspicious than his tv and theatre work,I think it's fair to say.
And his film cv is dotted with examples like "Man in Cap" in the Superman III movie and,intriguingly,as "Humper" in a 1962 film called "A Weekend With Lulu" -No,not that Lulu,and certainly not that kind of humper !

And it seems the further down the bill you were the more chance you'd suffer a mis-credit.
As he was often listed as "Rawlings" or "Rollins"- a fate that befell him,for example,in Dick Lester's 1969 film,"The Bed Sitting Room" where he appeared in another typical role as "drip-feed patient".
The irony of the campaign slogan is that it applies just as much to the actor as the character of course.

And it's all the more poignant because it came in the last few years of his life.

I've seperated the text from the ads just so I could blow it up a bit without enlarging the pics - here
Gordon's son,Justin,has sourced some of his father's ad work and put it on YouTube.
You'll obviously find all the Smith's ones.But check out the 60's Woodbine ads as well,which make good use of his clown training -and the quality of the footage is excellent too.

Gordon's Internet Movie Database entry,which is effectively his online cv. Although it's incomplete

The Actor's Compendium,has a similar brief to the IMDB above.Not as well known but,last time I looked,it was actually making a better fist of it as far as Gordon's concerned.

If you want to read Michael Bond's comments about Gordon,you don't have to leave this site.
Because they're on this page - The Making of Pt.2
The Herbs

Prior to doing The Herbs,he was best known to an adult audience for his tv work.
With his most notable role being Charlie Moffit in the Coronation Street of the mid 60's. Link

But in his formative adult years he actually trained to be a professional clown,as this photo and small accompanying article also reveals Here
So it's maybe no surprise that such an affinity with kids led him to enjoy a brief stint as one of the early presenters of the BBC's iconic "Play School" series,which started in 1964 -a role he shared with Brian Cant among others,who was also a jobbing tv and stage actor of course

All of which meant that when he recorded the voiceovers for The Herbs,in 1967,he was arguably as well known as he ever would be [until the late-in-life John Smiths ad campaign.]

But,I doubt even avid young followers of Play School would have connected the voice to the face.
Particularly as he spent a lot of his Herbs time using accents for the character's rather than his normal voice.
Which was actually very unusual for the Watch With Mother animations,as most of his voiceover contemporaries just relied on intonation to differentiate.

So he undoubtedly gets the prize for the best all-round,virtuoso performance.Even if the audience had no idea who he was.
And whilst I'm not sure how he felt about that particular anomaly,the absence of a face behind the voices did remove any link wih day-to-day reality,making the Herb garden seem that much more of a secret world within a world.
As opposed to ........a contemporary like "Mary,Mungo & Midge",which was done no favours at all by the "celebrity" narration of high profile BBC newsreader Richard Baker.
And,conversely,why everyone completely bought into Basil Brush,because no-one had a clue who Ivan Owen was -a man who's still one of the greatest "unknown" heroes of UK kids' tv,even today. [and unknown completely by choice btw]

Sadly,Gordon also missed out on any retrospective Herbal recognition,as he succumbed to cancer in 1985 -before the kids tv nostalgia boom had really kicked-in.
But his part in that golden age of BBC animation should never be forgotten,or under-estimated.

But,before he passed away,he did at least [and at last] get some major recognition ..................