Robert St Clair Grant (14 April 1932 – 8 November 2003), usually known as Bob Grant, was an English actor, best known for playing Jack Harper in On The Buses. He was born in Hammersmith, West London, the son of Albert George Grant and Florence Grant.
Grant trained as an actor at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, working in his spare time as a frozen food salesman and also (interestingly, in view of his later career) as a bus conductor. After doing National Service in the Royal Artillery, he made his stage debut in 1952 as Sydney in Worm’s Eye View at the Court Royal, Horsham.
His first London appearance was in The Good Soldier Schweik at the Duke of York’s Theatre in 1956, and he spent several years at the Theatre Royal Stratford East before getting the lead role in the musical Blitz! at the Adelphi Theatre in the West End for two years. In 1964 he appeared at the Piccadilly Theatre in Instant Marriage, a musical farce, for which he wrote book and lyrics, with music by Laurie Holloway.
He had by now started to make film appearances, including Sparrows Can’t Sing (1963), the screen version of a play he had earlier acted in at Stratford, and the Beatles film Help! (1965). He returned to the Theatre Royal, Stratford, in 1967, and starred in the satirical play Mrs Wilson’s Diary as George Brown, the Foreign Secretary in Harold Wilson’s Labour government – this play later transferred to the West End. When the real-life Brown resigned in 1968, Grant was so concerned that his unflattering portrayal of him as a drunk may have contributed to his resignation that he offered to stand down from the part.
On the Buses
Grant is perhaps best remembered as the randy bus conductor Jack Harper in the television comedy On the Buses, which ran for 74 episodes between 1969 and 1973. Although the critics thought it was a vulgar brand of comedy, it was an instant success with the viewers, and led to three feature films On the Buses (1971), Mutiny on the Buses (1972) and Holiday on the Buses (1973), the first of which was more successful in the UK than the Bond film of that year.
The series was the peak of his career; when Grant married for the third time in 1971 there were huge crowds outside the register office and the couple had to abandon their hired Rolls-Royce and walk to the reception. A double-decker bus had been provided for the guests, but they had to walk as well.
When On the Buses finished, Grant toured Australia in the farce No Sex Please, We’re British, and continued to appear in musicals and pantomimes. By the 1980s work was drying up,and he suffered from severe depression. In 1987 he disappeared from his home in Leicestershire for five days; it later emerged that he had gone to Dublin intending to kill himself. He only returned after a public appeal from his wife. In 1995 he attempted suicide again, and was treated for carbon monoxide poisoning after being found slumped over the wheel of a car filled with exhaust fumes. Grant then moved with his wife to Twyning, a village near Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire. In 2003 he was found dead, at the age of 71, after a similar incident.
Since his death, an appeal has been launched to track down his old colleagues from when Bob served with the Royal Artillery in his early life, with the intended aim of finding out more about his service as Bob never spoke of his time in the National Service in public.