JASON KING BIOGRAPHY

Written by Mr P.P. Wyngarde and T. Bate

BIOG1

Only one aspect of the colourful, amusing and romantic crime-novelist-investigator, Jason king, was empathised in Department S. Jason came into the stories when called upon to help solve baffling crimes for INTERPOL. Seen more briefly was the other aspect of him – the successful writer with the world at his fingertips.

Tumbling headlong into adventure, whether he sought it or not, Jason was lured into danger by those who thought they could make use of him. He jet-propelled himself into situations because of his insatiable curiosity, and was tricked into all sorts of trouble because of his reputation.

Accompanied throughout his adventures by some of the world’s most intriguing characters, and seeking inspiration for his best-selling Mark Caine novels, Jason’s enquiring mind led him into everything from international intrigue to local revolutions. From tense drama to comedy-filled situations. From dire peril to the welcoming arms of a beautiful girl. This is HIS story…

Jason King was born on 25th December, 1941, in Darjeeling, India; the only son of Robert James King – President of the KingSteel International Engineering Corporation and his wife, the Countess Theresa de Jouvert. His family line can be traced back to the 11th century, since his mother was not only a direct descendent of Louis XIV of France, but his father’s connections produced not one, but two, American presidents this century.

As a young child, Jason showed none of the creative flair for the pen that he would later in life. In fact, his talents appeared to lie in the field of music, and by the age of 7, he was already proficient with the violin and had reached Grade 5 at the piano. In spite of being hailed as something of a child protégé by his tutor, Jason abandoned the keyboard at the age of 11 when he left the musical arena for the fields of Eton.

Having excelled at both rugby and boxing at his new school Jason, unfortunately, began to attract the wrong kind of attention from his schoolmasters, and was expelled for ‘unruly behaviour’ at the end of his third term. After spending the summer holidays at his mother’s ancestral home in the South of France, Jason was sent to live with his maiden aunt in Vevey, Switzerland, where he completed his education.

Dismissing his parents’ wishes for him to return to England to study law at Cambridge University, Jason took up a position with a national newspaper as a freelance journalist, but after becoming increasingly restless with the restrictions that bound him, he handed in his resignation and went to join a couple of old college chums in Morocco. It was there that he found himself on the wrong side of the law for the first time in his life when, after some high-jinx following a 24-hour drinking binge, he managed to get himself arrested for gun-running and gold-smuggling!

Fortunately for Jason, his father’s intervention succeeded in convincing the Morroccan authorities that the accusation against his wayward son were unfounded, and after a brief return to England Mr King senior, through his connections in the Colonies, insisted that Jason take a position with the Hong Kong Police Department as a Forensic Adviser.

In the summer of 1963, whilst dining out one evening at the Hong Kong Hilton with family friend and colleague, Alan Keeble, Jason was introduced to the English actress, Marion West who, at the time, was on location in the City. There was an instant attraction between the two – much to the dismay of Keeble, who was himself in love with the beautiful Ms West (although his feelings had never been reciprocated). One week later, on June 21st, the couple were married at a small church in Chelsea, west London, with Keeble acting as Jason’s Best Man.

After seeing out his obligations of his three-year contract with the Hong Kong police, during which time he’d become fluent in Chinese, Russian and Italian, Jason and his wife returned to London, where Marion resumed her career in the West End, and Jason began to realise his talent for writing short stories, many of which were published.

In October of 1966, Marion left London for the United States to star in a new Harold Pinter play in New York, whilst he husband, who was at last making a name for himself as a writer, remained in London to work on his second novel, ‘From China, Yours Sincerely’.

Having played to sell-out audiences every night on Broadway for two months, Marion was looking forward to returning home to London where she was to tell Jason that she was expecting their first child. On arriving at Kennedy Airport on the morning of December 23rd, Marion was to learn that her flight had been diverted to Chicago. She immediately called Jason and told him not to expect her home until later that evening. It was to be the last time that he would ever speak to his beautiful young wife, as the plane on which she was travelling crashed just five minutes after taking off in dense fog with the loss of 326 passengers and crew.

