PETER WYNGARDE IMMORALISED IN SONG: Part 2

Written by Freddie Valentine

Anyone who was old enough to watch television in the late 60s or early 70s would have been aware of Jason King and Department S. To a whole generation, he was the king of cool. Stylish, witty, tongue in cheek, and a solid role model for any male who grew up in that era.

In the latter part of the 1970s, the series was rarely repeated and PETER WYNGARDE, the actor who played Jason King was absent from our screens. It wasn’t until Flash Gordon was released that we heard his unmistakable, dulcet tones yet again. In the days before satellite TV, videos and DVDs, the only way to have seen this remarkable show again was if it was repeated on terrestrial television – which it wasn’t. So, for some time, us fans were starved of Jason King and only had to rely on our memories as to what a great show this was. It was around this time that I discovered that PETER had released an album. An actual LP! I searched far and wide for a copy but it seemed to be so elusive, like some kind of vinyl Holy Grail. It was at a record fair in the first half of the eighties where I chanced upon a stall that had a whole section of TV/film soundtracks and there, wrongly placed but obviously put there because of the Jason King connection, was a pristine copy of this masterpiece. At the time the chap wanted £10 for it which was more in the upper price range in the early 80s but not extortionate. To be honest, if I’d has £100 on me and that was what the dealer wanted I would very likely have paid it due to it rarity and my obsession with Jason King and Department S.

When I first played the album, I didn’t think I could admire PETER WYNGARDE more than I already did but listening to this surreal and captivating album showed me that not only was Mr WYNGARDE one of our greatest actors but he also had a fabulous, surreal and outrageous sense of humour! I was quite disappointed to discover that he only released the one album and I often wondered what gems would have been produced if his recording career had continued. I imagined him being discovered and produced by Frank Zappa and releasing a series of albums that would have been seen in the same light as Captain Beefheart’s ‘Trout Mask Replica’.

When VHS videos arrived on the scene, both Jason King and Department S were available again and I often wondered whether my memories were far better than the programmes themselves. It can sometimes be the case that a TV show you watched as a child and held fond memories for was often disappointing when revisited as an adult. It was not the case with these shows. Just like ‘The Prisoner’ (which PW also had a great part in) both series are timeless. The humour is still there. The style is still fabulous. And of course, it’s PETER’S performance in both series that elevate this above many shows of the time. Yes. He was as cool I remembered!

In the late 90s I had a band called The Paisley Wheelchair Experience. When writing some new songs I felt compelled to write one about Jason King returning and taking on the criminals of the day. There wasn’t anyone else on TV since him who could solve mysteries with such humour and panache so I made the rest of the band discover the wonders of JK and it became quite apparent to them where my dress sense came from. We performed around the music circuit and easy listening scene in London and I was delighted when PETER himself got wind of the song. Tina, who run PETER’S official fan club was incredibly kind to us and we decided to release the song as a limited edition through the society. PETER was amazingly gracious and not only did he agree to let us use his image for the cover, he signed every single copy! To say we were delighted was an understatement!

RETURN CDDelving back into his career, I realised what an amazing actor he was. He lit up the screen and was captivating in every performance he gave and it annoyed me that he wasn’t being held in the high esteem he deserved when mediocre actors were receiving acclaim. The British press were undeservedly vile to PETER in the 70s and he vanished from our screens from some time but the sporadic appearances that followed were ones to be cherished. Whether it was his face hidden behind a mask in Flash Gordon (identified by his unmistakable voice), a brilliant appearance in Doctor Who or, oddly enough, a bizarre and hilarious role in Channel 4’s ‘The Comic Strip Presents’ it was a joy to catch a glimpse of such a charismatic actor.

I always remember a story a friend of mine told me which although may seem like a trivial anecdote, but it did impress me. Around 1969 he was walking along the Kings Road in Chelsea when a big Bentley turned the corner and stopped, waiting to turn. Sitting behind the wheel was PETER WYNGARDE dressed exactly as he was when onscreen as Jason King and smoking a cigarette. There was no difference between the character and the actor as far as my friend was concerned as he looked like Jason King, dressed like Jason King and smoked a cigarette with the same panache the coolest television character did. How much of PETER was in the character of Jason? It appeared to be a lot! It was very gratifying to think that the person playing the coolest chap on television was actually as cool in real life as the character he played.

In the series Jason King defeats baddies and then writes novels as Mark Cain which are enthusiastically read by a public who are unaware that the events in them actually happened. Could PETER WYNGARDE actually be having these adventures in real life and the TV exploits are his ‘Mark Cain’ novels? With someone as incredible as PETER WYNGARDE it’s entirely plausible!

There are so many roles that PETER could have been offered. He was rumoured to be in the running for James Bond at some point. You could easily imagine him as a wise old Jedi in one of the new Star Wars films. But the fact that he wasn’t everywhere has perhaps added to his allure. He gave us the coolest, grooviest TV character of all time, blessed us with one of the most jaw dropping albums ever made, stole the show in an episode of The Prisoner and was one of the most memorable onscreen villains in the classic Flash Gordon. His ‘cool’ credentials remain intact and he’s managed to retain an air of mystery about himself at the same time. Anyone who is in the know will be fully aware of the fact that PETER WYNGARDE is quite possible the greatest actor the UK has ever produced. Fancy!

What’s wild, wacky and as mad as a balloon?

It’s The Paisley Wheelchair Experience, of course!

Original article published in The Hellfire Club Magazine – Summer, 1997

Lead Vocalist: Lord Freddie Valentine. Guitarist: Lady Karen. Bass Player: Lady Elizabeth. Pianist: Lady Helens. Drummer: Lord Amado. Backing Vocalists: The Pogeria Twins.

Donning their best feather boas, safari suits and oriental dressing gowns, The Paisley wheelchair experience, who admit to having an on-going fascination with the Demi-god of high fashion, PETER WYNGARDE, are currently one of the hottest bands on the pub and club scene south of the Watford Gap. With a set that includes such songs as ‘Shaken Not Stirred’, which pays homage to the delectable Jason King and his TV contemporaries, the Wheechairers are definitely an act not to be missed.

Lord Freddie Valentine – a crooner on a mission, told The Hellfire Club mag recently that the band where in the progress of recording a new song entitled, ‘The Return of Jason King’, which they not only plan to include in their ever-expanding live set, but intend to release it on CD exclusively via the Hellfire Club.

He explains: “We’re just about to acquire a recordable CD machine, and are planning to press around 40 copies of the disc, each of which will feature PETER’s gracious image on the sleeve and the song as the main track. If we do so, we’d like to make them available exclusively through the Society, and will release another single elsewhere for the time being”.

With their almost legendary dislike for modern attitudes in films, music and fashion, 51gRUbUrGpLLord Fred and the gang decided to invite PETER to join them on stage at the Indigo Club in London’s Soho last year but, unfortunately, the great man wasn’t able to make it due to prior commitments.

“What we wanted,” Freddie explains, “was to pretend that the amplifier had broken down mid-performance by switching it off. After faking some considerable concern, someone would then have the bright idea of calling ‘Department S’. After reaching them on our mobile, cue ‘Jason King’ theme, and on would swagger PETER, saying: ‘It’s not switched on, old chap!’ sadly, he wasn’t available on that night, so we’ll just have to keep trying and maybe, one day, our dream will come true!”

Freddie says that the fascination with Jason King is evident throughout the whole band. “But is mostly instigated by me. When a new member joins, they are initiated by having to watch videos of ‘Department S’ and ‘Jason King’”

Sounds like bliss!


The Hellfire Club: The OFFICIAL PETER WYNGARDE Appreciation Society: https://www.facebook.com/groups/813997125389790/

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WIKI-FREAKS

OLDEROver the time this Blog has been online, I’ve received a huge amount of mail regarding the article/biography about PETER on Wikipedia, which I’ve already tackled to some extent on this ‘site. However, I’ve been asked by many fans to identify the erroneous content in this particular piece of writing, and to show what or why parts of it are inaccurate or, at the very least, flawed. 

What follows is the ‘biography’ in its entirety, with those specious sections highlighted and corrected.

