The voice of the legendary Disney Animated Robin Hood, Brian Bedford, died on January 13, 2016. Bedford’s husband and fellow actor, Tim MacDonald, was the first to announce the Broadway star’s death. MacDonald said that his partner of 30 years was battling cancer. Bedford was 80-years-old when he died.
Bedford made appearances on-screen in TV shows such as Cheers and Frasier over the years, but his greatest success came from stage plays. He took Broadway by storm, and he enchanted the theater for more than four decades.
Bedford was a pro at infusing improvised comedy and drama into several of the plays in which he performed. He exaggerated his own characters’ flaws and caught his co-stars off guard by playing on the roles his co-stars portrayed. However, Bedford never got so carried away with his antics that he tarnished the plays, or his characters. He embellished the parts in such a way that, even in the most tragic of stories, the humor was never tacky or offensive.
Offstage, Bedford was a very sincere and kind man. For many years, children recognized the classic Disney animated thief’s voice when he spoke, and he loved complying with their requests.
“Oh, that’s what I’m most famous for!” said Bedford. “Little mites in supermarkets come up to me and ask me to do ‘Oo-da-lay-lee.'”
— Byron Howard (@ByronPHoward) January 14, 2016
Bedford had a special attachment to classic plays. When asked about this devout affection, he happily divulged the secret.
“Well, where are the new plays? Is there such an animal? Unfortunately, once you get used to these really magnificent texts, you are kind of spoiled. [Everything else] is a bit small and a bit thin. I suppose it’s like a musician getting used to Beethoven and Mozart and the greats. It’s kind of fun to do other things, but the reward is incomparable in, for instance, Moliere and Shakespeare.”
While Bedford was not a huge movie sensation, he still had a major impact on many young actors. Antoni Cimolino said that Bedford was the reason that several actors wanted to act.
“He was the reason our audiences came year after year. He was not only an icon, he was a delight, and we will miss him so much,” Cimolino said.
Bedford’s long partnership and attachment with Stratford started in 1975, when he played Angelo in Measure for Measure. During the next 40 years, he appeared at the festival in the great plays of Shakespeare, Chekhov, Moliere, Sheridan, Shaw Coward, and Molnar. In the ’80s, he accepted a position as director in more than one production organized by Stratford.
“My relationship with Stratford has absolutely made my life,” Bedford told Playbill.
During his years of training, and all throughout his fulfilling career, Bedford perfected the variety, freshness, and wit he brought to the stage in each of his characters. He had a natural charm that entertained any who ventured out to see him perform. His love for the classics shone through his uncanny ability to bring modern perspectives for those who were not as theatrically inclined as he and his fellow stage actors.
Bedford was a long time favorite among audiences, and made both attending plays and performing in them a joy for many who had the pleasure of encountering him. Some of his most impressive performances include his roles in Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens, The Moliere Comedies, Dion Boucicault’s London Assurance, Moliere’s Tartuffe, and The Importance of Being Earnest, in which he played Lady Bracknell.
— Yorkshire Problems (@yorkshireprobs) January 14, 2016
Bedford was nominated for a total of seven Tony awards throughout his career and won the prestigious prize in 1971. He was also inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame in 1997.
He was truly a pleasure to see in action, and to those who knew him, a wonderful man who saw himself not as a star, but a person lucky enough to spend years showing the audience how he imagined his favorite characters.
[Photo by Will Ragozzino/Getty Images]