After Marion’s untimely death, the grieving author threw himself wholeheartedly into his work, and following on from the success of ‘From China, Most Sincerely’, Jason penned what is arguably his most famous novel, ‘Index Finger, Left Hand’, which remained on the International Best Sellers List for more than five years.

BIOG2

In May of 1968, at the personal recommendation of the Home Secretary himself, Jason was approached by Sir Curtis Seretse – head of the newly formed Department S; an off-shoot of INTERPOL, to assist in solving a most baffling crime which had been perpetrated in the heart of London. Having enjoyed his work with the Department a great deal, Jason was asked to lend his services on a more regular basis, and so he teamed up with two other agents – Annabelle Hurst and American, Stewart Sullivan. Together, they helped to solve some of the world’s most intriguing crimes.

In 1971, after sustaining a gunshot wound to his left leg during a mission in Spain, Jason decided it was time to leave Department S to concentrate on his writing, and found some solace at his new homes in Paris and Geneva. In July of that year, he was awarded the prestigious ‘Enzio Prize for Literature’, which was presented to him in Zurich. Thanks to the huge sales of his Mark Caine novels which, at that time had topped over 136 million, Jason King was hailed as the most popular novelist in the word.

Fame and fortune proved to have it drawbacks, however, as Jason suddenly found himself catapulted into the Super Tax bracket back home in Britain, so for the second time in his life he found himself on the wrong side of the law, after a much-publicised altercation with Her Majesties Inspector of Taxes. It resulted in the scribe exiling himself to Paris on a permanent basis.

Whilst the Inland Revenue laid siege to Jason’s bruised and battered bank account, his accountants worked tirelessly in an attempt to stem the flow of his fortune into the Treasury coffers. To this end, Jason was instructed to take on a number of staff – which, at his own insistence, consisted of women mainly under the age of 25, to run his business affairs. It was also suggested that he invest much of his cash in off-shore concerns, which included a hotel and leisure complex in the Bahamas, and a country residence in Surrey, which he claimed was run by his maiden aunt, Ms Claire Devlin… aged 21!

Jason’s plans to live a life of relaxation following his departure from Department S was, regrettably, short lived, as his reputation as a playboy-adventurer frequently preceded him. From Venice to Berlin, Moscow to Bangkok – wherever Jason went, trouble was sure to follow.

In 1972, he met and fell in love with a young French woman by the name of Toki who, at that moment in time, was involved with the notorious gangster, Jean le Grand. Jason’s own involvement with Toki was his first serious relationship since the death of his wife some eight years earlier, and in spite of Toki’s concerns for his safety, Jason insisted that they continue their affair. Over the course of several months, Toki would meet with Jason whenever she could free herself from le Grand’s clutches, but when it became apparent that the girl herself was now in danger, Jason reluctantly sent her away to what he believed was a safe haven at a chateau he rented in Neice. Two weeks after giving birth to a son, Robert Jason, Toki was found murdered at the rustic hideaway and the child, unbeknown to Jason, was taken and raised by Toki’s elder sister at her home in Nemes.

Devastated by Toki’s death, Jason returned from his jet-setting lifestyle and became a total recluse, living and working at a monastic retreat in the mountains of Tibet. In 1996, he returned to London, where it was suggested that he might once again take up a position with INTERPOL – purely in an advisory capacity.

It has also recently been reported that a 45-year old Frenchman had succeeded in tracing Jason to his country retreat in Surrey, and upon their meeting presented himself as the author’s son, Robert. Although initially Jason’s vanity would not allow him to believe that he could possibly have a son of 45, Robert’s incredible charm, devastating good-looks and rapier wit soon convinced Jason that no-one else could possibly be his father.

JASON KING PERSONAL FILE

JasonKing

Name: Jason King

Date of Birth: 25th December, 1941

Place of Birth: Darjeeling, India.

Mother: Countess Theresa de Jouvert

Father: Robert James King, OBE

Siblings: None

Marital Status: Widower

Colour of Eyes: Blue

Colour of Hair: Dark brown

Height: 6 feet

Weight: 161 pounds (11.5 stones)

Homes: Luxury apartments in London, Geneva and Paris. Farmhouse in Surrey, England.

Achievements: Second place in the 169 Le Mans Grand Prix. Won the Enzio Prize for Literature, 1971.

