The star of TV shows and films like ‘The Rag Trade’ and ‘On the Buses’ retired to Budleigh Salterton after a long career in showbusiness. It started when 15-year-old Varney performed as a singer, pianist and accordionist in the working men’s clubs of London’s East End.
Quite a number of people involved with the theatre, cinema or the media have lived in the local area. A selection of these is displayed on the first of 19 panels which make up the exhibition and reflect various aspects of Reg Varney’s life, including his family background in London, his discovery of music and his showbusiness career.
Varney also won praise from playwrights Harold Pinter and John Osborne for his performance in the tragicomic role of ‘Sherry’ Sheridan in the play ‘The Best Pair of Legs in the Business’ later made into a film.
Fairlynch Museum is grateful to Reg Varney’s family for the loan of personal memorabilia and for the paintings displayed as part of the exhibition. They show that the actor was also a talented artist. Some of the paintings were auctioned during 2016. Click here for details of the money raised for Children's Hospice South West
Many of our visitors will recognise Reg Varney as the actor who played bus driver Stan Butler in ‘On the Buses’. Not so many will know about his role as a wartime entertainer or as a Shakespearean actor. He is shown here with his daughter Jeanne as the clown Touchstone in the 1953 Mermaid Theatre production of As You Like It.
To accompany the exhibition there is a 48-page illustrated booklet of the same title by local author Michael Downes who is a volunteer at Fairlynch. On sale at Fairlynch and at some local retail outlets, with a Foreword by Reg Varney’s daughter, it is the first-ever biography of the actor. Profits from the publication are being divided between Fairlynch Museum and the British Heart Foundation.
The exhibition has been supported by a grant from The Mackintosh Foundation.