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Richard Burton

 

Name: Richard Walter Jenkins

Born:  10th November 1925

Died: 5th August 1984

Occupation: Actor

Years active: 1944 – 1984

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Richard Burton, CBE (born Richard Walter Jenkins 10 November 1925 – 5 August 1984) was a Welsh actor.[1] He was nominated seven times for an Academy Award, six of which were for Best Actor in a Leading Role (without ever winning), and was a recipient of BAFTA, Golden Globe and Tony Awards for Best Actor. Although never trained as an actor, Burton was, at one time, the highest-paid actor in Hollywood. He remains closely associated in the public consciousness with his second wife, actress Elizabeth Taylor; the couple’s turbulent relationship was rarely out of the news.[2]

 

Childhood and education

Richard Burton was born Richard Walter Jenkins in the village of Pontrhydyfen, Neath Port Talbot, Wales. He grew up in a working class, Welsh-speaking household, the twelfth of thirteen children.[3] His father, Richard Walter Jenkins, was a short, robust coal miner, a “twelve-pints-a-day man” who sometimes went off on drinking and gambling sprees for weeks. Burton later claimed, by family telling, that “He looked very much like me…That is, he was pockmarked, devious, and smiled a great deal when he was in trouble. He was, also, a man of extraordinary eloquence, tremendous passion, great violence.”[4]:23

 

Burton was less than two years old in 1927 when his mother, Edith Maude (née Thomas), died at the age of 43[5]:2 after giving birth to her 13th child.[6] His sister Cecilia and her husband Elfed took him into their Presbyterian mining family in nearby Port Talbot (an English-speaking steel town).[3][7] Burton said later that his sister became “more mother to me than any mother could have ever been… I was immensely proud of her… she felt all tragedies except her own”. Burton’s father would occasionally visit the homes of his grown daughters but was otherwise absent.[8]:7, 10 Also important in young Burton’s life was Ifor (Ivor), the brother 19 years his senior. A miner and rugby player, Ifor “ruled the household with the proverbial firm hand”.[5]:7

 

Burton showed a talent for English and Welsh literature at grammar school, and demonstrated an excellent memory, though his consuming interest was sports – rugby (in fact famous Welsh centre Bleddyn Williams said in his autobiography that Burton could have gone far as a player[9]), cricket, and table tennis[10] He later said, “I would rather have played for Wales at Cardiff Arms Park than Hamlet at the Old Vic.”[8]:17 He earned pocket money by running messages, hauling horse manure, and delivering newspapers. He started to smoke at the age of eight and drink regularly at twelve.[4]:25–26 Inspired by his schoolmaster, Philip H. Burton, he excelled in school productions, his first being The Apple Cart.[4]:29 Philip could not legally adopt Burton because their age difference was one year short of the minimum twenty years required.[11]:47 Burton early on displayed an excellent speaking and singing voice and won an Eisteddfod prize as a boy soprano.[4]:27

 

Burton left school at sixteen for full-time work. He worked for the local wartime Co-operative committee, handing out supplies in exchange for coupons, but then considered other professions for his future, including boxing, religion and singing.[4]:27 When Burton joined the Port Talbot Squadron of the Air Training Corps as a cadet, he re-encountered Philip Burton, his former teacher, who was the commander. Richard also joined a youth drama group led by Leo Lloyd, a steel worker and avid amateur thespian, who taught him the fundamentals of acting.

 

Philip Burton, recognising Richard’s talent, then adopted him as his ward and Richard returned to school, and, being older than most of the boys, he was very attractive to some of the girls.[4]:30–31 Philip Burton later said, “Richard was my son to all intents and purposes. I was committed to him.”[4]:34 Philip Burton tutored his charge intensely in school subjects and also worked at developing the youth’s acting voice, including outdoor voice drills which improved his projection.[8]:38

 

In 1943, at the age of eighteen, Richard Burton (who had now taken his teacher’s surname but would not change it by deed poll for several years[5]:41), was allowed into Exeter College, Oxford for a special term of six months study, made possible because he was an air force cadet obligated to later military service. He subsequently did serve in the RAF (1944–1947) as a navigator. Burton’s eyesight was too poor for him to be considered pilot material.[10]

 

Early acting career

In the 1940s and early 1950s Burton worked on stage and in cinema in the United Kingdom. Before his war service with the Royal Air Force, he starred as Professor Higgins in a YMCA production of Pygmalion. He earned his first professional acting fees doing radio parts for the BBC.[4]:35 He had made his professional acting debut in Liverpool and London, appearing in Druid’s Rest, a play by Emlyn Williams (who also became a guru), but his career was interrupted by conscription in 1944.[8]:44 Early on as an actor, he developed the habit of toting around a book-bag filled with novels, dictionaries, a complete Shakespeare, and books of quotations, history, and biography, and enjoyed solving crossword puzzles. Burton could, given any line from Shakespeare’s works, recite from memory the next several minutes of lines.[12] His Welsh love of language was paramount, as he famously stated years later, with a tearful Elizabeth Taylor at his side, “The only thing in life is language. Not love. Not anything else.”[8]:43

 

In 1947, after his discharge from the RAF, Burton went to London to seek his fortune. He immediately signed up with a theatrical agency to make himself available for casting calls.[4]:45 His first film was The Last Days of Dolwyn, set in a Welsh village about to be drowned to provide a reservoir. His reviews praised him for his “acting fire, manly bearing, and good looks.”[4]:48

Burton met his future wife, the young actress Sybil Williams, on the set, and they married in February 1949. They had two daughters, and divorced in 1963 after Burton’s widely reported affair with Elizabeth Taylor. In the years of his marriage to Sybil, Burton appeared in the West End in a highly successful production of The Lady’s Not for Burning, alongside Sir John Gielgud and Claire Bloom, in both the London and NewYork productions. He had small parts in various British films: Now Barabbas Was A Robber; Waterfront (1950) with Robert Newton; The Woman with No Name (1951); and a bigger part as a smuggler in Green Grow the Rushes, a B-movie.[8]:70–71

 

Reviewers took notice of Burton: “He has all the qualifications of a leading man that the British film industry so badly needs at this juncture: youth, good looks, a photogenic face, obviously alert intelligence, and a trick of getting the maximum of attention with a minimum of fuss.”[4]:51 In the 1951 season at Stratford, he gave a critically acclaimed performance and achieved stardom as Prince Hal in Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1 opposite Anthony Quayle’s Falstaff. Philip Burton arrived at Stratford to help coach his former charge, and he noted in his memoir that Quayle and Richard Burton had their differences about the interpretation of the Prince Hal role. Richard Burton was already demonstrating the same independence and competitiveness as an actor that he displayed off-stage in drinking, sport, or story-telling.[8]:73

 

Kenneth Tynan said of Burton’s performance, “His playing of Prince Hal turned interested speculation to awe almost as soon as he started to speak; in the first intermission local critics stood agape in the lobbies.”[4]:51 Suddenly, Richard Burton had fulfilled his guardian’s wildest hopes and was admitted to the post-War British acting circle which included Anthony Quayle, John Gielgud, Michael Redgrave, Hugh Griffith and Paul Scofield. He even met Humphrey Bogart, a fellow hard drinker, who sang his praises back in Hollywood.[4]:56 Lauren Bacall recalled, “Bogie loved him. We all did. You had no alternative.” Burton bought the first of many cars and celebrated by increasing his drinking.[8]:73–74 The following year, Burton signed a five-year contract with Alexander Korda at £100 a week, launching his Hollywood career.

 

Hollywood and later career

Richard Burton in the film Cleopatra (1963)

 

In 1952, Burton successfully made the transition to a Hollywood star; on the recommendation of Daphne du Maurier, he was given the leading role in My Cousin Rachel opposite Olivia de Havilland.[4]:59 Burton arrived on the Hollywood scene at a time when the studios were struggling. Television’s rise was drawing away viewers and the studios looked to new stars and new film technology to staunch the bleeding. 20th Century Fox negotiated with Korda to borrow him for this film and a further two at $50,000 a film. The film was a critical success. It established Burton as a Hollywood leading man and earned him his first Academy Award nomination and the Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year – Actor. In Desert Rats (1953), Burton plays a young English captain in the North African campaign during World War II who takes charge of a hopelessly out-numbered Australian unit against the indomitable Field Marshal Erwin Rommel (James Mason). Mason, another actor known for his distinctive voice and excellent elocution, became a friend of Burton’s and introduced the new actor to the Hollywood crowd. In short order, he met Judy Garland, Greta Garbo, Stewart Granger, Jean Simmons, Deborah Kerr, and Cole Porter, and Burton met up again with Humphrey Bogart.[8]:82 At a party, he met a pregnant Elizabeth Taylor (then married to Michael Wilding) whose first impression of Burton was that “he was rather full of himself. I seem to remember that he never stopped talking, and I had given him the cold fish eye.”[4]:60

 

The following year he created a sensation by starring in The Robe, the first film to premiere in the wide-screen process CinemaScope, winning another Oscar nomination. He replaced Tyrone Power, who was originally cast in the role of Marcellus, a noble but decadent Roman in command of the detachment of Roman soldiers that crucified Jesus Christ, who, haunted by his guilt from this act, is eventually led to his own conversion. Marcellus’ Greek slave (played by Victor Mature) guides him as a spiritual teacher, and his wife (played by Jean Simmons) follows his lead, although it will mean both their deaths. The film marked a resurgence in Biblical blockbusters.[8]:85 Burton was offered a seven-year, $1 million contract by Darryl F. Zanuck at Fox, but he turned it down, though later the contract was revived and he agreed to it.[8]:87 It has been suggested that remarks Burton made about blacklisting Hollywood while filming The Robe may have explained his failure to ever win an Oscar, despite receiving seven nominations.

 

In 1954, Burton took his most famous radio role, as the narrator in the original production of Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood, a role he would reprise in the film version twenty years later. He was also the narrator, as Winston Churchill, in the highly successful 1960 television documentary series The Valiant Years.[4]:90

 

Stage career

Burton was still juggling theatre with film, playing Hamlet and Coriolanus at the Old Vic theatre in 1953 and alternating the roles of Iago and Othello with the Old Vic’s other rising matinee idol John Neville. Hamlet was a challenge that both terrified and attracted him, as it was a role many of his peers in the British theatre had undertaken, including John Gielgud and Laurence Olivier.[8]:93 Bogart, on the other hand, warned him as Burton left Hollywood, “I never knew a man who played Hamlet who didn’t die broke.”[4]:67 Once again, Philip Burton provided expert coaching. Claire Bloom played Ophelia, and their work together led to a turbulent affair.[8]:94 His reviews in Hamlet were good but he received stronger praise for Coriolanus. His fellow actor, Robert Hardy, said, “His Coriolanus is quite easily the best I’ve ever seen” but Hamlet was “too strong”.[8]:93

 

Burton appeared on Broadway, receiving a Tony Award nomination for Time Remembered (1958) and winning the award for playing King Arthur in the musical Camelot (1960). Moss Hart directed the musical, written by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, which was originally called Jenny Kissed Me, and based on T. H. White’s The Once and Future King.[4]:67 Julie Andrews, fresh from her triumph in My Fair Lady, played Guenevere to Burton’s King Arthur, with Robert Goulet as Lancelot completing the love triangle. The production was troubled, with both Loewe and Hart falling ill, numerous revisions upsetting the schedule and the actors, and the pressure building due to great expectations and huge advance sales. The show’s running time was nearly five hours. Burton took it all in his stride and calmed people down with statements like “Don’t worry, love.” Burton’s intense preparation and competitive desire served him well. He was generous and supportive to others who were suffering in the maelstrom. According to Lerner, “he kept the boat from rocking, and Camelot might never have reached New York if it hadn’t been for him.”[4]:93 As in the play, both male stars were enamoured of their leading lady, newly married Andrews. When Goulet turned to Burton for advice, Burton had none to offer, but later he admitted, “I tried everything on her myself. I couldn’t get anywhere either.”[4]:94 Burton’s reviews were excellent, Time magazine stated that Burton “gives Arthur the skilful and vastly appealing performance that might be expected from one of England’s finest young actors.” The show’s album was a major seller. The Kennedys, newly in the White House, also enjoyed the play and invited Burton for a visit, establishing the link of the idealistic young Kennedy administration with Camelot.

 

He then put his stage career on the back burner to concentrate on film, although he received a third Tony Award nomination when he reprised his Hamlet under John Gielgud’s direction in 1964 in a production that holds the record for the longest run of the play in Broadway history (136 performances).[4]:148 The performance was immortalised both on record and on a film that played in US theatres for a week in 1964 as well as being the subject of books written by cast members William Redfield and Richard L. Sterne. Burton took the role on just after his marriage to Taylor. Since Burton disliked wearing period clothing, Gielgud conceived a production in a “rehearsal” setting with a half-finished set and actors wearing their street clothes (carefully selected while the production really was in rehearsal). Burton’s basic reading of Hamlet, which displeased some theatre-goers, was of a complex manic-depressive personality, but during the long run he varied his performance considerably as a self-challenge and to keep his acting fresh. On the whole, Burton had good reviews. Time said that Burton “put his passion into Hamlet’s language rather than the character. His acting is a technician’s marvel. His voice has gem-cutting precision.”[4]:144 The opening night party was a lavish affair, attended by six hundred celebrities who paid homage to the couple. The most successful aspect of the production was generally considered to be Hume Cronyn’s performance as Polonius, winning Cronyn the only Tony Award that he would ever receive in a competitive category.

 

After his Hamlet, Burton did not return to the stage for twelve years until 1976 in Equus. (He did however accept the role of Humbert Humbert in Alan Jay Lerner’s musical adaptation of Lolita entitled Lolita, My Love. However he withdrew and was replaced by friend and fellow Welshman John Neville.) His performance as psychiatrist Martin Dysart won him both a special Tony Award for his appearance, but he had to make Exorcist II: The Heretic – a film he hated – before Hollywood producers would allow him to repeat his role in the 1977 film version. Burton made only two more stage appearances after that, in a high-paying touring production of Camelot in 1980 that he was forced to leave early in the run after he was hospitalised and his entire spinal column was found to be coated with crystallised alcohol, necessitating immediate spinal surgery in which his backbone had to be completely rebuilt. Had the operation gone wrong he would have been left paralysed.[13] He was replaced by his friend Richard Harris. The final stage performance in which he starred was a critically reviled production of Noël Coward’s Private Lives, opposite his ex-wife Elizabeth Taylor, in 1983. Most reviewers dismissed the production as a transparent attempt to capitalise on the couple’s celebrity, although they grudgingly praised Burton as having the closest connection to Coward’s play of anyone in the cast.

 

Hollywood career in the 1950s and 1960s

In terms of critical success, Burton’s Hollywood roles throughout the 1950s did not live up to the early promise of his debut. Burton returned to Hollywood to star in The Prince of Players, another historical Cinemascope film, this time concerning Edwin Booth, famous American actor and brother of Abraham Lincoln’s assassin John Wilkes Booth. A weak script undermined a valiant effort by Burton, although the view of director, Philip Dunne, was that “The fire and intensity were there, but that was all. He hadn’t yet mastered the tricks of the great movie stars, such as Gary Cooper.”[4]:71 Next came Alexander The Great (1956), written, directed, and produced by Robert Rossen (Academy Award winner for All the King’s Men), with Burton in the title role, on a loan out to United Artists, and again with Claire Bloom co-starring. Contrary to Burton’s expectations, the “intelligent epic” was a wooden, slow-paced flop.[4]:75

 

In The Rains of Ranchipur, Burton plays a noble Hindu doctor who attempts the spiritual recovery of an adulteress (Lana Turner). Critics felt that the film lacked star chemistry, with Burton having difficulty with the accent, and relied too heavily on Cinemascope special effects including an earthquake and a collapsing dam. Burton returned to the theatre in Henry V and Othello, alternating the roles of Iago and Othello. He and Sybil then moved to Switzerland to avoid high British taxes and to try to build a nest egg, for themselves and for Burton’s family.[4]:75 He returned to film again in Sea Wife, shot in Jamaica and directed by Roberto Rossellini. A young Joan Collins (then called by the tabloids “Britain’s bad girl”) plays a nun shipwrecked on an island with three men. But Rossellini was let go after disagreements with Zanuck. According to Collins, Burton had a “take-the-money-and-run attitude” toward the film. Burton turned down the lead for Lawrence of Arabia, also turned down by Marlon Brando, which went to newcomer Peter O’Toole, who produced a memorable performance in the multi-Oscar-winning film.[4]:75–77

 

Then in 1958, he was offered the part of Jimmy Porter, “an angry young man” role, in the film version of John Osborne’s play Look Back in Anger, a gritty drama about middle-class life in the British Midlands, directed by Tony Richardson, and again with Claire Bloom as co-star. Though it didn’t do well commercially (many critics felt Burton, at 33, looked too old for the part) and Burton’s Hollywood box office aura seemed to be diminishing, Burton was proud of the effort and wrote to his mentor Philip Burton, “I promise you that there isn’t a shred of self-pity in my performance. I am for the first time ever looking forward to seeing a film in which I play”.[8]:125 Next came The Bramble Bush and Ice Palace in 1960, neither important to Burton’s career.

 

After playing King Arthur in Camelot on Broadway for six months, Burton replaced Stephen Boyd as Mark Antony in the troubled production Cleopatra (1963). Twentieth Century-Fox’s future appeared to hinge on what became the most expensive movie ever made up until then, reaching almost $40 million.[4]:97 The film proved to be the start of Burton’s most successful period in Hollywood; he would remain among the top 10 box-office earners for the next four years. During the filming, Burton met and fell in love with Elizabeth Taylor, who was married to Eddie Fisher. The two would not be free to marry until 1964 when their respective divorces were complete. On their first meeting on the set, Burton said “Has anyone ever told you that you’re a very pretty girl?” Taylor later recalled, “I said to myself, Oy gevalt, here’s the great lover, the great wit, the great intellectual of Wales, and he comes out with a line like that.”[4]:103 In their first scenes together, he was shaky and missing his lines, and she soothed and coached him. Soon the affair began in earnest and Sybil, seeing this as more than a passing fling with a leading lady, was unable to bear it. She fled the set, first for Switzerland, then for London.

 

The gigantic scale of the troubled production, Taylor’s bouts of illness and fluctuating weight, the off-screen turbulence—all generated enormous publicity, which by-and-large the studio embraced. Zanuck stated, “I think the Taylor-Burton association is quite constructive for our organization.”[4]:118 The six-hour film was cut to under four, eliminating many of Burton’s scenes, but the result was viewed the same—a film long on spectacle dominated by the two hottest stars in Hollywood. Their private lives turned out to be an endless source of curiosity for the media, and their marriage was also the start of a series of on-screen collaborations. In the end, the film did well enough to recoup its great cost.

Burton played Taylor’s tycoon husband in The V.I.P.s, an all-star film set in the VIP lounge of London Airport which proved to be a box-office hit. Then Burton portrayed the archbishop martyred by Henry II in the title role of Becket, turning in an effective, restrained performance, contrasting with Peter O’Toole’s manic portrayal of Henry.[4]:130

In 1964, Burton triumphed as defrocked Episcopal priest Dr. T. Lawrence Shannon in Tennessee Williams’ The Night of the Iguana directed by John Huston, a film which became another critical and box office success. Richard Burton’s performance in The Night of the Iguana may be his finest hour on the screen, and in the process helped put the town of Puerto Vallarta on the map (the Burtons later bought a house there). Part of Burton’s success was due to how well he varied his acting with the three female characters, each of whom he tries to seduce differently: Ava Gardner (the randy hotel owner), Sue Lyon (the nubile American tourist), and Deborah Kerr (the poor, repressed artist).[4]:135

Against his family’s advice, Burton married Taylor on Sunday 15 March 1964 in Montreal. Ever optimistic, Taylor proclaimed, “I’m so happy you can’t believe it. This marriage will last forever”.[4]:140 At the hotel in Boston, the rabid crowd clawed at the newlyweds, Burton’s coat was ripped and Taylor’s ear was bloodied when someone tried to steal one of her earrings.[4]:142

After an interruption playing Hamlet on Broadway, Burton returned to film as British spy Alec Leamas in The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. Burton and Taylor continued making films together though the next one The Sandpiper (1965) was poorly received. Following that, he and Taylor had a great success in Mike Nichols’s film (1966) of the Edward Albee play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, in which a bitter erudite couple spend the evening trading vicious barbs in front of their horrified and fascinated guests, played by George Segal and Sandy Dennis. Burton was not the first choice for the role of Taylor’s husband. Jack Lemmon was offered the role first, but when he backed off, Jack Warner, with Taylor’s insistence, agreed on Burton and paid him his price. Albee preferred Bette Davis and James Mason, fearing that the Burtons’ strong screen presence would dominate the film.[4]:155, 163 Nichols, in his directorial debut, managed the Burtons brilliantly. The script by Hollywood veteran Ernest Lehman broke new ground for its raw language and harsh depiction of marriage. Although all four actors received Oscar nominations for their roles in the film (the film received a total of thirteen), only Taylor and Dennis went on to win. So immersed had the Burtons become in the roles of George and Martha over the months of shooting, after the wrap Richard Burton said, “I feel rather lost.”[4]:142 Later the couple would state that the film took its toll on their relationship, and that Taylor was “tired of playing Martha” in real life.[8]:206

Their lively version of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew (1967), directed by Franco Zeffirelli, was a notable success. Later collaborations, however, The Comedians (1967), Boom! (1968), and the Burton-directed Doctor Faustus (1967) (which had its genesis from a theatre production he staged and starred in at the Oxford University Dramatic Society) were critical and commercial failures. He did enjoy a final commercial blockbuster with Clint Eastwood in Where Eagles Dare in 1968[14] but his last film of the decade, Anne of the Thousand Days (1969), was a commercial and critical disappointment. In spite of those failures, it performed remarkably well at that year’s Academy awards (receiving ten nominations, including one for Burton’s performance as Henry VIII), which many thought to be largely the result of an expensive advertising campaign by Universal Studios.[15]

 

Later career

Due to Burton and Taylor’s extravagant spending and his support of his family and others (42 people at one point), Burton agreed to work in mediocre films that hurt his career. He recognised his financial need to do so, and that in the New Hollywood era of cinema he or Taylor would not soon again be paid as well as at the height of their stardom.[14] Films he made during this period included Bluebeard (1972), Hammersmith Is Out (1972), The Klansman (1974), and Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977). He did enjoy one major critical success in the 1970s in the film version of his stage hit Equus, winning the Golden Globe Award as well as an Academy Award nomination. Public sentiment towards his perennial frustration at not winning an Oscar made many pundits consider him the favourite to finally win the award, but on Oscar Night he lost to Richard Dreyfuss in The Goodbye Girl.

In 1976 Burton received a Grammy in the category of Best Recording for Children for his narration of The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. He also found success in 1978, when he narrated Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds. His distinctive performance became a necessary part of the concept album – so much so that a hologram of Burton is used to narrate the live stage show (touring in 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2010) of the musical.