 

Birth and family background

Peter Wyngarde’s date and place of birth, his birth name, and his parent’s nationalities and occupations are all disputed. His biography at IMDb which is not supported by any primary sources but often used in other accounts of his life, states he was born Peter Paul Wyngarde on 23 August 1933 at an aunt’s home in Marseilles, France. It says his British father worked for the British Diplomatic Service resulting in the family living in various countries, including British Malaya and China. He is claimed to be the nephew of French actor-director Louis Jouvet. Primary sources indicate a likely different birth name, year of birth and family background. There is strong evidence Wyngarde was born as Cyril Goldbert, possibly in Singapore, which is the place of birth Wyngarde gave on a 1960 immigration application, although a 1956 Straits Times article about his mother does give Marseille as his birthplace.

Author J. G. Ballard wrote in his memoir (and stated in interviews and private letters that he and his family knew Wyngarde as Cyril Goldbert in Shanghai during World War II.

Regarding Wyngarde’s year of birth there is considerable variation. Different sources quote or suggest dates between 1924 and 1933. In a 1993 interview Wyngarde claimed not to know his own age.

The given names of Cyril Goldbert’s parents and siblings match those of Peter Wyngarde. His father was Henry Peter “Harry” Goldbert, born in present-day Ukraine and raised in Singapore where his mother ran the Singapore public house, and where he became a naturalised British subject in 1919 He does not appear to have been a diplomat: travel records from the mid-1940s show that he was working as Second Chief Engineer in the British Merchant Navy. Cyril Goldbert’s mother was Marcheritta (Madge) Goldbert, nee Ahin, later Macauley, who was a Swiss national. She was interviewed in the Straits Times in 1956 about her son Peter Wyngarde’s career, by which time she had remarried. Wyngarde claimed in a 1993 interview that his mother was a racing driver.

The full names of the two younger Goldbert children match those of Peter Wyngarde’s purportedly elder siblings: Adolphe (later Henry) Peter “Joe” Goldbert (1930–2011) and Marion Colette Simone Goldbert, later Wells (1932–2012).

Regarding Louis Jouvet being Wyngarde’s uncle, Jouvet’s biography confirms he had two brothers, neither of whom appear to be related to Cyril Goldbert’s parents by blood or marriage.

Early life

Wyngarde told an interviewer that his parents divorced when he was very young, and that his father took him to China “only months before war with China broke out” in the summer of 1937.

In the early 1940s, Cyril Goldbert was living in Shanghai when the Japanese Army took over Shanghai’s International Settlement on 8 December 1941, and as a British citizen he was interned in the Lunghua civilian internment camp on 10 April 1943. Peter Wyngarde has spoken about his time in Lunghua, and it is included in his official biography.

After internment, Cyril Goldbert sailed from Shanghai to Southampton in December 1945 on the Cunard White Star Line vessel the Arawa, listed as an 18-year-old passenger. J.G. Ballard was also on board. After arriving in the UK, Cyril Goldbert disappears from public records under that name.

In a Q&A on a fan blog in April 2017, Wyngarde said that he studied in the Faculty of Law, University of Oxford for three months, before leaving to work in a London advertising agency.

Acting career: 1940s to 1970s

In 1946, Peter Wyngarde took his first professional roles in theatre productions. An early success was in the part of Morris Albert in a production of Noël Coward’s Present Laughter which opened on 7 August 1947 at the Theatre Royal, Birmingham.

Later accounts say that he was around 13 years old when he took these early roles, but Peter Wyngarde is listed as a registered voter aged 21+ in 1948, so he was 18-20 years old in 1946 and 1947.

From the mid-1950s, Wyngarde had roles in feature films, television plays and television series guest appearances. One of these, a television adaptation of Julien Green’s novel South (1959, originally Sud), in which Wyngarde featured in a lead role, is thought to be the earliest television play with an overtly homosexual theme. He appeared as Pausanias opposite Richard Burton in the film Alexander the Great (1956), played a lead role in the film The Siege of Sidney Street (1960), and appeared as Sir Roger Casement in an episode in the Granada Television’s On Trial series produced by Peter Wildeblood. Wyngarde’s film work was not extensive, but gained attention.

In Jack Clayton’s The Innocents (1961), he had brief (unspeaking) scenes as the leering Peter Quint with Deborah Kerr and Pamela Franklin. He followed this appearance as the lead in the occult thriller Night of the Eagle (US: Burn Witch Burn, 1962). By the late 1960s, Wyngarde was guest starring in television series of the time, many of them were shown internationally, including The Avengers, The Saint, The Baron, The Champions and I Spy. He also appeared in The Prisoner (“Checkmate”, 1967) as the authority figure Number Two.

Wyngarde became a British household name through his starring role in the espionage series Department S (1969). His Jason King character often got the girl and as she is about to kiss him, he manages to avoid it, much to the annoyance of co-actor Joel Fabiani. After that series ended, his character, the suave womaniser Jason King, was spun off into a new action espionage series entitled Jason King (1971), which ran for one season (26 fifty-minute episodes). The series led Wyngarde to briefly became an international celebrity, being mobbed by female fans in Australia. A revival in October 1973 of The King and I, featuring Wyngarde in the male lead role, and initially with Sally Ann Howes as Anna, ran for 260 performances at the Adelphi Theatre in London.

Later career

Wyngarde appeared as the masked character Klytus in the film Flash Gordon (1980) and as Sir Robert Knight in the film Tank Malling (1989) with Ray Winstone. He appeared in The Two Ronnies 1984 Christmas Special as Sir Guy in “The Ballad of Snivelling and Grudge and A Film Story”. Other TV appearances include Doctor Who (Planet of Fire, 1984), Hammer House of Mystery & Suspense (1984) and The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (1994).

In 1983, he acted in the thriller Underground with Raymond Burr at the Royal Alexandra Theatre, Toronto, and at the Prince of Wales Theatre, London. After leaving a 1995 stage production of The Cabinet of Dr Caligari mid-performance during previews, Wyngarde mostly stopped acting but he has done occasional voice work.

He appeared as a guest of Simon Dee in the Channel Four one-off revival of his chat show Dee Time in 2003. In 2007, he participated in recording extras for a box-set of The Prisoner, including a mock interview segment titled “The Pink Prisoner”.

In January 2014, he narrated an episode of the BBC 4 Timeshift documentary strand, How to Be Sherlock Holmes: The Many Faces of a Master Detective. In the 2015 documentary series for Channel Four, It was Alright in the 1960s, Wyngarde expressed his unease at having to don blackface to play a Turkish man in The Saint, but said that he had done it only in the hope that a theatre director might pick him to play Othello.

Latterly, Wyngarde’s public appearances are mainly restricted to Memorabilia and other nostalgic events commemorating television programmes.

Music

In 1970, Wyngarde recorded an album for RCA Victor entitled simply Peter Wyngarde, featuring a single, “La Ronde De L’Amour”/”The Way I Cry Over You”. The album is a collection of spoken-word/musical arrangements produced by Vic Smith and Hubert Thomas Valverde. A promo single of the track “Rape” (entitled “Peter Wyngarde Commits Rape”) was also issued in 1970.

In 1998, the album was reissued on CD by RPM Records, now titled When Sex Leers Its Inquisitive Head. According to Wyngarde himself (quoted in the liner notes of the CD re-issue), prior to the RCA deal, EMI Records had also been interested in cashing in on his fame and suggested issuing an album of him performing a selection of Sinatra songs. However, RCA allowed him carte blanche, assuming that the record would be a failure and could be used by them as a tax loss. However, when the initial pressings quickly sold out and it showed a profit, they declined to press any more copies.

The album is now usually treated as a curiosity because of its unusual spoken-word style and the controversial subject matter of some of the tracks.

Personal life

In the early 1950s, he was married to the actress Dorinda Stevens for 3 years.

Wyngarde shared a flat in Earls Terrace, Kensington, with the actor Alan Bates for some years in the 1960s.

In September 1975, Wyngarde was fined £75 (under his real name, Cyril Louis Goldbert) for gross indecency.

Wyngarde battled alcoholism at the height of his career, telling an interviewer in 1993 “I drank myself to a standstill … I am amazed I am still here”, but that he stopped drinking in the early 1980s.

N.B. Terms used below: 

‘Author’ = The individual who wrote the ‘biography’ currently on Wikipedia.WIKI
‘Biography’ = The ‘biography’ on Wikipedia

________________________

  • On viewing the ‘biography’, you’ll find this box (right) which, as you can see, contains the following details:

‘Occupation: Film TV actor’, and

‘Active: 1946-1994’

Firstly, I find it extraordinary that, given the fact PETER has had a far more prolific stage career than he has in film, his theatre work is not acknowledged at all in this section. Perhaps that’s why the Author also chose to ignore his role as a theatre producer and director.

