Mark Eden

Mark Eden

Mark Eden was born in London on 14th February 1928. After leaving school he had a variety of jobs including a tailor’s presser, an adding machine clerk, a door-to-door salesman, a fairground barker and a vocalist with bands at seaside resorts before becoming an actor. In 1958 he joined the Swansea Repertory Company and in the same year he made an early television appearance in the classic serial Quatermass and the Pit. Further repertory work followed in Llandudno and London as well as appearances in an Arnold Wesker trilogy of plays at the Royal Court Theatre. On the big screen he was in the 1962 film The L-Shaped Room (in which Patricia Phoenix also had a small part) and on television appeared in The AvengersDoctor WhoThe Prisoner and a regular role as Detective Inspector Parker in the BBC’s early 1970s adaptations of Dorothy L. Sayers Lord Peter Whimsey mysteries.

Mark first appeared in Coronation Street in March and April 1981 as Wally Randle, a lorry driver who attracted Elsie Tanner in a big way but who rejected her because he felt she was too old for him. In January 1986 he returned to the programme as Alan Bradley, a love interest for Rita Fairclough who over the next three years developed into one of the most famous villains in the programme’s history, meeting his famous end when hit by a Blackpool tram when pursuing a by now mentally-broken Rita across the promenade in December 1989

His third connection with the programme is that at the time of appearing as Alan he was living with Sue Nicholls(Audrey Roberts) and the two were happily married in 1993.

After leaving the Street he has continued appearing on stage and television and has appeared on several programmes to talk fondly about his time as Alan Bradley. Mark Eden died in 2021

”Guardian” obituary in 2021

The actor Mark Eden, who has died aged 92, brought high drama to Coronation Street when he played Alan Bradley, who defrauded the singer-turned-newsagent Rita Fairclough, then terrorised her – before meeting his death under a Blackpool tram.

Eden joined the TV soap in 1986, when Alan visited his estranged daughter, Jenny, while she was being fostered by Rita, following his ex-wife’s death. Alan dated Rita, played by Barbara Knox, but two-timed her with the barmaid Gloria Todd. He was eventually dumped by Gloria and set up Weatherfield Security Systems – funded by stealing the deeds to Rita’s house and posing as her late husband Len to remortgage it – and tried to rape his receptionist, Dawn Prescott. When Rita found out, he tried to suffocate her, was interrupted by Jenny, then fled. Although sentenced to two years in prison, he was freed immediately after .

Alan took a job on a building site opposite Rita’s home and started to torment her. When she disappeared, residents speculated that he had killed her, but she had suffered a breakdown and gone to Blackpool. He tracked her down, chased her across the prom and was fatally hit by a tram. Twenty-seven million viewers tuned in on 8 December 1989 for the story’s climax. 

The actor was born Douglas Malin in London, the second of four children, to Mag (nee Tompkins) and Charles Malin. Charles, a painter and decorator, was frequently unemployed. When the second world war broke out, Douglas was evacuated to Northamptonshire, then Derbyshire.

He finished his education at St Aloysius’ Catholic school, Highgate, London. He left aged 14, to deliver telegrams for the Post Office, then had several jobs, from builder’s labourer and tailor’s presser to packing reels for a film distributor.

At the age of 18, he contracted tuberculosis and, during almost two years recovering in a sanatorium, spent much of his time in its library. “I started to read Shakespeare and plays and the great writers, and realised there was a whole world I didn’t know about,” he recalled.

Mark Eden, left, with David Jason in the comedy series The Top Secret Life of Edgar Briggs, 1974.
Mark Eden, left, with David Jason in the comedy series The Top Secret Life of Edgar Briggs, 1974. Photograph: ITV/Rex/Shutterstock

Then, in 1950, while working for a mail-order company between half a dozen seasons as a fairground worker, then photographer, in Margate, he saw Donald Wolfit playing Svengali in Trilby at the Bedford theatre, Camden, north London. When he told his mother he wanted to become an actor, she replied: “Who’s going to look at you?” That became the title of his 2010 autobiography.

He joined the Everyman amateur theatre group in Ramsgate in 1956, three years after marrying Joan Long, a dental nurse. Two years later, he became an assistant stage manager at Swansea Grand theatre’s rep company, and changed his name to Mark Eden. He made his professional acting debut at the Grand theatre, Llandudno.

Playing Sergeant Mitchum in Willis Hall’s The Long and the Short and the Tall (Richmond theatre, 1959) brought him to the attention of the Royal Court theatre’s casting director and he was signed up to play the struggling Dave Simmonds in Arnold Wesker’s Chicken Soup With Barley the following year. Two years later, he was Edward Sterne in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Aldwych theatre production of A Penny for a Song – and said that his love for his fellow star Judi Dench was unrequited. He turned down an offer by Peter Hall to join the company, seeing his future on screen – although he starred in the West End as T Lawrence Shannon, opposite Siân Phillips, in The Night of the Iguana (Savoy theatre, 1965).

Eden’s first TV appearance was as a journalist in Nigel Kneale’s sci-fi serial Quatermass and the Pit (1958). He quickly became a prolific screen actor, with character roles in many popular series. He was Inspector Parker in four of Dorothy L Sayers’s Lord Peter Wimsey dramas (1972-74) with Ian Carmichael in the title role, Jack Rufus in London Belongs to Me (1977) and Superintendent Wilf Penfield in The Detective (1985).

In the first season of Doctor Who, with William Hartnell, he took the title role in the now lost fourth serial, Marco Polo (1964), set in 1289. He later played the BBC executive Donald Baverstock in Mark Gatiss’s Doctor Who biopic An Adventure in Space and Time (2013), with David Bradley as Hartnell.

Starring roles came in Catch Hand (1964), as one of two itinerant labourers (with Anthony Booth), and Crime Buster (1968), as Ray Saxon, a cycling champion turned reporter investigating murder and corruption in the sports world.

In a rare foray into comedy, Eden was Spencer alongside David Jason’s clueless agent in The Top Secret Life of Edgar Briggs (1974). There were also film parts as Terry in The L-Shaped Room (1962), the laxative company boss Geoffrey Despard in Heavens Above! (1963) with Peter Sellers, and an engineer talking to Alec Guinness in the opening scene of Doctor Zhivago (1965).

Eden’s marriage to Long ended in divorce, as did his second marriage, to Diana Smith. He is survived by his third wife, the actor Sue Nicholls – Audrey Roberts in Coronation Street – whom he married in 1993, and by a daughter, Polly, and stepson, Saul, from the second. A son, David, from his first marriage, predeceased him.

• Mark Eden (Douglas John Malin), actor and writer, born 14 February 1928; died 1 January 2021

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