Burton had an international box office hit with The Wild Geese (1978), an adventure tale about mercenaries in Africa. The film was a success in the UK and Europe but had only limited distribution in the U.S. owing to the collapse of the studio that funded it and the lack of an American star in the movie. He returned to appearing in critically reviled films like The Medusa Touch (1978), Circle of Two (1980), and Wagner (1983), a role he said he was born to play, after his success in Equus. His last film performance, as O’Brien in Nineteen Eighty-Four, was critically acclaimed.[14]

At the time of his death, Burton was preparing to film Wild Geese II, the sequel to The Wild Geese, which was eventually released in 1985. Burton was to reprise the role of Colonel Faulkner, while his friend Sir Laurence Olivier was cast as Rudolf Hess. After his death, Burton was replaced by Edward Fox, and the character changed to Faulkner’s younger brother.

 

Oscars

He was nominated six times for an Academy Award for Best Actor and once for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor – but he never won. From 1982, he and Becket co-star Peter O’Toole shared the record for the male actor with the most nominations (7) for a competitive acting Oscar without ever winning. In 2007, O’Toole was nominated for an eighth time (and subsequently lost), for Venus (however, O’Toole received an Academy Honorary Award in 2003).

 

Television

Burton rarely appeared on television, although he gave a memorable performance as Caliban in a televised production of The Tempest for The Hallmark Hall of Fame in 1960. Later appearances included the TV movie Divorce His – Divorce Hers (1973) opposite then-wife Elizabeth Taylor (a prophetic title, since their first marriage would be dissolved less than a year later), a remake of the classic film Brief Encounter (1974) that was considered vastly inferior to the 1945 original, and a critically applauded performance as Winston Churchill in The Gathering Storm (1974). A critically panned film he made about the life of Richard Wagner (noted only for having the only onscreen teaming of Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson in the same scene) was shown as a television miniseries in 1983 after failing to achieve a theatrical release in most countries, but Burton enjoyed a personal triumph in the American television miniseries Ellis Island in 1984, receiving a posthumous Emmy Award nomination for his final television performance.

Television played an important part in the fate of his Broadway appearance in Camelot. When the show’s run was threatened by disappointing reviews, Burton and co-star Julie Andrews appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show to perform the number What Do The Simple Folk Do?. The television appearance renewed public interest in the production and extended its Broadway run.

Burton showed a subtle flair for comedy in a 1970 guest appearance with Elizabeth Taylor on the sitcom Here’s Lucy, where he recited, in a plumber’s uniform, a haunting excerpt of a speech from Shakespeare’s Richard II. He later parodied this role in an episode of Television Show The Fall Guy.

In 1997, archive footage of Burton was used in the first episode of the television series Conan.[16]

 

Book

In 1964, Burton wrote a semi-autobiographical book A Christmas Story, which is an endearing tale of a Christmas Eve in a Welsh mining village, during the Depression.[17]

 

Personal life

Burton was married five times and he had four children. From 1949 until their divorce in 1963, he was married to producer Sybil Williams, by whom he had two daughters, Katherine “Kate” Burton (born 10 September 1957) and Jessica Burton (born 1961). He was married twice, consecutively, to actress Elizabeth Taylor, from 15 March 1964 to 26 June 1974 and from 10 October 1975 to 29 July 1976. Their first wedding took place in Montreal,[12] and their second wedding occurred, 16 months after their divorce, in the Chobe National Park in Botswana. In 1964, the couple adopted a daughter from Germany, Maria Burton (born 1 August 1961). Burton also adopted Taylor’s daughter by the late producer Mike Todd, Elizabeth Frances “Liza” Todd Burton (born 6 August 1957).[18] Their relationship as portrayed in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? was popularly likened to Burton and Taylor’s real-life marriage.[19] Burton disagreed with others about Taylor’s famed beauty, saying that calling her “the most beautiful woman in the world is absolute nonsense. She has wonderful eyes, but she has a double chin and an overdeveloped chest, and she’s rather short in the leg.”[20] In August 1976, a month after his second divorce from Taylor, Burton married model Susan Hunt, the former wife of Formula 1 Champion James Hunt;[21] the marriage ended in divorce in 1982. From 1983 until his death in 1984, Burton was married to make-up artist Sally Hay.

In 1957 Burton became a tax exile by moving to Switzerland, where he lived until his death. It is widely believed he was never offered a knighthood due to his tax exile status, together with his attacks on Churchill and other controversial public opinions.

In 1968 Burton’s elder brother, Ifor, slipped and fell, breaking his neck, after a lengthy drinking session with Burton at the actor’s second home in Céligny, Switzerland. The injury left him paralysed from the neck down.[22] His younger brother Graham Jenkins opined it may have been guilt over this that caused Burton to start drinking very heavily, particularly after Ifor died in 1973.[23]

In a February 1975 interview with his friend David Lewin he said he “tried” homosexuality. He also suggested that perhaps all actors were latent homosexuals, and “we cover it up with drink”.[24] In 2000, Ellis Amburn’s biography of Elizabeth Taylor suggested that Burton had an affair with Laurence Olivier and tried to seduce Eddie Fisher, although this was strongly denied by Burton’s younger brother Graham Jenkins.[25]

 

Burton’s gravestone at the Vieux Cemetery in Céligny. He is buried a few paces away from Alistair MacLean’s grave.

Burton was notorious for his unrestrained pursuit of women while filming. Joan Collins wrote that when she rejected his on-set advances, he embarked on a series of liaisons with other women including an elderly black maid who, according to Collins, was “almost toothless”. Collins playfully told Burton that she believed he would sleep with a snake if he had the chance, to which Burton is alleged to have replied “only if it was wearing a skirt, darling”.

He was an insomniac and a notoriously heavy drinker. However, ongoing back pain and a dependence upon pain medications have been suggested as the true cause of his misery. He was also a heavy smoker from the time he was just eight years old; and by his own admission in a December 1977 interview with Sir Ludovic Kennedy, Burton was smoking 60–100 cigarettes per day. According to his younger brother Graham Jenkins’s 1988 book “Richard Burton: My Brother”, he smoked at least a hundred cigarettes a day.

His father, also a heavy drinker, refused to acknowledge his son’s talents, achievements and acclaim.[7] In turn, Burton declined to attend his funeral, in 1957.[10] Like Burton, his father died from a cerebral haemorrhage, in January 1957, at the age of 81.

Burton admired and was inspired by the actor and dramatist Emlyn Williams. He employed his son Brook Williams as his personal assistant and adviser and he was given small roles in some of the films in which Burton starred.[26]

Burton was banned permanently from BBC productions in November 1974 for writing two newspaper articles questioning the sanity of Winston Churchill and others in power during World War II – Burton reported hating them “virulently” for the alleged promise to wipe out all Japanese people on the planet.[27] The publication of these articles coincided with what would have been Churchill’s centenary, and came after Burton had played him in a favourable light in A Walk with Destiny, with considerable help from the Churchill family. In one article he accused Churchill of having Welsh miners shot during strikes in the 1920s. Ironically, Burton got along well with Churchill when he met him at a play in London, and kept a bust of him on his mantelpiece. On the Parkinson show in November 1974 Burton told a funny story about meeting Churchill; however, according to Robert Hardy, it was not true. Politically Burton was a lifelong socialist, although he was never as heavily involved in politics as his close friend Stanley Baker. He greatly admired Democratic Senator Robert F. Kennedy and once got into a sonnet-quoting contest with him. In 1973 Burton agreed to play Josef Broz Tito in a biopic, since he greatly admired the Yugoslav leader. While filming in Yugoslavia he publicly proclaimed that he was a communist, saying he felt no contradiction between earning vast sums of money for films and holding very left-wing views since “unlike capitalists, I don’t exploit other people.”[28] Burton courted further controversy in 1976 when he wrote a controversial article about his friend and fellow Welsh thespian Stanley Baker, who had recently died from pneumonia at the age of 48.

 

Health issues

The 1988 biography of Burton by Melvyn Bragg[8] provides a detailed description of the many health issues that plagued Burton throughout his life. In his youth, Burton was a star athlete and well known for his athletic abilities and strength. By the age of 41 he had declined so far in health that his arms were by his own admission thin and weak. He suffered from bursitis, possibly aggravated by faulty treatment, arthritis, dermatitis, cirrhosis of the liver and kidneys, as well as displaying, by his mid-forties, signs of advanced senescence such as a pronounced limp. How much of this was due to his intake of alcohol is impossible to ascertain, according to Bragg, because of Burton’s reluctance to be treated for alcohol addiction; however, in 1974, Burton spent six weeks in a clinic to recuperate from a period during which he had been drinking three bottles of vodka a day. He was a regular smoker with an intake of between three and five packs a day for most of his adult life. Health issues continued to plague him until his death of a stroke at the age of 58.

 

Death

Burton died at age 58 from a brain haemorrhage on 5 August 1984 at his home in Céligny, Switzerland, and is buried there.[29] Although his death was sudden, his health had been declining for several years, and he suffered from a constant and severe pain in the neck. He had been warned that his liver was enlarged as early as March 1970,[22] and had been diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver and kidneys in April 1981. Burton was buried in a red suit, a tribute to his Welsh roots, and with a copy of Dylan Thomas’ poems. He and Taylor had discussed being buried together; his widow Sally purchased the plot next to Burton’s and erected a large headstone across both, likely to prevent Taylor from being buried there.[30]

 

Academy AwardsNominations1952 Best Supporting Actor, My Cousin Rachel(Anthony Quinn)1953 Best Actor, The Robe(William Holden)1964 Best Actor, Becket(Rex Harrison)1965 Best Actor, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold(Lee Marvin)1966 Best Actor, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?(Paul Scofield)1969 Best Actor, Anne of the Thousand Days (John Wayne)

1977 Best Actor, Equus (Richard Dreyfuss)

 

BAFTA Awards

1966 Best Actor, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? / The Spy Who Came in from the Cold

 

Nominations

1959 Best Actor, Look Back in Anger

1967 Best Actor, The Taming of the Shrew

Emmy Awards

Nominations

1985 Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or a Special, Ellis Island

 

References

  1.  Obituary Variety, 8 August 1984.
  2.  “Richard Burton: Works 1970s”. The Official Richard Burton Website. 2008. http://www.richardburton.com/film_70sbot.htm. Retrieved 5 June 2008.
  3.  BBC Biography
  4.  Alpert, Hollis (1986). Burton. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons. ISBN 0-399-13093-4.
  5.  Jenkins, David (subject’s elder brother) Richard Burton: A brother remembered, (2nd edn) Arrow Books London 1994
  6.  Parish, James Robert (2007). The Hollywood Book of Extravagance: The Totally Infamous, Mostly. John Wiley and Sons. p. 26. ISBN 0470052058.
  7.  welshwales.com biography
  8.  Bragg, Melvyn (1988). Richard Burton: A Life. Boston, Massachusetts: Little Brown and Co.. ISBN 0-316-10595-1.
  9.  “Richard Burton’s Last Match” in Take the Ball and Run by Godfrey Smith (Pavillion, 1991). ISBN 978-1851456055
  10.  Everything2 biography
  11.  Bragg, Melvyn (1990). Richard Burton: A Life (paperback/repack ed.). Warner Books. ISBN 0-446-35938-6.
  12.  Segal, Lionel (26 March 2011). “The witness to the wedding”. Montreal Gazette. http://www.montrealgazette.com/opinion/editorials/witness+wedding/4507239/story.html. Retrieved 26 March 2011.
  13.  Junor, Penny Richard Burton (1986)
  14.  Kashner, Sam; Schoenberger, Nancy (2010-07). “A Love Too Big To Last”. Vanity Fair. http://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/features/2010/07/elizabeth-taylor-201007?currentPage=all. Retrieved 24 March 2011.
  15.  Inside Oscar, Mason Wiley and Damien Boa, Ballantine Books (1986) pg. 434
  16.  Conan at the Internet Movie Database
  17.  A Christmas Story at Amazon.com
  18. “Q&A: An update on Elizabeth Taylor’s four children”. St. Petersburg Times. 12 January 2010. http://www.tampabay.com/news/humaninterest/qampa-an-update-on-elizabeth-taylors-four-children/1064792. Retrieved 20 April 2011.
  19.  Elizabeth Taylor-Richard Burton: The Film Collection – DVD
  20.  Gussow, Mel (23 March 2011). “Elizabeth Taylor, Lifelong Screen Star, Dies at 79″. The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/24/movies/elizabeth-taylor-obituary.html?_r=2&hp. Retrieved 23 March 2011.
  21.  “Richard Burton married model Susan Hunt in Arlington, Va.”. The Modesto Bee. AP (Modesto, California): p. C-9. 22 August 1976. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=gEYhAAAAIBAJ&sjid=bn8FAAAAIBAJ&pg=5246%2C1864680. Retrieved 5 March 2011.
  22.  “Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor: The Love Letters. How drinking cocooned them from pressure of fame. Without it, they couldn’t even make love”. Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger, Daily Mail, 7 June 2010]
  23.  Jenkins, Graham Richard Burton: My Brother (1988)
  24.  Ferris, Paul Richard Burton (1981) pp. 170–71.
  25.  “Anger at claim Burton was gay”. BBC News (Wales). 10 April 2000. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/708074.stm. Retrieved 31 August 2009.
  26.  Brook Williams Obituary. The Independent. 11 June 2005. Retrieved 5 March 2011.
  27.  Munn, Michael, Richard Burton: prince of players, Skyhorse Publishing Inc., 2008. Cf. p.214 on Burton’s diatribe and Winston Churchill.
  28.  Ferris, Paul Richard Burton (1981)
  29.  Dowd, Maureen (6 August 1984). “Richard Burton, 58, is Dead; Rakish Stage and Screen Star”. The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/bday/1110.html. Retrieved 21 July 2007.
  30.  Boshoff, Alison (25 March 2011). “Is Liz Taylor’s gay manager about to inherit her millions?”. Daily Mail (UK). http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1369731/Elizabeth-Taylor-death-Gay-manager-Jason-Winters-inherit-millions.html?ito=feeds-newsxml. Retrieved 26 March 2011.

 

External links

 

Rex Harrison

 

Name: Reginald Carey Harrison

Born: 5th March 1908

Died: 2nd June 1990

Occupation: Actor

Years active: 1930 – 1990

Interview:

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Sir Reginald Carey “Rex” Harrison (5 March 1908 – 2 June 1990) was an English actor of stage and screen. Harrison won both an Academy Award and a Tony Award.

 

Youth and stage career

Harrison was born in Huyton, Lancashire, and educated at Liverpool College.[1] After a bout of childhood measles, Harrison lost most of the sight in his left eye, which on one occasion caused some on-stage difficulty.[2] He first appeared on the stage in 1924 in Liverpool. Harrison’s acting career was interrupted during World War II whilst he served in the Royal Air Force, reaching the rank of Flight Lieutenant.[3] He acted in various stage productions until 11 May 1990. He acted in the West End of London when he was young, appearing in the Terence Rattigan play French Without Tears, which proved to be his breakthrough role.

He alternated appearances in London and New York in such plays as Bell, Book and Candle (1950), Venus Observed, The Cocktail Party, The Kingfisher, and The Love of Four Colonels, which he also directed.[4] He won his first Tony Award for his appearance as Henry VIII in Anne of the Thousand Days and international superstardom (and a second Tony Award) for his Henry Higgins in the musical My Fair Lady, in which he appeared opposite a young Julie Andrews. Later appearances included Pirandello’s Henry IV, a 1984 appearance at the Haymarket Theatre with Claudette Colbert in Frederick Lonsdale’s Aren’t We All?, and one on Broadway at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre presented by Douglas Urbanski, at the Haymarket in J. M. Barrie’s The Admirable Crichton with Edward Fox. He returned as Henry Higgins in a highly paid revival of My Fair Lady directed by Patrick Garland in 1981, cementing his association with the plays of George Bernard Shaw which included a Tony nominated performance as Shotover in Heartbreak House, Julius Caesar in Caesar and Cleopatra, and General Burgoyne in a Los Angeles production of The Devil’s Disciple. He also appeared as an aging homosexual man opposite Richard Burton as his lover in Staircase (1969).[5]

 

In film

Harrison’s film debut was in The Great Game (1930), and other notable early films include The Citadel (1938), Night Train to Munich (1940), Major Barbara (1941), Blithe Spirit (1945), Anna and the King of Siam (1946), The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947), and The Foxes of Harrow (1947). He was best known for his portrayal of Professor Henry Higgins with Audrey Hepburn in the 1964 film version of My Fair Lady, based on the Broadway production of the same name (which itself was based on George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion), for which Harrison won a Best Actor Oscar. He also starred in 1967′s Doctor Dolittle. Harrison was not by general terms a singer; thus, the music was generally written to allow for long periods of recitative, generally identified as “speaking to the music.” Nevertheless, “Talk to the Animals”, which Harrison performed in Doctor Dolittle, won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1967. His son, Noel, coincidentally sang the 1968 Oscar winner, “The Windmills of Your Mind”.[6]

Although excelling in comedy (Noël Coward described him thus: “the best light comedy actor in the world—except for me.”),[7] he attracted favourable notices in dramatic roles such as his portrayal of Julius Caesar in Cleopatra (1963) and as Pope Julius II in The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965), opposite Charlton Heston as Michelangelo. He also acted in a Hindi movie Shalimar alongside Indian Bollywood star Dharmendra.

 

Harrison as Julius Caesar in the film Cleopatra, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award.

 

Personal life

Harrison was married six times. In 1942 he divorced his first wife, Colette Thomas, and married actress Lilli Palmer the next year; the two later appeared together in numerous plays and films, including The Fourposter.[8]

In 1947, while married to Palmer, Harrison began an affair with actress Carole Landis. Landis committed suicide in 1948 after spending the night with Harrison.[9] Harrison’s involvement in the scandal surrounding Landis’ death briefly damaged his career and his contract with Fox was ended by mutual consent.[10]

Harrison and Lilli Palmer divorced in 1957. That same year, Harrison married actress Kay Kendall. Kendall died of leukemia in 1959.[11] He was subsequently married to Welsh-born Rachel Roberts from 1962 to 1971 (Roberts committed suicide in 1980).[12] Harrison then married Elizabeth Rees-Williams and, finally, Mercia Tinker, who would become his widow in 1990.[13]

 

Chronology of Harrison’s six marriages

Colette Thomas (1934–1942 – divorced), (one son, the actor/singer Noel Harrison)

Lilli Palmer (1943–1957 – divorced), (one son, the novelist/playwright Carey Harrison)

Kay Kendall (1957–1959 – her death)

Rachel Roberts (1962–1971 – divorced)

Elizabeth Harris (1971–1975 – divorced), (three stepsons, Damian Harris, Jared Harris, and Jamie Harris)

Mercia Tinker (1978–1990 – his death)

 

Death

Having retired from films in the late 1970s, Harrison continued to act on Broadway until the end of his life, despite suffering from glaucoma, painful teeth, and a failing memory.[14] In 1989 he appeared on Broadway in The Circle by W. Somerset Maugham, opposite Glynis Johns and Stewart Granger,[15] when he fell ill. He died of pancreatic cancer at his home in Manhattan on 2 June 1990 at the age of 82.[16]

Harrison’s second autobiography, A Damned Serious Business: My Life in Comedy (ISBN 0553073419), was published posthumously in 1991.

 

Honours

On 25 July 1989 Harrison was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace. An orchestra played the music of songs from My Fair Lady.

Rex Harrison has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: one at 6906 Hollywood Boulevard for his contribution to motion pictures, and another at 6380 Hollywood Boulevard for his contribution to the television industry.

 

Further reading

 

References

  1.  “(Sir) Rex Harrison”. filmreference.com. http://www.filmreference.com/Actors-and-Actresses-Ha-Hu/Harrison-Sir-Rex.html.
  2.  Harrison, Rex (1975). Rex: An Autobiography. William Morrow. pp. 16, 122. ISBN 0-688-02881-0. http://books.google.com/?id=tOAKAAAAMAAJ&dq=rex+harrison+blind&q=blind.
  3.  Sir Rex Harrison Biography at Biography.com
  4.  “The Love of Four Colonels”. ibdb.com. http://www.ibdb.com/production.php?id=2208. Retrieved 2009-10-01.
  5.  Hadleigh, Boze (2001). The Lavender Screen: The Gay and Lesbian Films – Their Stars, Directors, and Critics (3 ed.). Citadel Press. pp. 91. ISBN 0-806-52199-6.
  6.  Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 137. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  7.  Smith, J. Y. (3 June). “Rex Harrison, 82, Dies; Star of `My Fair Lady’”. The Washington Post: pp. c. 07.
  8.  Golden, Eve; Kendall, Kim Elizabeth (2002). The Brief, Badcap Life of Kay Kendall. University Press of Kentucky. pp. 74. ISBN 0-813-12251-1.
  9.  Fleming, E. J. (2004). The Fixers: Eddie Mannix, Howard Strickling, and the MGM publicity machine. McFarland. pp. 223. ISBN 0-786-42027-8.
  10.  Donnelley, Paul (2003). Fade To Black: A Book Of Movie Obituaries (2 ed.). Omnibus Press. pp. 445. ISBN 0-711-99512-5.
  11.  Parish, James Robert (2007). The Hollywood Book of Extravagance: The Totally Infamous, Mostly Disastrous, and Always Compelling Excesses of America’s Film and TV Idols. John Wiley and Sons. pp. 34. ISBN 0-470-05205-8.
  12.  Golden, Eve; Kendall, Kim Elizabeth (2002). The Brief, Badcap Life of Kay Kendall. University Press of Kentucky. pp. 155. ISBN 0-813-12251-1.
  13.  Pace, Eric (1990-06-03). “Rex Harrison, a Leading Man With Urbane Wit, Dies at 82″. The New York Times. pp. 2. http://www.nytimes.com/1990/06/03/obituaries/rex-harrison-a-leading-man-with-urbane-wit-dies-at-82.html?pagewanted=2. Retrieved 2009-05-12.
  14.  Wapshott, Nicholas (1991). Rex Harrison: A Biography. Chatto & Windus. pp. 327.
  15.  Rich, Frank (1989-11-21). “Review/Theater; Rex Harrison Back on Broadway”. The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/1989/11/21/theater/review-theater-rex-harrison-back-on-broadway.html. Retrieved 2009-05-12.
  16.  Pace, Eric (1990-06-03). “Rex Harrison, a Leading Man With Urbane Wit, Dies at 82″. The New York Times. pp. 1. http://www.nytimes.com/1990/06/03/obituaries/rex-harrison-a-leading-man-with-urbane-wit-dies-at-82.html. Retrieved 2009-05-12.

 

External links

 

Ray Winstone

 

Name: Raymond Andrew Winstone

Born: 19th February 1957

Occupation: Actor

Years active: 1979 – present

Interview:

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World Cup 2006:

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Raymond Andrew “Ray” Winstone[1] (born 19 February 1957) is an English film and television actor. He is mostly known for his “tough guy” roles, beginning with that of Carlin in the 1979 film Scum and as Will Scarlet in the cult television adventure series Robin of Sherwood. He has also become well known as a voice over actor. More recently he has branched out into film production. His film résumé includes Cold Mountain, King Arthur, The Proposition, The Departed, Beowulf, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and Edge of Darkness. He is known for starring in very profane and violent films such as Nil By Mouth, Sexy Beast and 44 Inch Chest.

