Once in a while, something intriguing arrives in the Randall and Hopkirk (Declassified) mailbox, which is what happened when David Costelloe contacted us in August 2019.

 

David explained that he'd been watching the celebrated Mike Hodges thriller Get Carter (1971) on television and had been somewhat taken aback to see Marty Hopkirk feature in it. There he was, bold as brass, lying still in all his white finery, as the corpse of Frank Carter. David searched high and low on the internet for any information about the actor playing the late brother of Michael Caine's character, but to no avail. He then contacted us and asked if we could help verify his suspicions that Kenneth Cope had made a Marty-like cameo, maybe as a little in-joke and nod to Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased).

 

It has to be said that the photo comparison that David attached to the email was at the very least compelling. There was definitely a resemblance to Kenneth Cope, even down to the hair and sideburns. And Cope would likely have been available for filming, since Get Carter conveniently commenced principal photography in July 1970, just as Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) was completing its own. But was it him?

 

I endeavoured to seek some opinions on the matter. I asked my better half, Alys, and she was struck by the similarity but thought that it probably wasn't Kenneth Cope, suggesting that Michael Caine's unfortunate sibling looked a bit too thick-set to be "our Marty". However, I was still hanging on to the delicious possibility that Cope had reprised Marty Hopkirk on the big screen and this little in-joke had been hidden in plain sight for nearly fifty years. So I dropped a line to our friend Geoff Dodd...

 

Geoff took our little investigation a step further: "I donít think it is him but he looks very similar. Funnily enough, I watched this on TCM a couple of weeks ago and thought Ďdoesnít he look like Ken Cope?í when it got to that scene. It does look very like him but somethingís not quite right. Seeing as it was all shot on location, I thought it was doubtful that [Cope] would trek up to the North East just to play a corpse when heíd just been the lead role in a TV series but maybe itís possible if it was some kind of in-joke? That doesnít fit with Mike Hodges or the rest of the film though. So, Iíd say it wasnít him but you never know."
 

Geoff went on to suggest that I take a look at Stuart Davis' excellent Get Carter website and perhaps drop Stu a line to see if he might shed some light on the question. This proved to be excellent advice...

 

 

I emailed Stu, who quickly responded. He said that Steve Chibnall's guide to the film (British Film Guides: Get Carter) states that the corpse of Frank Carter was played by Reg Niven. Stu then elaborated: "I did a bit of digging on this and he was the driver of Michael Klinger, the producer of the film. [Niven] was employed by the studio to drive Klinger between locations. So a one-off cameo for the guy, but forever remembered on film!"
 

So, the mystery is solved - and in some ways it's a fascinating bit of movie trivia: the producer's chauffeur who grabbed his fifteen minutes of fame as a dead body in one of the stand-out British films of the 1970s. Yes, of course, it would have been amazing to be able to say that Kenneth Cope and Mike Hodges had kept a private joke undercover for half a century in a very popular film, but sometimes the truth is just as fascinating as fantasy!
 
 

Randall and Hopkirk (Declassified) is very grateful to Stu Davis of the Get Carter website

 

Feature by Alan Hayes with thanks to David Costelloe, Stu Davis, Geoff Dodd and Alys Hayes
 

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