In regard to the ‘Active’ part: it’s clear that the Author doesn’t take into consideration PETER’s radio plays either, which is probably why he claims that Mr WYNGARDE has not worked since 1994 [1].

  • In the main body of the ‘biography’, however, mention is made of the biography on the Internet Movie Database (IMDb). That particular profile was written by myself – the “primary source” being PETER. I hope that clears up this particular mystery.
  • In respect of the question concerning PETER’s uncle, Louis Jouvet. Both PETER and his mother have confirmed the family connection in various interviews.

I went to see my uncle – the French actor, Louis Jouvet, up in Scotland where he was appearing on stage, but he wasn’t very receptive. All I wanted was some advice, but I feel he thought I was looking for favours. I never saw him again”. PETER WYNGARDE.

  • The ‘biography’ claims that PETER had the same father as Marion Simone, and Adolph Henry (Goldbert). HE DID NOT. Mr WYNGARDE’s mother was married several times. PETER actually has TWO step-brothers and one step-sister.

After leaving the Diplomatic Service, PETER’s biological father started an import-export business dealing in antique timepieces. He lived in Eton Square, London.

  • Further to the date and place of his birth: PETER was born on Wednesday, 23rd August, 1933 in Marseilles, France. His place of birth was confirmed by his mother in an article cited by the Author of the ‘biography’, and if anyone should know, it’s her!
  • Re. the claim made by J.G. Ballard which is also mentioned by the Author. PETER maintains that he never met either J.G. Ballard or any member of his family. He has no recollection of Ballard ever being in Lung Hau.
  • While PETER has mentioned in interviews many times that his mother raced cars, he has never, ever suggested that it was her profession. This is probably why the Author was unable to find any evidence of this whilst carrying out his intrusive inquiries.

“She (Mother) was beautiful – a real Claudette Colbert lookalike and racing driver, who was chased all over the place by men. I ended up in China when the Japanese invaded”. PETER WYNGARDE 

  • The “Q&A’ and “fan blog” referred to by the Author is a section of the Official Peter Wyngarde Blog entitled ‘Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Peter Wyngarde… But Were Afraid To Ask’.

The definition of a “fan blog” is as follows: ‘A fan blog, fan site or fan page is a website created and maintained by a fan or devotee about a celebrity, thing or particular cultural phenomenon.’

Firstly, The Official Peter Wyngarde Blog was not created by a ‘fan’, nor is it run by a ‘fan’.

Secondly, the Blog was started and supported with the approval and backing of PETER WYNGARDE. The Blog contains numerous personal contributions from Mr WYNGARDE. It is our belief that the term used by the Author was specifically chosen to demean our repute, and give his version of PETER’s life and career more credence.

DIXONIn a production of ‘Present Laughter’ in which PETER appeared early on in his acting career, he played a character called Morris Dixon, not “Morris Albert”, as is stated by the Author.

⇐ Taken from an original theatre programme for ‘Present Laughter’

It’s interesting that the Author references ‘South’ as a significant moment in PETER’s career, which indeed it was, but doesn’t bother to acknowledge the numerous other notable highlights, which include:

1960: ‘Most Promising Newcomer’ for portrayal of Count Marcellus in Duel of Angels on Broadway. U.S.A.

1960: ‘San Francisco Award for Best Actor In A Foreign Play’ for portrayal of Count Marcellus in ‘Duel of Angels’ on Broadway. U.S.A.

1962: ‘Best Actor’ by the Guild of Television Producers and Director

1964: Television Actor of the Year’ for his portrayal of Ferdinand de Levis in ‘Loyalties’ on ITV.

1967: ‘Best Actor’. Emmy Nomination for his portrayal of Stewart Kirby in the ‘Avengers’ episode, ‘Epic’.

1972: Starring in the World Premier of ‘Butley’ in Melbourne.

1977: World Premier of ‘Big Toys’. English Theatre, Vienna.

Was ‘South’ highlighted merely because of the homosexual connection? Probably.

  • Having gone through boxes and files of original ITC material on both Department S’ and ’Jason King’, I can find nothing in which either show was described as an “espionage” series.
  • “His Jason King character often got the girl and as she is about to kiss him, he manages to avoid it, much to the annoyance of co-actor Joel Fabiani”.  

I put the following sentence both to PETER and other ITC aficionados – none of whom were familiar with this scenario. I have, however, seen something similar on at least two other websites (one cut and pasted from the other). The original was obviously written by someone who professes to know about these series but who, in reality, has probably never seen either of them.

  • Although PETER made 260 appearances in ‘The King and I’, not all of those performances were at the Adelphi Theatre, as stated.

The production toured the UK for several months prior to opening in London, with the show stopping off in Birmingham, Glasgow, Hull, Leeds, Manchester, Nottingham… etc., before transferring to the West End.

  • Whilst the Author is correct in saying that PETER made an appearance in the Two Ronnies 1984 Christmas Show, I don’t recall the segment being entitled “The Ballad of Snivelling and Grudge and A Film Story“.
  • Although perhaps a bit nit-picky, there is a lack of attention to detail with the reference to ‘Tank Malling’. The character PETER played was called Sir Robert Knights, not Sir Robert Knight.
  • The production of ‘Underground’ referred to did not only play at The Royal Alexandra Theatre, Toronto, and at the Prince of Wales Theatre, London, which appears to be suggested. It was also staged in Birmingham, Brighton, Lincoln, Manchester, Richmond, York… etc.
  • The wording used by the Author in relation to ‘The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari’ (1996), implies that PETER pulled out of a performance midway through. In actual fact, the first ‘Preview’ was abandoned at the interval when a winch that was integral to the plot, failed. I was there that night and witnessed what happened myself. PETER was forced to leave the production on the following day after he contracted a severe throat infection.
  • PETER was actually married to Dorinda Stevens for five years, not three, as is claimed by the Author.
  • The words “battled alcoholism” could be viewed as libelous, since PETER was diagnosed as an alcoholic, nor has he ever received treatment for “alcoholism”. He has not drunk any kind of alcohol since 1980.

It’s interesting that the author of the Wikipedia ‘biography’ relies on items from online archives such as My Heritage. The following was found on that ‘site (https://www.myheritage.com/research/record-10182-106088/peter-wyngarde-in-biographical-summaries-of-notable-people )

In Biographical Summaries of Notable People

Peter Wyngarde

Gender: Male
Aliases: Cyril Louis Goldbert, Wyngarde, Peter, Peter Paul Wyngarde, Cyril Goldbert
Birth: Aug 23 1928  Marseille

 

Nationality: United Kingdom
Occupation: Actor
Residence: Marseille

This particular website, just like Wikipedia, invites any Tom, Dick or Harriett to contribute information, or to edit the details contained therein. Perhaps someone should inform them that, apart from a couple of weeks following his birth, PETER has never been a resident of Marseilles!

The point, as above, is that if there are inaccuracies in a supposed primary source, then you have to ask yourself, what other pieces of so-called “reliable”(!) or ‘substantiated evidence’(!!) did this particular Author rely upon to compile his article? And how many others have, in turn, used his work as a source?

[1]. The Pickerskill Detentions. Character: Mr Mike Poulson-Jabby. Broadcast: BBC Radio 4 – 28th February 2007 at 23.15 

Click here for: ‘When is Enough, Enough’? The unwarranted intrusion into PETER’s privacy


The Hellfire Club: The OFFICIAL PETER WYNGARDE Appreciation Society: https://www.facebook.com/groups/813997125389790/

 

GENERAL KLYTUS: From Behind the Mask

Written by PETER WYNGARDE

For those of you who don’t know, General Klytus was the characterization of Lorenzo Semple Jr; he never appeared in Alex Raymond’s original comic strips.

According to some sources – including Dino de Laurentiis, the character wasn’t supposed to be in the film we now know and love, but was to take over from Ming in the sequel. I heard this when I was summoned to Dino’s office at Shepperton Studio’s before filming commenced on the original film.

KLYTUSHe wasn’t there when I arrived, so I was met by his secretary. I was told he’d had to make a trip to Amsterdam to pay for a piece of the set which hadn’t as yet been paid for. The shoot couldn’t begin until that piece of backdrop arrived.

⇐ PETER as General Klytus

The secretary asked me if I’d like a drink so I said, “Yes. A large Scotch”, but was told that they didn’t have any of the hard stuff in the office, so I was offered a cup of tea!