Skills: Black belt in Judo and Karate. Proficient in the use of firearms.

Cars: Two Bentley Continentals.

Vices: Beautiful women, Sobranie cigarettes, Balenciga aftershave, Stornaway Scotch Whiskey, strawberries and vintage Champagne.

Languages Spoken: English, French, Russian, Chinese and Italian 


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

 

 

 

REVIEW: Television World Theatre: ‘The Light Is Dark Enough’

 

  • Broadcast: Sunday, 26 January, 1958

Character: Richard Gettner

 GETTNER

⇑ PETER as Richard Gettner, with Dame Edith Evans as Countess Rosmarin and Barbara Everest as Bella

‘The Dark is Light Enough’ is a 1954 play by Christopher Fry, that was written especially for Dame Edith Evans and which is set during the Hungarian Revolution of 1848. The drama, which Fry himself called ‘The Winter Play’, is set in an Austrian country house in the winter of that year, and mostly concerns the impact the rebellion has on the inhabitants and visitors of the house.

Foremost of them is the Countess Rosmarin Ostenburg (Edith Evan); a distinguished lady of wit, independence, compassion and honesty. At the bottom of the heap is the shrewd and cunning rascal, Richard Gettner (PETER WYNGARDE), who has no integrity at all. Apart from several other well-drawn people, representing either amusing worldliness or earnest convictions, the play concentrates on the ordeals of the Countess’ conscience: She’s above any petty hostilities and bitterness and, overflowing with forgiveness, is grievously hurt by the callousness of Gettner’s unprincipled behaviour. Through a last final act of self-sacrifice, in which she gives up her own life to save another, the Countess redeems Gettner, and some of her own strength and nobility become his.

For Director Stuart Burge’s presentation, Norman James designed some wonderful settings, which accurately depicted an Austro-Hungarian country house in the middle of the19th Century. For the play itself poet, Christopher Fry, had devised three not-so- pleasing acts, which were full of twists and turns, but containing little stimulation. At one point in the drama, a character remarks, “the language is full of yes-no and no-yes.”

Ever a lover of costume drama, the BBC saw to it that everybody was richly bedecked and PETER, as the leading man, looked particularly handsome in uniform. I am not at all clear in my mind what exactly it was that Fry was driving at with his very wordy script. Indeed, he was described by one critic as ‘sounding like warmed-over Oscar Wilde, as in “It would be easier to love you than like you.”

Anyhoo… as we already know, the Hungarians have rebelled against the Austrians, and the Countess’ home is clearly a gathering place for both sides – particularly when she has her Thursday “at-homes”. So the screen is usually filled with people, and most of those individuals stand around for the majority of the time waiting for somebody else to stop talking. This takes time, as the drama is in unrhymed verse.

When PETER is doing the speaking, the play comes alive, as he’s a striking, forceful actor with one of the best and clearest voices on both stage and screen. But even what he says might strike the audience as being indefinite, so he didn’t offer us much guidance in leading the viewers through a plot of unspeakable complication.

In spite of certain very real difficulties in the play at hand, it did seem at one point that Fry’s words were ready to stop messing about and settling down. Until then the unforeseen lyricist who gave us ‘The Lady’s Not for Burning’ and a number of even more eccentric self-satisfactions had had enormous fun with the language – teasing and tormenting it; making it laugh in a manner to which it has been unfamiliar, and sometimes hitting it out of the ball park. It was often white-knuckle, yet occasionally unruly to the point of recklessness. In “The Dark is Light Enough” it’s as if it actually belongs to the audience. As Dame Edith, playing the Austrian Countess, chooses to risk her own life and endanger her loved ones to perform an entirely uncompromising act of mercy, she speaks with a quiet self-confidence: “I am always perfectly guilty of what I do,”, then with acerbity: “People are always ready to die for what death will take away from them”, and finally with humour “Are you military by nature or misfortune”. And each of the lines belongs, not to a whimsical flight of Mr. Fry’s more wayward creation, but to the woman who’s thinking it.

Elsewhere in this histrionic verse in praise of human kindness there are further indications of the author’s beginning assignation with reality; his initial affection for aspect in addition to deftness.

