Not a lot of people know that the actor who played the booming, egotistical, tyrannical, cliché-loving boss CJ in the original (and best) Reginald Perrin television series, once attended Portsmouth Grammar School.
But John Barron’s PGS career was a brief one. His seven months there ended prematurely because of ill health, but clearly made its mark. His entry in a TV Times directory cites the school as his sole alma mater.
John Netterville Barron was born on Christmas Eve, 1920, and brought up by his actress mother. He attended Edinburgh House School at Lee-on-the-Solent from the age of 10 until 14.
The school was given its name by a Scottish headmaster who had taken over the former Royal Naval School in Manor Road.
Barron started at PGS in September 1935 and the headmaster then was the autocratic Canon Barton, who, unlike CJ at Sunshine Desserts, managed to lead Portsmouth Grammar School to expand and thrive.
The boy could not decide what he wanted to do. His absent father was a farmer, but there was no indication that he wanted to plough that particular furrow, says school archivist John Sadden.
He adds that his mother, exasperated by the boy’s indecision and ignoring any advice not to put her son on the stage, persuaded Barron’s godfather to pay his fees at RADA, where he started in 1938.
He embarked on his acting career in repertory companies, but this was soon interrupted by wartime service in the Royal Navy as a lieutenant.
As Reggie’s boss CJ, Barron portrayed a character familiar to us all and his catchphrase, ‘I didn’t get where I am today by...’ caught on across the country. This simple phrase gave the writer, David Nobbs, infinite possibilities. ‘I didn’t get where I am by engaging in hanky-panky, willy-nilly,’ was a particularly notable example.
In the late 1950s, Barron landed his first regular television role in Emergency Ward 10, the first successful British soap. He also featured in The Avengers, The Saint, Softly, Softly, and Doomwatch.
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