Old Boy Bruce Allpress (1944-45)

By Otago Daily Times | Posted: Friday June 12, 2020

Dunedin-born actor Bruce Allpress, who appeared in long-running 70s TV show Close to Home, and had roles in The Piano and Lord of the Rings, has died aged 89.

Allpress died on Thursday, April 23, at his Auckland home surrounded by family.

The actor spent more than 60 years on New Zealand's small and large screens carving out a niche for himself in roles playing the quintessential working class Kiwi bloke.

His first role, in the 1960s, was in a Vaudeville act called The Cheeseman Singer Series.

Later he appeared in iconic soap opera Close to Home which ran from 1975-83, as well as roles in Hunter's Gold, The Billy T. James Show, Mortimer's Patch and Jocko - for which he won Feltex Actor of the Year in 1981 and 1983.

His film roles included parts in New Zealand movies like Came a Hot Friday, The Scarecrow, and smaller roles in big studio productions such as The Piano, Lord of the Rings, Frosty Man and the BMX Kid.

Allpress was also a regular fixture on stage and worked as a theatre director and producer.

The Allpress family released a statement saying his "love for the performing arts was inspired by his mum, who took Bruce on outings to amateur theatre productions while growing up in Dunedin".

Allpress had strong connections to the South that stretched all the way back to the goldfields of Central Otago when his grandfather worked the dredge on the Clutha River.

Speaking in 2011, Allpress told the Otago Daily Times, "I've done a hell of lot of filming around that way, and that's where we did Hunter's Gold obviously, so having been born and brought up in Dunedin, I know that area like the back of my hand. It's strange you know, when people ask me where I'm from, and although I've lived twice as long in Auckland, I tell people I am from Dunedin because it's where you were born and brought up, it's where you went to school and high school. I also did all my original drama stuff there."

His first acting break came when he was 18, landing a bit part in the Mikado being staged at His Majesty's in Dunedin.

"I truly got my training in Dunedin by doing one show and moving straight to another show as fast as possible, as we did in those days. You know, it would be nothing to do 10 productions in a year."

With his career taking off and a burgeoning interest in television and film, Allpress left Dunedin in the 1950s and shifted to Auckland, where he had been based since.

"The thing about Dunedin is, it should be marketed as the best kept secret in the South, because it really is grand. It's not up itself like Wellington - they always think that Aucklanders are up themselves, Aucklanders are too busy to worry about that."

In the same 2011 interview, he offered some advice to Dunedinites, saying "The next time they are walking down Princes St or George St, [they should] lift their eyes up and have a look at the tops of the buildings, and just realise what a beautiful city they live in."

Friend and fellow actor Peter Elliott paid tribute to Allpress as an icon of 70s and 80s Kiwi film and television.

"I always enjoyed our interactions greatly, and Bruce's superb humour and wicked pisstakes were the stuff of legend," Elliott said.

"I had the greatest pleasure working with him and picking his brains in the 80s and 90s, both in television and theatrical circles.

"On rare occasions I would pop into his antique store for a brief insult and comedic quip or two. And I have always enjoyed his appearances on our screens.

"Although he will be sadly missed, he will also be long remembered. An icon of the era."

As an adult Allpress moved to Auckland, married and raised five children on the North Shore.

He worked in textile design for many decades, working with mills throughout Asia and travelling extensively, including communist China in the 1960s.

He lived in Albany for more than 35 years and was a fixture in the local community, where he started the Albany Hill Cottage Antiques shop.

The father of Michael Allpress, Bruce was an early investor in Allpress Espresso, a founding shareholder and member of the company's board until recently.

It was his financial support that enabled Michael Allpress to build his first coffee cart 30 years ago, the Allpress family statement said.

"Dad lived an extremely full life," Michael Allpress said.

"He was very accepting of the vast diversity that humanity presents and very much an independent thinker. He was a valuable and wise contributor over the years at Allpress Coffee. He will be missed dearly."

Allpress is survived by his five children: Susan, Jane, Michael, Anna and Peter.

Thank you to the Otago Daily Times for use of this article.