Much of the second act involves an intangible, enticing, yet completely alive relationship between the good-for-nothing deserter, Richard Gettner and Bella (Barbara Everest) – the Countess’ daughter, who has loved him, lost him, and is now jeopardising her second marriage by indulging him with a kindness he does not deserve. As Gettner and Bella move clumsily, then impulsively toward each other we, as the viewer, are never sure what this persistent love is meant to signify, or where it might lead. For that instant, it seems very real; completely fleshed, and is working out its unique purpose before our eyes, and the moment means that Fry has started to see his characters in terms of their secrets rather than just their words.

And so, toward the end of the play, when the bemused viewer, whose lives have been turned upside down by seemingly pointless silences to remark that he knows a clear truth “in the still of my mind”, it’s conceivable to believe that these individuals do still have reserves, places of rest, behind their vivid and enthusiastic word-play, and this finding of depth signifies, we presume, an incredible progress for the author.

These encouraging things apart, it’s still necessary to say that some of ‘The Dark is Light Enough’ is too intangible by far: if the characters fumble with great honesty, they often do not get their hands on anything that is very final, or particularly secure. The play is almost always stopping in mid-act.

Nevertheless, it’s made all the more enjoyable by PETER in an immensely problematic role of a man who trusts that “good has rejected him” and who, immediately turns himself into the sort of boorish and thankless rogue who’d taunt even those who’ve saved him. The part is multifaceted. Richard Gettner wavers between longing for love and utterly destroying it, yet PETER thrived in doing much more than just reciting the play, line-by-line, and allowing the contrasting values fall where they may.

As the lady who adores him and unobtrusively winds her way through this intricate world, Barbara Everest as Bella is lovely to look at, and a joy to listen to. The quantity of her elegance and ability might be witnessed by the fact that her final scenes in which, dying, she expresses her compassion to make a threadbare universe bearable, are her best.

Gerald James as Kassel is excellent as a bearded and snappy member of the Countess’ circles; as is the superb John Philips (Count Peter Zichy ), and André Van Gyseghem (Belmann), who brought power and passion to his portrayal of the enormously sympathetic husband; with Joseph O’Connor as Colonel Janik, Melvyn Hayes (Willi) and Daphne Slater (Gelda), adding colour to a monochrome recording.

The production as a whole, then, was both striking and effective. The play has its own sporadic ambiguities, in which there’s not really light enough. But Fry gradually and tolerantly fleshed out those dancing skeletons.

The following is a personal letter which was sent to PETER by the actor, James Cairncross, after the broadcast of ‘The Dark is Light Enough’:

James Cairncross

C/O Vaudeville Theatre

Strand

London

W.C.2.

Wednesday, 29th January 1958

Dear Peter,

May I please offer my sincere congratulations on your really excellent performance in ‘The Dark is Light Enough’ on Sunday evening. I saw this play twice in the theatre – once at Brighton before it came into town, and on the first night at the Aldwych – and while I love and admire Dame Edith more than any other actress, and thought hers an incomparable performance, I was so baffled on both occasions by the rest of the play that I simply couldn’t enjoy it as much as I wanted to. My clearer understanding of the piece on TV was largely due to your performance, and to Daphne Slater’s, and I am very grateful to you both.

Come to think of it, you seem to have got TV acting pretty well buttoned up all round, and that is no mean feat, for it’s a ghastly medium is it not.

With all good wishes,

Yours Sincerely.

James Cairncross


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

 

REVIEW: I, Spy – ‘Let’s Kill Karlovassi’

  • Broadcast: September 11th, 1967

Character: George

‘I, Spy’ was a US television series which ran for three seasons and a total of 56 episodes.

This ground-breaking series (it was the first to feature a black actor in a lead role), ran between 1965 and 1968, and followed the adventures of American intelligence agents, Kelly Robinson (Robert Culp) and Alexander Scott (Bill Cosby), who would travel the world under the guise of semi-pro tennis players; Robinson masquerading the amateur player a with Scott as his coach.

With its exotic locations, some have suggested that the show was a bid to rival the James Bond films, but whilst that might be stretching things a tad, it was unique in that it was actually filmed on location in places extending from Venice to Tokyo; Athens to Morocco.

The series was never broadcast in the UK.

