John Bentley

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The Hollywood Hero Who Came Home To Crossroads


Some time ago a national magazine asked its readers the question, "Would you, or would you not, like to see Hugh Mortimer marry Meg Richardson?"  The response was astounding.  Virtually one hundred percent of the replies shouted, "Yes!"  Whether or not this result 'guided' the judgement of the script-planning department, probably no one will ever know.  But certainly, marry they did!
Naturally, like all marriages, the union isn't a permanently happy one.  Nor, for that matter, is it always running into trouble.  No, it turns out to be a roughly fifty-fifty arrangement, which, after all, is the life-blood of the programme.  Where, I ask you, would Crossroads be without its moments of intrigue, followed by those sudden, unexpected moments of almost comic, light relief?  The answer, of course, is nowhere.
Ironically, John Bentley's life has been a bit like that too.  A self-confessed, incurable romantic, he can remember back to the days - now over thirty years ago - when he first met, and then married, a young woman named Janet.  For over eight years the couple managed to weather the storms that somehow seem to rock, more than any other, the show business marriage.  Then, suddenly, it was all over and he was left with the parting, the divorce and then the bringing up of his small son Roger.  It could almost have been the story-line of a Crossroads script!  And that, in a way, is exactly what the programme is all about.  Such is its reality, that what you see four evenings a week on your TV screens could, in fact, be happening right this moment, just about anywhere.
A true-life Midlander, John Bentley was born not far from Birmingham.  Apart from odd appearances on school stages, very little, in a theatrical sense, occured until he'd reached the age of sixteen.  Sadly, John's father had died before his son was barely a year old and therefore couldn't witness a father's pride those first, tentative steps towards success.  John's stage life began when Martyn C. Webster, a radio producer, offered auditions for anyone who felt they had talent.  John, fancying himself a singer, went along.  With the aid of just an old seventy-eight record to sing along with, plus the use of a broken down record player, he did well enough to attract Webster's attention.  Immediately he was offered a role in a radio musical, and within a short space of time he was spreading his wings in drama.

John Bentley ... continued