Alfred Bass (born Abraham Basalinsky,[1] 12 April 1916[2] – 15 July 1987) was an English actor. He was born in Bethnal Green, London, the youngest in a Jewish family with ten children; their parents had fled persecution in Russia.[3] He appeared in a variety of stage, film, television and radio productions throughout his career.


Early lifeEdit

After leaving elementary school in Bethnal Green at the age of 14, he worked as a tailor's apprentice, a messenger boy and a shop-window display fitter, before taking to the stage.

Stage careerEdit

Bass's acting career began at Unity Theatre, London in the late 1930s, appearing in Plant In The Sun alongside Paul Robeson, and as the pantomime King in Babes In The Wood. After the outbreak of the Second World War, Bass joined the Middlesex regiment as a despatch rider. Despite being kept busy with his duties, he found time to become involved in concert parties, as well as taking part in documentaries for the Army Film Unit.

His stage career included plays by Shakespeare and Shaw. During the 1950s he continued to direct shows at Unity, and on one occasion appeared in court (along with Vida Hope) charged with putting on a play without a licence.[4] His stage work also included an adaptation of Gogol's short story "The Bespoke Overcoat", transposed to the East End of London, which was filmed by Jack Clayton in 1956, and won the Oscar for best short. Bass also took over from Chaim Topol in the role of Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof on the West End stage.

Film appearancesEdit

Bass first appeared on film in wartime documentaries.[5] He also appeared in a number of feature films including The Lavender Hill Mob (1951), Hell Drivers (1957), A Tale of Two Cities (1958) and Alfie (1966) starring Michael Caine and Shelley Winters. In the latter he played Harry Clamacraft, a man Alfie meets and befriends in a sanatorium.

He starred in Roman Polanski's vampire film The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967) (British title The Dance of the Vampires) as innkeeper Yoine Shagal with his daughter Sarah played by Sharon Tate. In the course of the film, he and his daughter become vampires. When a maid tries to scare him off with a crucifix, he responds with "Oy, have you got the wrong vampire!".

Bass also appeared in the "Pride" segment of The Magnificent Seven Deadly Sins (1971) and had a leading role in the 1977 sex comedy Come Play with Me. He has had many cameo roles, such as the Indian restaurant doorman in The Beatles' movie Help! (1965), as Clouseau's seafaring informant in Revenge of the Pink Panther (1978), and in Moonraker (1979). Bass had a small part in I Was Monty's Double in a non-speaking passenger on a train.

Television and radioEdit

Bass appeared as a poacher rescued by Robin in the first episode of The Adventures of Robin Hood starring Richard Greene. He appeared in The Army Game (1957–61), a British TV comedy series, as Private Montague 'Excused Boots' Bisley, and its sequel Bootsie and Snudge from 1960-63 (there was also a one series revival in colour in 1974) working at a Gentleman's Club with Bill Fraser as Snudge and Clive Dunn. Bass also acted in the 1950s Landmark BBC Radio SF Series Journey Into Space as Lemuel "Lemmy" Barnet.

He continued working until the turn of the 1980s. Later work included roles in the TV series Till Death Us Do Part, Minder, and Are You Being Served? as Mr. Goldberg, the second in a series of replacements for Arthur Brough's Mr. Grainger character (the first being James Hayter's Mr. Tebbs). As in the Mr. Goldberg role, he often emphasised his Jewish background in on-screen characterizations. He played a memorable Silas Wegg in the BBC's 1976 adaptation of Dickens's Our Mutual Friend.

He also guest starred in two episodes of the British comedy television The Goodies, in which he appeared as the "Town Planner" in Camelot, and as the Giant in The Goodies and the Beanstalk.


Bass died of a heart attack on 15 July 1987 in Barnet, Greater London.[6] His last home was in Well End, a suburb of Borehamwood, Hertfordshire.


  1. Robert Sharp, ‘Bass, Alfred (1916–1987)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 accessed 29 Jan 2011
  2. "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved November 3, 2010. 
  3. "Alfie Bass Obituary". The Jewish Chronicle. 1987-07-24. pp. 14. 
  4. Colin Chambers The Story of Unity Theatre, London (1990)
  5. Alfie Bass biography accessed 26 Jun 2007
  6. Deaths England and Wales 1984-2006

External linksEdit

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