 

Early life

Winstone was born in Hackney Hospital, London.[2] His family was originally from Cirencester, Gloucestershire – half of them moving to London, the other half to Wales. Winstone moved via Plaistow to Enfield when he was seven he grew up on a council estate just off the A10. His father, Raymond J. Winstone, ran a fruit and vegetable business (he is now a black cab driver), while his mother, Margaret (née Richardson), had a job emptying fruit machines. Winstone recalls playing with his friends on bomb sites until “Moors Murderers” Ian Brady and Myra Hindley were arrested for killing three children. Winstone joined Brimsdown Primary School and then he was educated at Edmonton County, which had changed from a grammar school to a comprehensive upon his arrival. He also attended Corona Theatre School .He did not take to school, eventually leaving with a single CSE (Grade 2) in Drama.

 

Winstone had an early affinity for acting; his father would take him to the cinema every Wednesday afternoon. Later, he would witness Albert Finney in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning and the bug would bite: “I thought ‘I could be that geezer’” he said later. Other major influences included John Wayne, James Cagney and Edward G. Robinson. After borrowing extra tuition money from a friend’s mother, a drama teacher, he took to the stage, appearing as a Cockney newspaper-seller in a production of Emil and the Detectives.

 

Winstone was also a fan of boxing. Known to his friends as Winnie, at home he was called Little Sugs (his father already being known as Sugar – after Sugar Ray Robinson). At the age of 12, Winstone joined the famous Repton Amateur Boxing Club and, over the next 10 years, won 80 out of 88 bouts. At welterweight, he was London schoolboy champion on three occasions, fighting twice for England. The experience gave him a perspective on his later career: “If you can get in a ring with 2,000 people watching and be smacked around by another guy, then walking onstage isn’t hard.”

 

School

Deciding to pursue drama, Winstone enrolled at the Corona Stage Academy in Hammersmith. At £900 a term, it was expensive, considering the average wage was then about £36 a week.

He landed his first major role in What a Crazy World at Theatre Royal Stratford East, but he danced and sang badly, leading his usually-supportive father to say “Give it up, while you’re ahead.” One of his first TV appearances came in the 1976 “Loving Arms” episode of the popular police series The Sweeney where he was credited as “Raymond Winstone” and played a minor part as an unnamed young thug.

 

Winstone was not popular with the establishment at his secondary school, who considered him a bad influence. After some 12 months, he found that he was the only pupil not invited to the Christmas party and decided to take revenge for this slight. Hammering some pins through a piece of wood, he placed it under the wheel of his headmistress’s car and blew out the tyre. For this, he was expelled. As a joke, he went up to the BBC, where his schoolmates were involved in an audition, and got one of his own by flirting with the secretary. The audition was for one of the most notorious plays in history – Alan Clarke’s Scum – and, because Clarke liked Winstone’s cocky, aggressive boxer’s walk, he got the part, even though it had been written for a Glaswegian. The play, written by Roy Minton and directed by Clarke, was a brutal depiction of a young offenders institution. Winstone was cast in the leading role of Carlin, a young offender who struggles against both his captors and his fellow cons in order to become the “Daddy” of the institution. Hard hitting and often violent (particularly during the infamous “billiards” scene in which Carlin uses two billiard balls stuffed in a sock in order to beat one of his fellow inmates over the head) the play was judged unsuitable for broadcast by the BBC, and was not finally shown until 1991. The banned television play was entirely re-filmed in 1979 for cinematic release with many of the original actors playing the same roles. In a recent director’s commentary for the Scum DVD, Winstone cites Clarke as a major influence on his career, and laments the director’s death in 1990 from cancer.

 

Winstone’s role in Scum seems to have set a mould for many of his other parts; he is frequently cast as a tough or violent man. He has also been cast against type, however, in films in which he reveals a softer side. He had a comedic part in Martha, Meet Frank, Daniel and Laurence, and played the romantic lead in Fanny and Elvis. His favourite role was in the television biopic on the life of England’s most notorious monarch, King Henry VIII. Helena Bonham Carter co-starred as Henry’s most well-known queen, Anne Boleyn. Emilia Fox played Jane Seymour, Charles Dance played the Duke of Buckingham, Emily Blunt played Catherine Howard and David Suchet played Cardinal Wolsey. Joss Ackland and Sean Bean also starred.

 

Television and film

After a short run in the TV series Fox, and a role in Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains (alongside Diane Lane, Laura Dern and a host of real-life punks like Fee Waybill, Steve Jones, Paul Cook and Paul Simonon), Winstone got another big break, being cast as Will Scarlet in Robin of Sherwood. He proved immensely popular and enjoyed the role, considering Scarlet to be “the first football hooligan” – though he was not fond of the dubbed German version, in which he said he sounded like a “psychotic mincer.” But once the show was over, the parts dried up. He got involved in co-producing Tank Malling, starring Jason Connery, Amanda Donohoe and Maria Whittaker, and scored a few TV parts. Over the years, he’s appeared in TV shows including The Sweeney, The Bill, Boon, Fairly Secret Army (as Stubby Collins), Ever Decreasing Circles, One Foot in the Grave, Murder Most Horrid, Birds of a Feather, Minder, Kavanagh QC, Auf Wiedersehen, Pet and Get Back (with the fledgling Kate Winslet). During this period, he was increasingly drawn to the theatre, playing in Hinkemann in 1988, Some Voices in 1994 and Dealer’s Choice and Pale Horse the following year.

Winstone was asked to appear in Mr Thomas, a play written by his friend and fellow-Londoner Kathy Burke. The reviews were good, and led to Winstone being cast, alongside Burke, in Gary Oldman’s drama Nil By Mouth. He was widely lauded for his performance as an alcoholic wife-batterer, receiving a BAFTA nomination (17 years after his Best Newcomer award for That Summer). He continued to play “tough guy” roles in the likes of Face and The War Zone — the latter especially controversial, as he played a man who rapes his own daughter — but that obvious toughness would also allow him to play decent men softened by love in romantic comedies like Fanny and Elvis and There’s Only One Jimmy Grimble. In Last Christmas, he played a dead man, now a trainee angel, who returns from Heaven to help his young son cope with his bereavement, written by Tony Grounds, with whom Winstone worked again on Births, Marriages & Deaths and Our Boy, the latter winning him the Royal Television Society Best Actor Award. They worked together again in 2006 on All in the Game where Winstone portrayed a football manager. He did a series of Holsten Pils advertisements where he played upon the phrase “Who’s the Daddy”, coined in the film Scum.

 

In 2000 Winstone starred along side Jude Law in the hit cult film Love, Honour and Obey, then snagged the lead role in Sexy Beast, that brought him great acclaim from UK and international audiences, and brought him to the attention of the American film industry. Winstone plays “Gal” Dove, a retired and happily married former thief dragged back into London’s underworld by a psychopathic former associate (Ben Kingsley, who received an Oscar nomination for his performance).

After a brief role alongside Burke again in the tragi-comic The Martins, he appeared in Last Orders, where he starred alongside Michael Caine, Helen Mirren, David Hemmings and Tom Courtenay.

Next Winstone would get a prime part in Ripley’s Game, the sequel to The Talented Mr. Ripley, in which he once again played a gangster. He followed up with Lenny Blue, the sequel to Tough Love, and the short The Bouncer.

In 2000, he starred in To the Green Fields Beyond at the Donmar Warehouse (directed by Sam Mendes, the man behind American Beauty). In 2002 he performed at the Royal Court as Griffin in The Night Heron. Two years later, he joined Kevin Spacey for 24 Hour Plays at the Old Vic, a series of productions that were written, rehearsed and performed in a single day. Now internationally known, Winstone was next chosen by Anthony Minghella to play Teague, a sinister Home Guard boss, in the Civil War drama Cold Mountain.

Perhaps inspired by Burke and Oldman, Winstone has now decided to direct and produce his own movies, setting up Size 9 and Flicks production companies with his long-time agent Michael Wiggs. The first effort was She’s Gone, in which he plays a businessman whose young daughter disappears in Istanbul (filming was held up by unrest in the Middle East). He followed it up with Jerusalem, in which he played poet and visionary William Blake.

Winstone made his action movie debut in King Arthur, starring Clive Owen, directed by Antoine Fuqua, and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. In that film, Fuqua proclaimed him as “the British De Niro.” He then provided the voice of Soldier Sam in the screen version of The Magic Roundabout.

In 2005, he appeared opposite Suranne Jones in ITV drama Vincent about a team of private detectives. He returned to the role in 2006 and was awarded an International Emmy. In 2005 he also portrayed a 19th century English policeman trying to tame the Australian outback in The Proposition. A complete change of pace for Winstone was providing the voice for the plucky Mr. Beaver in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, also in 2005. Winstone appeared in Martin Scorsese’s 2006 film The Departed as Mr. French, an enforcer to Jack Nicholson’s mob boss. He provided motion capture movements and voice for the title character in the Robert Zemeckis’ film Beowulf. He then co-starred in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which was released on 22 May 2008. He returned to television drama in The Changeling inspired Compulsion, originally shown in May 2009. He is currently filming in New Zealand as ‘Arjan’ in the film Tracker with Temuera Morrison. He next stars in 44 Inch Chest, alongside John Hurt and Ian McShane.[3] He also had a role as CIA agent Darius Jedburgh in the Edge of Darkness remake, replacing Robert De Niro.[4] He is set to play the role of Detective Inspector Jack Regan in a remake of The Sweeney. Winstone stars also in the slasher-thriller film Red Snow, directed by Stuart St. Paul and based on a short film by Adam Mason.[5]

In November 2010, Winstone completed filming a new British independent film The Hot Potato, based on a true story set in the East End of London in the 1960s. The film, scheduled for release in 2011, will also star his eldest daughter Lois Winstone, Jack Huston, Colm Meaney and David Harewood.

 

Personal life

Winstone met his wife, Elaine, while filming That Summer in 1979. They have three daughters, the eldest two, Lois and Jaime, both being actors.

Winstone lives with his wife in Roydon, Essex. He is an avid fan of West Ham United and promoted their 2009 home kit.[6]

Winstone was made bankrupt on 4th October 1988 [7] and again on 19th March 1993.[8]

 

References

  1.  “Ray Winstone Biography (1957-)”. FilmReference.com. http://www.filmreference.com/film/77/Ray-Winstone.html. Retrieved 2009-06-06.
  2.  Winstone Biography accessed May 10, 2007
  3.  “Ray to star in Sweeney movie”. The Sun (London). 15 February 2008. http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/showbiz/tv/article810395.ece.
  4.  Michael Fleming (2008-09-12). “Winstone replaces De Niro in ‘Edge’”. Variety. http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117992081.html. Retrieved 2008-09-12.
  5.  “Synopsis and Art Work: Red Snow”. DreadCentral. http://www.dreadcentral.com/news/34799/synopsis-and-art-work-red-snow.
  6.  New home kit revealed The 2009/10 Umbro home strip has been revealed with famous fan Ray Winstone the first to try it on
  7.  “Bankruptcy Order”. p. 11720. http://www.london-gazette.co.uk/issues/51506/pages/11720.
  8.  “Bankruptcy Order”. p. 5854. http://www.london-gazette.co.uk/issues/53263/pages/5854.

 

External links

 

Ralph Richardson

 

Name: Ralph David Richardson

Born:  19th December 1902

Died: 10th October 1983

Occupation: Actor

Years active: 1921 – 1983

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Sir Ralph David Richardson (19 December 1902 – 10 October 1983) was an English actor, one of a group of theatrical knights of the mid-20th century who, though more closely associated with the stage, also appeared in several classic films.

 

Richardson first became known for his work on stage in the 1930s. In the 1940s, together with Laurence Olivier, he ran the Old Vic company. He continued on stage and in films into the early 1980s and was especially praised for his comedic roles. In his later years he was celebrated for his theatre work with his old friend John Gielgud. Among his most famous roles were Peer Gynt, Falstaff, John Gabriel Borkman, and Hirst in Pinter’s No Man’s Land.

 

Early life

Richardson was born in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England, the third son and youngest child of Arthur Richardson, a master at the Ladies’ College and his wife Lydia née Russell. When he was a baby, his mother left his father and took him with her to Gloucester, where he was brought up in the Roman Catholic faith of his mother (his father and brothers were Quakers).[1] His father supported them with a small allowance. Lydia Richardson wished Ralph to become a priest. He was an altar boy in Brighton, and was sent to the Xavierian College, but he ran away from it.[2]

Stage career

 

Early days

After working as an office boy for an insurance company, and later studying art, Richardson opted for a theatrical career. Aided by a small legacy from his grandmother, he paid a local theatrical manager ten shillings a week to be taught about acting.[3] He toured with Charles Doran’s company for five seasons, gradually being promoted to larger parts including Macduff in Macbeth and Mark Antony in Julius Caesar. In 1925 he joined Sir Barry Jackson’s Birmingham Repertory Company, where many eminent British actors, from Edith Evans and Cedric Hardwicke to Derek Jacobi, learned their craft, and Richardson under the veteran taskmaster H. K. Ayliff “absorbed the influence of older contemporaries like Gerald du Maurier, Charles Hawtrey and Mrs. Patrick Campbell.”[4]

 

Richardson made his London début in July 1926 as the stranger in Oedipus at Colonus at a small theatre, followed by his West End début as Arthur Varwell in Yellow Sands which ran for 610 performances[3][5] and from then to 1929 played in supporting roles in London productions.[2]

After touring in South Africa in 1929, he played two seasons at the Old Vic and two seasons at the Malvern summer theatre.[5] His Old Vic roles included Caliban to the Prospero of John Gielgud, and Prince Hal to Gielgud’s Hotspur, beginning a professional association and friendship that lasted for five decades.[6] Richardson’s other parts in the Old Vic seasons included Enobarbus in Antony and Cleopatra, Toby Belch in Twelfth Night, Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew, Henry V, Brutus in Julius Caesar, and Iago in Othello.[3]

 

At Malvern in 1932, he played Face in Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist. In 1933 he played the title role in W. Somerset Maugham’s final play Sheppey at Wyndham’s Theatre. He became an undisputed West End star as Clitterhouse in Barré Lyndon’s comedy melodrama, The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse which ran for 492 performances from August 1936, and most of all as Johnson in J. B. Priestley’s Johnson Over Jordan directed by Basil Dean, with music by Benjamin Britten.[3][4]

 

Richardson was engaged to play the role of Mercutio, replacing Orson Welles, in the 1934 Broadway production of Romeo and Juliet. This production was produced and directed by the husband and wife team of Katharine Cornell and Guthrie McClintic.[7]

 

The Old Vic

During World War II he served in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, where he rose to the rank of Lieutenant-Commander despite being nicknamed “Pranger” Richardson “on account of the large number of planes which seemed to fall to pieces under his control”.[2] Richardson and Laurence Olivier were released from the armed forces in 1944 to run the Old Vic company as a triumvirate with the stage director John Burrell. The Old Vic theatre was out of use because of bomb damage, and the company moved to the New Theatre in St. Martin’s Lane. During this period, Richardson gave some of his most noted performances, including not only “the definitive Falstaff and Peer Gynt of the century”[2] but also Bluntschli in Arms and the Man, the title roles in Cyrano de Bergerac and Uncle Vanya and Inspector Goole in An Inspector Calls. He also directed Alec Guinness as Richard II, taking on the role of John of Gaunt in the production when the Old Vic governors insisted that either Richardson or Olivier must act in every production. In 1945 Richardson and Olivier led the company in a tour of Germany, where they were seen by many thousands of servicemen; they also appeared at the Comédie Française in Paris.[8]

 

The triumphs of Richardson and Olivier (the latter famously as Richard III and Oedipus), described by The Times as the greatest in the Old Vic’s history[3] and by Kenneth Tynan as “matchless”,[9] led the governors of the Old Vic to fear that the two stars overshadowed the company. As The Guardian put it, the governors “summarily sacked the pair in the interests of a more… mediocre company spirit.”[4]

 

Later years

After leaving the Old Vic, Richardson appeared in the West End as Dr Sloper in a Henry James adaptation, The Heiress, in 1949; David Preston in Home at Seven, in 1950; and Vershinin in Three Sisters in 1951. In 1952 he appeared at the Stratford-upon-Avon festival at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre (forerunner of the Royal Shakespeare Company) but had mixed reviews: his Prospero in ‘The Tempest was judged too prosaic,[10][11] and his Macbeth, directed by Gielgud, was thought unconvincingly villainous (“Richardson’s playing of Macbeth suggests a fatal disparity between his temperament and the part”).[12] Tynan professed himself “unmoved to the point of paralysis,” though blaming Gielgud more than Richardson.[13] Richardson’s third Stratford role in the season, Volpone in Ben Jonson’s play, received much better, but not ecstatic, notices.[14][15]

 

Back in the West End, Richardson starred in The White Carnation by R. C. Sherriff in 1953, and in November of the same year he and Gielgud starred together in N. C. Hunter’s A Day by the Sea. In 1954 he toured Australia in a company which included his wife, Meriel Forbes, together with Sybil Thorndike and her husband, Lewis Casson, playing Terence Rattigan’s plays The Sleeping Prince and Separate Tables.[16]

 

Richardson turned down the role of Estragon in Peter Hall’s premiere of the English-language version of Waiting for Godot and later reproached himself for missing the chance to be in “the greatest play of my generation”.[17] Richardson’s Timon of Athens in his 1956 return to the Old Vic was well received,[18][19] as was his Broadway appearance in The Waltz of the Toreadors for which he was nominated for a Tony Award in 1957.

 

In the 1960s, Richardson appeared successfully as Sir Peter Teazle in Gielgud’s production of The School for Scandal, as the Father in Six Characters in Search of an Author (1963), a return to Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1964) and the original production of Joe Orton’s controversial farce What the Butler Saw in the West End at the Queen’s Theatre in 1969 with Stanley Baxter, Coral Browne and Hayward Morse.

 

In the 1970s, he appeared in the West End (for example in William Douglas-Home’s play Lloyd George Knew My Father, with Peggy Ashcroft), and with the National Theatre under Peter Hall’s direction, where among the classics he played Firs in The Cherry Orchard and the title role in Ibsen’s John Gabriel Borkman, with Wendy Hiller and Peggy Ashcroft. He continued his long stage association with John Gielgud, appearing together in two new works, David Storey’s Home and Harold Pinter’s No Man’s Land. His last appearance was at the National in the lead role in Eduardo De Filippo’s Inner Voices in June 1983, in which both Punch and The New York Times found his performance “mesmerising”.[20] After his brief illness and death his part was taken over by Robert Stephens.[21]

 

Radio, television, and film

In 1954 and 1955 Richardson played Dr. Watson in an American/BBC radio co-production of Sherlock Holmes stories, with Gielgud as Holmes and Orson Welles as the villainous Professor Moriarty. In the 1960s Richardson played Lord Emsworth on BBC television in dramatisations of P. G. Wodehouse’s Blandings Castle stories, with his real-life wife Meriel Forbes playing his domineering sister Connie, and his friend Stanley Holloway as his butler Beach.

 

Richardson’s film appearances include Things to Come (1936), The Citadel (1938), The Fallen Idol (1948), The Heiress (1949; his first nomination for an Academy Award), Richard III (1955; playing Buckingham to Olivier’s Richard), Our Man in Havana (1959; with Alec Guinness and Noel Coward), Doctor Zhivago (1965), and Oh! What a Lovely War (1969). He portrayed Simeon in Jesus of Nazareth (1977). In 1981, he portrayed the Supreme Being in a cameo appearance near the end of the Terry Gilliam film Time Bandits. Also that same year, he appeared as Ulrich of Craggenmoor, the aging sorcerer who takes on an ancient dragon in the fantasy epic Dragonslayer. He played the sixth Earl of Greystoke in the 1984 movie Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes, for which he was again nominated for an Academy Award. His last film appearance was in Give My Regards to Broad Street (1984), starring Paul McCartney.

 

Recordings

Richardson made several spoken word recordings for the Caedmon Audio label in the 1960s. He re-created his role as Cyrano de Bergerac opposite Anna Massey as Roxane, and played the title role in a complete recording of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, with a cast that included Anthony Quayle as Brutus, John Mills as Cassius, and Alan Bates as Antony. Richardson also recorded some English Romantic poetry, such as The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, for the label.

 

Richardson recorded the narration for Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, and the superscriptions for Vaughan Williams’ Sinfonia Antartica – both with the London Symphony Orchestra, the Prokofiev conducted by Sir Malcolm Sargent and the Vaughan Williams by André Previn.

Personal life

Grave, Highgate Cemetery

 

In September 1924, Richardson married the seventeen-year-old student actress Muriel (“Kit”) Hewitt (1907–1942); the marriage was childless but devoted. Kit contracted sleeping sickness (encephalitis lethargica) and died in 1942 after a long illness. In 1944 Richardson married the actress Meriel (“Mu”) Forbes, a member of the theatrical Forbes-Robertson family. They had one son, David (1945–1998).[2]

 

Richardson habitually rode a motorbike, even in his seventies. He rode a Norton Dominator and in his later years changed to a BMW.

 

Richardson died of a stroke, aged 80, and was interred at Highgate Cemetery.

 

Critical opinion

In his early days at the Old Vic, Richardson was the target of the sometimes waspish reviews of leading critic, James Agate, who thought that Richardson could not play villains; Agate said of Richardson’s Iago, “he could not hurt a fly, which was very good Richardson, but indifferent Shakespeare”.[4] This view persisted in a later critical generation. In 1952, Kenneth Tynan, blaming the director for a badly-received Macbeth said he “seems to have imagined that Ralph Richardson, with his comic, Robeyesque cheese face, was equipped to play Macbeth.”[13] By contrast, the same critics held Richardson up as peerless in classic comic roles. Tynan judged any Falstaff against Richardson’s, which he considered “matchless”,[22] and Gielgud judged “definitive”.[23] But though later critics did not wholly dissent from this view, they also discerned the mystical vein in Richardson: “he was ideally equipped to make an ordinary character seem extraordinary or an extraordinary one seem ordinary”.[3] Peter Hall said of him, “I do not think any other actor could fill Hirst [in No Man's Land] with such a sense of loneliness and creativity as Ralph does.”[24] The Guardian judged him “indisputably our most poetic actor”.[4] Richardson himself perhaps confirmed this dichotomy in his variously reported comments that acting was “merely the art of keeping a large group of people from coughing” or, alternatively, “dreaming to order”.[4] Caitlin Clarke, who worked with Richardson in Dragonslayer, stated on interview that he had taught her more on acting than any acting class.[25]

 

Honours

Richardson was knighted in 1947, the first of his generation of actors to receive the accolade. He was soon followed by Olivier and Gielgud.

 

In 1963, Richardson won the Best Actor Award at the Cannes Film Festival for Long Day’s Journey Into Night. He won the BAFTA Award for Best British Actor for The Sound Barrier (1952), and was nominated on another three occasions (his last being for Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes). He also received Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominations for The Heiress and Greystoke, as well as New York Film Critics Circle and National Board of Review Awards for “Best Actor” for The Sound Barrier and another NYFCC Award for “Best Supporting Actor” for Greystoke. His Oscar nomination, BAFTA nomination and NYFCC Award for Greystoke were all posthumous.

