A truly great man, Oliver Reed (1938-1999) was one of the finest actors Britain has ever produced. He came to promenance in the 1960s and 1970s for his work in Oliver! (where he played an extremely menacing Bill Sykes), Women in Love and The Devils. His final cinematic appearance was for Gladiator where he plays Proximo, and he died shortly before shooting was complete.

More importantly than all this though, was Reed's legendary love of alcohol. Although over sixty years of age, he passed away a few hours after challenging a group of marines to a drinking contest at his local bar in Malta (apparently he drunk them all under the table as well).

A few salient titbits from Olly's life (and IMO far more informative than any official biography):

A couple of nights ago in the pub I saw a bloke wearing a T-shirt. On the front was a picture of the great man himself, on the back, the simple slogan:

King of the Hellraisers
Lost in Action, May 3rd, 1999

"Lost in Action". I like that. Olly's memory will live on forever!

Oliver Reed also made a memorable appearance on a long-running, little-watched, forgotten late-night ITV show called 'The Big E' (an odd experiment in European unity, a precursor to 'Eurotrash' but without the humour or naughty bits (and really, what's the point of that?)).

Anyway, there was a regular feature called 'In the Barber's Chair', in which a French hairdresser interviewed z-list 'celebrities' whilst giving them a haircut. Reed made an appearance, after clearly having been kept in hospitality for too long.

After grumbling his way through five minutes of boredom, he noticed that the hairdresser was French and, in a graceful display of hilarious flailing, he grabbed him around the neck and attacked him. Cut to commercial.

In interviews Reed repeatedly asserted that he only had two regrets - that he hadn't drunk every pub dry and slept with every woman on Earth. Reed was part of a generation of British actors who, for whatever reason, decided to spend a lot of time drinking - Peter O'Toole and Richard Harris spring to mind. Like Keith Moon and Peter Cook he was something of a tragic case; a gifted, initially good-looking actor who never made the Sean Connery-esque leap into iconicism.

He once said that his ideal woman would be 'a mute nymphomaniac whose father owns a pub', despite which he did not marry a mute nymphomaniac.

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