Gordon Mulholland dies, aged 89

2010-07-01 15:54

Johannesburg - Gordon Mulholland, the actor who gained fame through the television soap opera The Villagers and the movie Jock of the Bushveld, died in East London on Wednesday night.

He was 89.

Mulholland's close friend, actor Clive Scott, described him as a "great charmer" who was extremely difficult at times.

"I have a million memories of Gordon," he said.

"We worked together a lot. We took shows on the road. We co-produced shows. He was very funny. He always entertained me.

"We used to go out for coffee in Melville every Tuesday. He loved being recognised.

"Gordon was a great charmer. But he was difficult at times."

For the troops

Mulholland started his career as a stand-up comic in England during World War Two where he used to perform for the troops.

Mulholland spoke of one incident where a fellow stand-up comic told him he would raise a lot of laughs that day, because he had a lively audience.

When Mulholland went out on stage for his performance, he was met with dead silence.

"There was not a sound from this lot. The other comics were paralysed with laughter. What they didn't tell Gordon was that this was a group of Polish troops who didn't speak a word of English."

Mulholland then went on to perform at The Windmill theatre in London, where he worked among the nudes.

Audrey Hepburn

One of Mulholland's girlfriends at the time was the academy award winning actress, Audrey Hepburn, who starred in My Fair Lady.

He progressed into theatre, where he performed and produced his own shows.

Mulholland worked his way into the film industry through small parts on British films, including a role in Disney’s version of Treasure Island.

He moved to South Africa in 1967 and started a successful career in theatre and radio.

From 1976 to 1978 Mulholland starred as the mining boss, Hilton McRae, in the television show, The Villagers.

The big star

"When we started in Villagers, you couldn't go anywhere without people grabbing you," Scott recalls.

"Gordon was the big star in that one. He was the mining boss Hilton McRae. We did 76 episodes of Villagers. It was amazing. Gordon had an enormous impact on the South African public."

When The Villagers ended its run, Scott and Mulholland took the show Community of One to the road.

"I played the lead in that one. We toured all around the country."

Jock of the Bushveld

In 1986 Mulholland starred alongside Jonathan Rands in the movie version of Jock of the Bushveld, about a runt dog that becomes a trusted companion of an Irish adventurer named Percy Fitzpatrick.

Mulholland's health deteriorated after he suffered a stroke last year.

He moved to East London and moved in with his son.

He told Scott that to have a stroke was "the worst thing in the world".

Mulholland was married twice.

He had one son with his first wife in England and two sons with his second wife, Diane Wilson, who was also an actress.

The last film he played in was Traitor’s Heart in 1999 starring Scott and Gavin Hood.

  • BAL - 2010-07-01 16:22

    WHAT A PITY !only yesterday did we speak of Scott (ted dixon ) of somph ,and the madhouses tel nr 10810.Bye GORDON !

  • RS - 2010-07-01 16:50

    Truly the end of an era.

  • Loraine Chisholm - 2010-07-01 17:34

    May his soul R.I.P. I have great memories of him from The Villages growing up....condolences to friends and family

  • Roland - 2010-07-01 19:23

    He will always be remembered - may Gordon rest in peace!

  • Allison and Stella - 2010-07-01 20:35

    rest well ......saw you last year at Hemingway's at the 45 club....thoughts are with your family and fans.

  • Roy Wallisch - 2010-07-01 20:59

    Gordon...Remembered by Roy Wallisch
    Gordon also swooned Freda Fernandez Cape Town's top tap dancer and dance teacher in the early 50's but she chose to marry her beloved Austrian sweetheart Kurt Wallisch.

  • Notbee - 2010-07-01 21:21


  • Heather H - 2010-07-01 22:00

    What a wonderful man who created so many laughs for so many people. I have wonderful memories of this great man on stage. R.I.P.

  • Brendan Bentley - 2010-07-02 05:13

    Condolences for an acting icon for South Africa

  • Pensioner - 2010-07-02 07:32

    RIP. My prayers are with the family.

  • ingride mollison lewis - 2010-07-02 07:40

    To Gordon's family and all those who loved Gordie.

    I worked with Gordie In Taubie's No No Nanette. Gordie had a delightful sense of humour and he used to regale us with stories of different shows. Gordie was famous for his outstanding eyebrows. He told me how he tried to make the late Stuart Brown corpse every night. Gordie had to rush on stage and hand Stuart a letter which contained the news of "Stuart's mother's" death. Every night Gordie would rush on , hand the letter to Stuart and do acrobatics with his eyebrows. Nothing worked. Stuart did not laugh. But one night whilst waiting in the wings. Gordie didn't hear his cue. he was off! He flew onto stage, handed Stuart the letter with an earnest face and Stuart burst into laughter!!!!!!!!!

    I extend my deepest sympathies to the family. Your father was a shining light in the South African Theatre World. May his dear soul rest in peace.

    Sincere condolences,

  • zoot - 2010-07-02 11:51

    That is really the end of an era. He was really wonderful - I enjoyed him enormously.

  • Ken K - 2010-07-02 14:34

    I still have my "I [Heart] Mulholland's" badge from the days I was on his agency's books for doing advertising spots and film extra work, some 25 years back. Those were beautiful times.

  • Jo Koemer - 2010-07-02 19:19

    His Tevye was as good as Mostel's.

  • Paul Kirchmann - 2010-07-04 07:31

    Gordon Mullholland and wife, Ruth Calvert, were the resident producers at the Orient Theatre in East London for one Christmas before 1962. His wife used to do a Windmill Theatre type fan dance at the evening shows. This aroused me and I described the performance on an early taperecorder and unfortunately forgot to erase the recording. This was then listened to by members of the family and I got into trouble.

  • Christine Hudson Bury - 2010-07-04 21:16

    I have many fond memories of you Gordie. My love to Sean, Matthew and Jamie. You will be missed.

  • Alan Newstead - 2010-07-05 03:05

    I am proud to say I knew Gordon as a neighbour and friend in Melville - a great man. I know he will be dearly mised by all.
    Deepest sympathy to his family.

  • Paul Kirchmann - 2010-07-05 15:18

    From my cousin, Glynnis Stirton (Woods) in the UK.

    Hi Paul

    So sorry to hear the news about Gordon Mulholland's death. I used to sit at the Orient Theatre watching him with an attractive, vivacious lady called Hope - have I remembered this correctly?? I thought this was his wife but none of the articles on the internet name his first wife - only Diane Laing, his second wife. Perhaps I have forgotten, but as a couple there was a great synergy and they made us laugh. We loved sitting in the open air in our bathing costumes hearing his jokes, seeing the variety of entertainment in the form of comedy, singing and dancing which also included audience participation.

    Thanks for keeping me informed


  • David Graham - 2010-07-18 15:39

    As a resident of Melville we often saw Gordon. He will always be fondly remembered as Mr Mc Crae in The Villagers, a TV show which many "older" South Africans grew up on.

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