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Bernard entered the theatre as a student at the Oldham Repertory Theatre at the age of 14. He remained there for the next 8 years except for a break to do his National Service with the Parachute Regiment. From Oldham he went on to work in Manchester, Liverpool and Hornchurch Reps.
His first West End appearance was in "Comedy of Errors" at the Arts Theatre in 1956, playing the two Dromios. Following this, he played leading roles in the West End in "Harmony Close", "The Lady at the Wheel", "New Cranks", "The Big Tickle" and "Hook, Line and Sinker". He co-starred in a revue at the Fortune Theatre - "And Another Thing"; and it was a number one from this show, "Folksong", that became the first of his chart topping "pop" records, which included the still popular "Hole in the Ground" and "Right Said Fred".
Amongst his many successful appearances, Mr Perks in "The Railway Children" stands out; he was nominated for a BAFTA award for this performance. He also played in "Wrong Arm of the Law" and "Two Way Stretch" with Peter Sellers, "She" with Peter Cushing and Ursula Andress, three "Carry On" films and "The Water Babies" in which he co-starred with James Mason, plus numerous appearances in other films. Among his countless television appearances, he played the title role in "Dangerous Davis, the Last Detective", "The Shillingbury Tinker", followed by "The Shillingbury Miracle". From these, his very popular series "Cuffy" developed.
He starred in his own series "Cribbins" for Thames Television, two series for Yorkshire Television, "Langley Bottom" and "High and Dry" and the prestigious BBC TV production of "When we are Married". He also starred in one of the famous "Fawlty Towers" episodes "The Hotel Inspector". Bernard's voice is well known on the radio and to "TV advert" watchers.
He became a favourite with many children as all the voices of "The Wombles", and as the voice of "Busby", the telephone bird, he became a household word, albeit a "rude" word for those with large telephone bills.
He co-starred in the first production of "Not Now Darling" and "There Goes the Bride" in London and "Run for Your Wife" at the Adelaide Festival, returning to London to re-open the Shaftesbury Theatre as "The Theatre of Comedy" in this production. He played "Nathan Detroit" in the National Theatre production of "Guys and Dolls" and at Christmas 1988 had great success playing Dame in pantomime for the first time. He has featured in a number of concerts for children, reading "The Snowman", "Carnival of the Animals" and "Peter and The Wolf". He is also well known for his tape recordings of stories for children including "Winnie the Pooh", "House at Pooh Corner" and the "Sophie" books (one of which he recently won a "Talkies" award for).
In 1989 he co-starred as "Moonface Martin" in "Anything Goes" with Elaine Page at the Prince Edward Theatre. In 1991 Bernard starred with Joan Collins and Sian Phillips in "Hands Across the Sea", one of the "Tonight at Eight-Thirty" plays for BBC TV. In July of the same year Bernard played the role of "Doolittle" in the Houston Opera House production of "My Fair Lady" with Frank Langella as Professor Higgins. He returned to England to star as "Ada" the cook in "Dick Whittington" at Wimbledon Theatre & Leeds Grand. He then had another successful Pantomime season at The Richmond Theatre, in Surrey. In 1995 he played the lead in "La Grande Magia" at the Royal National Theatre.
2007/2008 saw him appear in six episodes of the BBC TV series "Doctor Who" as Wilf Mott, and in late 2009 he appeared in two Doctor Who Specials, as the Doctor's companion in the Tardis! The series won Best Drama Award at the National Television Awards 2010.
Bernard has also been concentrating on radio and recording childrens tapes and books, and has recorded "Bedtime Stories" and "The Mudds" for CBeebies, and "80 Not Out" for BBC Radio 4. He won an award for his reading of Roy Castle's autobiography on cassette, and thoroughly enjoyed appearing on "Call my Bluff". He has recently completed the audiobook recording of "Return to the Hundred Acre Wood", the sequel to "Winnie the Pooh".
He was given BAFTA's Special Award at the EA British Academy Childrens Awards in 2009, and was appointed an OBE for Services to Drama in November 2011.
His hobbies are fly-fishing, golf and clay pigeon shooting. He is very proud to be associated with "S.P.A.R.K.S" - Sport Aiding Medical Research for Children and a Patron of White Lodge Centre in Chertsey for children and adults with disabilities.