When Dino finally arrived, the first thing he asked me was if I’d read ‘The Invisible Man’ by H.G. Welles. I said I had, to which he inquired if I’d be interested in starring in a remake of the film. I was flabbergasted, but then I’d come across Dino before (although he didn’t remember [1]), so I knew he was capable of dropping just this kind of thing on people.

Some years ago, I’d been asked to appear in a film version of Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace’. After I’d done the make-up test with the lovely Audrey Hepburn, I was told to wait for a shooting date. This never seemed to come, so when I was given the opportunity to do a Peter Schaffer’s film, ‘The Salt Land’ [2], I jumped at the chance. Peter Schaffer, of course, won the Academy Award for writing the script for ‘Amadeus’.

We’d just got to the last part of the shoot on ‘The Salt Land’, when I received a call to be in Rome the next day to start on the huge ballroom scene on ‘War and Peace’.

I immediately rang my agent to tell him of the ridiculous situation I was in, so he ‘phoned the producer, Dino de Laurentiis, who replied in no uncertain terms that, if I wasn’t in Rome within the next 24 hours, not only would I be out from the film, but my contract with Paramount would be null and void!

Well, that’s exactly what happened, as I chose to finish ‘The Salt Land’. And yet, strangely, here I was – not only about to play Klytus in a de Laurentiis production, but also I was being presented with an opportunity to play the lead in his remake of ‘The Invisible Man’! Should I tell him we’d met before and risk getting sacked? I’m glad I did, as he told me in the strictest confidence about the sequel which had already been written by Semple. It was then that he divulged to me that, at the end of the first film, after Ming dies, that a gloved hand would reach from out of shot and pick up the Emperor’s mystical. That gloved hand would belong to Klytus.

The idea for the sequel was that Klytus would find the lost city of Atlantis, from where he’d rule a far more ghastly kingdom than had been run by Ming. Unfortunately, I didn’t get much more from him as he was called away.

The original black and white version of ‘Flash Gordon’, had a slightly podgier Flash, and a wonderfully saturnine Ming played by Charles Middleton, who often played the baddy in cowboy and gangster films. Above all, I remember fondly the little Sky Rockets in the series – suspended on wires which were clearly visible on the screen – going ‘Phuff! Phuff! Phuff!’ I loved that! I think they were shown every Saturday morning at the cinema.

The one thing I remember most about shooting the film was the weight of the costume; it was an absolute ton! We were provided with these sort of ironing board things that we could lean on between takes. Another difficulty was being able to see the other characters, all of whom were wonderfully cast, with a mask over my face.

We tried several shots with me wearing the mask, but found that there was just a muffled sound coming out; there was certainly no personality. Klytus was in danger as coming across as a very bad Darth Vader – or Man in the Iron Mask: lovely to look at, but completely MUTE!

Finally, we discovered that the problem was all to do with the mechanism in the jaw. To begin with, all we heard was a loud ‘Click! Click! Click!’ That was until the correct angle was found. It took seven more takes before the clickety-click was solved. During a scene with another character, it sounded as if the actor opposite me was wearing false teeth! At one point, we almost gave up. I thought that I might have to forfeit the part, but we persevered until, finally, we found the right balance.

As many of you will know, the senior designer on the film did many of the Fellini movies, so when I visited the set for the first time and saw all the costumes, I felt that I could be in any of his fabulous movies. I loved looking around the sets, even when I wasn’t KLYTUS2shooting just to soak up the atmosphere. I saw my mask recently at Yardo in Piccadilly. How I wish I’d kept it as it really was a work of art, and even without me in it, it had a personality of its own.

PETER in the white version of the costume, with Ornella Muti as Princess Aura ⇒

The mask was designed and made in Italy, and cost around £5,000 to make at the time. Originally had two costumes; a black and a virgin white version – the latter of which I was to wear in the scenes with Princess Aura. I felt, though, that the white one looked a bit like something that’d be worn in a pantomime, so I decided to stick with the black one throughout the film.  

[1] In the 1950’s, PETER had signed a five-year contract with Paramount.

[2] ‘International Theatre: The Salt Land’. Broadcast: 8th November, 1955.

Click here for:

‘Flash Gordon’ review

Flash Gordon 35th Anniversary Celebration

More information of the characters PETER has played


The Hellfire Club: The OFFICIAL PETER WYNGARDE Appreciation Society: https://www.facebook.com/groups/813997125389790/

 

MEETING PETER

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It’s a fan’s ultimate dream to finally get the opportunity to meet his or her hero, whether it’s by chance in on the street, or in a swish restaurant or bar. These are some of the stories from PETER’s devotees who’ve been fortunate enough to shake the hand of a living legend.

 ⇐ PETER with a fan at a party in Oslo, 1970

Erica Pershky – a Technical Assistant at a London branch of the National Westminster Bank, has been a fan of PETER’s from the very first time she set eyes on him in the role of Jason King in Department S. Having seen her idol on stage no fewer than six times in ‘The King and I’, ‘Anastasia’, ‘Present Laughter’ and ‘Dracula’, Erica considers herself “very lucky indeed!”

“The first time I ever saw PETER was at the stage door after seeing him in ‘Anastasia’ in Bath. He called me “darling” and “lovely”, and I remember it took him three attempts to give me his autograph as he kept spelling my name wrong! I still treasure that sheet taken from the back of my theatre programme. I remember exactly what he wore. Two other female fans, who I’d never met before, were so carried away by the occasion (PETER spent some time chatting to us), that we followed him in their car for some way out of the city but, unfortunately, we were forced to give up the chase after a while as he was on his way to a party.”

But that wasn’t Erica’s only encounter with PETER, as she elaborates: “The second time I met him was a week or so later in Richmond, Surrey – again, after a performance of ‘Anastasia’. I was in my usual seat; second row, aisle. Whilst taking a curtain-call, I noticed him turn to his co-star, Nyree Dawn Porter, nodding and winking at me; he whispered to her that I was there, as usual. Nyree told me about this later when we chatted.

“However, this time when he took his curtain-call, PETER appeared most displeased as he spotted two women leaving the theatre. They must’ve had a train to catch or something like that, even though it was pretty rude of them before the final curtain. I could read PETER’S lips, and he wasn’t happy, I can tell you!”

But that wasn’t the end of Erica’s adventures in Richmond, as she was fortunate enough to talk her way into PETER’s dressing room: “I found him sipping Champagne with two dressers, and I jokingly admonished him over his mouthed comments to the two women in the theatre earlier that night. I then gave him a sketch I’d done of him, which he said looked more like his father!

“After chatting for a while, I cheekily said ‘Give us a kiss then, I’ve got to go now!’ I then toured halfway across London as I’d missed my last train; I think I must’ve floated home!”

Apart from the fond memories that she still holds after all these years, Erica says that her most treasured possessions are three postcards which PETER sent to her in reply to her letters: “Oh, and the kiss that he gave me way back in 1976; I haven’t washed my lips since!” Erica says that her favourite of all PETER’s roles are those she saw him in on stage – particularly in his portrayal of the King of Siam in ‘The King and I’. And her favourite screen-role? “Who else, but Jason King – especially in ‘A Page Before Dying’. That leather outfit. Yum! Yum!”

One of her saddest moments as a fan came recently when she realised what she’d lost after throwing out all the posters and photographs of PETER which had covered her bedroom wall as a teenager. Never mind, Erica. At least you still have some wonderful memories.

∇∇∇

In 1976, my mum once ran into PETER in the cafeteria at the Guild Hall, Preston, where he’d been appearing in ‘Anastasia’. Mum worked on the theatre staff as a cleaner. She said that PETER was extremely polite to her, and after signing his autograph, bought mum a cup of coffee.

Cathy Mills, Leyland, Lancashire.

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I remember meeting PETER outside the Royal Court Theatre in Liverpool after he’d appeared in ‘The Merchant of Venice’ there. I shook his hand through his car window. The programme he signed for me is one of my most treasured possessions.

Brian Pearson, Huyton, Liverpool.

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I recall PETER pulling up beside me at a set of traffic lights in Liverpool city centre. He wound down the window and called out to me: “How do you get out of this place?”

James McAteer, Liverpool.

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I was a contestant in the 1972 ‘Centre Girl of the Year’ competition, on which PETER was one of the judges. I can’t remember where I was placed in the competition because I was so excited about meeting PETER WYNGARDE! However, I do recall getting a kiss from him after the event!