Richardson was also nominated for three Tony Awards for his work on the New York stage, for his performances in The Waltz of the Toreadors, Home and No Man’s Land.

 

Sir John Gielgud’s autobiography, An Actor and His Time is dedicated “To Ralph and Mu Richardson, with gratitude and affection”.[26]

 

References

  1.  Richardson, Ralph UXL Encyclopedia of World Biography, FindArticles.com
  2.  Morley, Sheridan. “Richardson, Sir Ralph David (1902–1983)”, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, January 2008. Retrieved 16 December 2008.
  3.  The Times, 11 October 1983, p. 14
  4.  The Guardian, 11 October 1983, p. 11
  5.  “Richardson, Sir Ralph David”, Who Was Who, A & C Black, 1920–2008; online edn, Oxford University Press, December 2007. Retrieved 16 December 2008.
  6.  Sir John Gielgud in The Observer, 16 October 1983, p. 9
  7.  Cornell, “I Always Wanted to be an Actress”, Random House (1938)
  8.  Who’s Who in the Theatre, p. 1118
  9.  Tynan, p. 98
  10.  The Manchester Guardian, 26 March 1952, p. 5
  11.  The Times, 26 March 1952, p. 8
  12.  The Times, 11 June 1952, p. 8
  13.  Tynan, p. 107
  14.  The Times 16 July 1952, p. 9
  15.  The Observer, 20 June 1952, p. 6
  16.  The Times, 10 November 1954, p. 4
  17.  Callow, Simon. “Godot almighty”, The Guardian, 25 July 2005
  18.  The Manchester Guardian, 6 September 1956, p. 5
  19.  The Times, 6 September 1956, p. 5
  20.  The Times, 8 July 1983, p. 7; and 9 September 1983, p. 7
  21.  The Times, 29 October 1983, p. 5
  22.  Tynan, pp. 98 and 102
  23.  Gielgud, p. 92
  24.  Hall, 24 April 1975
  25.  No Land is an Urland- The Creation of the World of Dragonslayer by Danny Fingeroth from Dragonslayer- The Official Marvel Comics Adaptation of the Spectacular Paramount/Disney Motion Picture!, Marvel Super Special Vol.1, No. 20, published by Marvel Comics Group, 1981
  26.  Gielgud, unnumbered introductory page

Bibliography

  • Gielgud, John: An Actor and His Time, Sidgwick and Jackson, London, 1979. ISBN 0-283-98573-9
  • Hall, Peter: Diaries, Hamish Hamilton, London, 1984. ISBN 0-241-11285-0
  • Tynan, Kenneth: Tynan on Theatre, Penguin Books, London, 1964
  • Who’s Who in the Theatre, fourteenth edition, Pitman, London 1967, ISBN 0-273-43345-8

External links

 

Ralph Fiennes

 

Name: Ralph Nathaniel Fiennes

Born:  22nd December 1962

Occupation: Actor, producer, director

Years active: 1990 – present

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Ralph Nathaniel Fiennes,[1] known simply as Ralph Fiennes; born 22 December 1962), is an English actor. He has appeared in films such as The English Patient, In Bruges, The Constant Gardener, Strange Days and Maid in Manhattan. He is also well known for his portrayals of four infamous villains: Nazi war criminal Amon Göth in Schindler’s List; serial killer Francis Dolarhyde in the 2002 film Red Dragon; Rameses II in The Prince of Egypt; and Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter film series. Most recently, he appeared in The Reader (2008), The Hurt Locker (2009) and as Hades in Clash of the Titans (2010).

Fiennes has won a Tony Award and has been nominated twice for Academy Awards. He is also a UNICEF UK ambassador.

Fiennes was praised by many for being a “perfect fit”, for playing the role of Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter saga. [2] [3]

 

Early life

Fiennes was born in Ipswich, Suffolk, England, into an English family, the son of Jennifer Lash (1938–1993), a writer, and Mark Fiennes (1933–2004), a farmer and photographer whose father was industrialist Sir Maurice Fiennes (1907–1994).[4] His surname is of Norman origin.[5] He is an eighth cousin of the Prince of Wales, and a third cousin of the adventurer Ranulph Fiennes. The eldest of six children, his siblings are actor Joseph Fiennes (Shakespeare in Love, Luther, FlashForward); Martha Fiennes, a director (in her film Onegin, he played the title role); Magnus Fiennes, a composer; Sophie Fiennes, a filmmaker; and Jacob Fiennes, a conservationist. His nephew Hero Fiennes-Tiffin played young Lord Voldemort in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.

The Fiennes family moved to Ireland in 1973, living in West Cork and County Kilkenny for some years. Fiennes was educated at St Kieran’s College for one year, followed by Newtown School, a Quaker independent school in Waterford. They moved to Salisbury in England, where Fiennes finished his schooling at Bishop Wordsworth’s School before attending Chelsea College of Art.

 

Career

Ralph Fiennes with Eddie and Gloria Minghella at the 2011 Minghella Film Festival

 

Fiennes trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. He began his career at the Open Air Theatre, Regent’s Park and, also during the late 1980s, the National Theatre before becoming a star in the Royal Shakespeare Company.[5] Fiennes first worked on screen in 1990 and then made his film debut in 1992 as Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights opposite Juliette Binoche, for which he received substantial acclaim and praise throughout Europe.

1993 was his “breakout year”. He had a major role in the controversial Peter Greenaway film The Baby of Mâcon with Julia Ormond. Though the film was poorly received, Fiennes’ career suffered no lasting consequences. Later that year he became known internationally for portraying the amoral Nazi concentration camp commandant Amon Göth in Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List. For this he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.[5] He did not win the Oscar, but did win the Best Supporting Actor BAFTA Award for the role. His portrayal as Göth also earned him a spot on the American Film Institute’s list of Top 50 Movie Villains. To look suitable to represent Amon Göth Fiennes gained considerable weight, but he managed to shed that fat afterwards.[6]

In a subsequent interview, Fiennes recalled,

“Evil is cumulative. It happens. People believe that they’ve got to do a job, they’ve got to take on an ideology, that they’ve got a life to lead; they’ve got to survive, a job to do, it’s every day inch by inch, little compromises, little ways of telling yourself this is how you should lead your life and suddenly then these things can happen. I mean, I could make a judgment myself privately, this is a terrible, evil, horrific man. But the job was to portray the man, the human being. There’s a sort of banality, that everydayness, that I think was important. And it was in the screenplay. In fact, one of the first scenes with Oskar Schindler, with Liam Neeson, was a scene where I’m saying, You don’t understand how hard it is, I have to order so many-so many meters of barbed wire and so many fencing posts and I have to get so many people from A to B. And, you know, he’s sort of letting off steam about the difficulties of the job.”[7]

In 1994, he portrayed American academic Charles Van Doren in Quiz Show. In 1996 he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for the World War II-epic romance The English Patient in which he starred with Kristin Scott-Thomas.[5] Fiennes’ work has ranged from thrillers (Red Dragon) to animated Biblical epic (The Prince of Egypt) to campy nostalgia (The Avengers) to romantic comedy (Maid in Manhattan) to offbeat dramedy (Oscar and Lucinda) and historical drama (Sunshine). In 1999, Fiennes returned to playing brooding, tormented lovers in Onegin and The End of the Affair.

The Constant Gardener, another vehicle for Fiennes as brooding lover, was released in 2005 with Fiennes in the title role.[5] The film is set in Kenya, dealing in part with poor people in the slums of Kibera and Loiyangalani. The situation affected the crew to the extent that they set up the Constant Gardener Trust to provide basic education for children of these villages. Fiennes is a patron of the charity.[8]

Fiennes portrayed Lord Voldemort in the 2005 fantasy film Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. He kept the role for both Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which will be released in two parts in 2010 and 2011. However, in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, there is a flashback scene in which Voldemort is an 11 year-old boy — the character was played by Hero Fiennes-Tiffin, Fiennes’s nephew, for this scene.

Fiennes’ 2006 performance in the play Faith Healer gained him a nomination for a 2007 Tony Award. In 2008, Fiennes worked with frequent collaborator director Jonathan Kent to play the title role in Sophocles’s Oedipus the King at the National Theatre in London. In 2008, he played the Duke of Devonshire in the film The Duchess, and played the protagonist in The Reader.

In February 2009, Fiennes was the special guest of the Belgrade’s Film Festival FEST. He filmed his version of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus in the Serbian capital of Belgrade.[9]

Fiennes reunited with Kathryn Bigelow for her Iraq War opus, The Hurt Locker, released in 2009, appearing as an English mercenary. In April 2010, he played Hades while Liam Neeson played Zeus in Clash of the Titans, a remake of the 1981 film of the same name. This was the second movie in which Fiennes and Neeson play opposite each other, as they did in the 1993 film Schindler’s List.

Fiennes appeared in Nanny McPhee Returns in the supporting role of Lord Gray.

Fiennes will appear in the 2012 adaptation of the John le Carré novel Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, directed by Tomas Alfredson, also starring Gary Oldman, Colin Firth and Tom Hardy.[10]

 

Fiennes in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan in 2003 during his visit as a UNICEF UK ambassador.

 

Personal life

Fiennes met English actress Alex Kingston while they were both students at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. After dating for ten years, they married in 1993. They divorced in 1997.[11]

In 1995, Fiennes began an affair with Francesca Annis, who he met when she played his mother Gertrude in the play Hamlet.[12] After 11 years together, the couple separated in February 2006, following Daily Mails report claiming that Fiennes had had an affair with Romanian singer Cornelia Crisan.[12]

In February 2007, staff aboard a Qantas flight from Sydney, Australia to Mumbai, India caught Fiennes leaving an aircraft lavatory with 38-year-old flight attendant Lisa Robertson. At first denying allegations of a tryst, Robertson later confessed to having sex in the lavatory with Fiennes, whom she had met just hours before. Fiennes was en route to Mumbai, as a participant in AIDS awareness efforts for UNICEF. The organization retained Fiennes as an ambassador; Qantas fired Robertson.[13]

 

References

  1.  “Person Page 18418″. thePeerage.com. 6 April 2008. http://www.thepeerage.com/p18418.htm. Retrieved 10 April 2008.
  2.  http://www.hpana.com/forums/topic_view.cfm?tid=87000
  3.  “Ralph Fiennes, UNICEF UK Ambassador”. UNICEF. Archived from the original on 14 February 2007. http://web.archive.org/web/20070214201921/http://www.unicef.org/uniteforchildren/youth/youth_29342.htm. Retrieved 10 April 2008.
  4.  “Ralph Fiennes Biography”. filmreference. 2008. http://www.filmreference.com/film/66/Ralph-Fiennes.html. Retrieved 10 April 2008.
  5.  Fiennes, Ralph. Interview with James Lipton. Inside the Actors Studio. Bravo. 15 January 2006. (Interview). Retrieved on 10 April 2008.
  6.  It’S Pronounced Rafe Fines | News | Ew.Com
  7.  [1]
  8.  “Constant Gardener Trust – Patrons”. UNICEF. http://www.constantgardenertrust.org/html/patrons.htm. Retrieved 10 April 2008.
  9.  Coriolanus (2010) at the Internet Movie Database
  10.  “Benedict Cumberbatch Joins ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy’”. 16 August 2010. http://www.cinematical.com/2010/08/16/benedict-cumberbatch-joins-tinker-tailor-soldier-spy/. Retrieved 4 September 2010.
  11.  Ellen, Barbara (7 July 2002). “Intensive care”. The Observer. http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2002/jul/07/features.magazine. Retrieved 7 April 2011.
  12.  “Ralph Fiennes Splits from Longtime Partner”. People. 8 February 2006. http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,1157581,00.html. Retrieved 7 April 2011.
  13.  Mail on Sunday. “Air stewardess: secrets of my five-mile-high sex romp with Ralph Fiennes”. http://www.mailonsunday.co.uk/femail/article-436846/Air-stewardess-secrets-mile-high-sex-romp-Ralph-Fiennes.html. Retrieved 4 September 2008.

 

External links

 

Pierce Brosnan

Name: Pierce Brendan Brosnan

Born: 16th May 1953

Occupation: Actor, producer, environmentalist

Years active: 1977 – present

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Pierce Brendan Brosnan, OBE (16 May 1953) is an Irish actor, film producer and environmentalist who holds Irish and American citizenship. After leaving school at 16, Brosnan began training in commercial illustration, but trained at the Drama Centre in London for three years. Following a stage acting career he rose to popularity in the television series Remington Steele (1982–87).

After Remington Steele, Brosnan took the lead in many films such as Dante’s Peak and The Thomas Crown Affair. In 1995, he became the fifth actor to portray secret agent James Bond in the official film series, starring in four films between 1995 and 2002. He also provided his voice and likeness to Bond in the 2004 video game James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing. Since playing Bond, he has starred in such successes as The Matador (nominated for a Golden Globe, 2005), Mamma Mia! (National Movie Award, 2008), and The Ghost Writer (2010).

 

In 1996, along with Beau St. Clair, Brosnan formed Irish DreamTime, a Los Angeles-based production company. In later years, he has become known for his charitable work and environmental activism.

He was married to Australian actress Cassandra Harris from 1980 until her death in 1991. He married American journalist and author Keely Shaye Smith in 2001, becoming an American citizen in 2004.

 

Early life

Brosnan was born at Saint Mary’s Hospital in Drogheda, County Louth,[1] Ireland, to Thomas Brosnan, a carpenter, and May (née Smith, born circa 1934), and was their only child. He lived in Navan, County Meath for 12 years and considers it as his hometown.[2] Brosnan’s mother moved to London to work as a nurse after his father abandoned the family. According to Brosnan,

Childhood was fairly solitary. I grew up in a very small town called Navan in County Meath. I never knew my father. He left when I was an infant and I was left in the care of my mother and my grandparents. To be Catholic in the ’50s, and to be Irish Catholic in the ’50s, and have a marriage which was not there, a father who was not there, consequently, the mother, the wife suffered greatly. My mother was very courageous. She took the bold steps to go away and be a nurse in England. Basically wanting a better life for her and myself. My mother came home once a year, twice a year.[3]

Brosnan was largely brought up by his grandparents, Philip and Kathleen Smith, from a young age.[4] After their death, he lived with an aunt and then an uncle, but was subsequently sent to live with a woman named Eileen.[3] Brosnan was raised in a Roman Catholic[5][6][7] family and educated in a local school run by the Christian Brothers while serving as an altar boy.[7] Brosnan has expressed contempt for his education by the Christian Brothers. “I grew up being taught by the Christian Brothers, who were dreadful, dreadful human beings. Just the whole hypocrisy. And the cruelness of their ways toward children. They were very sexually repressed. Bitter. Cowards, really. I have nothing good to say about them and will have nothing good to say about them. It was ugly. Very ugly. Dreadful. I learnt nothing from the Christian Brothers except shame.”[3] In spite of this, Brosnan still attends Mass, but adheres to his own spiritual beliefs. When asked in a 2008 Reader’s Digest interview if he still practiced Catholicism, Brosnan replied, “I was an altar boy. That never leaves you. So when there are churches around, I go to church. I just went yesterday. I also love the teachings of Buddhist philosophy. It’s my own private faith. I don’t preach it, but it’s a faith that is a comfort to me when the night is long.”[7]

 

Brosnan left Ireland on 12 August 1964 and was reunited with his mother and her new husband, a British World War II veteran, William Carmichael, now living in the Scottish village of Longniddry.[8][9] Brosnan quickly embraced his mother’s new husband as a father figure.[8] Carmichael took Brosnan to see a James Bond film for the first time (Goldfinger), at the age of 11.[10] Later moving back to London, Brosnan was educated at Elliott School, a state secondary modern school in Putney, west London.[11] Brosnan has spoken about the transition from Ireland to England and his education in London; “When you go to a very large city, a metropolis like London, as an Irish boy of 10, life suddenly moves pretty fast. From a little school of, say, seven classrooms in Ireland, to this very large comprehensive school, with over 2,000 children. And you’re Irish. And they make you feel it; the British have a wonderful way of doing that, and I had a certain deep sense of being an outsider.”[3] When he attended school, his nickname was “Irish”.[12]

 

After leaving school at 16, he decided to be a painter and began training in commercial illustration at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design.[13] At the Oval House in 1969, he came to a workshop to rehearse. A fire eater was teaching women how to put the flames across the chest while topless, and he decided to join in and learned how to fire-eat.[14] A circus agent saw him busking and hired him for three years.[4] He later trained for three years as an actor at the Drama Centre London.[15] Brosnan has described the feeling of becoming an actor and the impact it had on his life: “When I found acting, or when acting found me, it was a liberation. It was a stepping stone into another life, away from a life that I had, and acting was something I was good at, something which was appreciated. That was a great satisfaction in my life.”[3]

 

Early career

After graduating from the Drama Centre in 1975, Brosnan began working as an acting assistant stage manager at the York Theatre Royal, making his acting debut in Wait Until Dark. Within six months, he was selected by playwright Tennessee Williams to play the role of McCabe in the British première of The Red Devil Battery Sign.[16] His performance caused a stir in London and Brosnan still has the telegram sent by Williams, stating only “Thank God for you, my dear boy”.[17] In 1977 he was picked by Franco Zeffirelli to appear in the play Filumena by Eduardo De Filippo opposite Joan Plowright and Frank Finlay.[18]

 

He continued his career making brief appearances in films such as The Long Good Friday (1980) and The Mirror Crack’d (1980), as well as early television performances in The Professionals, Murphy’s Stroke, and Play for Today. He became a television star in the United States with his leading role in the popular miniseries Manions of America.[19] He followed this with his 1982 Masterpiece Theatre documentary that chronicled the life of Lady Nancy Astor, the first woman to sit in British Parliament. His portrayal of Robert Gould Shaw II garnered him a 1985 Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.[20]

 

In 1982, Brosnan moved to Southern California and rose to popularity in the United States playing the title role in the NBC romantic detective series Remington Steele.[1][8] The Washington Post noted that same year that Brosnan “could make it as a young James Bond.”[21] After Remington Steele ended in 1987, Brosnan went on to appear in several films, including The Fourth Protocol (1987), a Cold War thriller in which he starred alongside Michael Caine, The Deceivers and James Clavell’s Noble House both in (1988), and The Lawnmower Man (1992). In 1992, he shot a pilot for NBC called Running Wilde, playing a reporter for Auto World magazine. Jennifer Love Hewitt played his daughter. The pilot never aired, however.[22] In 1993 he played a supporting role in the comedy film Mrs. Doubtfire. He also appeared in several television films, including Victim of Love (1991), Death Train (1993) and Night Watch (1995), a spy thriller set in Hong Kong.

 

James Bond (1995–2004)

Teri Hatcher with Brosnan as James Bond in Tomorrow Never Dies, 1997

 

Brosnan first met James Bond films producer Albert R. Broccoli on the sets of For Your Eyes Only because his first wife, Cassandra Harris, was in the film. Broccoli said, “if he can act… he’s my guy” to inherit the role of Bond from Roger Moore.[21] It was reported by both Entertainment Tonight and the National Enquirer, that Brosnan was going to inherit another role of Moore’s, that of Simon Templar in The Saint.[21] Brosnan denied the rumours in July 1993 but added, “it’s still languishing there on someone’s desk in Hollywood.”[23]

 

In 1986, Timothy Dalton was approached for the Bond role; his involvement with the 1986 film adaptation of Brenda Starr kept Dalton from being able to accept it. A number of actors were then screen-tested for the role — notably Sam Neill — but were ultimately passed over by Broccoli.[24] Remington Steele was about to end, so Brosnan was offered the role, but the publicity revived Remington Steele and Brosnan had to decline the role, owing to his contract.[21] By then, Dalton had become available again, and he accepted the role for The Living Daylights (1987), and Licence to Kill (1989). Legal squabbles about ownership of the film franchise resulted in the cancellation of a proposed third Dalton film in 1991 (rumoured title: The Property of a Lady)[25] and put the series on a hiatus, which lasted six years. On 7 June 1994, Brosnan was announced as the fifth actor to play Bond.[21]

 

Brosnan was signed for a three-film Bond deal with the option of a fourth. The first, 1995′s GoldenEye, grossed US $350 million worldwide,[26] the fourth highest worldwide gross of any film in 1995,[27] making it the most successful Bond film since Moonraker, taking inflation into account.[28] It holds an 80% Rotten tomato rating,[29] while Metacritic holds it at 65%.[30] In the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert gave the film 3 stars out of 4, and said Brosnan’s Bond was “somehow more sensitive, more vulnerable, more psychologically complete” than the previous ones, also commenting on Bond’s “loss of innocence” since previous films.[31] James Berardinelli described Brosnan as “a decided improvement over his immediate predecessor” with a “flair for wit to go along with his natural charm”, but added that “fully one-quarter of Goldeneye is momentum-killing padding.”[32]

In 1996, Brosnan formed a film production company entitled “Irish DreamTime” along with producing partner and long time friend Beau St. Clair.[1] Three years later the company’s first studio project, The Thomas Crown Affair, was released and met both critical and box office success.[33]

Brosnan returned in 1997′s Tomorrow Never Dies and 1999′s The World Is Not Enough, which were also successful. In 2002, Brosnan appeared for his fourth time as Bond in Die Another Day, receiving mixed reviews but was a success at the box office. Brosnan himself subsequently criticised many aspects of his fourth Bond movie. During the promotion, he mentioned that he would like to continue his role as James Bond: “I’d like to do another, sure. Connery did six. Six would be a number, then never come back.”[34] Brosnan asked EON Productions when accepting the role, to be allowed to work on other projects between Bond films. The request was granted, and for every Bond film, Brosnan appeared in at least two other mainstream films, including several he produced,[12] playing a wide range of roles, ranging from a scientist in Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks!, to the title role in Grey Owl which documents the life of Englishman Archibald Stansfeld Belaney, one of Canada’s first conservationists.

 

Shortly after the release of Die Another Day, the media began questioning whether or not Brosnan would reprise the role for a fifth time. Brosnan kept in mind that both fans and critics were unhappy with Roger Moore playing the role until he was 58, but he was receiving popular support from both critics and the franchise fanbase for a fifth installment. For this reason, he remained enthusiastic about reprising his role.[35] Throughout 2004, it was rumoured that negotiations had broken down between Brosnan and the producers to make way for a new and younger actor.[36] This was denied by MGM and EON Productions. In July 2004, Brosnan announced that he was quitting the role, stating “Bond is another lifetime, behind me”.[37] In October 2004, Brosnan said he considered himself dismissed from the role.[38] Although Brosnan had been rumoured frequently as still in the running to play 007, he had denied it several times, and in February 2005 he posted on his website that he was finished with the role.[39] Daniel Craig took over the role on 14 October 2005.[40] In an interview with The Globe and Mail, Brosnan was asked what he thought of Daniel Craig as the new James Bond. He replied, “I’m looking forward to it like we’re all looking forward to it. Daniel Craig is a great actor and he’s going to do a fantastic job”.[41] He reaffirmed this support in an interview to the International Herald Tribune, stating that “[Craig's] on his way to becoming a memorable Bond.”[42]

During his tenure on the James Bond films, Brosnan also took part in James Bond video games. In 2002, Brosnan’s likeness was used as the face of Bond in the James Bond video game Nightfire (voiced by Maxwell Caulfield). In 2004, Brosnan starred in the Bond game Everything or Nothing, contracting for his likeness to be used as well as doing the voice-work for the character.[43] He also starred along with Jamie Lee Curtis and Geoffrey Rush in The Tailor of Panama in 2001, and lent his voice to The Simpsons episode “Treehouse of Horror XII”, as a machine with Pierce Brosnan’s voice.

