Ewen Solon

 

 Ewen Solon was born on 7th September 1917 at Mt. Eden, Auckland, New Zealand

The Terror of the Tongs
In his early days he did many different things including farming, working on dams, door to door selling, working on the Auckland wharves, cub-reporter/advertising with newspapers, assistant break-down bench-man and labourer Holts timber mill. He always said he was never particularly successful at any of these jobs but his happiest recollections were being at Holts timber mill.At the age of 20 Ewen joined the Napier Repertory Players, under the guidance of May MacDonald, in a play called ‘Stage Door’. Not a success but he now knew where his future lay.
Ewen then joined the A.E.W.S Drama group and in 1946 was given the first bursary by the NZ Government under the rehabilitation scheme for Royal Academy of Drama (RADA) in London. He completed the course mid 1947 and began a long and arduous effort to justify the bursary.
Napier Repertory Players
Ewen landed a small but interesting part in the play ‘Animal Kingdom by Philip Barry and went on tour for six weeks. He then came to London and joined the Robert Atkins company in Regents Park and got a part in the ‘Twelfth Night’ as ’Fabian’ and the ‘Midsummer Nights Dream’ as ‘Demetrius’. After which he moved on and joined the Guildford Repertory company doing fortnightly productions as the leading man. He stayed with Guildford for about eighteen months which he described as “a most interesting and exciting developmental period”.
Following Guildford Repertory, Ewen had various stints in weekly rep all over England plus fortnightly and three-weekly rep at Nottingham and Oxford. One of the tours of the music halls was a disaster. It was a stage version of ‘Dick Barton’ (private agent). Ewen played the part of a musical conductor with a magic baton which shot bullets. One scene required him to go completely mad then collapse on stage. One night he knocked himself out on the grand piano and got carried off to a loud applause, the only applause ever given to the show!
Ewen in a picture taken in 1940
Ewen then decided to try and break back into the London scene. After a year of tramping around agents, casting-directors and managers etc., he managed to get a leading role in a small suburban theatre in Chepstow. The press was very encouraging and from that time on work started to become regular, where he received a variety of small parts, some good, some bad, which then led to films and ultimately television.What he considered to be his luckiest break, was when he met an Australian named Ian McCormick, who was producing his own play for the TV called ‘Act of Violence’. Ewen was given a part playing, guess what? – A Police Inspector in some Mid-European state.
Ian McCormick said he would one day write a play for him. While it was marvellous to hear and very good for Ewen’s ego, he never really believed it would happen, but six months later it did. A play called ‘Morning Near Troodos’, set in Cyprus. His part was a character directly resembling and representing ‘Grivas’ the EOKA leader. This play did him the world of good, both morale-wise and as an actor. The play incidentally was directed by Andrew Osborn, who was later to produce the Maigret series, and was responsible for Ewen being in the Maigret series.
Ewen in Maigret
Maigret was almost 4 years in the making, four batches of 13 stories, taking roughly a year to get each of the 13 episodes completed. It was all filmed on location in Paris and many people thought that Ewen was French! He did all his own stunts even breaking his leg during one enthusiastic chase! He did speak fluent French which no doubt added to his portrayal of Lucas.After Maigret he ventured back to the theatre with Macbeth at the Cheltenham Festival, Claudius for the Bristol Old Vic, and in the West End a new play called Golden River.
In 1967 he was given his own series by the BBC, Revenue Men, set against a background of Custom and Excise operations. This was filmed on location in Glasgow which he relished, again he did all his own stunts and particularly enjoyed driving his Sunbeam Tiger very fast around the city.
  
He joined The Stables an experimental theatre run by Granada Television to try and introduce the dimensions of live theatre to television. They produced some interesting plays and it was a starting point for lots of writers and actors. Ewen then returned to Australia to star in a television adaption of a D’Arcy Niland novel, ‘Dead Men Running” This led to other work in NZ and Australia and consequently he was working there for the next few years until he returned to UK in 1975.
Ewen with one of his dogs in 1969
During his absence the business had changed and it was hard re-establishing himself, but he persisted and television and film work started to come his way. He worked on some interesting films, particularly the Moustapha Akhad film ‘The Message’ the story of Mohammad. He enjoyed returning to Libya and was impressed by the changes he saw. He did a lot of theatre work, even a year in ‘The Mousetrap’. His last theatre work was a tour of the Far & Middle East with the touring theatre group put together by Derek Nimmo. He thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience.
Ewen worked across the globe and starred with some of the greatest actors in the industry (in alphabetical order) such as – Anthony Quinn, Christopher Lee, Errol Flynn, Joan Collins, Oliver Reed, Peter Cushing, Richard Attenborough, Richard Todd, Robert Mitchum and many more. 
 Ewen played the part of one of the  ‘merrie man’ in Walt Disney’s live action film The Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men (1952).
He was almost a part of that Englisg ‘stock’company of actors who appeared in the trilogy of Englis made Disnet Live Actions films which included The Sword and The Rose (1953) and Rob Roy The Highland Rogue (1954).
He  also appeared alongside Richard Todd who had of course played Robin Hood earlier, in the classic movie, The Dam Busters.


Ewen Solon in Robin Hood
Ewen Solon with some of the Merrie Men to the right of Friar Tuck


His big break came when he was cast as ‘Sergeant Lucas’ who was sidekick to Rupert Davies in TV’s Maigret (1959). Solon helped to add believability to the series because he was able to speak fluent French. 

 


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