The Story

The story opens on the Greek island of Hydra where, in the harbour, a group of tourists are coming ashore from a ferry.GEORGE-4

Among the assembled sightseers emerges Alexander Scott and Kelly Robinson, who stand out from the others who are disembarking from the boat – not only for their attire, but because their business is something other than relaxation. Their mission, it transpires, is to find and kill Dennis Karlovassi (Walter Slezak) who, they’ve been informed, is the head of spy ring on the island.

It’s in this opening scene that we get our first glimpse of George (PETER WYNGARDE), who arrives at the harbour with his elderly father and their horse and trap to collect the two American’s from the ferry. It’s here that Robinson and Scott meet Marie Galoney (Ruth Roman) – their contact on the island.

The two men are whisked backed to Ms Galoney’s villa, where she’s entertaining a gathering of friends in the garden. She identifies a suspected Communist agent amongst her guests, and tells the duo that five such agents who’d arrived on Hydra over recent months had disappeared – all after meeting with Karlovassi. It’s believed that each of them had been smuggled off the island to Cyprus where they were being instructed to become members of a paramilitary unit.

“George would do anything for me. Anything! Wouldn’t you, George?”

GEORGE-1It emerges that Marie has another reason to want Karlovassi dead. George, an employee of hers, is the Agent’s second in command. He also happens to be completely besotted with her, and in a peculiar demonstration of his devotion, Maria instructs him to cut off his moustache, which in spite of some half-hearted protestations, he inevitably obeys. She believes, therefore, that if Karlovassi is eliminated, George would be made head of the unit, thereby making her party to all the intrigue and surreptitious goings on in the region.

It should be pointed out at this juncture that Robinson and Scott are not assassins by trade, and so they attempt to devise a way of seeing off Karlovassi without killing him face-to-face. Their first endeavor involves them planting an incendiary device on the Spy’s fishing boat, but as they do so, they’re knocked out by an assailant welding a wrench.

When finally they regain consciousness, the two find themselves at Karlovassi’s villa, where they quickly realise that the overweight, middle-aged man is not quite the heartless villain they’d been lead to believe. In fact, he’s just another struggling Greek fisherman who’s trying to support his wife and daughter. It also becomes clear that his spying for the Communists is common knowledge on the island and that he’s really only in the game to make a little extra money. Of course, now that Robinson and Scott know that he’s actually quite a decent sort of chap, their assignment suddenly become eminently more difficult to carry out.

On a second visit to Karlovassi’s home the following day, the two American’s witness an attack on the family, which results in the inhabitants coming under heavy automatic gunfire and the villa being destroyed by explosives. Yet in spite of a determined counter by Scott and his partner, the two are captured and taken back to Maria’s house by one of the assailants.

Ms Galoney is shocked when she learns that the attack, which was carried out under her instructions, had gone ahead in spite of Karlovassi’s wife and daughter being inside the house. Scott and Robinson reveal that the Communist agents that’d arrivied on Hydra had not been taken to Cyprus as first thought, but were deposited on deserted island a few miles from Hydra where, thereafter, Karlovassi would deliver supplies to them twice a week.

Maria and the two American’s insist upon Karlovassi takes them to the island to see for themselves. George drives the three of them down to the harbour and, giving the impression that he’ll be staying behind, allows them to get aboard the fishing boat.

Once onboard, Maria and the two men are astonished to find Karlovassi’s wife and daughter below decks. Whilst the trio are held at gunpoint by the wife, her husband shows them the body of the Communist who’d attended Maria’s party a few days earlier.

It’s at this point that George makes his entrance, and is instructed by his superior to tie the three captives up. Karlovassi finally reveals his true purpose; he is, in fact, much more important than he’d lead the two American’s to believe. He tells them that he’s in line promotion, and will soon be taking up a new position in Prague.

“What would you rather be, George – head of a silly little spy ring, or my husband?”

GEORGE-2Once George is left in charge of holding the prisoners, Maria tries to encourage him to freeing them by promising to marry him. All three of the captives believe that her plan has worked when the young man produces a flick-knife from his trouser pocket, and appears as if he’s ready to cut the ropes binding their hands and feet. Their expectations are quickly dashed, however, when all he does is hack a lock of Maria’s hair, and departs with a promise that he’ll think about her proposal.

