You can guess from the poem The Ashes the actress Susan Penhaligon wrote in the memory of her colleague Richard Warwick, that they had a very special friendship out of work.
They were best friends! She loved him! For sure Richard felt the same for her.
From what I got, Richard seemed one of those men with a pleasant temperament and a gentle nature everyone who knew him liked. It must have been tragic for them losing him.
The description of what happened in the poem is so moving but also poetic! I can imagine the friend (her), the lover (Keith Baxter) and the brother (Richard’s) in grief spreading his ashes near a Yew tree, where today yellow daffodils grow all around. No surprises that it was Richard’s favourite place: daffodils are such beautiful flowers!
Indeed, when I was so lucky to get in touch with Susan via Twitter (she’s so nice and helpful and such a precious source), she told me how close Richard and she have been.
A friendship they kept alive not only in the good moments, but in the bad ones, as well. She was with him, visiting, caring, helping all the way through his AIDS illness along with Giles, Richard’s brother, at a time, in the difficult atmosphere of AIDS, other friends weren’t sure how to cope.
Susan also told me that, when the relationship between Keith Baxter and Richard Warwick ended, they became close, lifelong friends and Keith was with him when he died, as was she. It’s a relief to know that Richard was not left alone in such hard time, after he cared for friends like the actor Ian Charleson, before he fell ill himself.
But let’s remember just the cheerful part of that friendship.
Richard and Susan met working in the hilarious TV series A Fine Romance (1981-1984), playing Phil and Helen, a young couple opposite to the older one formed by Laura and Mike, respectively Judi Dench and Michael Williams (it’s nice to think they were married in real life, unfortunately Williams died quite young, too).
Judi played Susan’s reluctant older sister Laura. From the very beginning, we see the efforts of the younger sister and her husband to bring Laura and Phil’s best friend Mike together, because they’re both single and they think the relationship could work. They’re much in love and they want the other two to be as happy as they are.
But Helen is a sensible person and helps other friends who come at their home and sometimes stay for too long. There’s a sweet funny scene when, at some point Phil, who feels left out, becomes impatient with Laura and their friend Harry, so they leave the house. Helen shows her disappointment, so he pretends to be in trouble himself to get his wife’s attention. When Helen realizes he’s not serious, he laughs and gives her a big kiss.
Susan and Richard are very convincing as a couple in the series, when they hug and kiss and when later they become parents of a baby boy. There’s chemistry between them!
Watching the series, you get the impression that the two actors went well together, and with Dench and Williams, too. It must have been fun for the crew seeing them filming the episodes. I bet everyone had fun.
It’s a pity there are no extras in the DVD boxes: it would have been nice to see parts of the making of or some interviews with the cast. I wonder if they exist, in some archives.
I imagine the four actors sharing the space when they were filming day by day and Richard and Susan in particular talking about things in their free time, becoming confidant and very close to each other.
I would have liked to see other works with Richard and Susan together.
In 1982 they made a play for 9 months in the West End at the Strand Theatre (now the Novello) called The Real Thing by Tom Stoppard. I’ve found the programme, but I don’t have other details about it.
Maybe it’s meaningless thinking about what other beautiful performances Richard could have given us. Perhaps he would have chosen a different career, writing the books he had in mind (or, who knows, something for theatre?) or playing music. He once told in an interview that writing and playing music was more important to him than acting. This feels strange, as he seemed a dedicated actor.
We can’t bring back time but, somehow, watching A Fine Romance on our TV is a bit like bringing Richard and Michael Williams back to life. At least, we have their work to remember them! This in particular is a series of the early ’80s worth to be redescovered.
I leave you with this beautiful black & white photo of the cast.