 

Post-James Bond

Brosnan (2nd from the left) with the cast of Mamma Mia! and ABBA (1st, 5th, and 6th from left and 2nd from right)

 

Since 2004, Brosnan has talked of backing a film about Caitlin Macnamara, wife of poet Dylan Thomas,[44] the title role to be played by Miranda Richardson. Brosnan’s first post-Bond role was that of Daniel Rafferty in 2004′s Laws of Attraction. Garreth Murphy, of entertainment.ie, described Brosnan’s performance as “surprisingly effective, gently riffing off his James Bond persona and supplementing it with a raffish energy”.[45] In the same year, Brosnan starred in After the Sunset alongside Salma Hayek and Woody Harrelson. The film elicited generally negative reviews and a 17% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.[46] Brosnan’s next film was 2005′s The Matador. He starred as Julian Noble, a jaded, neurotic assassin who meets a travelling salesman (Greg Kinnear) in a Mexican bar. The film garnered generally positive reviews.[47] Roger Ebert for the Chicago Sun-Times called Brosnan’s performance the best of his career.[48] Brosnan was nominated for a Golden Globe award for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy but lost to Joaquin Phoenix for Walk the Line.[49] In December 2005, Brosnan was reported to be starring in The November Man, an adaptation of Bill Granger’s novel, There Are No Spies,[50] but the project was cancelled in 2007.

 

In 2007, Brosnan appeared in the film Seraphim Falls alongside fellow Irishman Liam Neeson. The film was released for limited screenings on 26 January 2007 to average reviews. Kevin Crust of the Los Angeles Times noted that Brosnan and Neeson made “fine adversaries;”[51] Michael Rechtshaffen of The Hollywood Reporter thought that they were “hard-pressed to inject some much-needed vitality into their sparse lines.”[52] During the same year, Brosnan spoke of making a western with fellow Irishmen Gabriel Byrne and Colm Meaney [53] and making an adaptation of the 1990 novel The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle. It was suggested that Brosnan would play the ship’s captain, Jaggery, joining Saoirse Ronan and Morgan Freeman.[54] In that same year Brosnan starred as Tom Ryan in Butterfly on a Wheel.

 

In 2008, Brosnan joined Meryl Streep in the film adaption of the ABBA musical Mamma Mia!.[55] He played Sam Carmichael, one of three men rumoured to be the father of lead Amanda Seyfried, while Streep played her mother.[56] Judy Craymer, producer to the film, said “Pierce brings a certain smooch factor, and we think he’ll have great chemistry with Meryl in a romantic comedy.”[57] Brosnan’s preparation in singing for the role included walking up and down the coast and singing karaoke to his own voice for about six weeks, followed by rehearsals in New York in which he noted he “sounded dreadful.”[58] Brosnan’s singing in the film was generally disparaged by critics, with his singing compared in separate reviews to the sound of a water buffalo,[59] a donkey,[60] and a wounded racoon.[61] In September 2008, Brosnan provided the narration for Thomas the Tank Engine in Thomas and Friends and The Great Discovery.

 

In 2009, Brosnan starred in The Big Biazarro, (alternative title The Ace), an adaptation of the Leonard Wise novel, directed by Vondie Curtis-Hall. Brosnan portrayed a card player who mentors a headstrong protégé.[62] Also In 2009, Brosnan finished the well-received The Ghost Writer, playing a disgraced British Prime Minister, directed and produced by Roman Polanski. The film won a Silver Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival. He starred as Charles Hawkins in the film Remember Me and as Chiron in Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, both released in 2010.

In 2011, Pierce Brosnan will appear in Spy-Spoof Sequel, Johnny English Reborn, where he will be playing the role of Ambrose. The film is due to be released in the UK on 7 October 2011.[63]

 

Personal life

Brosnan met Australian actress Cassandra Harris through David Harris, one of Richard Harris’ nephews, in 1977, shortly after he left drama school.[1] On meeting her, he has described his feelings, saying, “What a beautiful looking woman. I never for an instant thought she was someone I’d spend 17 years of my life with. I didn’t think of wooing her, or attempting to woo her; I just wanted to enjoy her beauty and who she was.”[3] They began dating, and eventually bought a house in Wimbledon. They married on 27 December 1980 and had one son together, Sean, who was born on 13 September 1983. They lived with her children, Charlotte and Christopher, and after their father Dermot Harris died in 1986, he adopted them and they took the surname Brosnan.[1][64]

Financially, Brosnan was concerned about earning enough money to get by at this time, and supplemented their income by working in West End productions, and a television film about Irish horse racing.[3] Soon after Harris appeared in the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only in 1981, with a bank loan, they moved to southern California where Brosnan had his first interview in Hollywood for Remington Steele, and subsequently no longer had financial worries.

 

When Remington Steele was sent to Ireland to film an episode there, generating significant publicity in doing so, Brosnan was briefly reunited with his father who visited his hotel. Brosnan had expected to see a very tall man, but describes his father as “a man of medium stature, pushed-back silver hair, flinty eyes and a twizzled jaw. He had a very strong Kerry accent.”[3] However, Brosnan expresses regret that they met under such circumstances in a public environment rather than on his own terms which would have given him the opportunity to speak privately with him.[3]

 

While filming The Deceivers in Rajasthan, India, in 1987, his wife Cassandra Harris became seriously ill. She was later diagnosed with ovarian cancer and she died as a result of the illness in December 1991, aged 43.[65] Brosnan struggled to cope with her cancer and death: “When your partner gets cancer, then life changes. Your timetable and reference for your normal routines and the way you view life, all this changes. Because you’re dealing with death. You’re dealing with the possibility of death and dying. And it was that way through the chemotherapy, through the first-look operation, the second look, the third look, the fourth look, the fifth look. Cassie was very positive about life. I mean, she had the most amazing energy and outlook on life. It was and is a terrible loss, and I see it reflected, from time to time, in my children.”[3] Harris had always wanted Brosnan to play the role of James Bond, and in 1995, some four years after her death, Brosnan achieved this when he appeared in GoldenEye.

 

In 1994, Brosnan met American journalist Keely Shaye Smith in Mexico. In 2001, at Ballintubber Abbey in County Mayo, Ireland, they married.[1][66] They have two sons together, Dylan Thomas Brosnan (birth 13 January 1997) and Paris Beckett Brosnan (birth 27 February 2001).[4]

In July 2003, Queen Elizabeth II awarded Brosnan an honorary OBE for his “outstanding contribution to the British film industry”.[67] As an Irish citizen, he is ineligible to receive the full OBE honour, which is awarded only to a citizen of the Commonwealth realms. In 2002, Brosnan was also awarded an Honorary degree from the Dublin Institute of Technology[68] and, one year later, the University College Cork.[69]

 

On 23 September 2004, Brosnan became a citizen of the United States, but has retained his Irish citizenship. Brosnan said that “my Irishness is in everything I do. It’s the spirit of who I am, as a man, an actor, a father. It’s where I come from.”[34] Brosnan was asked by a fan if it annoyed him when people get his nationality confused. He said: “It amuses me in some respects that they should confuse me with an Englishman when I’m dyed-in-the-wool, born and bred Irishman…I don’t necessarily fly under any flag. But no, it doesn’t bother me.”[70]

 

Environmental and charitable work

Pierce Brosnan at the Toronto Film Festival in September 2005.

 

Pierce Brosnan has been an Ambassador for UNICEF Ireland since 2001 and recorded a special announcement to mark the launch of UNICEF’s “Unite for Children, Unite against AIDS” Campaign with Liam Neeson.[71] Brosnan supported John Kerry in the 2004 Presidential election and is a vocal supporter of same-sex marriage.[72]

 

Brosnan first became aware of nuclear disarmament at the age of nine when worldwide condemnation of the 1962 U.S. nuclear tests in Nevada headlined international news.[1] During the 1990s, he participated in news conferences in Washington, D.C. to help Greenpeace draw attention to the issue.[1] Brosnan boycotted the French GoldenEye premiere to support Greenpeace’s protest against the French nuclear testing program.[73] From 1997 to 2000, Brosnan and wife Smith worked with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) to stop a proposed salt factory from being built at Laguna San Ignacio.[1] The couple with Halle Berry, Cindy Crawford and Daryl Hannah successfully fought the Cabrillo Port Liquefied Natural Gas facility that was proposed off the coast of Malibu and would cause damage to the marine life there; the State Lands Commission eventually denied the lease to build the terminal.[74] In May 2007, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the facility.[75] Brosnan is also listed as a member of the Sea Shepherd’s Board of Advisors.[76] Brosnan was named ‘Best-dressed Environmentalist’ by the Sustainable Style Foundation in 2004.[77]

 

Brosnan also raises money for charitable causes through sales of his paintings. He trained early on as an artist, but later shifted to theatre; during his first wife’s terminal illness, he withdrew from acting to be with her and took up painting again for therapeutic reasons, producing colourful landscapes and family portraits. He has continued painting since then, using spare time on set and at home. Profits from sales of giclée prints of his works are given to a trust to benefit “environmental, children’s and women’s health charities.”[1] Since Harris’s death, Brosnan has been an advocate for cancer awareness and, in 2006, he served as spokesperson for Lee National Denim Day, a breast cancer fundraiser which raises millions of dollars and raises more money in a single day than any other breast cancer fundraiser.[78]

 

In May 2007, Brosnan and Smith donated $100,000 to help replace a playground on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, where they own a home.[79] On 7 July 2007, Brosnan presented a film at Live Earth in London.[80] He also recorded a television advertisement for the cause.[1] Brosnan lives with his family in Malibu, California.

 

References

  1.  Brosnan’s personal site
  2.  “Pierce Brosnan honoured by Navan Town”. RTÉ News. http://www.rte.ie/news/1999/1111/brosnan.html.
  3.  Chutkow, Paul (December 1997). “Brosnan. Pierce Brosnan.”. Cigaraficionado.com. http://www.cigaraficionado.com/Cigar/CA_Profiles/People_Profile/0,2540,2,00.html. Retrieved 23 October 2008.
  4.  “Pierce Brosnan”. HELLO. http://www.hellomagazine.com/profiles/piercebrosnan/. Retrieved 22 February 2007.
  5.  Farndale, Nigel (January 29, 2008). “Pierce Brosnan: James who?”. The Daily Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/3555499/Pierce-Brosnan-James-who.html. Retrieved September 11, 2010.
  6.  Louie, Rebbeca (2005-12-25). “Eyes that Pierce. After Bond, Brosnan looks to future with a killer role”. Daily News. http://www.nydailynews.com/archives/entertainment/2005/12/29/2005-12-29_eyes_that_pierce__after_bond.html. Retrieved 2010-09-13.
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  8.  ”Pierce Brosnan“. Inside the Actors Studio. Bravo. 24 November 2002. No. 903, season 9.
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  63.  Johnny English Reborn at the Internet Movie Database
  64.  Lipworth, Elaine (17 February 2006). “Pierce Brosnan: A new licence to thrill”. London: The Independent. http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/features/pierce-brosnan-a-new-licence-to-thrill-525881.html. Retrieved 19 February 2007.
  65.  “Cassandra Harris, Actress, 39″. The New York Times. 31 December 1991. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9D0CE0D8133CF932A05751C1A967958260. Retrieved 19 February 2007.
  66.  “Pierce Brosnan and Keely Shaye Smith”. HELLO. 6 August 2001. http://www.hellomagazine.com/magazine/2001/08/06/brosnanwedding/. Retrieved 19 February 2007.
  67.  “Bond star Brosnan made honorary OBE”. BBC NEWS. 14 July 2003. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/3065797.stm.
  68.  “Pierce Brosnan and Eddie Jordan awarded Honorary Doctorates from Dublin Institute of Technology”. Dublin Institute of Technology. 23 June 2003. http://www.dit.ie/news/archive2003/piercebrosnanandeddiejordanawardeddoctorates/.
  69.  University College Cork (28 May 2004). “Honorary Conferring Ceremony– 4 June 2004″. Press release. http://www.ucc.ie/services/opa/pr/PRHonDeg04.html.
  70.  Nathan, Ian. “Public Access: Pierce Brosnan”. Empire (135): 10.
  71.  “Children and AIDS”. Unicef. Accessed 25 October 2008
  72.  “Metro.co.uk”. http://www.metro.co.uk/fame/interviews/article.html?in_article_id=1024&in_page_id=11. Retrieved 19 February 2007.
  73.  Lang, Kirsty (3 December 1995). “Bond drops a bomb”. The Sunday Times.
  74.  Silverman, Stephen M. (11 April 2007). “Halle Berry, Others Protest Natural Gas Facility”. People. Time Inc.. http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,1549375,00.html. Retrieved 17 April 2007.
  75.  Cabrillo Port Dies a Santa Barbara Flavored Death End-Zone Dance, Independent, 24 May 2007
  76.  “Sea Shepherd Advisors – Pierce Brosnan”. http://www.seashepherd.org/boa/boa_pierce_brosnan.html.
  77.  “Sustainable Style Foundation”. http://www.sustainablestyle.org/recognition-inspiration/2004-best-dressed-environmental-list/. Retrieved 27 August 2010.
  78.  “Pierce Brosnan to promote Lee breast cancer fund raiser”. The Business Journal (American City Business Journals). 10 July 2006. http://triad.bizjournals.com/triad/stories/2006/07/10/daily18.html. Retrieved 22 February 2007.
  79.  Washington Post article “Brosnan, Wife Help School Kids in Hawaii” May 31, 2007. Accessed 2010-08-27
  80.  “London Live Earth line-up revealed”. NME News. 5 July 2007. http://www.nme.com/news/live-earth/29428. Retrieved 8 January 2008.

 

Peter Sellers

 

Name: Richard Henry Sellers

Born:  8th September 1925

Died: 24th July 1980

Occupation: Actor, comedian

Years active: 1948 – 1980

Interview: 

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Richard Henry Sellers, CBE (8 September 1925 – 24 July 1980), known as Peter Sellers, was a British[1] comedian and actor best known as Chief Inspector Clouseau in The Pink Panther film series, for playing three different characters in Dr. Strangelove, as Clare Quilty in Lolita, and as the man-child and TV-addicted Chance the gardener in his penultimate film, Being There. Leading actress Bette Davis once remarked of him, “He isn’t an actor—he’s a chameleon.” [2]

Sellers rose to fame on the BBC Radio comedy series The Goon Show. His ability to speak in different accents (e.g., French, Indian, American, German, as well as British regional accents), along with his talent to portray a range of characters to comic effect, contributed to his success as a radio personality and screen actor and earned him national and international nominations and awards. Many of his characters became ingrained in public perception of his work. Sellers’ private life was characterized by turmoil and crises, and included emotional problems and substance abuse. Sellers was married four times, and had three children from the first two marriages.

An enigmatic figure, he often claimed to have no identity outside the roles that he played, but he left his own portrait since, “he obsessively filmed his homes, his family, people he knew, anything that took his fancy right to the end of his life—intimate film that remained undiscovered until long after his death in 1980.”[3] The director Peter Hall has said: “Peter had the ability to identify completely with another person, and think his way physically, mentally and emotionally into their skin. Where does that come from? I have no idea. Is it a curse? Often. I think it’s not enough though in this business to have talent. You have to have talent to handle the talent. And that I think Peter did not have.”[4]

 

Early life

Peter Sellers’ birthplace on the corner of Castle Road and Southsea terrace, in Southsea; the blue

plaques read “Peter Sellers, Actor and Comedian was born here”

 

Sellers was born in Southsea, Portsmouth, to a family of entertainers. Though christened Richard Henry, his parents always called him Peter, after his elder stillborn brother,[5] and, according to Bryan Forbes, “was, during his formative years, totally smothered in maternal affection”. He attended the North London Roman Catholic school St. Aloysius College, although his father, Yorkshire-born Bill Sellers was Protestant and his mother, Agnes Doreen ‘Peg’ née Marks was Jewish. His great-great-grandfather was Daniel Mendoza, the 18th century British prizefighter of Jewish ancestry.[6] As an adult, notes film critic Alexander Walker, Mendoza was the ancestor Sellers “most revered,” and he usually kept an engraving of him hanging in his office. At one time he planned on having Mendoza’s image for his production company’s logo.[6]

According to Sellers’ biographer Roger Lewis, Sellers was intrigued by Catholicism, but soon after entering Catholic school, he “discovered he was a Jew—he was someone on the outside of the mysteries of faith.” Sellers says that teachers referred to him as “The Jew”, which led to his subsequent sensitivity to anti-semitic innuendos. He was a top student at the school, and recalls that the teacher once scolded the other boys for not studying: “The Jewish boy knows his catechism better than the rest of you!”[5]:203

Later in his life, Sellers is quoted as saying “My father was solid Church of England but my mother was Jewish—Portuguese Jewish—and Jews take the faith of their mother.”[7] Film critic Kenneth Tynan noted after his interview with Sellers that one of the main “motive forces” for his ambition as an actor was “his hatred of anti-semitism.” Tynan explained:

In scholars, lawyers, doctors and vaudeville comedians, Jewishness is tolerated. In legitimate actors, much less often. . . . Hence [Peter Seller's refusal] to be content with the secure reputation of a great mimic and his determination to go down in history as something more—a great actor, perhaps, or a great director.[6]

Sellers was of the opinion that “becoming part of some large group never does any good. Maybe that’s my problem with religion,” he said during an interview. He explained:

“I wasn’t baptized. I wasn’t Bar Mitzvahed. I suppose my basic religion is doing unto others as they would do unto me. But I find it all very difficult. I am more inclined to believe in the Old Testament than in the New . . . .[8]

Accompanying his family on the variety show circuit,[5] Sellers learned stagecraft, which proved valuable later. He performed at age five at the burlesque Windmill Theatre in the drama Splash Me!, which featured his mother.[9] However, he grew up with conflicting influences from his parents and developed ambivalent feelings about show business. His father lacked confidence in Peter’s abilities to ever become much in the entertainment field, even suggesting that his son’s talents were only enough to become a road sweeper, while Sellers’ mother encouraged him continually.[5]:18

Sellers got his first job at a theatre in Ilfracombe, when he was 15, starting as a janitor. He was steadily promoted, becoming a box office clerk, usher, assistant stage manager, and lighting operator. He was also offered some small acting parts.[5] Working backstage gave him a chance to see serious actors at work, such as Paul Scofield. He also became close friends with Derek Altman, and together they launched Sellers’ first stage act under the name “Altman and Sellers,” where they played ukuleles, sang, and told jokes. They also both enjoyed reading detective stories by Dashiell Hammett, and were inspired to start their own detective agency. “Their enterprise ended abruptly when a potential client ripped Sellers’ fake moustache off.”[5]

At his regular job backstage at the theatre, Sellers began practising on a set of drums that belonged to the band “Joe Daniels and His Hot Shots.” Joe Daniels began noticing his efforts and gave him some practical instructions. Sellers’ biographer Ed Sikov writes that “drumming suited him. Banging in time Pete could envelop himself in a world of near-total abstraction, all in the context of a great deal of noise.”[5]:20

 

World War II period

As war broke out in Europe, Sellers continued to develop his drumming skills, which strongly impressed even his father and landed Sellers his first drumming job with a band in Blackpool.[5]:22

He later enlisted, and during World War II Sellers was an airman in the Royal Air Force, rising to corporal, though he had been restricted to ground staff due to poor eyesight. His tour included India and Burma, although the duration of his stay in Asia is unknown and its length may have been exaggerated by Sellers himself.[5] He also served in Germany and France after the war.[5] As a distraction from the life of a non-commissioned officer, Sellers joined the Entertainments National Service Association (ENSA), which his father had earlier also signed up with, allowing him to hone his drumming and comedy. By the end of the war in 1945, more than four out of five British entertainers had worked for ENSA, whose focus was on boosting morale of soldiers and factory workers.[5]

He occasionally impersonated his superiors,[5] and his portrayal of RAF officer Lionel Mandrake in the film Dr. Strangelove may have been modelled on them. He bluffed his way into the Officers’ Mess using mimicry and the occasional false moustache, although as he told Michael Parkinson in the 1972 interview, occasionally older officers would suspect him. The voice of Goon Show character Major Dennis Bloodnok came from this period.

 

The Goon Show

After his discharge and return to England in 1948, Sellers supported himself with stand-up routines in variety theatres whose impresarios needed to legitimise their business.[5] Sellers telephoned BBC radio producer Roy Speer, pretending to be Kenneth Horne, star of the radio show Much Binding in the Marsh, to get Speer to speak to him.

As a result, Sellers was given an audition, which led to his work on Ray’s a Laugh with comedian Ted Ray. His principal radio work was on The Goon Show with Spike Milligan, Harry Secombe and (originally) Michael Bentine. Sellers followed this with television work.

 

Records

In the late 1950s, Sellers released two comedy records produced by George Martin: The Best of Sellers and Songs for Swinging Sellers. The Best of Sellers album cover (first released in 10″ format in 1958 and his debut LP) pictured him polishing a Rolls-Royce motor car. The most popular tracks on this album were “Balham, Gateway to the South” (a parody travelogue) and “Suddenly It’s Folksong” where a group of people end up smashing up a pub after a row over someone playing a bum note. The Songs for Swinging Sellers album, released in 1959, whose title parodied Frank Sinatra’s album Songs for Swinging Lovers, contained material written by Frank Muir and Denis Norden, and featured Sellers performing “Puttin on the Style” (a parody of the skiffle movement’s performer Lonnie Donegan). Sellers also appeared with guest Irene Handl on the track “Shadows on the Grass” where he played the part of a Frenchman befriending a lady in the park. Musical direction was by Ron Goodwin.

Cover of Fool Britannia

 

In 1963, Sellers worked with Anthony Newley, Leslie Bricusse and Joan Collins to produce the LP Fool Britannia. This comprised a series of sketches satirizing the British political scandal the Profumo Affair, in which the Minister for War was revealed to have lied about his relationship with a prostitute who was also involved with a Russian diplomat. The album was controversial, in part perhaps because of material involving the royal family, and would-be buyers in the United Kingdom found it especially hard to obtain.

A 1965 hit was a spoof spoken version of the Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night”, in the style of Laurence Olivier. This followed up various pieces of Olivier-style speech in the Goons.

In 1979 he released a new gatefold album entitled Sellers’ Market (the cover shows him standing next to traders reading the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal whereas Sellers is reading the Finchley Press) which included comic singing and a feature called the “All England George Formby Finals” where he parodies the late George Formby and his ukulele playing. Also featured was the Complete Guide to Accents of the British Isles. The album was not as popular as his first two in 1958 and 1959 although it is still sought after by collectors.[10] All of his albums exploited Sellers’s ability to use his flexible voice to comedic effect.

