John Thaw, British thesp best known as the star of detective series “Inspector Morse,” died Feb. 21 in London after a long battle with throat cancer. He was 60.
The internationally popular “Morse” ran on ITV in the U.K. for 15 years beginning in 1985; 33 two-hour episodes were produced. In the U.S., the show aired on PBS for 13 years from 1988 and now plays on A&E. Thaw honed the character of the complex, grumpy, music-loving detective who was as well known for his character flaws and doubts as for his police work.
Thaw got his big break playing another detective, the tough-as-nails Regan in the gritty 1970s series “The Sweeney,” also an ITV production. He had planned to return to work to make additional episodes of ITV’s “Kavanagh QC,” in which he played a lawyer.
Thaw was born in Manchester, northern England, the son of a long-distance truck driver. His mother left the family when he was 7. After leaving school, he worked as a baker and a laborer, until a teacher who had seen him in school plays encouraged him to audition for the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. He won admission at 17. His career began with a number of stage roles, followed by TV work, often as a policeman.
Thaw twice won best actor BAFTA awards, in 1993 was named a Commander of the Order of British Empire and last year was given a BAFTA fellowship.
He is survived by his second wife, actress Sheila Hancock, and three actress daughters, Melanie Jane, Abigail and Joanne.