Helena Melson, Bexhill-On-Sea, East Sussex.

∇∇∇

I was fortunate enough to meet PETER in 1989 at a fund-raising event which had been organised by a local children’s nursery. PETER had been asked to open the fete, and was happy to oblige. He stayed for most of the day, and was absolutely wonderful with all the mums and kids, who adored him. He really is a lovely guy.

Carol Smith, Crawley, Sussex.

∇∇∇

My only encounter with PETER was seeing him driving his Bentley off a cross channel ferry at Dover after a trip to France in 1970. I was only about 10-years-old at the time, but I’ve never forgotten that day and I never will.

Brian Jenkins, Dover, Kent.

∇∇∇

As a British Telecom engineer, I was working in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, one Wednesday afternoon in 1992, when a beautiful Triumph Frogeye pulled up next to me. When the driver rolled down the window to ask for directions onto the A411, I realised it was PETER WYNGARDE! Since I was a stranger to that part of the country, I was unable to oblige, but I’ve dined out on that story ever since.

Pete Thurston, Southhall, London.

∇∇∇

In September of 1971, my brother Andrew and I were excited to meet PETER while we were out shopping with our mum in South Kensington, London.

13619936_1385829608110458_33012552275709998_nAt the time, PETER was filming an episode of Jason King called ‘An Author In Search Of Two Characters’ at Kingston House in Kensington Road.

⇐ Hilary and her brother Andrew, with PETER

I was only seven-years-old at the time and Andrew was just six, but we’d seen PETER on television many times in Department S, and since it was too good an opportunity to miss, we decided to go over and say “hello” to him.

Although we were both very nervous, PETER was really kind to us and gave us his autograph. We also ended up having our photo taken and put in the Kensington Post newspaper.

Our memory of that day will stay with us forever.

Hilary Stewart, London.

∇∇∇

I was lucky to see PETER at the Theatre Royal in Bath, in ‘Present Laughter’ and Anastasia. The latter one was an evening performance and I went back stage to see him leave, well he spoke to me. Me!!!

I remember walking back to the car, but the only thing was I couldn’t remember where I had parked it!! So I strolled around Bath for a good hour or so, blissfully in oblivion of time, and where I was. All I could think of was, I (me!) had met PETER WYNGARDE!!!!!! And he spoke!!!! Gosh I had it bad. I was looking at the pictures in the scrapbook and I use to have two of them one was with his dog (Youssef) and him in his chair at the end.

Linda Jones

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1910617_1297945123565574_8052639363600129967_nI wanted to meet PETER as he played Klytus in one of my favourite films ‘Flash Gordon’. Got him to sign my Flash poster, he seemed very taken with me in my Xena kit saying Xena should have married Klytus! lol! Maybe bad Xena may have considered it, she could have then been known as Xena Destroyer of Galaxies!

⇐ Xena Warrior Princess Lookalike – Jo Marriott with PETER

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Those magical days of Carnaby Street and the annual Radio Luxembourg conventions. Kensington Market with the smell of burning joss sticks, vast array of Afghan coats, tie-dye T-shirts and silver jewellery. Biba with its unique atmosphere and flamboyant fashions, set amongst ostrich feathers and groovy coloured glass jars. Not to mention Miss Selfridge, the place for miniskirts and hot pants!

And amidst it all, there was PETER WYNGARDE. He stood out from the crowd with his, charm, sophistication and distinctive dress sense (I loved those turned back cuffs) – a real gentleman too.

I must have been almost 15 when ‘Department S’ first appeared on television and I was enamoured with PETER immediately. My whole family would sit round to watch the series (in the days of only one TV in the house) and they soon realised that I had fallen in love for the first time. Their teasing was relentless but, thankfully, my passion could be shared at school with my classmates – they either felt the same about PETER or his co-star Joel Fabiani.9

PETER at one of his fan club conventions in the 1970’s ⇒

Dedicated fans may remember the flat packed bubble-gum that came out at the time, featuring ‘Department S’ cards to collect. We girls would call into the sweet shop every day, on the way home from school, to make our purchases and swap cards until we had the whole set.

I remember reading an article in ‘Weekend’ magazine about PETER which talked about his childhood and his suffering and courage in Japan. That endeared me to him even more. I joined the Fan Club and was determined to meet my idol one day. To my delight, I was able to achieve this on not just one but two occasions at the conventions held by the Club.

I bought a little black dress for the first occasion; extremely short, with the front panel in-set with a snake skin design (all the thing in those days). I had a Saturday job in R.P. Ellen’s shoe shop at the time and I can remember the perfect pair of snake skin shoes (fake of course) coming into stock – I purchased them immediately. I really felt the business when I arrived at the hotel in Kensington. I went on my own on this occasion (can’t remember how I got there – my Dad probably insisted on driving me) and I can recall strolling in very confidently to meet the other gathered fans. I remember standing, chatting with a small group of people and suddenly becoming aware of a very familiar, deep, velvet voice – and there he was!

The next convention was a year later, at a similar venue. I went with my cousin, Carol, and I wore a purple midi-dress and silver choker round my neck. We had our photo taken with PETER and had a wonderful evening.

‘Department S’ eventually faded from our screens, to my great disappointment, but I could still listen to my vinyl single of the opening music to the series and my PETER WYNGARDE LP. I still have them tucked away today but unfortunately I no longer have a record player!

Sue Armstrong

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I’ve been a PETER WYNGARDE fan since I was a teenager who got hooked on the ITC Home Video releases of ‘Department S’ and ‘Jason King’. I was even one of the earliest members of The Hellfire Club, so I think my fan credentials are assured!

Now, since PETER has kept a low profile for many a year, I’d resigned myself to the fact that I would never meet the man himself. So imagine my surprise when PETER started to make appearances at memorabilia/celebrity autograph events.

I hadn’t been able to make any of the dates to work commitments, so imagine my excitement when I could attend PETER’s appearance at a Dr Who event in Barking, London.

I made my way down by train and met up with a fellow fan and friend, Andrew. After a short wait, we joined the queue for meeting PETER. Now, the event was already doing brisk business… but for PETER, the queue went all across the function room; into the corridor and down the stairs!

At the appointed time, PETER entered the room. he walked over to his table. I gasped inwardly: “It was really him; I even recognised his walk from seeing him on telly!”

2013-12-0716_17_26⇐ DAN with PETER in Barking

PETER began to sign autographs and chat to fans. To my delight, he was happily allowing photographs. I made a pact with my friend to snap as many photos as possible. It was then my turn to meet the man himself.

I walked forward and said, “Hello PETER”. He smiled and signed my copy of his LP. He asked: “Oh, do you have the CD as well?” PETER then explained to me the reason why the LP’s distribution was curtailed. He also signed my Australian ‘Jason King’ box set, and expressed delight in seeing the set in person.

I couldn’t believe I was chatting to PETER WYNGARDE!

He also let me sit next to him for a photograph. I was inwardly beside myself with excitement, but I managed to remain dignified(!)

I said thanks and PETER even shook my hand. I was in fan heaven!

Thank you, PETER!

Dan Box, Liverpool

∇∇∇

I was fortunate enough to meet PETER when he visited Sydney, Australia, during a promotional tour in 1971.

Although I was born in England in 1962, my parents emigrated to Oz in 1966 (I’ve since moved back home to Berkshire), and both I and my sister used to watch department S on Channel 7 every week.

When my best friend, Anna and I heard that PETER would be arriving at Sydney Airport, we decided to bunk off school for the day in the hope that we might be fortunate enough to see him.

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When we arrived at the Airport terminal at which his plane was due to arrive, we couldn’t believe our eyes as there were literally thousands of fans (mainly women!) who’d obviously had the same idea as us.

PETER with Anita and her friend ⇒

Because we’d been unable to get into the arrival lounge due to the huge crowds, we decided to try our luck out on the concourse and were completely dumbstruck to see PETER and two airport security officers walking towards us (they’d decided to bring him through a side entrance for his own safety). I’m not sure what it was that possessed me, but suddenly I found myself running towards him – hair and arms flying.

The two security officers, who obviously saw little threat in two nine-year-old girls, did little to deter us reaching our hero, and within moments we were hugging and kissing him. Clearly from this picture, he didn’t seem to mind!

Although it was a long time ago, I’ll never forget that day as PETER was just so sweet to two love-struck little girls.

