In last Sunday’s TV Week Logie Awards’ tribute to those that have passed away, there was one name that was brought to our attention.
Actor James Elliott, best known as “whingeing Pom” Alf Sutcliffe in 1970s drama Number 96, died in February from Lewy body dementia. He was 82.
Born in Scotland, Elliott came to Australia in 1949 after receiving a postcard from his older sister who had been visiting. He’d only intended to stay a short while but Australia became his home permanently.
He pursued an acting career after scoring a non-speaking role as a pirate in the movie Long John Silver in the mid-1950s. He went on to feature in ABC radio dramas, and in June 1959 appeared in ABC’s television production of Shakespeare’s Hamlet – the first Shakespeare play ever telecast in Australia.
Elliott starred in many early TV dramas including Consider Your Verdict, Stormy Petrel, Whiplash and Homicide.
He starred in the movie Ned Kelly in 1970 but his most famous role came in 1972 when he was cast as English migrant Alf Sutcliffe in the groundbreaking drama Number 96. Elliott and Elisabeth Kirkby, who played wife Lucy, were with the show until their characters were written out in 1975. They both returned for the 1000th episode special They Said It Wouldn’t Last in 1976, and again for the show’s all-star curtain call at the end of the final episode in 1977.
After Number 96, Elliott worked in the theatre but also continued to appear in film and television roles, including TV series Chopper Squad, Case For The Defence, Solo One and Bellamy.
He then quit acting and worked for twelve years as a tipstaff to a judge in the Supreme Court, but in 1995 returned to appear in a commercial with son James followed by guest appearances in Home And Away and All Saints. He also made a brief appearance in the SBS comedy Life Support.
Last year, Elliott was among the cast members of Number 96 to reunite for the occasion of former colleague Johnny Lockwood’s 90th birthday.
James Elliott is survived by his second wife Elaine, their son James, and sons Greg and Doug from his first marriage.