John Thaw

Last updated on the 19 June 2024 by Maeve

John Thaw headshot

Mini Biography

Born: 3 January 1942, Gorton, Manchester, England. 

John Thaw was destined for a life far removed from his modest upbringing. His early years were marked by hardship and a troubled home life, but his innate intelligence and passion for acting provided a beacon of hope and purpose.

Despite his lack of formal education, Thaw’s natural talent caught the attention of teachers at Manchester Academy, where he excelled in drama and literature. His performances at school productions sparked a lifelong love for the stage and he aspired to pursue a career in acting.

In 1960 Thaw secured a place at the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), where he developed his skills and immersed himself in the world of theatre. His performances at RADA were met with critical acclaim and he graduated with a diploma in 1962, marking the beginning of a remarkable career.

John Thaw and Dennis Waterman in The Sweeney
John Thaw and Dennis Waterman in The Sweeney

In 1972, Thaw’s career took a pivotal turn when he landed the role of Detective Inspector Jack Regan in the groundbreaking crime drama “The Sweeney.” The series, set in the gritty streets of London, became a cultural phenomenon and Thaw’s portrayal of the tough but compassionate Regan cemented his status as a leading British actor.

John Thaw’s success on television continued with his iconic role as Detective Chief Inspector Endeavour Morse in the equally acclaimed series “Inspector Morse.” Playing the enigmatic and intellectual Morse, Thaw delivered a masterclass in character acting, earning him further accolades and cementing his position as a national treasure.

Inspector Morse - John Thaw and Kevin Whately
Inspector Morse – John Thaw and Kevin Whately

Beyond his professional achievements, John Thaw was also known for his private life, marrying actress Sheila Hancock in 1973. Their relationship was one of the most enduring and respected in British showbiz, providing Thaw with a stable and loving home amidst the demanding world of acting.

John Thaw’s life was tragically cut short on February 21, 2002, at the age of 59, due to lung cancer. His passing marked the end of an era, leaving a void in British television and theatre. Yet, his legacy lives on through his countless memorable performances, which continue to inspire and captivate audiences worldwide.

John Thaw’s journey from humble beginnings to British TV icon is a testament to his unwavering determination, exceptional talent, and the power of the human spirit. His life serves as an inspiration to aspiring actors and anyone who dares to dream big, regardless of their background or circumstances.


Suggested viewing


Inspector Morse (1987)

Inspector Morse poster

Bftv 9.0 / IMDb 8.2

Beneath the quaint and academic backdrop of Oxford, Detective Chief Inspector Endeavour Morse navigates a labyrinth of complex crimes, his brilliance and eccentricities often clashing with the traditional police methods. Alongside his loyal sergeant, Lewis, Morse unravels intricate puzzles, often drawing upon his vast knowledge of literature, opera, and obscure cultural references.

Top cast: John Thaw, Kevin Whately, James Grout, Peter Woodthorpe, Clare Holman, Liz Kettle, Amanda Hillwood, Maureen Bennett.


Endeavour poster


Goodnight, Mister Tom (1998)

Goodnight, Mister Tom poster

Bftv 9.0 / IMDb 7.8

Set against the backdrop of World War II, Goodnight Mister Tom tells the heartwarming tale of William Beech, an eight-year-old boy evacuated from London’s bombings to the quiet village of Little Weirwold. There, he finds solace and companionship in the care of Mister Tom, a reclusive and hardened widower. As William’s fear and anxiety begin to melt away, he experiences the transformative power of love, kindness and the gift of storytelling.

Top cast: John Thaw, Nick Robinson, Annabelle Apsion, Thomas Orange, William Armstrong, Geoffrey Beevers, Mossie Smith, Peter EnglandIvan Berry.


A Year in Provence (1993)

A Year in Provence poster

Bftv 8.5 / IMDb 7.6

A Year in Provence, based on Peter Mayle’s memoir, recounts the author’s journey to the Provençal countryside and his transformation from a successful Londoner to a contented country dweller. He buys a dilapidated farmhouse, embraces the simple life, and immerses himself in the region’s rich culture and traditions. Amidst the charming chaos of rural life, Mayle discovers a newfound appreciation for nature, community and the pleasures of a slower pace.

Top cast: John Thaw, Lindsay Duncan, Jean-Pierre DeLarge, Harry HallJo Doumerg, Alfred MolinaJim Carter, James Fleet, Frank Middlemass.


The Sweeney (1975)

The Sweeney poster

Bftv 9.0 / IMDb 8.1

The Sweeney, a gritty and action-packed television series, follows the exploits of the Metropolitan Police’s Flying Squad, a specialised unit tasked with tackling organised crime in the 1970s. Led by the charismatic and tough Inspector Jack Regan, the team employs unconventional methods to bring down ruthless criminals, often blurring the lines between law and order in their pursuit of justice.

Top cast: John Thaw, Dennis Waterman, Garfield Morgan, John Alkin, Martyn Read, Morris Perry, John Flanagan, Jennifer Thanisch, James Warrior.


Monsignor Renard (2000)

Monsignor Renard poster

Bftv 9.0 / IMDb 7.1

Two decades after leaving his hometown to pursue a life as a Catholic priest, Monsignor Renard returns. The village, however, is now overshadowed by the presence of Nazi occupiers, who have transformed it into a staging ground for their invasion of England.  Notwithstanding, Renard remains steadfast in his commitment to his ministry, even as he is drawn deeper into the clandestine resistance movement against the oppressive Nazi regime.

Top cast: John Thaw, Cheryl Campbell, Dominic Monaghan, Jimmy Yuill, Barbara Kellerman, Richard Cubison.


Kavanagh QC (1995)
Kavanagh QC poster

Bftv 8.5 / IMDb 7.7

In the corridors of justice, Robert Kavanagh stands tall as a formidable barrister, his sharp mind and unwavering resolve propelling him through a series of intricate criminal cases. From harrowing murder trials to complex fraud investigations, Kavanagh unwaveringly upholds justice, even as he confronts personal struggles and ethical quandaries. With every case he defends or prosecutes, Kavanagh QC demonstrates the power of the law to uphold truth and protect the innocent.

Top cast: John Thaw, Oliver Ford Davies, Nicholas Jones, Cliff Parisi, Lisa Harrow, Tom Brodie, Daisy Bates, Anna Chancellor.


John Thaw full filmography @ Wikipedia
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