Anita Hunte

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I’ve been a fan of PETER since seeing him way back in the 1960s in ‘Night of the Eagle’ and followed his career without pause enjoying every performance. Loved him in Jason King even if it was very campy and OTT, but what great entertainment just the stuff to blow away all the cares. And how scrumptious he always looked in his flares and furbelows. And that moustache and hairy chest!

On the serious side I battled my way to the box office to get tickets for ‘The King and I’ in 1973, and enjoyed every minute. I even met and spoke with him once. I was on the way to the Odeon cinema, Kensington, and he was cleaning his Bentley Continental. Beautiful car, does he still have it? He was so sweet and charming when I said “Hello” and mentioned how much I enjoyed his performances; so natural and unaffected.

I caught a glimpse of him last year in a programme about screen cads and he looked as gorgeous.

Jill Basten

∇∇∇

I was just remembering the ‘Jason King’ and ‘Department S’ Series and wondering whatever happened to PETER – he really was an icon in those days!

I’ve a great memory of PETER around forty years ago. I am a musician and was invited to play for a production of ‘The King and I’ which was being produced by Triumph Productions at the Forum Theatre, Billingham-on-Tees. PETER played the King (of course!!) and Sally Anne Howes was Mrs Anna and a lady with the most fabulous contralto voice – Moyna Cope – played his no.1 wife.

I remember the first mornings’ rehearsal with the cast and PETER came in dressed in designer denim – to which one of my colleagues described as – “expensively scruffy!!!” PETER would come in to the Billingham Arms occasionally after the show – (the only pub!) and would always stand the musicians (it was our second home at the time) a round of drinks.

It was a great run and lots of fun – we had a fine Musical Director in Derek Taverner. I played the show in Nottingham and again in Wolverhampton and that was the last time I heard of PETER.

Tony Carter.


The Hellfire Club: The OFFICIAL PETER WYNGARDE Appreciation Society: https://www.facebook.com/groups/813997125389790/

ALL THAT GLISTERS

Collectables for the more discerning (and affluent) fan

1953 Bentley R-Type Continental Sports Saloon

1953 Bentley R-Type Continental Sports Saloon Coachwork by H J Mulliner Chassis no.BENTLEY BC24B Engine no. BCB23 The example offered here – right-hand drive chassis number ‘BC24B’ – was retailed new by Edwards & Co Ltd of Bournemouth and first owned by one G E Lambert. Accompanying build history shows that the car was equipped with the manual transmission and originally finished in black with red leather interior trim, while special features included veneered dark walnut woodwork, sliding front seats with tipping/adjustable backs, and ashtrays front and rear. The car’s original UK registration was ‘NPU 10’. Information supplied by the Continental Register lists the following subsequent owners in the UK were Baron Nugent until 1971, when it was purchased by PETER in 1971. He subsequently sold the car to American, James Owen Jr in 1977.

The car was acquired by the present owner in 2001 and is currently resident in Belgium. Offered with EU taxes paid, it represents a rare opportunity to acquire a very fine example of what can is considered as the most famous and desirable post-war Bentley.

Sold for €525,083 (£467,796) including premium.

Handkerchief (or Pocket Square)

Worn by PETER in ‘Jason King’ with a white suit. Signed ‘Yours Sincerely, PETER WYNGARDE’

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Sold for £150.00

Jason King Suit

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This is a suit which was designed by PETER, and which is currently on sale via an original film and TV costume and props ‘site.

The suit was worn on screen by PETER in both ‘An Author in Search of Two Characters’ and ‘A Deadly Line in Digits’ (‘Jason King’), and was seen in several publicity shots, including this one which appeared in the TV Times.

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The three-piece suit, which includes jacket, waistcoat and trousers, is made from flecked wool. The jacket is based on the design of a 17th century Austrian riding jacket.

PETER wearing the suit in ‘Jason King’ ⇒

The asking price for this piece of TV history? £2,745

Klytus Mask

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This is the original Klytus mask that was auctioned by Screen-used via Southerby’s recently.

It was produced especially for Klytus’ death scene, in which he’s impaled on the floating platform by Flash, as the bottom jaw is fixed in position which allowed a prosthetic tongue to protrude through it.

Klytus Mask by Chronicle

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Over recent years, Chronicle Collectables has, slowly but surely, built a reputation for making superb quality replicas of film props, and has become a major contender in the high-end collectors market.

One of their most popular licences has been to produce reproductions of some of the props from ‘Flash Gordon’, which includes this beautiful General Klytus mask and cowl, which has been made from a casting of the mask worn by PETER in the film.

The piece was first revealed at the Wonderfest convention in the USA in 2015.

‘A Touch of Brimstone’ Script

This is the original script which was used by PETER in the production of the famous Avengers episode. PETER portrayed The Honourable John Cleverly Cartney in the story.

The script contains 56 pages, in addition to the title page and is dated October, 1964, and contains the tag-line, ‘In which Steed joins the Hellfire Club and Martha becomes Queen of Sin’.

SCRIPT

This is an incredibly rare example of a script which clearly saw heavy use during the production, it is heavily annotated in PETER’s own hand with every line of dialogue and every scene in which he appears underlined and featuring various notes throughout which are hand inscribed in black ink.

The script measures approximately 13″ x 8″.

The item sold for over £1,000.

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Jason King/PETER WYNGARDE Statue

Specially sculptured bust of PETER that was made for the ‘Jason King’ episode, ‘Chapter One: The Company I Keep’.

The sculpture as seen in the series with PETER and the late Toby Robins as the Contessa Di Magiore ⇒ 

STATUE⇐ The piece as it looks today

Sold for £1,200

Click here for more PETER WYNGARDE collectables

 

 

 

 


 

The Hellfire Club: The OFFICIAL PETER WYNGARDE Appreciation Society: https://www.facebook.com/groups/813997125389790/

PETER’s SCRAPBOOK

This is a new on-going page which will feature some of the interesting parts of PETER’s life which don’t exactly fit into any other category. Check out this page for regular updates:


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On September 10th, 1969, PETER was asked to sit for photographer, Peter Rand, for this stunning picture, which was purchased by the National Portrait Gallery in London in 2011.

The image measures 13 7/8 in. x 13 7/8 in. (353 mm x 352 mm) ⇒

 


In 1971, the TV Times commissioned Britain’s No.1 photographer, David Bailey, to take a series of photographs of television celebrities to present in their magazine under the heading, ‘Superstar Portraits’.

One of these studies – number three in the series, was PETER WYNGARDE, who was undoubtedly Independent Television’s brightest and most popular star. This is what Bailey had to say about their meeting:

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“He’s very funny, and quick and bright. I saw him on TV a while ago, but this was the first time I’d ever photographed him. I thought he was such a relief from all those saints and others. At least he has a bit of wit. 

“It was quite a long session – about an hour. He came to the studio with some of his clothes and I chose them. I think the professional are professionals, and he’s one of those. He hasn’t any inflated ideas about himself; he’s completely unpompous and I didn’t find him the least bit phoney. 

“He has a sense of humour and can laugh at himself; a saving grace in an actor. I hope I’ve caught all that. I enjoyed taking the picture. Time passed more quickly than it does with less interesting subjects.”


Home Wrecker?!

In 1973, the husband 29-year-old Anne Howard reportedly walked out on his wife of ten years after she and her friend, Joan Whipp, 38 – both members of the Women’s Circle – went to see PETER on every night of his run in ‘Mother Adam’ at the Grand Theatre, Leeds, West Yorkshire.


Seeing Spirits

PETER says that he once saw the ghost of Ivor Novello, which is said to haunt the dressing room he used at the Adelphi Theatre, while he was starring in ‘The King and I’.

“When an object, for example a glass, was put down, we had to search high and low for it,” PETER says. He thought that the ‘Ghost’ might be responsible.

William Terris, an actor on the Victorian stage, was stabbed to death at the old Adelphi. He is also said to haunt the theatre. “In the end I said: ‘Oh, please Mr Terris or Mr Novello, let us have the glass back when you’re through with it’. In time, they kindly obliged.”

PETER’s dresser also reported seeing a spirit manifest by the wardrobe. “Perhaps he wanted a button sewing on,“ comments PETER.


FLAT“…and Mickey worse shirts like PETER WYNGARDE in ‘Jason King’…” And, “…the big headline feature is about someone from ‘Department S’ opening a supermarket. Remember ‘Department S’? Pardon me while I hyperventilate!”

