Bernard Braden

Bernard Chastey Braden (16 May 19162 February 1993) was a Canadian-born English actor and comedian.

Braden was born in Vancouver, British Columbia and educated at Magee Secondary School, Kerrisdale, Vancouver. In the late 1940s he and his wife Barbara Kelly moved to England and joined the BBC. Their first major success was called An Evening At Home With Bernard Braden And Barbara Kelly.

The radio show Breakfast with Braden began on Saturday morning, 21st January 1950, initially putting Bernard I Braden alongside his dumb girl friend, Pearl Carr ("Sing, Pearl"), second singer stooge Benny Lee and naive third stooge, bandleader Nat Temple ("Play, Nat!"). On 19th September the same year came the advent of the late evening Bedtime with Braden, with his signature sign-out song "Lullaby of Birdland" whaich he may or may not have played himself on the piano, followed by various sequels including Between Time, Bathtime and Bedlam with Braden. The usually straight BBC announcer was Ronald Fletcher who, together with Nat, (just like Wallace Greenslade in the contemporary Goon Show), was drawn into the script which added to the ingenuity and enjoyment.

Bernard is probably best remembered for On the Braden Beat, a popular consumer affairs TV programme made for ITV by Associated Television. It championed the cause of the British consumer for five years. Jock Watson and, later, Francis Coleman produced this Saturday late-night watchdog which also examined current political issues affecting the British public. The show was interspersed with light hearted sketches and music and helped a number of actors to get a start on TV. Frequent performers were Peter Cook, Jake Thackray and Tim Brooke-Taylor. The show ran on ITV from 1962 to 1967, and a successor with essentially the same format, Braden's Week, appeared on the BBC from 1967 to 1972.

Braden fell from grace when he advertised margarine on the BBC's commercial rival ITV; the BBC felt this was inconsistent with his role as the consumers' spokesman and the show was cancelled. Esther Rantzen, one of the researcher/presenters, went on to front a remarkably similar consumer show called That's Life - essentially a Braden Beat sans Braden, complete with a Fletcher (Cyril not Ronald) to read out the amusing misprints: the ITV sketch show End of Part One, scripted by Andrew Marshall and David Renwick, created a spoof of That's Life entitled That's Bernard Braden's Show Really.

Rantzen says in her autobiography that Braden, pressed for an explanation of his self-destructive decision, said he was unable to resist the lure of so much money for an afternoon's work; she was later to emulate Braden once again by accepting money for promoting an accident claims company.

In 1976, Braden hosted a quiz show for London Weekend Television called The Sweepstakes Game. Two contestants decided which of six star guests was most likely to help them to win cash and prizes. The first show was broadcast on Saturday July 3rd 1976 and ran for 13 weeks, plus a special show for Christmas 1976. The show proved to be unsuccessful and no further programmes were made after the original series.

Braden later presented the show All Our Yesterdays, but plans to show a series of interviews on British television came to nothing. Braden published an autobiography, The Kindness of Strangers, a reference to his role as Mitch in the London stage production of A Streetcar Named Desire.

He died in Camden, London, aged 76, following a series of strokes.


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