 

Acting technique and preparation

In an October 1962 interview for Playboy, Sellers described how he prepared for acting roles once he agreed to play the part:

Well, having got to the stage where one sees a final script and has discussed the part with all concerned, I start with the voice. I find out how the character sounds. It’s through the way he speaks that I find out the rest about him. I suppose that approach comes from having worked in radio for so long. After the voice comes the looks of the man. I do a lot of drawings of the character I play. Then I get together with the makeup man and we sort of transfer my drawings onto my face. An involved process. After that I establish how the character walks. Very important, the walk. And then, suddenly, something strange happens. The person takes over. The man you play begins to exist. I sink myself completely into every character I play, because he has begun to live in me. I suddenly seem to know what sort of life that man has had and how he would react to a given situation.[8]

 

Film career

Sellers’ film success arrived with British comedies, including The Ladykillers, I’m All Right Jack and The Mouse That Roared. In his early film roles, he continued to exploit his ability to do accents and different voices, often in character parts and occasionally playing several distinct roles in a single film. In his second movie, he played two parts; in his third, six.

In The Smallest Show on Earth, the 27-year-old actor played a doddering, drunken elderly projectionist twice his actual age. In The Mouse That Roared, set in a small European country, he played three major and distinct roles, the elderly queen, the ambitious Prime Minister, and the innocent and clumsy farm boy selected to lead an invasion of the United States. In the United States he received considerable publicity for playing three parts, a stunt he would do again in Dr. Strangelove.

He began receiving international attention for his portrayal of an Indian doctor in The Millionairess with Sophia Loren. The film inspired the George Martin-produced novelty hit single Goodness Gracious Me and its follow-up Bangers and Mash, both featuring Sellers and Loren.

 

Lolita

In 1962, Stanley Kubrick asked Sellers to play the role of Clare Quilty in Lolita opposite James Mason and Shelley Winters. Kubrick had seen Sellers in his earlier films and was intrigued by his range, also demonstrated during The Goon Show period when Sellers had done impressions of famous people, such as Winston Churchill, the Queen, and Lew Grade.

However, Sellers felt the part of a flamboyant American television playwright was beyond his ability, mainly because Quilty was, in Sellers’ words, “a fantastic nightmare, part homosexual, part drug addict, part sadist…”. He became nervous about taking on the role, and many people came up to him and told him they felt the role believable.[11] Kubrick eventually succeeded in persuading Sellers to play the part, however. Kubrick had American jazz musician and producer Norman Granz record Sellers’ portions of the script for Sellers to listen to, so he could study the voice and develop confidence.[12]

Unlike most of his earlier well-rehearsed movie roles, Sellers was encouraged by Kubrick to improvise throughout the filming in order to exhaust all the possibilities of his character. Moreover, in order to capture Sellers at his most creative heights, Kubrick often used as many as three cameras. Sellers and Kubrick created the multiple disguises used by Sellers, such as a state trooper and a German psychologist. As filming progressed, the other actors and the crew would notice Sellers’ greatly enjoying his acting and, according to Kubrick, reaching “…what can only be described as a state of comic ecstasy”.[12] The movie’s cinematographer, Oswald Morris, further commented that, “the most interesting scenes were the ones with Peter Sellers, which were total improvisations.”[12]

Because of this experience, Sellers found that his relationship with Kubrick became one of the most rewarding of his career.[12]

 

Dr. Strangelove

In Kubrick’s next film, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb he asked Sellers to be in the leading role. Sellers played three extremely different characters: U.S. President Merkin Muffley, Dr. Strangelove, a heavily German-accented nuclear scientist, and Group Captain Lionel Mandrake of the RAF. Sellers was initially hesitant about taking on the task, but Kubrick convinced him that there was no better actor that could play these parts.[12]

Muffley and Dr. Strangelove appeared in the same room throughout the film, with the help of Kubrick’s special effects. Sellers was originally cast to play a fourth role, as Major T. J. “King” Kong, but could not achieve the strong Texas accent required. He also fell and broke his leg, forcing Kubrick to replace the part with Slim Pickens. For his performance in all three roles, Sellers was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor. Kubrick again gave Sellers a free rein to improvise throughout the filming. Sellers once said, “If you ask me to play myself, I will not know what to do. I do not know who or what I am.”[13]

 

Pink Panther

Peter Sellers as Chief Inspector Clouseau in the The Pink Panther

 

From 1963, Sellers was cast as the bumbling Chief Inspector Clouseau in the The Pink Panther movies. This character gave Sellers a worldwide audience, beginning with The Pink Panther and its sequel, A Shot in the Dark, in which he featured more prominently. He returned to the character for three more sequels from 1975 to 1978. The Trail of the Pink Panther, containing unused footage of Sellers, was released in 1982, after his death. His widow, Lynne Frederick, successfully sued the film’s producers for unauthorized use. Sellers had prepared to star as Chief Inspector Clouseau in another Pink Panther film; he died before the start of this project, Romance of the Pink Panther.

 

Being There

In 1979, Sellers played the role of Chance, a simple gardener addicted to watching TV, in the black comedy Being There, considered by some critics to be the “crowning triumph of Peter Sellers’s remarkable career,”[14] as well as a great achievement for novelist Jerzy Kosinski. During a BBC interview in 1971, Sellers said that more than anything else, he wanted to play the role of Chance.[14]

Kosinski, the book’s author, felt that the novel was never meant to be made into a film, but Sellers succeeded in changing his mind, and Kosinski allowed Sellers and director Hal Ashby to make the film, provided he could write the script.[14] According to film critic Danny Smith, Sellers was “naturally intrigued with the idea of Chance, a character who reflected whatever was beamed at him”.[15]

Sellers’s performance was praised by some critics as achieving “the pinpoint-sharp exactitude of nothingness. It is a performance of extraordinary dexterity”,[5]:361 and “…[making] the film’s fantastic premise credible”.[16]

Sellers’s experience of working on the film was both humbling and powerful for him.[15] During the filming, in order not to break his character, he refused most interview requests, and even kept his distance from other actors. He tried to remain in character even after he returned home.[15] Sellers considered Chance’s walking and voice the character’s most important attributes, and in preparing for the role, Sellers worked alone with a tape recorder, or with his wife, and then with Ashby, to perfect the clear enunciation and flat delivery needed to reveal “the childlike mind behind the words.”[15]

Critic Frank Rich noted the acting skill required for this sort of role, with a “schismatic personality that Peter had to convey with strenuous vocal and gestural technique. . . . A lesser actor would have made the character’s mental dysfunction flamboyant and drastic. . . . [His] intelligence was always deeper, his onscreen confidence greater, his technique much more finely honed.”[16]

Being There earned Sellers his best reviews since the 1960s, a second Academy Award nomination and a Golden Globe award. A few months after the film was released, Time magazine wrote a cover-story article about Sellers, entitled, “Who is This Man?” The cover showed many of the characters Sellers had portrayed, including Chance, Quilty, Strangelove, Clouseau, and the Grand Duchess Glorianna XII. Sellers was pleased by the article, written by critic Richard Schickel, and wrote an appreciative letter to the magazine’s editor.”[5]:373

 

Final projects

Sellers’ last movie was The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu, a comedic reimagining of the classic series of adventure novels by Sax Rohmer. In this new version, Sellers played both “Fu Manchu” and his arch nemesis, police inspector Nayland Smith. Production of the film ran into problems from the start, with Sellers’ poor health and mental instability causing long delays and bickering between star and director Piers Haggard. With roughly 60% of the movie shot, Sellers had Haggard sacked and took over direction himself. Haggard later complained that the reshoots Sellers ordered added nothing to the production, and had resulted in the film being incoherent and unfocused. The movie contains references to Sellers’ serious heart troubles, including scenes where Fu revives his ancient body with large electric shocks.[17]

Sellers died shortly before Fu Manchu was released, with his very last performance being that of conman “Monty Casino” in a series of adverts for Barclays Bank. In 1982, Sellers returned to the big screen as Inspector Clouseau in Trail of the Pink Panther, which was composed entirely of deleted scenes from his past three Panther movies, in particular The Pink Panther Strikes Again, with a new story written around them. David Niven also reprised his role of Sir Charles Lytton in this movie. Along with what many, notably his widow Lynne Frederick, saw as exploitation of Sellers, the manner in which Niven’s cameo was handled has earned the movie a lasting unsavoury reputation. Edwards continued the series with a further installment called the Curse of the Pink Panther, which was shot back to back with the framing footage for Trail, but Sellers was wholly absent from this film.

After The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu, Sellers was scheduled to appear in another Clouseau comedy, The Romance Of The Pink Panther. Its script, written by Peter Moloney and Sellers himself, had Clouseau falling for a brilliant female criminal known as ‘The Frog’ and aiding her in her heists with the aim to reform her character. Blake Edwards did not participate in the planning of this new Clouseau instalment, as the working relationship between him and Sellers had broken down during the filming of Revenge Of The Pink Panther. The final draft of the script, including a humorous cover letter signed by “Pete Shakespeare”, was delivered to United Artists’ office less than six hours before Sellers died. Sellers death ended the project, along with two other planned movies for which Sellers had signed contracts in 1980. The two films — Unfaithfully Yours and Lovesick—were rewritten as vehicles for Dudley Moore; both performed poorly at the box office upon release. Trade papers such as Variety carried an elaborately curlicued advert for the former movie, with Sellers at the top of the cast list, in early June 1980.

 

Other roles

Director Billy Wilder hired Sellers to co-star with Dean Martin for the ribald 1964 comedy Kiss Me, Stupid, but six weeks into filming, Sellers suffered a heart attack. Wilder replaced him with Ray Walston.

Sellers was a versatile actor, switching from broad comedy, as in The Party, in which he portrayed a bumbling Indian actor Hrundi Bakshi, to more intense performances as in Lolita.

Sellers appeared in an episode of the American television series It Takes a Thief in 1969. By the early 1970s he faced a downturn, however, and was dubbed “box office poison”.[18] Sellers never won an Oscar but won the BAFTA for I’m All Right Jack.

Sellers appeared on The Muppet Show television series in 1977. He chose not to appear as himself, instead appearing in a variety of costumes and accents. When Kermit the Frog told Sellers he could relax and be “himself,” Sellers (while wearing a Viking helmet, a girdle and one boxing glove, claiming to have attempted to dress as Queen Victoria), replied, “There is no me. I do not exist. There used to be a me, but I had it surgically removed.”[19]

 

Personal life

Sellers was reticent about discussing his private life. He was invited to appear on Michael Parkinson’s eponymous chat show in 1974, but agreed under the condition that he could appear in character. Sellers appeared dressed as a member of the Gestapo, impersonating the Kenneth Mars character in The Producers. After a few lines in keeping with his assumed character, he stepped out of the role and settled down for what is considered one of Parkinson’s most memorable interviews.[20]

 

Marriages

Sellers and Britt Ekland 1964

 

Sellers was married four times and fathered three children:

Anne Hayes (née Howe,[21] 1951–1961). They had a son, Michael and a daughter, Sarah.

Swedish actress Britt Ekland (1964–1968). They had a daughter, Victoria Sellers. The couple appeared in three films together: Carol For Another Christmas (1964), After the Fox (1966), and The Bobo (1967).

Australian model Miranda Quarry (now the Countess of Stockton; 1970–1974).

English actress Lynne Frederick (1977–1980), who was briefly married to Sir David Frost shortly after Sellers’ death.

Spike Milligan wrote Sellers’ multiple marriages into his scripts, referring in one 1972 radio show to “The Peter Sellers Discarded Wives Memorial”. At the time, Sellers was married to Quarry.

 

Depression, substance abuse, and health problems

It has been suggested that Sellers suffered depression spurred by deep-seated anxieties of artistic and personal failure[22] and exacerbated by substance abuse.[23] It is believed that his drug use, especially amyl nitrites, contributed to heart attacks in 1964 (see below).[24] Sellers’ difficulties in his career and life prompted him to seek periodic consultations with astrologer Maurice Woodruff, who seemed to have held considerable sway over his later career.[5]

 

Other celebrities

Sellers had casual friendships with two Beatles, George Harrison and Ringo Starr.[5] Harrison told occasional Sellers stories in interviews, and Starr appeared with him in the anarchic movie The Magic Christian, which was based on Terry Southern’s novel and whose theme song was Badfinger’s “Come and Get It”, written by Paul McCartney. Starr’s two-week hiatus from the Beatles during the White Album recordings was spent aboard Sellers’s yacht, where he wrote “Octopus’s Garden”. Starr also gave Sellers a rough mix of songs from the Beatles’ White Album; the tape was auctioned and bootlegged after his death. Sellers recorded a cover version of “A Hard Day’s Night”, in the style of Laurence Olivier’s interpretation of Richard III, as well as various versions of “She Loves You”, including as Dr. Strangelove, a cockney, and an Irish dentist.

Sellers was the first male to appear on the cover of Playboy magazine.[25]

Sellers’s friends included actor and director Roman Polanski, who shared his passion for fast cars. Sellers had a close relationship with Sophia Loren, but accounts differ on whether or not their relationship was consummated.[26] Sellers was the first man on the cover of Playboy—he appeared on the April 1964 cover with Karen Lynn.[25]

Sellers was a Freemason and belonged to Chelsea Lodge No 3098, a lodge whose membership consists of celebrities and performers, through which means he socialised with a number of other actors and comedians.[27]

 

Royal Family

In her autobiography True Britt, Britt Ekland described Sellers’ close relationship with the Royal Family. “I was completely unaware of his (Sellers) connection with the British monarchy. One afternoon before we married he had disappeared saying that he had to do something ‘important’. I was to learn he had spent afternoon tea with the Queen Mother at Clarence House.”[28] He was a close friend of Princess Margaret[29], who appears in one of his home movies.

 

Obsession with automobiles

Sellers had a lifelong obsession with cars, briefly parodied in a fleeting cameo in the short film Simon Simon, directed by friend Graham Stark. His love for cars was also referenced in The Goon Show episode “The Space Age,” where Harry Secombe introduces Sellers by saying, “Good heavens, it’s Peter Sellers, who has just broken his own record of keeping a car for more than a month.” In “The Last Goon Show of All”, announcer Andrew Timothy cued him with “Mr. Sellers will now sell a gross of his cars and take up a dramatic voice.”

 

Personal conflicts

Sellers’ personality was described by others as difficult and demanding and he often clashed with fellow actors and directors. He had a strained relationship with friend and director Blake Edwards, with whom he worked on the Pink Panther series and The Party. The two sometimes stopped speaking to each other during filming.[5]

His work with Orson Welles on Casino Royale deteriorated as Sellers became jealous of Welles’s casual relationship with Princess Margaret. The relationship between the two actors created problems during filming, as Sellers refused to share the set with Welles, who himself was no stranger to strident behaviour.

Sellers could be cruel and disrespectful, as demonstrated by his treatment of actress Jo Van Fleet on the set of I Love You, Alice B. Toklas. On one occasion, Van Fleet had declined an invitation to his house, soon followed by a misunderstanding between the two actors during filming. This prompted Sellers to launch a tirade against Van Fleet in front of actors and crew.[5]

Sellers’ difficulties to maintain civil and peaceful relationships also extended into his private life. He assaulted his then wife, Britt Ekland,[5] prompted by jealousy. Sellers sometimes blamed himself for his failed marriages. In a 1974 Parkinson interview, he admitted that “I’m not easy to live with”.

 

Death

In the spring of 1964, at age 38, Sellers suffered a series of heart attacks (13 in a few days) while working on the set of Billy Wilder’s Kiss Me, Stupid, and he was replaced by Ray Walston. Although Sellers survived, his heart was permanently damaged. Sellers chose to consult with psychic healers rather than seek Western medical treatment, and his heart condition continued to deteriorate over the next 16 years. In late 1977, he suffered a second major heart attack, resulting in his being fitted with a pacemaker to regulate his heartbeat.[30] Once again, Sellers refused to slow down, nor did he follow doctors’ orders and consider open heart surgery, which could well have extended his life by several years.[5]

A reunion dinner was scheduled in London with his Goon Show partners, Spike Milligan and Harry Secombe, for 25 July 1980. But around noon on 22 July, Sellers collapsed from a massive heart attack in his Dorchester Hotel room and fell into a coma. He died in a London hospital just after midnight on 24 July 1980, aged 54. He was survived by his fourth wife, Lynne Frederick, and his three children. At the time of his death, he was scheduled to undergo heart surgery in Los Angeles on 30 July 1980.[5]

Although Sellers was reportedly in the process of excluding Frederick from his will a week before he died, she inherited almost his entire estate worth an estimated £4.5 million while his children received £800 each.[5] When Frederick died in 1994 (aged 39), her mother Iris inherited everything, including all of the income and royalties from Sellers’ work. When Iris dies the whole estate will go to Cassie, the daughter Lynne had with her third husband, Barry Unger. Sellers’ only son, Michael, died of a heart attack at 52 during surgery on 24 July 2006 (26 years to the day after his father’s death).[31] Michael was survived by his second wife, Alison, whom he married in 1986, and their two children.

In his will, Sellers requested that the Glenn Miller song “In the Mood” be played at his funeral. The request is considered his last touch of humour, as he hated the piece.[32] His body was cremated and he was interred at Golders Green Crematorium in London. After her death in 1994, the ashes of his former widow were co-interred with his.[33]

 

Legacy and influence

The stage play, “Being Sellers,” premiered in Australia in 1998, three years after release of the biography by Roger Lewis, “The Life and Death of Peter Sellers.” The play premiered in New York in December 2010. In 2004, the book was turned into an HBO film, The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, starring Geoffrey Rush.[34]

The film Trail of the Pink Panther, made by Blake Edwards using unused footage of Sellers from The Pink Panther Strikes Again, is dedicated to Sellers’s memory. The title reads “To Peter … The one and only Inspector Clouseau.”

In a 2005 poll to find “The Comedian’s Comedian”, Sellers was voted 14 in the list of the top 20 greatest comedians by fellow comedians and comedy insiders.[35] British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen frequently referred to Peter Sellers “as the most seminal force in shaping his early ideas on comedy”. Cohen was considered for the role of the biopic, The Life and Death of Peter Sellers (the role went to Australian actor Geoffrey Rush).[36]

 

Further reading

 

References

  1.  name=”britannica.com”>“Peter Sellers – Britannica Online Encyclopedia”. Britannica.com. http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9106396/Peter-Sellers. Retrieved 2010-10-05.
  2.  Peter Sellers Bio, Turner Classic Movies
  3.  Arena, BBC , The Peter Sellers Story…As He Filmed It
  4.  Peter Hall, on Arena BBC TV The Peter Sellers Story…As He Filmed It
  5.  Sikov, Ed (2002). Mr. Strangelove: a biography of Peter Sellers. Pan MacMillan. ISBN 0283072970.
  6.  Walker, Alexander. Peter Sellers, Macmillan Publ. N.Y. (1981) pp. 10-13
  7.  Lewis, Roger. The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, Hal Leonard Corp. (1997) p. 22
  8.  Playboy magazine Interview, October 1962
  9.  Louvish, Simon (5 October 2002). “Here, there and everywhere”. The Guardian (London). http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2002/oct/05/highereducation.biography. Retrieved 22 May 2010.
  10.  “Sellers Market by Peter Sellers on MSN Music”. Music.msn.com. http://music.msn.com/music/album-review/peter-sellers/sellers-market/?silentchk=1&. Retrieved 2010-10-05.
  11.  The Times Newspaper; June 27, 1962
  12.  LoBrutto, Vincent. Stanley Kubrick: A Biography, Da Capo Press (1999) pp. 204-205
  13.  Kinn, Gail; Piazza, Jim. The Greatest Movies Ever, Black Dog Publishing (2008) p. 127
  14.  Smith, Danny. “Giving Peter Sellers a Chance: Danny Smith talks to Jerzy Kosinski”, Third Way, Feb. 1981 pp. 22-23
  15.  Dawson, Nick. Being Hal Ashby: Life of a Hollywood Rebel, Univ. of Kentucky Press (2009) p. 147, 211
  16.  Rich, Frank. “Gravity Defied” Time, Jan. 14, 1980
  17.  http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=sEAVAAAAIBAJ&sjid=ZQgEAAAAIBAJ&pg=6000,6771812&hl=en
  18.  Annette Slattery (2006-07-16). “Dead Comics Society — Peter Sellers”. The Groggy Squirrel. http://www.thegroggysquirrel.com/articles/2006/07/16/peter-sellers/. Retrieved 2007-06-11.
  19.  “Peter Sellers on the Muppet Show”. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zSJc72OC7Dg.
  20.  Parkinson: The Interviews series
  21.  Roger Lewis (1997)). The life and death of Peter Sellers. Applause Books N.Y.. p. 111. ISBN 1-55783-248-X.
  22.  Sikov, Mr. Strangelove: A Biography of Peter Sellers, p. 172
  23.  Sikov, p. 206
  24.  Lewis. The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, p. 184
  25.  “Seth Rogen To Grace Cover Of Playboy”. Access Hollywood. 18 Feb 2009. http://www.accesshollywood.com/seth-rogen-to-grace-cover-of-playboy_article_14561. Retrieved 1 March 2011.
  26.  Sikov, p. 146
  27.  “MQ magazine on-line”. Mqmagazine.co.uk. 1903-05-01. http://www.mqmagazine.co.uk/issue-11/p-20.php. Retrieved 2010-10-05.
  28.  “Page 58, True Britt by Britt Ekland”. Amazon.co.uk. http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0139310894?tag=fil0f-21. Retrieved 2010-10-05.
  29.  “Margaret: Unlucky in Love”, BBC World News, 9 February 2002
  30.  google.com/newspapers[dead link]
  31.  The Telegraph UK Details on Michael Sellers
  32.  “petersellersappreciationsociety.com”. petersellersappreciationsociety.com. http://www.petersellersappreciationsociety.com/HTML/Biography.php. Retrieved 2010-10-05.
  33.  Mail Online The girl who got Peter Sellers’ £5m – and she never even met him
  34.  Merwin, Ted. “Who Was Peter Sellers?”, The Jewish Week, Nov. 23, 2010
  35.  “Cook voted ‘comedians’ comedian’”. BBC News. 2005-01-02. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/4141019.stm. Retrieved 2008-06-15.
  36.  Saunders, Robert A. The Many Faces of Sacha Baron Cohen, Lexington Books (2007) p. 22
  37.  Tobler, John (1992). NME Rock ‘N’ Roll Years (1st ed.). London: Reed International Books Ltd. p. 89. CN 5585.
  38.  The Independent UK Michael Sellers Obituary 7 August 2006

 

External links

 

Video clips

 

Peter O’Toole

 

Name: Peter Seamus Lorcan O’Toole

Born:  2nd August 1932

Occupation: Actor

Years active: 1954 – present

Interview: YouTube Preview Image

 

Peter Seamus Lorcan O’Toole[1] (born 2 August 1932) is an Irish actor of stage and screen who achieved stardom in 1962 playing T. E. Lawrence in Lawrence of Arabia. He went on to become a highly-honoured film and stage actor. He has been nominated for eight Academy Awards, and holds the record for most competitive Academy Award acting nominations without a win. He has won four Golden Globes, a BAFTA, and an Emmy, and was the recipient of an Honorary Academy Award in 2003 for his body of work.