From the novel, ‘The Quorum’ by Kim Newman


In The Ring

In 1975, PETER was once shortlisted to play Victorian champion boxer, Mendoza, in a West End musical called ‘London Song’. The production, which was the brainchild of Paul Raymond – the producer of the notorious, ‘Oh, Calcutta!’ – and was written by John Taylor, and based on the book by Ross Taylor of ‘Charlie Girl’ and ‘Strike A Light’ fame.


In September 1973, a well-known handwriting expert analysed PETER’s elegant penmanship, and concluded that he’s: “A man for whom sex is not an essential factor in love. He is frank almost to the point of naivety”.


JK-Smile

Whilst actress, Sally Anne Howes, was dining at Mario and Franco’s Terrazza Restaurant in Leeds during the run of ‘The King and I’ at the city’s Grand Theatre, the Yorkshire Evening Post reported seeing a mystery man wearing a tailored jacket with turned-back cuffs, arrive in the polished Bentley.

It was understood that the Head Chef at Mario’s was so delighted to see his famous client join Ms Howes, that he served up a rather special dish the following evening which he called, ‘Medallions de Veau a’la Jason’.


Iconic Image

TV TIMES

TV Times magazine has been in publication since 1955. To celebrate this 60th anniversary, and as part of the Merge Festival 2015, TV Times showcased a selection of exclusive images from its vast archive in two exhibitions in Southwark, London.

PETER’s photo at the exhibition

Using its unique access to the stars of the time, The TV Times curated ‘60 Years – 60 Iconic Images’ which features exclusive images of celebrities of television, sport, music and entertainment shot by some of the greatest British photographers including David Bailey, Cecil Beaton and Patrick Lichfield.


Not many people know, but PETER is an enthusiastic ballroom dancer, and enjoys nothing more than a spin around the dance floor.

He first got the dancing bug when married to fellow thespian, Dorinda Stevens. The two could often be spotted at some of London’s more upmarket ‘Black Tie’ nightspots, where the couple would spend their evenings Waltzing and improving their Paso Doble. Their favourite dance, however, was the Tango.

Whilst he was appearing in ‘Duel of Angels’, both on tour in the UK and the USA, PETER and Vivien Leigh would go out most nights after an evening performance of the play, and dance until three or four O’clock in the morning.

Naturally, his favourite scene in ‘The King and I’ was when he, as the King, would dance a waltz with Anna Leonowens (Sally Ann Howes). However, due to the heavy costumes and the audience request for them to repeat the performance, the two needed to wear oxygen masks in the wings to help them recover from their exertions.


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Pistol Pete

PETER is a crack shot with both a pistol (targets) and shotgun (clays), and has competed many times at national level.

Here he is at one of his shooting clubs with a fellow marksman.

 


Everybody Was Kung-Fu Fighting

David Carradine was doing it on TV, they were singing about it in the charts, and even Henry the Mild-Mannered Janitor was in on the act.

What are we talking about? Why, Kung-Fu fighting, of course!

Seemingly, not even PETER was immune from the craze back in the Seventies. Following a nasty incident in London’s Holland Park, after which he decided to take tuition in the 3,000-yaert-old Chinese art form from Mongolian-born Kung-Fu Master, Baron Ormidi, at one of his three London clubs.

“The experience was rather frightening,“ PETER remembers. “I was set upon by two muggers – one of them with a knife. Fortunately, I managed to hit the one with the knife, and when his nose started to spurt blood they both, thankfully, ran off. I was lucky under the circumstances, but I wouldn’t welcome a repeat of the experience.”

PETER says that his Kung-Fu training came in useful for the ‘Jason King’ series as well as being handy for self-defence.

When you saw Jason leaping through the air and dealing a smart kick under the chin of a villain, it certainly wasn’t a stunt man. Those Kung-Fu kicks were well-practiced.

“Of course,” he said, “we had to pull our blows on television”. As well as preparing his pupils for the occasional unprovoked attack, black belt Omidi also claimed that the ancient art could help their sex life!

“Kung-Fu heightens your sex drive and your sensual feeling,” the Baron claimed, whose other clients included Harold Sakata, who played Bond Villain, Oddjob, in ‘Goldfinger’.

“The body movements you learn as part of the training are enough to give your sex life a great boost. A Kung-Fu man is never too tired for sex!”

Most of the men who attended Omidi’s classes in Stains, Islesworth and Wembley were there merely to keep fit, but PETER viewed it otherwise.

“Baron was a superb teacher,” he says. “Every limb ached for the first few weeks, but slowly I felt my whole body getting in tune. It was a most exhilarating experience. After a while, I began to enjoy Kung-Fu for its sheer art form. I still use it for exercise, relaxation, and if I’m ever attacked again…!”

And the £64,000 question: Did Kung-Fu make him feel sexier, or give him increased sensitivity during love-making?

PETER grinned wickedly into his glass of apple juice and ice, and said: “We’ll just say that it did wonders for Jason King and leave it at that”.


The Hellfire Club: The OFFICIAL PETER WYNGARDE Appreciation Society: https://www.facebook.com/groups/813997125389790/

 

 

THEY SAID IT WAS ALL OVER….

…they were wrong!

The convention hall at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham was heaving with fans, all eager to meet their favourite stars. The queue’s at the ‘Star Wars’, ‘Red Dwarf’ and ‘Game of Thrones’ tables were particularly long, with each person standing in them clutching a cherished item of memorabilia that they hoped to have signed.

Suddenly, a gentleman wearing a white goatee and baseball cap sauntered past the lines of waiting devotees, and took his place behind the table denoted by a poster of ‘Flash Gordon’s’ General Klytus. As he does so, the majority of people who’d been waiting patiently at the other tables shift en masse to pay homage to the man behind the gold mask.

The dumbfounded ‘Game of Thrones’ star, Josef Altin, turns to Thomas Bowington, PETER WYNGARDE’s agent, and asks what had just happened. Bowington replies, with a grin:

“You’ve just been upstaged by The King!”

As a PETER WYNGARDE fan, we must’ve all been frustrated at some time or another on reading that his career crashed and burned after ‘Jason King’ ended its run in 1973. And whilst in the past I personally would get myself into a lather over such an invalid statement, I now realise that instead of professing to enlighten us as a newspaper or Internet article is meant to do, the author of such editorials are merely exhibiting their own ignorance.

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This kind of languid journalism has, by and large, been commonplace in the UK for decades. Instead of getting up off his or her ample backside and actually researching a subject, the contemporary hack is prone merely to consult a well-known online encyclopaedia with all its unconfirmed and flawed content, and base his/her story around that. Indeed, the more negative the content, the better they appear to like it.

Whilst the ‘papers prefer to put a negative slant on just about every celebrity-related commentary they publish, the average man on the street will tend to judge the success or failure of an actor’s career solely on the number of times he or she has appeared on television in a given period of time. In other words, few people have either the intelligence or imagination to consider that there are other mediums for an actor to ply his trade.

Throughout his career, PETER has never made any secret of the fact that his first love as a performer was the stage. He also made it clear that he had no desire to commit to another long-running television series once ‘Jason King’ had run its course. In fact, he grabbed the opportunity to play Ben Butley in Charles Dyer’s play, ‘Butley’ at the Metro Theatre in Melbourne, during the pause between the shooting of ‘Department S’ and ‘Jason King’ in 1971, to much acclaim.

Yet in spite of the often barbed comments of the resentful and misinformed, who continue to insist that PETER’s best days were over by 1972, in actual fact he was enhancing his standing as both an actor and director whilst treading the boards, and receiving glowing critical acclaim from some of the most respected critics in the business.

His first real post-Jason King outing was in Charles Dyer’s ‘Mother Adam’, in which he played a lonely museum curator who was still sharing a home with his mother. His performance drew praise from across the board, with one of the theatre’s most revered columnists, Harold Hobson, declaring: PETER WYNGARDE gives a performance of near genius – a great actor in the very best sense of the word.” and The Times in-house authority stating, “…as for PETER WYNGARDE, in this play he approaches with a quiet, unassuming step, very close to greatness.”

For his next trick, PETER took on the role made famous by Yul Brynner in a revival of ‘The King and I’. He portrayed the King in all 260 performances of the show – playing to packed houses from Scotland to the south coast of England. Demand for tickets was so fierce that when the production reached the West End of London that it had to be extended by a further two months.

PETER WYNGARDE touches depths of understanding not always encountered in a musical. This is a spectacle indeed.” The Daily Express

“…PETER WYNGARDE is personal, charming and finally moving. It wouldn’t surprise me if the show announced limited run stretches on and on well into the New Year, and beyond.” The Daily Telegraph

Hardly the description of an actor whose best days were behind him!

