Obituary: Simon MacCorkindale
Obituary by Jack Foley
ACCLAIMED actor Simon MacCorkindale has died at the age of 58, following a long battle with cancer.
The popular star most recently enjoyed a six-year spell as Dr Harry Harper in BBC-1’s long-running medical drama Casualty, but also appeared in the cult ’80s TV hit Manimal, as well as US soap Falcon Crest.
His publicist, Max Clifford, confirmed to the press that he died in the arms of his wife, actress Susan George, on Thursday night (October 14, 2010) in a London clinic.
The actor first revealed he was battling cancer last year, having been diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2006. He was told in 2007 that it was terminal after it spread to his lungs.
In a heartfelt statement Ms George said: “No-one could have fought this disease any harder than he did since being diagnosed four years ago. He fought it with such strength, courage and belief. Last night, he lost this battle, and he died peacefully in my arms.
“To me, he was simply the best of everything, and I loved him with all my heart. He will live on in me forever.”
Born in Cambridge on February 12, 1952, MacCorkindale originally intended to follow his father into the RAF, but was forced to follow a different path due to his deteriorating eyesight (diagnosed at the age of 13).
After becoming a fan of theatre, MacCorkindale instead decided to pursue a career in the arts, intending to become a stage director, and taking acting classes so he “could better understand actors and, hopefully, be a more competent director”.
But after becoming a star pupil, he got bitten by the acting bug and began his career in theatre, making his West End debut in a production of Pygmalion.
The small screen then beckoned and he found success in I Claudius, as Lucius Caesar and Jesus of Nazareth, as Lucius… roles that enabled him to break into film.
He was subsequently cast as Simon Doyle in the 1978 film adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile, during which time he became friends with co-star Bette Davis.
Following the success of Death on the Nile, MacCorkindale moved to the US and enjoyed roles in various hit TV series, including Dynasty, Hart to Hart and The Dukes of Hazzard before securing the lead in adventure series Manimal.
Further film work followed, with appearance in The Sword and the Sorcerer, The Riddle of the Sands, Cabo Blanco and Jaws 3, while he was even tipped as a possible James Bond.
But in 1986, he returned to the UK to form a production company and the following year set up Amy International Artists, based at Shepperton Studios.
He also owned Anglo Films International and directed, wrote and produced a number of projects.
MacCorkindale later found further fame as clincal lead consultant Harry Harper in Casualty after joining the cast in 2002, but departed the show in 2007 to take a five month sabbatical. He never returned due to his medical problems but continued to work and indulge his passion for acting.
In 2008, for instance, he replaced Simon Burke as Captain Georg Ludwig von Trapp in the London Palladium production of The Sound of Music and remained with the show until its closure in February 2009.
He also returned to television for an appearance in the 2010 series of New Tricks, which was to prove his final television appearance.
John Yorke, controller of BBC drama production, said the actor was owed a “massive debt” for his work in Casualty.
“Not only was he a fabulously iconic consultant, he was also an inspirational team leader,” Mr Yorke told the BBC. “One of the reasons so many people have loved working with him on Casualty is because of the tone he established on the shop floor – always welcoming, always disciplined, always quietly the leader.”
MacCorkindale was married to the actress Susan George from 1984.