 

Early life

Peter Seamus Lorcan O’Toole was born in 1932. Some sources give his birthplace as Connemara, County Galway, Ireland, and others as Leeds, in West Riding of Yorkshire, England, where he grew up. O’Toole himself is not certain of his birthplace or date, noting in his autobiography that, while he accepts 2 August as his birthdate, he has a birth certificate from each country, with the Irish one giving a June 1932 birthdate.[1] O’Toole is the son of Constance Jane (née Ferguson), a Scottish[2] nurse, and Patrick Joseph O’Toole, an Irish metal plater, football player and racecourse bookmaker.[3][4] When O’Toole was one year old, his family began a five-year tour of major racecourse towns in Northern England. He was raised Roman Catholic.[5][6] O’Toole was evacuated from Leeds early in World War II and went to a Catholic school for seven or eight years, where he was “implored” to become right-handed. “I used to be scared stiff of the nuns: their whole denial of womanhood – the black dresses and the shaving of the hair – was so horrible, so terrifying,” he later commented. “Of course, that’s all been stopped. They’re sipping gin and tonic in the Dublin pubs now, and a couple of them flashed their pretty ankles at me just the other day.”[7]

 

Upon leaving school O’Toole obtained employment as a trainee journalist and photographer on the Yorkshire Evening Post, until he was called up for national service as a signaller in the Royal Navy. As reported in a radio interview in 2006 on NPR, he was asked by an officer whether he had something he had always wanted to do. His reply was that he had always wanted to try being either a poet or an actor. O’Toole attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) from 1952 to 1954 on a scholarship after being rejected by the Abbey Theatre’s drama school in Dublin by the director Ernest Blythe, because he couldn’t speak Irish. At RADA, he was in the same class as Albert Finney, Alan Bates and Brian Bedford. O’Toole described this as “the most remarkable class the academy ever had, though we weren’t reckoned for much at the time. We were all considered dotty.”[8]

 

Career

Peter O’Toole as T. E. Lawrence

 

O’Toole began working in the theatre, gaining recognition as a Shakespearean actor at the Bristol Old Vic and with the English Stage Company, before making his television debut in 1954. He first appeared on film in 1959 in a bit part. O’Toole’s major break came when he was chosen to play T. E. Lawrence in David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia (1962), after Marlon Brando proved unavailable and Albert Finney turned down the role.[9] His performance was ranked number one in Premiere magazine’s list of the 100 Greatest Performances of All Time. The role introduced him to U.S. audiences and earned him the first of his eight nominations for the Academy Award for Best Actor.

O’Toole is one of a handful of actors to be Oscar-nominated for playing the same role in two different films; he played King Henry II in both 1964′s Becket and 1968′s The Lion in Winter. O’Toole played Hamlet under Laurence Olivier’s direction in the premiere production of the Royal National Theatre in 1963. He has also appeared in Seán O’Casey’s Juno and the Paycock at Gaiety Theatre, Dublin, and fulfilled a lifetime ambition when taking to the stage of the Irish capital’s Abbey Theatre in 1970 to perform in Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot alongside Donal McCann. In 1980, he received wide critical acclaim for playing the director in the behind-the-scenes film The Stunt Man. He received good reviews as John Tanner in Man and Superman and Henry Higgins in Pygmalion, and won a Laurence Olivier Award for his performance in Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell (1989). O’Toole was nominated for another Oscar for 1982′s My Favorite Year, a light romantic comedy about the behind-the-scenes at a 1950s TV variety-comedy show, much like Your Show of Shows, in which O’Toole plays an ageing swashbuckling film star strongly reminiscent (intentionally) of Errol Flynn.

In 1972, he played both Miguel de Cervantes and his fictional creation Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha, the motion picture adaptation of the 1965 smash hit Broadway musical, opposite Sophia Loren. Widely criticised for using mostly non-singing actors and shunned by the public at the time, the film has gone on to become more of a success on videocassette and DVD, though there are those who still find fault with it. O’Toole’s singing was dubbed by tenor Simon Gilbert,[10] but the other actors sang their own parts. O’Toole and co-star James Coco, who played both Cervantes’s manservant and Sancho Panza, both received Golden Globe nominations for their performances.

 

Roger Ebert, Peter O’Toole and Jason Patric at the 2004 Savannah Film Festival (Photo: Roger Ebert)

 

O’Toole won an Emmy Award for his role in the 1999 mini-series Joan of Arc. In 2004, O’Toole played King Priam in the summer blockbuster Troy. In 2005, he appeared on television as the older version of legendary 18th century Italian adventurer Giacomo Casanova in the BBC drama serial Casanova. O’Toole’s role was mainly to frame the drama, telling the story of his life to serving maid Edith (Rose Byrne). The younger Casanova, seen for most of the action, was played by David Tennant, who had to wear contact lenses to match his brown eyes to O’Toole’s blue.

 

He was once again nominated for the Best Actor Academy Award for his portrayal of Maurice in the 2006 film Venus, directed by Roger Michell, his eighth such nomination. Most recently, O’Toole co-starred in the Pixar animated film Ratatouille, an animated film about a rat with dreams of becoming the greatest chef in Paris, as Anton Ego, a food critic. O’Toole appeared in the second season of Showtime’s hit drama series The Tudors, portraying Pope Paul III, who excommunicates King Henry VIII from the church; an act that leads to a showdown between the two men in seven of the ten episodes. O’Toole narrated the forthcoming[update] horror comedy film Eldorado, which was directed by Richard Driscoll.[11]

 

Personal life

In a BBC Radio interview in January 2007, O’Toole said that he had studied women for a very long time, had given it his best try, but knew “nothing.” In 1959, he married Welsh actress Siân Phillips, with whom he had two daughters: award-winning actress Kate (b. 1960) and Patricia. Peter and Sîan were divorced in 1979. Phillips later revealed in two autobiographies that O’Toole had subjected her to mental cruelty — largely fuelled by drinking — and was subject to bouts of extreme jealousy when she finally left him for a younger lover.[12]

O’Toole and his girlfriend, model Karen Brown, had a son, Lorcan Patrick O’Toole (born 14 March 1983, when O’Toole was fifty years old). Lorcan, now an actor, was a pupil at Harrow School, boarding at West Acre from 1996.

Severe illness almost ended his life in the late 1970s. Owing to his heavy drinking and a digestive defect from birth, he underwent surgery in 1976 to have his pancreas and a large portion of his stomach removed, which resulted in insulin-dependent diabetes. In 1978 he nearly died from a blood disorder. O’Toole eventually recovered and returned to work, although he found it harder to get parts in films, resulting in more work for television and occasional stage roles. However, he did appear in 1987′s much-garlanded The Last Emperor. He has resided in Clifden, County Galway, Ireland since 1963 and at the height of his career maintained homes in Dublin, London and Paris (at The Ritz which was the hotel where he was supposedly staying in the film How to Steal a Million), but now keeps only his home in London. While studying at RADA in the early 1950s he was active in protesting against British involvement in the Korean War. Later, in the 1960s, he was an active opponent of the Vietnam War.

He is perhaps the only one of his “London” acting contemporaries not to be knighted. However, according to London’s Daily Mail, he was offered a knighthood or honorary knighthood in 1987, but turned it down for personal and political reasons.[13]

In an interview with National Public Radio in December 2006, O’Toole revealed that he knows all 154 of Shakespeare’s sonnets. A self-described romantic, O’Toole regards the sonnets as among the finest collection of English poems, reading them daily. In the movie Venus, he recites Sonnet 18, “Shall I Compare Thee To A Summer’s Day.” O’Toole has written two memoirs. Loitering With Intent: The Child chronicles his childhood in the years leading up to World War II and was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year in 1992. His second, Loitering With Intent: The Apprentice, is about his years spent training with a cadre of friends at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. The books have been praised by critics such as Charles Champlin of the Los Angeles Times, who wrote: “A cascade of language, a rumbling tumbling riot of words, a pub soliloquy to an invisible but imaginable audience, and the more captivating for it. O’Toole as raconteur is grand company.” O’Toole spent parts of 2007 writing his third installment. This book will have (as he described it) “the meat,” meaning highlights from his stage and filmmaking career.

O’Toole is a noted fan of rugby union, and used to attend Five Nations matches with friends and fellow rugby fans Richard Harris, Kenneth Griffith, Peter Finch and Richard Burton. (O’Toole, Harris and Burton have a combined 17 Oscar nominations.) He is also a lifelong player, coach and enthusiast of cricket. O’Toole is licensed to teach and coach cricket to children as young as ten.

O’Toole has been interviewed at least three times by Charlie Rose on The Charlie Rose Show. In the 17 January 2007 interview, O’Toole said that Eric Porter was the actor who had most influenced him. He also said that the difference between actors of yesterday and today is that actors of his generation were trained for “theatre, theatre, theatre.” He also believes that the challenge for the actor is “to use his imagination to link to his emotion” and that “good parts make good actors.” However, in other venues (including the DVD commentary for Becket), O’Toole has also credited Donald Wolfit as being his most important mentor. In an appearance on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on 11 January 2007, O’Toole said that the actor he most enjoyed working with was Katharine Hepburn, his close friend, with whom he played Henry II to her Eleanor of Aquitaine in The Lion in Winter.

O’Toole remains close friends with his Lawrence of Arabia co-star Omar Sharif and his RADA classmate Albert Finney.

O’Toole is a fan of Sunderland A.F.C., as he told Chris Evans on an episode of TFI Friday, dated Friday, October 11, 1996. The allegiance may well have lapsed. Coincidentally, however, the mother of T. E. Lawrence, Lawrence of Arabia, was born in Sunderland.

Although he lost faith in organised religion as a teenager, O’Toole has expressed positive sentiments regarding the life of Jesus Christ. In an interview for The New York Times,[14] he said ‘No one can take Jesus away from me…there’s no doubt there was a historical figure of tremendous importance, with enormous notions. Such as peace.’ Earlier in the interview, he announced ‘I am a retired Christian’.[14]

In 2003, the Academy honoured him with an Academy Honorary Award for his entire body of work and his lifelong contribution to film.[15] O’Toole initially balked about accepting, and wrote the Academy a letter saying that he was “still in the game” and would like more time to “win the lovely bugger outright.” The Academy informed him that they would bestow the award whether he wanted it or not. Further, as he related on The Charlie Rose Show in January 2007, his children admonished him, saying that it was the highest honour one could receive in the filmmaking industry. O’Toole agreed to appear at the ceremony and receive his Honorary Oscar. It was presented to him by Meryl Streep, who has the most Oscar nominations of any actress (16). However, his old friend Kenneth Griffith was bitterly disappointed that he had belittled himself to accept such a “ridiculous award.”

 

References

  1.  O’Toole, Peter, Loitering With Intent, London: Macmillan London Ltd., 1992, p. 10
  2.  O’Toole, Peter, Loitering with Intent: Child (Large print edition), Macmillan London Ltd., London, 1992. ISBN 1-85695-051-4; p. 10, “My mother, Constance Jane, had led a troubled and a harsh life. Orphaned early, she had been reared in Scotland and shunted between relatives;…”
  3.  “Peter O’Toole Biography”. filmreference. 2008. http://www.filmreference.com/film/26/Peter-O-Toole.html. Retrieved 2008-04-04.
  4.  Frank Murphy (31 January 2007). “Peter O’Toole, A winner in waiting”. The Irish World. http://www.theirishworld.com/article.asp?SubSection_Id=10&Article_Id=1911. Retrieved 2008-04-04.
  5.  Tweedie, Neil (January 24, 2007). “Too late for an Oscar? No, no, no…”. The Daily Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/features/3631524/Too-late-for-an-Oscar-No-no-no….html. Retrieved September 11, 2010.
  6.  Adams, Cindy (March 21, 2008). “Veteran says todays’s actors aren’t trained”. New York Post. http://www.nypost.com/p/pagesix/cindy_adams/veteran_says_today_actors_aren_trained_62U8SWk7OZUDSdI7j5aM0M. Retrieved October 7, 2010.
  7.  Alan Waldman. “Tribute to Peter O’Toole”. films42.com. http://www.films42.com/tribute/otoole.asp. Retrieved 2008-04-04.
  8.  Guy Flatley (24 July 2007). “The Rule of O’Toole”. MovieCrazed. http://www.moviecrazed.com/outpast/otoole.htm. Retrieved 2008-04-04.
  9.  “Peter O’Toole”. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 2008. http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9057661/Peter-OToole. Retrieved 2008-04-04.
  10.  Internet Movie Database: Soundtracks for ‘Man of La Mancha’(1972)
  11.  House of Fear Preps Slate of Crappy 3-D Horror Films
  12.  Nathan Southern (2008). “Peter O’Toole: Overview”. Allmovie. MSN Movies. http://movies.msn.com/celebs/celeb.aspx?c=330239. Retrieved 2008-04-04.
  13.  Whether he was offered an honorary knighthood as a non-British citizen, or a full knighthood based on his status as an Irish citizen born prior to the declaration of the Republic of Ireland when Ireland was technically one of the king’s realms, is debated. Whatever the form of knighthood offered, he declined the offer.
  14.  Papal Robes, and Deference, Fit O’Toole Snugly, New York Times, July 26, 2007
  15.  “Peter O’Toole Biography”. Yahoo Movies. 2007. http://uk.movies.yahoo.com/artists/o/Peter-OToole/biography-325919.html. Retrieved 2008-04-04.

 

External links

 

Peter Cushing

 

Name: Peter Wilton Cushing

Born: 26th May 1913

Died: 11th August 1994

Occupation: Actor

Years active: 1939 – 1986

Interview:

YouTube Preview Image

Peter Wilton Cushing, OBE (26 May 1913 – 11 August 1994) was an English actor, known for his many appearances in Hammer Films, in which he played Baron Frankenstein and Dr. Van Helsing, amongst many other roles, often appearing opposite Christopher Lee, and occasionally Vincent Price. A familiar face on both sides of the Atlantic, his most famous roles outside of “Hammer Horror” include his many appearances as Sherlock Holmes, as Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars (1977) and as the mysterious Dr. Who in Dr. Who and the Daleks and Daleks – Invasion Earth 2150 AD in 1965 and 1966, two cinema films based on the television series Doctor Who.

 

Early life

Cushing was born in Kenley, Surrey, a son of George Edward Cushing and Nellie Marie (King) Cushing.[1] He was raised in Kenley and in Dulwich, South London. Cushing left his first job as a surveyor’s assistant to take a scholarship at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. After working in repertory theatre in Worthing, West Sussex,[2] he left for Hollywood in 1939, debuting in The Man in the Iron Mask, then returned in 1941 after roles in several films. In one, A Chump at Oxford (1940), he appeared alongside Laurel and Hardy. His first major film part was as Osric in Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet (1948).

 

In the 1950s, he worked in television, notably as Winston Smith in the BBC’s adaptation of the George Orwell novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (1954), 1984 (1956 film) scripted by Nigel Kneale. Cushing drew much praise for his performance in this production, although he always felt that his performance in the surviving version of the broadcast — it was performed live twice in one week, then a common practice, and only the second version exists in the archives — was inferior to the first. During many of his small screen performances, Cushing starred as Fitzwilliam Darcy in the BBC’s 1952 production of Pride and Prejudice and as King Richard II in Richard of Bordeaux in 1955.

 

Hammer Horror

Peter Cushing as Sir Mark Ashley with Christopher Lee in Nothing But the Night (1972).

 

His first appearances in his two most famous roles were in Terence Fisher’s films The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) and Dracula (1958). Cushing is closely associated with playing Baron Victor Frankenstein and Van Helsing in a long string of horror films produced by Hammer Film Productions. He later said that career decisions for him meant choosing roles where he knew the audience would accept him. “Who wants to see me as Hamlet? Very few. But millions want to see me as Frankenstein so that’s the one I do.”[3] He said “If I played Hamlet, they’d call it a horror film.”

 

Cushing was often cast opposite the actor Christopher Lee, who became his best friend. “People look at me as if I were some sort of monster, but I can’t think why. In my macabre pictures, I have either been a monster-maker or a monster-destroyer, but never a monster. Actually, I’m a gentle fellow. Never harmed a fly. I love animals, and when I’m in the country I’m a keen bird-watcher,” he said in an interview published in ABC Film Review in November 1964.

 

In the mid-1960s, he played “Doctor Who” in two movies (Dr. Who and the Daleks and Daleks — Invasion Earth 2150 AD) based on the television series Doctor Who. He decided to play the part as a lovable, avuncular figure to escape from his image as a “horror” actor. “I do get terribly tired with the neighbourhood kids telling me ‘My mum says she wouldn’t want to meet you in a dark alley’.” he said in an interview in 1966. He appeared in The Avengers and its successor, The New Avengers. In 1986, he played the role of Colonel William Raymond in Biggles. In Space: 1999, he appeared as a Prospero-like character called Raan.

 

Cushing was one of many stars to guest on The Morecambe and Wise Show — the standing joke in his case being the idea that he was never paid for his appearance. He would appear, week after week, wearily asking hosts Eric and Ernie, “Have you got my five pounds yet?” When Cushing was the subject of This Is Your Life in 1989, one of the guests was Ernie Wise, who promptly presented him with a five pound note, but then, with typical dexterity, extorted it back from him. Cushing was absolutely delighted with this, and cried: “All these years and I still haven’t got my fiver!”

 

Cushing played Sherlock Holmes many times, starting with Hammer’s The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959), the first Holmes film made in colour. Cushing seemed a natural for the part and he played the part with great fidelity to the written character – that of a man who is not always easy to live with or be around – which had not been done up to that point. He followed this up with a performance in 16 episodes of the BBC series Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes (1968), of which only six episodes remain. Finally, Cushing played the detective in old age, in The Masks of Death (1984) for Channel 4.

 

Personal life

In 1971, Cushing withdrew from the film Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb when his wife died. He and actress Helen Beck (8 February 1905 – 14 January 1971) had been married since 1943. The following year, he was quoted in the Radio Times as saying “Since Helen passed on I can’t find anything; the heart, quite simply, has gone out of everything. Time is interminable, the loneliness is almost unbearable and the only thing that keeps me going is the knowledge that my dear Helen and I will be united again some day. To join Helen is my only ambition. You have my permission to publish that… really, you know dear boy, it’s all just killing time. Please say that.”[4]

 

Six years later, his feelings were unchanged: “When Helen passed on six years ago I lost the only joy in life that I ever wanted. She was my whole life and without her there is no meaning. I am simply killing time, so to speak, until that wonderful day when we are together again.”

 

In his autobiography, he implies that he attempted suicide the night that his wife died, by running up and down stairs in the vain hope that it would induce a heart attack. He later stated that this was a hysterical reaction to his wife’s death, and that he was not consciously trying to end his life – his strong religious beliefs prevented him from attempting suicide “for real”.

 

In 1986, Cushing appeared on the British TV show Jim’ll Fix It. His “wish”, “granted” by Jimmy Savile, was to have a strain of rose named after his late wife. The rose was named “Helen Cushing”.[5]

Peter Cushing appeared in a comedy play written by Ernie Wise (Play what I wrote) in the Morecambe and Wise Show on BBC2 in 1969. Throughout the BBC era of the shows Peter would appear often with Eric and Ernie on stage looking to be paid for his very first appearance on their show. This comedy skit continued when the comedy duo left the BBC and moved to Thames Television in 1978. Peter appeared in their first special for Thames Television on the 18th October 1978 still looking to be paid with Eric and Ernie trying to get rid of him, at the end of the show Ernie placed money in a wallet and connected to a bomb, to try and blow Peter up in a huge comedic style. Finally Peter got the better of Eric and Ernie in the 1980 Christmas Show. He pretended to be the Prime Minister when Eric and Ernie were carol singing in front of Number 10 Downing Street. He actually made them give him money and finally coming out to say “paid, at last!”.

 

Star Wars

Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.

 

In 1976, he was cast in Star Wars, which was shooting at Elstree Studios, Borehamwood. He appeared as one of his (now) most recognized characters, Grand Moff Tarkin, despite having originally been considered for the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi. Cushing found accepting the role in a science fiction fantasy easy. “My criterion for accepting a role isn’t based on what I would like to do. I try to consider what the audience would like to see me do and I thought kids would adore Star Wars.”

 

During production Cushing was presented with ill-fitting riding boots for the role and they pinched his feet so much that he was given permission by George Lucas to play the role wearing his slippers. The camera operators filmed him above the knees or standing behind the table of the conference room set.

 

For Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Lucas wanted Cushing, by then deceased, to reprise his role as Tarkin through the use of archive footage and digital technology, but poor film quality made this impossible. Additionally, the scene required a full-body appearance of Tarkin, which was unavailable because of Cushing’s use of slippers instead of boots when performing. Instead, Wayne Pygram took the role. Pygram was cast because it was felt he strongly resembled Cushing, but even so, he underwent extensive prosthetic makeup for his brief cameo.

 

Later career

After Star Wars, he continued appearing in films and television sporadically, as his health allowed. In 1982 he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, but managed to survive for the remaining twelve years up to his death without surgery,[6] though his health was precarious.

 

In 1989, Cushing was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire, though his close friend Christopher Lee publicly opined that this was “too little, too late.” He retired to Whitstable, on the Kent coast, where he had bought a seafront home in 1959, and continued his hobby of birdwatching, and to write two autobiographies. Cushing worked as a painter, specialising in watercolours, and wrote and illustrated a children’s book of Lewis Carroll style humour, The Bois Saga. He was the patron of The Vegetarian Society from 1987 up until his death.[7]

 

His final professional engagement was as co-narrator of Flesh and Blood, the Hammer Heritage of Horror, produced by American writer/director Ted Newsom. As co-narrator, Cushing thus took his “last bow” with friend Christopher Lee, the BBC and Hammer Films. The narration was recorded in Canterbury near Cushing’s home. The show was first broadcast in 1994, the week before Cushing’s death.

 

Death

Cushing died of prostate cancer on 11 August 1994, aged 81 in the town of Whitstable (near Canterbury, in Kent), England, where he was well known as a local celebrity resident and had a local beauty spot named after him, “Cushing’s View”. He died just five years after he was made an Officer of the British Empire in recognition of his contributions to the acting profession in Britain and worldwide.

 

In an interview on the DVD release of The Hound of the Baskervilles, Christopher Lee remarked on his friend’s death: “I don’t want to sound gloomy, but, at some point of your lives, every one of you will notice that you have in your life one person, one friend whom you love and care for very much. That person is so close to you that you are able to share some things only with him. For example, you can call that friend, and from the very first maniacal laugh or some other joke you will know who is at the other end of that line. We used to do that with him so often. And then when that person is gone, there will be nothing like that in your life ever again”.

