The Ten Hardest Drinking British Actors Ever

Forget O'Toole, Reed and Harris, these ten boozers would have finished them off before leaving for the pub...
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Forget O'Toole, Reed and Harris, these ten boozers would have finished them off before leaving for the pub...

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Legendary pisshead, Brendan Behan, once boasted that he only drank, firstly: when he was thirsty, and secondly: when he wasn't. Much like Messrs Burton, Harris, O'Toole et al: gifted glory boys of post-war Britain who revelled in having a good time all the time, to the point where, decades later, tales of their shenanigans are still being spewed forth. Which is all fine and dandy, but there's a plethora of equally impressive bottle jobs, perhaps never quite given the credit or publicity their consumption deserves. Somewhere, there's an even bigger list of omissions containing names like Trevor Howard, Robert Stephens, and Carol White. One day their wicked, wicked ways will to be told. In the meantime, fill yer boots with this lot. Salut!

Ian Hendry
The Avengers star was so devoted to the sauce, that when filming The Sweeney in the mid-70's, he would bugger off to the boozer and down half pints of brandy - as you do. Hendry's film career had stalled by this point, his actress wife having snuffed it early doors. Little wonder he dedicated the remainder of his years to full-on oblivion. He should have been a big star, but ended his acting daze in scouse soap, Brookside - a brief, shambolic appearance on This Is Your Life his last hurrah. He died in 1984, aged 53.

Rachel Roberts
Best remembered for This Sporting Life and Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, Roberts was crippled by depression and alcoholism following her divorce from lecherous lothario, Rex Harrison. Not adverse to shows of public humiliation, an appearance on the Russell Harty chat show was so drunkenly chaotic (she called the host, 'a silly cunt') that the tapes were subsequently destroyed. Worse was to follow when she waylaid Hollywood actor, Bob Mitchum at a party, crawling up to the great man on her hands and knees, pawing his leg, barking like a dog and nuzzling at his crotch. An overdose in 1980 ended the life of a seriously troubled woman.

Dennis Price
A trawl through the archives and one name forever stands out: Dennis Price. Aside from Kind Hearts and Coronets and his role as Jeeves in the mid-60's, the vast majority of Price's acting output was fucking awful - blamed primarily on his herculean booze habit. Anyone for, er, Vampyros Lesbos? Bankruptcy, gambling, failed suicide attempts all played a part in the suave actor's private life. In his remaining years, Dennis the Menace would have a crate of Guinness delivered to him each morning prior to filming, finishing the day with shitloads of scotch. Unsurprisingly, he died of liver cirrhosis.

Charles Hawtrey
Infamous for being an awkward little bastard when he'd had a few, the actor with 60-odd films under his belt retired to Kent in the 1980's to Carry on Drinking. Bevvied up after (another) night on the drink, Hawtrey's house caught fire in 1984, the resultant carnage splashed across newspapers with the weedy actor looking rough as fuck and in the company of a much younger man. A discarded fag was said to be the cause - really. Four years later, at the age of 73, he breathed his last, not long after being told by hospital staff his legs would be amputated due to decades of prodigious smoking.

Yootha Joyce
Fondly remembered for her role as the cock-deprived suburbanite in 70's sitcom, George and Mildred, Joyce kept her demons firmly under wraps. Unlike Rachel Roberts, for instance, boozy gossip about Joyce is virtually non-existent. Although throwing back more than half a bottle of brandy a day for a decade, the actress remained forever the pro, always on cue, until physical frailties convinced many that something wasn't quite right. A failed relationship only boosted her boozing. She took her last drink in 1980, aged 53.

Rumour has it that he was locked in his dressing room in between takes during the 60's Edgar Wallace series to keep him from the bottle, but the crafty old goat hired a willing participant to feed a straw through the keyhole, thereby getting royally sloshed.

Michael Elphick
Perhaps little needs to be said of the Boon star: his physical deterioration towards the end of his life tells you all you need to know. Hardly surprising, really, when you consider that, at his peak, Elphick was on two bottles of vodka a day. A long-time drinker, the death of his partner in the mid-1990's kick-started his habit, and despite numerous attempts to knock it on the head, the thirst to get utterly rat-arsed slowly took him down. Elphick's last prominent role was in Eastenders, one which didn't last, after he appeared at an awards ceremony three sheets to the wind. A heart attack finished him off in 2002.

Kevin Lloyd
The perils of a punishing work schedule took its toll on Lloyd - known for a decade as ‘Tosh’ Lines in TV's crap cop caper, The Bill. A truly punishing work schedule and a six-hour daily commute took their toll. Cue lots of drinking, ropey health and a failed marriage. Soon Lloyd was given the boot after arriving at work all juiced up. Buggering off to a drying out clinic, he embarked on a final heroic bender shortly after arrival. Still in his forties, he was found dead in bed having choked on his vomit. Incidentally, Lloyd's brother, Terry, an ITN news correspondent, was murdered in Iraq in 2003.

Bernard Lee
No shaken martinis, only fine wine, in abundance, stirred this fella. An accomplished imbiber, Lee once drank Richard Burton under the table. Licking his wounds, Burton readily admitted that he wasn't in the same league as the Bond actor. Rumour has it that he was locked in his dressing room in between takes during the 60's Edgar Wallace series to keep him from the bottle, but the crafty old goat hired a willing participant to feed a straw through the keyhole, thereby getting royally sloshed. Croaked it in 1981. Grandfather, incidentally, of rubbish actor, Jonny Lee Miller.

Ronald Fraser
A self-proclaimed 'decaying old thing resembling a porcupine', Fraser earned his drinking spurs by carousing with the likes of Burton and O'Toole in their early days. A well-known figure in the hostelries around his North London home, the star of Flight of the Phoenix and, er, TFI Friday, could often be seen propping up the bar at The Haverstock Arms which now proudly boasts a plaque commemorating the 'incorrigible' Ronnie. The actor once explained away several drink-driving convictions with the immortal words: 'a little revelry on the roads of our kingdom'.

Robert Newton
Remembered for memorable performances in Oliver Twist and Treasure Island, Bob was a man so permanently juiced that he spent the vast majority of his life holding on to the floor. Finding work hard to come by in the 50's, David Niven blagged him a role in Around the World in 80 Days - a film that would be Newton's last. On the wagon at the time, Newton confided in Niven that doctors had warned him one more binge could be fatal. They were right. Bobby suffered a massive heart attack shortly after his 50th birthday. In the immortal words of Melvyn Bragg: 'Drinking was a sovereign unto its own. At that court Newton for a time was King.'

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