PETER was to both direct and take the lead in his next play – Noel Coward’s ‘Present Laugher’, for which he again won high praise from notoriously hard-to-please critics, with the London Evening Standard declaring:

WYNGARDE himself bears no relation to his famous Jason King, with the possible exception of his immaculate wardrobe. Instead he produces some masterful touches sometimes by a word, an action, or as in one possible case, an expression.”

Whilst Plays and Players exclaimed: PETER WYNGARDE, who directed as well as starred, added to his reputation for professionalism with his deft handling of the play. He proved in this particular work to be the complete actor, using it as a vehicle to manoever with dazzling carioation of pace. His own playing of the flamboyant lead was a first-class modernisation of itself. Not only had he adapted it to the style of Jason King, who had, of course, given him the kind of following such as Garry Essendine would lividly envy, but enough individuality and magnetism of his own…”

Success followed success, as the one-time king of television proved that he could also be the sovereign of the box office.“You could’ve heard a pin drop as WYNGARDE moved menacingly down centre stage and then in powerful ascended tones introduced himself with a click of his heels and courtly bow,” one journalist wrote of PETER’s portrayal of Count Dracula in 1974.

“In luxurious, floor-length, rich black velvet cloak, Mr WYNGARDE looked as if he’d stepped straight out of the pages of Romanian history, for instead of the usual swept-back hair from a ‘widow’s peak’ on the forehead, this Dracula had lustrous black, shoulder length hair and a drooping black moustache, but there was no denying PETER WYNGARDE’s powerful presence in the role.

“Occasionally, the dialogue managed to laugh at itself as in Dracula’s comment about Transylvanian wine not travelling well, but more often than not, it was just background noise between the marvellous effects which were designed by PETER himself. He even spoke his great climatic oration as though it didn’t matter, and it didn’t. His stage presence itself was simply awe-inspiring”.

PW004The reader of this article would do well to remember that, even into the 1980’s, television was still considered by many thespians to be the poor relation of the acting profession. Any member of Actor’s Equity who hadn’t first cut his or her teeth in Repertory Theatre, or made their name treading the boards, would’ve been frowned upon by his peers. So whilst the average ‘Couch Potato’ might well have believed that PETER had been packaged up and stuck at the back of the wardrobe when ‘Jason King’ drew to an end in 1973, in reality, he was earning the respect and admiration of ‘The Gods’ in front of sold out houses countrywide.

Certainly, he was held in enough esteem by the producers of a new adaptation of J.B. Priestley’s ‘Time and the Conways’ to be invited to direct the play at The Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in December, 1975. The production, which featured Dulcie Gray, Christopher Cazenove and Anthony Andrews, was a huge success, and lead PETER to be invited to both act and direct at the highly respected English Theatre in Vienna in 1977.

Whilst in Austria, he was asked by a newspaper journalist why he hadn’t returned to TV after ‘Jason King’, to which he reiterated that his first love was, and always had been, the theatre: “Unless you do what you want,“ he said, “you please no one – neither yourself nor your audience. Compromise; taking parts you don’t like, builds up a kind of self-loathing, and that’s the most destructive thing in an actor”.

Over two tremendously successful seasons, PETER starred as George Bernard Shaw in ‘Dear Liar’, opposite the Theatre’s founder, Ruth Brinkmann (the play was brought back in September of 1977 due to the huge demand for tickets); as Richie Bosanquet in the European premier of ‘Big Toys’, and as Shylock in his own production of ‘The Merchant of Venice’.

Of his performance in ‘Dear Liar’, one critic wrote: WYNGARDE’s sharply etched performance was a triumph of acting, employing a Cheshire Cat grin and a look of self-satisfaction when tossing off a bon not – of which ‘Dear Liar’ has many’.

The British national tours of ‘Anastasia’ and ‘The Merchant of Venice’ that followed made a big enough impact for the world-renowned theatre producer, Pierter Toerien, to cast PETER in Ira Levin’s ‘Deathtrap’ at the Baxter Theatre in Cape Town. The play broke all box office records there during its run, and the season was extended by 12 weeks.

The 1970’s proved to be the busiest decade of PETER’s career, during which time he was never out of work. In addition to the productions in which he performed, produced and directed, he was offered innumerable other opportunities which he was forced to turn down due to his being otherwise engaged [1].

The early 1980’s brought him a new challenge when he was cast as General Klytus in Mike Hodge’s sci-fi blockbuster, ‘Flash Gordon’. Although his face was hidden by a mask throughout the film, and without the benefit of facial expressions, it was generally agreed by critics and fans alike that PETER stole the show.

“Regardless of whether you’re a fan of science-fiction or not, those who delight in studying the diverse acting talents of Mr PETER WYNGARDE and his multi-faceted performances must agree that he did a marvellous job in creating the malevolent, sadistic, and incredibly evil Klytus without the benefit of facial expressions. His totally chilling inflection and faultless performance in this most challenging of roles is yet another shining example of WYNGARDE’S tremendous acting ability.” Empire magazine.

The film brought PETER a whole legion of new fans – especially in the United States where, until then, he’d been relatively unknown. Interestingly, fans based in America now count for a large percentage of the visitors to this website, and PETER’s earlier films are now regularly shown at events throughout the States.

In spite of a concerted effort by British devotees to get PETER back on television here in the UK, he insisted on putting theatre at the forefront of his career – accepting roles in ‘Underground’ opposite Raymond Burr, and in ‘Light Up The Sky’ with the late Kate O’Mara.

When he did decide to return to the small screen, it was in a four-part ‘Doctor Who’ story, ‘Planet of Fire’. Curiously, in his recently published autobiography, ‘Is There Life Outside The Box’ Peter Davidson demonstrated his own ignorance by claiming that PETER had done little work in the years leading up to his portrayal of Chief Elder, Timanov.

The former ‘All Creatures Great and Small’ performer claimed that, once cast in the role oPW002f Timanov, PETER’s agent contacted director, Fiona Cumming, to inform her that his client wished to play the character as an “old man”. Davidson upholds that, at the time both he and Cummings’ agreed that he WAS and old man! In actual fact, PETER was not yet 50 when the episode(s) was filmed on Lanzerote. Not exactly what you’d describe as archaic. Interestingly, Ms Cummings’ was, herself, only three years younger at 46!

You’d think that someone like Davidson would appreciate that television isn’t the be-all and end-all to an actor. Regrettably, like the indolent hacks discussed earlier in the piece, Davidson seemed more interested in settling old scores than publishing the facts. In the end, however, he succeeded only in making himself appear like a peevish schoolboy, and ridiculous to boot!

And herein lies the rub. Whilst PETER worked consistently throughout the Seventies, Eighties and well into the Nineties; producing some of his best, and most critically-acclaimed work, there are still those who’re either too idle or too malicious to publish the truth.

When wannabe hack and hearse-chaser Gavin Stewart-Gaughan, suggested that, in years to come, PETER WYNGARDE would only be remembered for his part in ‘Flash Gordon’, the following passage by Theodore Roosevelt immediately came to mind:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat”.

Enough said.


[1]. Between June 1976 and December, 1978, for example, PETER was offered the following projects which he was unable to accept due to his being otherwise committed:

Film

‘Funny Eunice’

Theatre

‘Veronica’s Room’ by Ira Levin: Produced by Bill Kenwright and directed by Donald McKechnie. Starring Honor Blackman and Anouska Hemple.

‘Knickerbocker Holiday’ by Kurt Weill. PETER was offered the part of Pieter Styvesant.

‘Boy’. Stage play. With Morten Gottlieb (‘Sleuth’, ‘Same Time Next Year’, ‘Romantic Comedy).

‘Trials of Oscar Wild’

‘Wild Honey’

‘Noises Off’

‘Motive’

‘Gingerbread Lady’

‘No Room For Sex’

‘Half Life’

‘The Life of Galileo’

‘The Trigon’

‘Look After Lulu’

‘Utopia’

‘Fringe Benefits’

‘I Want To Be A Father, Madam’

‘Patience On A Monument’

‘The Fratricides’

‘There’s Always A Story’

‘Vlad’

Television

‘The Human Jungle’

‘Spellbinder Pilot’



The Hellfire Club: The OFFICIAL PETER WYNGARDE Appreciation Society: https://www.facebook.com/groups/813997125389790/