Improbably famous in Palmers Green #2: Alf Garnett

Well, not Alf Garnett of course, but actor Warren Mitchell.

Warren Mitchell as Alf Garnett in Til Death Do Us Part. Image: Brizzle Born and Bred

Born in Stoke Newington in 1926 as Warren Misell, Mitchell was nevertheless schooled in Palmers Green. He was a pupil at Southgate County School in Fox Lane from 1937 to 1943, and (though I have not yet been able to verify this for sure), it appears that he may also have attended primary school in Bowes Park. Quite a long daily journey – had his family moved into the area?

Mitchell was interested in acting from an early age, attending Gladys Gordon’s Academy of Dramatic Arts in Walthamstow from the age of 7. He met Richard Burton while studying chemistry at Oxford, who encouraged him further in his acting ambitions. His premature baldness meant that Mitchell could play a wide age range of characters – he first played Alf Garnett in 1965 in a one off play aged just 39.

The BFI website Screen Online explains how Mitchell and writer Johnny Speight’s intention was to ridicule Garnett – left leaning Mitchell’s political views could not be more different to Alf’s. However, the quality of writing meant that Garnett became a well formed character, and was seen by some as a working class hero, something which caused Mitchell and Speight some soul searching.

Though he is most famous for Alf Garnett, Mitchell has had a very varied and successful acting career, winning two Laurence Olivier awards for his roles in plays by Arthur Miller.

  • Warren Mitchell in action: Jesus was English, according to Alf Garnet (“Mary – you cant get a more English name than that, can yer?”)
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4 replies on “Improbably famous in Palmers Green #2: Alf Garnett”

I have the dubious distinction that I delivered newspapers to No. 10 Raith Avenue from 1949 to 1961; although Warren had left home by then, I did know his father during that time, although only as his paperboy, often caught by him reading “Peanuts” on the back page of his “Graphic”. Incidentally, the round – from WH Smith at the Triangle – also included Ruth Winston (mother of Professor Robert Winston – now Lord Winston) at No. 4 Morton Crescent. There is more information about Warren Misell (his real name) on the Southgate County School website (as above) – which can be searched – academic performance and sporting performance (best swimmer in one year) and an article about a Summer Camp and he also played football for the Old Boys around 1950 (I think he played outside-right for the 2nd XI – and he’s always been a Spurs supporter – not West Ham, as was Alf Garnett!). He’s also in the 1939 School Photo – front row, extreme right – it is definitely him, with hair – my late brother is also in the front row, near the middle. Finally, I remember reading an article by Warren in the Sunday Times Colour Supplement, many years ago, about going to the late lamented Barrowell Green Swimming Bath in the School lunch break. I’ve never met Warren myself, although we were both at a School Reunion about ten years ago and I have seen him on the West End stage (a play by Arthur Miller).

I hope this inconsequential rambling is of some interest.

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