 

References

  1.  Peter Cushing Biography (1913-)
  2.  Peter Cushing – Films as actor
  3.  Brosnan, John. The Horror People. 1976, Plume Books. Pg. 190
  4.  Peter Cushing – Biography
  5.  Mallon, Kevin (2002) “My Journey Through The Hammer House of HorrorPeterCushingMuseum.com Retrieved 2010-10-28
  6.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mS9N91ADlcU&feature=related
  7.  Peter Cushing’s Obituary – The Vegetarian (Autumn 1994)

External links

 

Peter Cook

 

Name: Peter Edward Cook

Born:  17th November 1937

Died: 9th January 1995

Occupation: Comedian, satirist, writer

Years active: 1958 – 1994

Interview: 

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Peter Edward Cook (17 November 1937 – 9 January 1995) was an English satirist, writer and comedian. An extremely influential figure in modern British comedy, he is regarded as the leading light of the British satire boom of the 1960s. He has been described by Stephen Fry as “the funniest man who ever drew breath” although Cook’s work was also controversial.[1] Cook is closely associated with anti-establishment comedy that emerged in Britain and the USA in the late 1950s.

 

Early life

Cook was born at Shearbridge, Middle Warberry Road, Torquay, Devon, the only son and eldest of the three children of Alexander Edward (Alec) Cook (1906–1984), a colonial civil servant, and his wife Ethel Catherine Margaret, née Mayo (1908–1994). He was educated at Radley College and Pembroke College, Cambridge, where he read French and German. As a student, Cook meant to become a career diplomat like his father, but Britain “had run out of colonies”, as he put it. Although largely politically apathetic, he did join Cambridge University Liberal Club.[2]

It was at Pembroke that he performed and wrote comedy sketches as a member of the Cambridge Footlights Club, of which he became president in 1960. His hero was fellow Footlights writer and Cambridge magazine writer David Nobbs[3]

Whilst still at university, Cook wrote for Kenneth Williams, for whom he created a West End comedy revue called One Over the Eight, before finding prominence in his own right in a four-man group satirical stage show, Beyond the Fringe, with Jonathan Miller, Alan Bennett and Dudley Moore.

The show became a great success in London after being first performed at the Edinburgh Festival, and included Cook impersonating the Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan. This was one of the first occasions satirical political mimicry had been attempted in live theatre, and it shocked audiences. During one performance, Macmillan was in the theatre, and Cook departed from his script and attacked him verbally.[4]

 

1960s

In 1961 he opened The Establishment Club at 18 Greek Street in Soho, presenting fellow comedians in a nightclub setting, including American Lenny Bruce. Cook said it was a satirical venue modelled on “those wonderful Berlin cabarets… which did so much to stop the rise of Hitler and prevent the outbreak of the Second World War”;[5] as a members-only venue it was outside the censorship restrictions. Cook befriended and supported Australian comedian and actor Barry Humphries, who began his British solo career at the club. Humphries said in his autobiography, My Life As Me, that he found Cook’s lack of interest in art and literature off-putting. Cook’s chiselled looks and languid manner led Humphries to observe that whereas most people take after their father or mother, Cook reminded one of one’s auntie. Dudley Moore’s jazz trio played in the basement of the club for many years during the early 1960s.

 

In 1962, the BBC commissioned a pilot for a television series of satirical sketches based on The Establishment Club, but it was not picked up straight away, and Cook went to New York for a year to perform in Beyond The Fringe on Broadway. When he returned, the pilot had been re-fashioned as That Was The Week That Was and had made a star of David Frost, something Cook resented. The 1960s satire boom was closing and Cook said Britain would “sink into the sea under the weight of its own giggling”. He complained that Frost’s success was based on copying Cook’s own stage persona, and that his only regret in life had been once saving Frost from drowning.

Cook married Wendy Snowden in 1963, with whom he had two daughters, Lucy and Daisy. The marriage ended in 1970.

 

Cook expanded television comedy with Eleanor Bron, John Bird, and John Fortune. Cook’s first regular television spot was on Granada Television’s Braden Beat with Bernard Braden, where he featured his most enduring character: the static, dour, and monotonal E.L. Wisty, whom Cook had conceived for Radley College’s Marionette Society.

 

His comedy partnership with Dudley Moore led to Not Only… But Also. This was intended by the BBC

for Moore’s music, but Moore invited Cook to write sketches and appear with him. Using few props, they created dry and absurd television, which lasted three seasons. Cook played characters such as Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling and the pair’s Pete and Dud. Other sketches included “Superthunderstingcar”, a send-up of the Gerry Anderson marionette TV shows, and Cook’s pastiche of 1960s trendy arts documentaries – satirised in a parodic TV segment on Greta Garbo.

 

In the early 1970s the BBC erased most videotapes of the series. This was common television practice at the time, when agreements with actors’ and musicians’ unions limited the number of repeats. The policy of wiping recordings ceased in 1978. When Cook learned the series was to be destroyed, he offered to buy the tapes but was refused because of copyright issues. He suggested he purchase new tapes so that the BBC would have no need to erase the originals, but this was also turned down.

 

Of the original programmes, eight of the twenty-two episodes survive complete. These comprise the first series with the exception of the fifth and seventh episodes, the first and last episodes of the second series, and the Christmas special. Of the 1970 third series, only the various film inserts (usually of outdoor scenes) survive. The BBC recovered some shows by approaching overseas television networks and buying back copies. A compilation of six half-hour programmes, The Best of What’s Left of Not Only…But Also was shown on television and released on VHS and DVD.

 

In 1968, Cook and Moore briefly switched to ATV for four, one-hour programmes entitled Goodbye Again, based on the Pete and Dud characters. They ignored suggestions from the director and cast. Sketches were drawn out to fill the running time. With no interest in the show and a problem with alcohol, Cook relied on cue cards and ended up garbling the script, forcing Moore to ad-lib. The show was not a popular success, owing in part to the publication of the ITV listings magazine, TV Times, being suspended because of a strike. John Cleese was a cast member.

 

Cook and Moore acted in films together, beginning with The Wrong Box in 1966. Bedazzled (1967), though now regarded as a classic, was not financially successful. Directed by Stanley Donen, the film’s story is credited to Cook and Moore, and its screenplay to Cook. A comic parody of Faust, it starred Cook as George Spigott (The Devil) who tempts a frustrated, short-order chef called Stanley Moon (Moore) with the promise of gaining his heart’s desire – the unattainable beauty Margaret Spencer (Eleanor Bron) – in exchange for his soul, but repeatedly tricks him. The film features appearances by Barry Humphries (‘Envy’) and Raquel Welch (‘Lust’). Moore’s jazz trio backed Cook on the theme, a parodic anti-love song, which Cook delivered in a monotonous, deadpan voice, and included his put-down, “You fill me with inertia.”

 

1970s

In 1970, Cook took over a project initiated by David Frost for a satirical film about an opinion pollster who rises to become President of Great Britain. Under Cook’s guidance, the character became modelled on Frost. The film, The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer, was not a success, although the cast contained notable names.

 

Cook became a favourite of chat shows but his own effort at hosting one in 1971, Where Do I Sit?, was said by the critics to have been a disappointment. He was replaced after two episodes by Michael Parkinson, the start of Parkinson’s career as a chat show host. Parkinson later asked Cook what his ambitions were. Cook replied “[...] in fact, my ambition is to shut you up altogether.”

 

Cook provided financial backing for Private Eye, supporting it through difficult periods, particularly in libel trials. Cook invested his own money and solicited investment from his friends. For a time, the magazine was produced from the premises of The Establishment Club. Towards the end of the 1960s, Cook’s alcoholism placed a strain on personal and professional relationships. He and Moore fashioned sketches from Not Only….But Also and Goodbye Again with new material into the stage revue Behind the Fridge. This toured Australia in 1972 before transferring to New York in 1973 as Good Evening. Cook frequently appeared worse for drink. Good Evening won Tony and Grammy Awards. When it finished, Moore stayed in the U.S., ending his partnership with Cook. Cook returned to England and in 1973 he married the actress and model Judy Huxtable.

 

Later, the more risqué humour of Pete and Dud went further on long-playing records as “Derek and Clive”. The first recording was initiated by Cook to alleviate boredom during the Broadway run of Good Evening, and it used material conceived years before for the two characters but considered too outrageous. One of these audio recordings was also filmed, and tensions between the duo are seen to rise. Chris Blackwell circulated bootleg copies to friends. The popularity of the recording convinced Cook to release it commercially, although Moore was reluctant, fearing that his fame as a Hollywood star would be undermined. Two further Derek and Clive albums were released, the last accompanied by a film.

 

In 1978, Cook appeared on Revolver as manager of a ballroom where emerging punk and new wave acts played. For some groups, these were their first appearances on television. Cook’s acerbic commentary was an aspect of the programme.

 

In 1979, Cook recorded comedy-segments as B-sides to the Sparks 12-inch singles “Number One In Heaven” and “Tryouts For The Human Race”. The main songwriter Ron Mael often started off a banal situation in his lyrics, and then went at surreal tangents in the style of Cook and S.J. Perelman.

 

Amnesty International performances

Cook appeared at the first three fund-raising galas staged by humourists John Cleese and Martin Lewis on behalf of Amnesty International. The benefits were dubbed The Secret Policeman’s Balls though it wasn’t until the third show in 1979 that the title was used. He performed on all three nights of the first show in April 1976, A Poke in the Eye (with a Sharp Stick), as an individual performer and as a member of the cast of Beyond The Fringe, which reunited for the first time since the 1960s. He also appeared in a Monty Python taking the place of Eric Idle. Cook was on the cast album of the show and in the film, Pleasure At Her Majesty’s. He was in the second Amnesty gala in May 1977, An Evening Without Sir Bernard Miles. It was retitled The Mermaid Frolics for the cast album and TV special. Cook performed monologues and skits with Terry Jones.

 

In June 1979, Cook performed all four nights of The Secret Policeman’s Ball – teaming with John Cleese. Cook performed a couple of solo pieces and a skit with Eleanor Bron. He also led the ensemble in the finale – the “End Of The World” sketch from Beyond The Fringe.

In response to a barb in The Daily Telegraph that the show was recycled material, Cook wrote a satire of the summing-up by Mr Justice Cantley in the trial of former Liberal Party leader Jeremy Thorpe – a summary condemned for alleged bias in favour of Thorpe. Cook performed it that same night (Friday 29 June – the third of the four nights) and the following night. The nine-minute opus, “Entirely a Matter for You,” is considered by many fans and critics to be one of the finest works of Cook’s career. Cook and show producer Martin Lewis brought out an album on Virgin Records entitled Here Comes the Judge: Live of the live performance together with three studio tracks that further lampooned the Thorpe trial.[6][7]

 

Although unable to take part in the 1981 gala, Cook supplied the narration over the animated opening title sequence of the 1982 film of the show. With Lewis, he wrote and voiced radio commercials to advertise the film in the UK. He also hosted a spoof film awards ceremony that was part of the world première of the film in London in March 1982.

 

Following Cook’s 1987 stage reunion with Moore for the annual U.S. benefit for the homeless, Comic Relief (not related to the UK Comic Relief benefits), Cook repeated the reunion for a British audience by performing with Moore at the 1989 Amnesty benefit The Secret Policeman’s Biggest Ball.

 

Consequences album

Cook played multiple roles on the 1977 concept album Consequences, written and produced by former 10cc members Kevin Godley and Lol Creme. A mixture of spoken comedy and progressive rock with an environmental subtext, Consequences started as a single that Godley and Creme planned to make to demonstrate their invention, an electric guitar effect called The Gizmo, which they developed in 10cc. The project grew into a triple LP boxed set. The comedy sections were intended to be performed by a cast including Spike Milligan and Peter Ustinov, but Godley and Creme realised he could perform most parts himself.

 

The storyline centres on the impending divorce of ineffectual Englishman Walter Stapleton (Cook) and his French wife Lulu (Judy Huxtable). While meeting their lawyers – the bibulous Mr Haig and overbearing Mr Pepperman (both played by Cook) – encroaching global catastrophe interrupts proceedings with bizarre and mysterious happenings to Mr Blint (Cook), a musician and composer living in the apartment below Haig’s office, connected by a large hole in the floor.

 

Released as punk was sweeping the UK, the album was a commercial failure and savaged by critics. The script and story appear drawn from Cook’s life – his second wife, Judy Huxtable, plays Walter’s wife. Cook’s problems with alcohol are mirrored in Haig’s drinking, and there is a parallel between the fictional divorce of Walter and Lulu and Cook’s own divorce from his first wife. The voice and accent Cook used for the character of Stapleton are similar to Cook’s Beyond the Fringe colleague, Alan Bennett, and a book on Cook’s comedy, How Very Interesting, speculates that the characters Cook plays in Consequences are caricatures of the four Beyond The Fringe cast members – the alcoholic Haig represents Cook, the tremulous Stapleton is Bennett, the parodically Jewish Pepperman is Miller, and the pianist Blint represents Moore.[8]

 

1980s

In 1980, spurred by Moore’s film star status, Cook moved to Hollywood and appeared as an uptight English butler to a wealthy American woman in a short-lived U.S. television sitcom The Two of Us, also making cameo appearances in a couple of undistinguished films. In 1980, Cook starred in the LWT special Peter Cook & Co.. The show included comedy sketches, including a Tales of the Unexpected spoof “Tales Of The Much As We Expected”. This involved Cook as Roald Dahl, explaining his name had been Ronald before he dropped the “n”. The cast included John Cleese, Rowan Atkinson, Beryl Reid, Paula Wilcox and Terry Jones. The show has never been repeated.

Cook was Richard III in 1983 in “The Foretelling”, the first episode of Blackadder. He narrated the short film “Diplomatix” by Norwegian comedy trio Kirkevaag, Lystad and Mjöen, which went on to win the “Special Prize of the City of Montreux” at the Montreux Comedy Festival in 1985[9]. In 1986 he was sidekick to Joan Rivers on her UK talk show. He appeared as Mr Jolly in 1987 in The Comic Strip Presents’ Mr Jolly Lives Next Door, playing an assassin who covers the sound of his murders by playing Tom Jones records. Cook appeared in The Princess Bride that year as the “Impressive Clergyman”. Also that year he spent time working with Martin Lewis on a political satire about the 1988 U.S. presidential elections for HBO, but the script went unproduced. Lewis suggested Cook team with Moore for the U.S. “Comic Relief” telethon for the homeless. The duo reunited and performed their “One Leg Too Few” sketch.

 

In 1988, Cook appeared as a contestant on the improvisation comedy show, Whose Line Is It Anyway?. Cook was declared winner, his prize being to read the credits in the style of a New York cab driver – a character he’d portrayed in Peter Cook & Co.

 

Cook occasionally called to Clive Bull’s night-time phone-in on LBC in London. Using the name “Sven from Swiss Cottage”, he mused on love, loneliness and herrings in a mock Norwegian accent. Jokes included Sven’s attempts to find his estranged wife, which often saw him claim to telephone the show from all over the world, and his hatred of Norwegian obsession with fish. While Bull was clearly aware that Sven was fictional he did not know Sven’s identity until later.

 

Revival

In late 1989 Cook married the Malaysian-born property developer Chiew Lin Chong in Torbay, Devon. He reduced his drinking and for a time was teetotal. He lived alone in an 18th-century house in Hampstead once owned by H.G. Wells. His third wife lived in another house 109.4 yards (100.0 m) away.

 

Cook returned as Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling for an appearance with Ludovic Kennedy in A Life in Pieces. The 12 interviews saw Sir Arthur recount his life based on the Twelve Days of Christmas. Unscripted interviews with Cook as Streeb-Greebling and satirist Chris Morris were recorded in autumn 1993 and broadcast as Why Bother on BBC Radio 3, a year before Cook’s death. Morris described them:[10]

It was a very different style of improvisation from what I’d been used to, working with people like Steve Coogan, Doon Mackichan and Rebecca Front, because those On the Hour and The Day Today things were about trying to establish a character within a situation, and Peter Cook was really doing ‘knight’s move’ and ‘double knight’s move’ thinking to construct jokes or ridiculous scenes flipping back on themselves, and it was amazing. I mean, I held out no great hopes that he wouldn’t be a boozy old sack of lard with his hair falling out and scarcely able to get a sentence out, because he hadn’t given much evidence that that wouldn’t be the case. But, in fact, he stumbled in with a Safeways bag full of Kestrel lager and loads of fags and then proceeded to skip about mentally with the agility of a grasshopper. Really quite extraordinary.

 

On 17 December 1993, Cook appeared on Clive Anderson Talks Back as four characters – biscuit tester and alien abductee Norman House, football manager and motivational speaker Alan Latchley, judge Sir James Beauchamp and rock legend Eric Daley. The following day he appeared on BBC2 performing links for Arena’s “Radio Night”. He also appeared, on 26 December, in the 1993 Christmas special of One Foot in the Grave (One Foot in the Algarve), playing a muckraking tabloid journalist. Before the end of the next year his mother died, and Cook returned to heavy drinking. His own death, three months later at 57, was from internal haemorrhaging.

 

Death

Peter Cook died on 9 January 1995, having suffered a gastrointestinal haemorrhage (a direct result of severe liver damage) in the intensive-care unit of the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, North London. He was 57. Days earlier he had been taken in and announced, “I feel a bit poorly.” Moore attended Cook’s memorial service in London in May 1995 and he and Lewis presented a two-night memorial for Cook in Los Angeles the following November, to mark Cook’s birthday.

 

Legacy

Cook is acknowledged as the main influence on comedians who followed him from amateur dramatic clubs of British universities to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and then to the radio and television. Fans include the members of Monty Python and The Goodies. Some critics saw Cook’s life as tragic, the brilliance of youth not sustained in later years. Cook said he had no ambitions for sustained success. He assessed happiness by the friendships and enjoyment of life. Eric Idle and Stephen Fry[11] said Cook had not wasted his talent but rather that the newspapers had tried to waste him.

 

Several friends honoured him with a dedication in the closing credits of Fierce Creatures, a 1997 comedy film written by John Cleese about a zoo in peril of being closed. It starred Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline and Michael Palin. The dedication displays photos and the lifespan dates of Peter Cook and of British naturalist/humorist Gerald Durrell.[12]

 

In 1999 the minor planet 20468 Petercook, in the main asteroid belt, was named after him.[13]

Ten years after his death, Cook was ranked number one in The Comedian’s Comedian, a poll of 300 comics, comedy writers, producers and directors throughout the English speaking world.[14] Channel 4 broadcast Not Only But Always, a television movie dramatising the relationship between Cook and Moore, with Rhys Ifans portraying Cook. At the 2005 Edinburgh Festival Fringe a play, written by Chris Bartlett and Nick Awde, examined the relationship from Moore’s view, Pete and Dud: Come Again. Tom Goodman-Hill played Cook.

 

At the 2007 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Goodbye – the (after)life of Cook & Moore by Jonathan Hansler and Clive Greenwood was presented at the Gilded Balloon. The play imagined the newly dead Moore meeting the Cook in Limbo, also inhabited by other comic actors with whom they had worked, including Peter Sellers, Tony Hancock, Frankie Howerd, and Kenneth Williams. In May 2009 the play was seen again in London’s West End at The Leicester Square Theatre (formerly “The Venue” and home to Pete and Dud: Come Again) with Jonathan Hansler as Cook, Adam Bampton Smith as Moore, and Clive Greenwood as everyone else.

 

A green plaque was unveiled by Westminster City Council and The Heritage Foundation at the site of The Establishment Club on 15 February 2009.[15]

 

Further reading

  • Harry Thompson (1998). Biography of Peter Cook. Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 0-340-64969-0.
  • Peter Cook and Dudley Moore (2003). Dud and Pete: The Dagenham Dialogues. Methuen. ISBN 978-0-413-77347-0.
  • Robert Hewison (1983). Footlights!: A Hundred Years of Cambridge Comedy. Methuen London Ltd. ISBN 0-413-51150-2.
  • Roger Wilmut (1980). From Fringe to Flying Circus: Celebrating a Unique Generation of Comedy 1960–1980. Eyre Methuen Ltd. ISBN 0-413-46950-6.
  • Peter Cook Appreciation Society (2006). How Very Interesting!: Peter Cook’s Universe And All That Surrounds It. Snowbooks. ISBN 1-905005-23-7.
  • Alexander Games (1999). Pete & Dud: An Illustrated Biography. Andre Deutsch. ISBN 0-233-99642-7.
  • Wendy Cook (2006). So Farewell Then: The Biography of Peter Cook. HarperCollins Entertainment. ISBN 0-00-722893-7.
  • Lin Cook (2003). Something Like Fire: Peter Cook Remembered. Arrow Books. ISBN 0-09-946035-1.
  • Chris Bartlett and Nick Awde (2006). Pete and Dud: Come Again. Methuen Drama. ISBN 0-413-77602-6.
  • William Cook (2003). Tragically I was an only twin: the complete Peter Cook. St. Martin’s Press. ISBN 0-312-31891-X ISBN 0-09-944325-2.
  • Judy Cook with Angela Levin (2008). Loving Peter: My Life with Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. Piatkus. ISBN 9780749909666.

 

References

  1.  Tragically I Was an Only Twin – The Complete Peter Cook – Front Cover
  2.  “About us « Keynes Society”. Keynessociety.wordpress.com. http://keynessociety.wordpress.com/about-the-keynes-society/. Retrieved 15 May 2011.
  3.  I Didn’t Get Where I am Today by David Nobbs 9780099421641
  4.  Cook as Macmillan: “…there’s nothing I like better than to wander over to a theatre and sit there listening to a group of sappy, urgent, vibrant young satirists with a stupid great grin spread all over my silly face” – Tragically I Was an Only Twin p.51
  5.  Tom Lehrer interview
  6.  “Peter Cook”. Phespirit.info. http://www.phespirit.info/pictures/heroes/p008_info.htm. Retrieved 25 July 2009.
  7.  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0083043/quotes
  8.  Peter Gordon, Dan Kieran Paul Hamilton (eds) – How Very Interesting: Peter Cook’s Universe And All That Surrounds It (Matrix Media Services, 2006)
  9.  “Diplomatix at IMDB”. imdb.com. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0185282/. Retrieved 29 May 2010.
  10.  “The Establishment – The Spiggott – Chris Morris Interview”. Stabbers.truth.posiweb.net. http://stabbers.truth.posiweb.net/stabbers/html/spiggott/morris.htm. Retrieved 25 July 2009.
  11.  “Stephen Fry attacks media coverage of Peter Cook’s death”. YouTube. 23 August 2008. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pQrTnhkQo5k&feature=related. Retrieved 15 May 2011.
  12.  ‘Fierce Creatures’ (1997).
  13.  Alan Chamberlin. “Minor planet “20468 Petercook” at NASA website”. Ssd.jpl.nasa.gov. http://ssd.jpl.nasa.gov/sbdb.cgi?sstr=20468. Retrieved 15 May 2011.
  14.  a poll “Peter Cook the funniest”. The Age (Australia). 3 January 2005. http://www.theage.com.au/news/People/Peter-Cook-the-funniest/2005/01/03/1104601276619.html a poll.
  15.  “Peter Cook Blue Plaque Unveiling”. The Heritage Foundation. http://www.theheritagefoundation.info/petercook.html. Retrieved 27 March 2009.

 

External links