The world of British comedy boasts numerous legends whose contributions have left an indelible mark on the industry. Bob Grant, whose real name was Robert St Clair Grant, stands tall among these stalwarts. Born on April 14, 1932, in West London, he embarked on an illustrious career that began in the 1950s and spanned multiple platforms.
Climbing the Ladder of Success
Bob’s early life was colored with experiences that perhaps set the stage for his later iconic role. Training at the esteemed Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, he explored various jobs in his nascent days, including stints as a frozen food salesman and, interestingly, a bus driver.
However, the screen world beckoned, and it was the sitcom ‘On The Buses’ that catapulted him to nationwide fame. From 1969 to 1973, audiences across Britain were regaled with the antics of the cheeky bus conductor Jack Harper, portrayed with aplomb by Bob Grant. His association with the show wasn’t limited to acting. Alongside co-star Stephen Lewis, he donned the writer’s hat, penning 11 episodes and a special episode.
This comedy series, which became a household favorite, was further immortalized in the form of three movies – On the Buses (1971), Mutiny on the Buses (1972), and Holiday on the Buses (1973).
Beyond the Buses: Exploring Other Avenues
Bob’s talent wasn’t confined to playing Jack Harper. Though he faced typecasting challenges post the success of ‘On The Buses,’ his versatility saw him venturing into radio and theatre. One of his notable theatrical expeditions was a tour in Australia with No Sex Please, We’re British. Moreover, the realm of musicals and pantomimes witnessed his compelling presence.
In the world of radio, Bob’s portrayal of a title role in John Arden’s adaptation of Don Quixote on BBC was highly acclaimed. His partnership with Bernard Cribbins, who played Sancho Panza, was particularly noteworthy. Not stopping there, he garnered accolades for his role in The Red Telephone Box, a Ken Whitmore comedy thriller, and showcased his adaptability with Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale for the Birmingham Repertory Theatre.
Bob’s Personal Tapestry
Bob’s personal life was as richly textured as his professional journey. He exchanged vows thrice over his lifetime. Jean Hyett was his first spouse in 1954. Following their separation, he entered into matrimony with Christine Sally Kemp in 1962. However, it was his third marriage, to Kim Benwell in 1971, that coincided with the zenith of ‘On The Buses’. The wedding saw massive attention, with fans thronging the streets. To celebrate Bob’s iconic role, a double-decker bus was arranged for the wedding guests, a fitting tribute to his comedy legacy. This union with Kim was to last until his sad departure in 2003.
How Did Bob Grant Die?
Despite the laughter he spread, Bob grappled with personal demons. He battled depression, a shadow that loomed large over his life. This internal struggle culminated in a heart-wrenching finale when Bob, at the age of 71, ended his life in 2003. This marked the end of a chapter in British comedy, a void that remains hard to fill.
Bob Grant’s journey, filled with monumental professional highs and profound personal lows, is a testament to the multifaceted nature of human existence. While he will always be remembered for his infectious humor and iconic roles, his life underscores the importance of understanding and addressing mental health. Through the lens of Bob’s life, we are reminded of the joys and sorrows that weave the complex tapestry of existence.