When they finally arrive at the island, George, Karlovassi, Maria and both Scott and Robinson disembark, leaving the wife and daughter onboard the boat. The Spy says that he has plans for the two men, and so he instructs George to wait until they’ve left and then he’s to dispense with Maria. Robinson attempts to delay the action by putting doubt into Karlovassi’s mind about George’s ability to carry out orders. It’s enough for him to insist that George shoot the woman immediately.

However, before he’s willing to follow his superiors instructions, the young man solemnly asks Maria if she meant what she’d said on the boat; that she’d marry him. “No, George”, she replies quietly. “I want to live, but I lied”

In spite of his disillusionment at Maria’s cruel invention, when Karlovassi presses for his subordinate to carry out his order, George turns the gun on the rotund little man, sending the Spy charging back in the direction of the boat.

It’s now that gunshots are heard from the direction of the vessel, which is moored several meter’s off-shore. It can only be Karlovassi’s wife and daughter. Whilst Scott and Robinson take cover amidst the rocky terrain, George saunters indifferently in Maria’s direction, and is hit in the back with a stray bullet.

As the two American’s watch Karlovassi’s boat sail away, they turn to see Maria lovingly tending to George’s wound. Perhaps there was hope for him yet…?!

Thoughts and Observations

GEORGE-3This is quite an unusual role for PETER, as he plays a character that’s difficult to fathom even right up to the end of the episode. Perhaps it’s seeing him portray a man who’s subordinate to a woman, given that the majority of his guest-star roles have been the strong, misogynistic types.

Nevertheless, he succeeded in creating a very likable individual in George who, although seemingly insignificant within the scheme of the story, is actually the pivotal character. If it hadn’t been for his devotion to Maria, which Kelly Robinson uses to plant a seed of doubt into Karlovassi’s mind, all three of the prisoners would’ve met their end.

This was the last of a trio of appearances that PETER made on American television in the mid-to-late 60’s; the others being ‘The Further Adventures of Gallagher’ (1965) and ‘Lucy in London’ (1966).

It’s interesting to note that Bill Cosby won an Emmy for his part in this episode, in spite of PETER stealing the show, as always!  

  1. It was curious that most of the characters in the episode were given very unGreco-like names – i.e. George, Dennis, Flora etc.
  2. The director managed to find a way of getting PETER to remove his shirt.

During filming on location on Hydra, a yacht was moored off the islands where the cast and crew lived for the duration of the shoot.

On the first evening aboard, PETER had gone out on deck to take in the sea air and, leaning on the guardrail, he heard someone quietly approaching him.

He turned to find his fellow guest-star, Ruth Roman who, until then, he’d never met before. He was just about to introduce himself when the actress stopped him in his tracks by inquiring extremely directly: “Are you circumcised?”

“I mean – what do you say to that?!” he asks, with an astonished look on his face. “I was absolutely speechless! I must’ve just stood there – my jaw on the deck, for several seconds. I finally responded with: ‘Well… as a matter of fact… I’m not!

“Without a flicker of ignominy, she replied: ’What a shame. I like my men to have been trimmed!’ And with that, she turned on her heel and walked off”. 


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

 

REVIEW: Sword of Freedom – ‘The Sicilian’

  • Episode: The Sicilian
  • Broadcast: April 21st, 1958

Character: Colonna

Produced by Sapphire Films for ITC, and recorded at Alliance Studios in Twickenham, England, ‘Sword of Freedom’ ran for three series (39 x 30-minute episodes), which were broadcast from 1958 to 1960. It was set in Renaissance Florence, and followed the SWORDswashbuckling adventures of artist, Marco del Monte (Edward Purdom), and his friends Sandro, played by Rowland Bartrop, and Adrienne Corri as Angelica. The villains of the piece included semi-regulars, Derek Sydney as Captain Rodrigo and Martin Benson as the evil Duke de Medici.  The series tells the story of the trio of freedom-fighters and their campaign against the ruling Medici’s and Machiavelli’s.

⇑ PETER as Colonna with Adrienne Corri as Angelica

The Story

When Sicilian, Colonna (PETER WYNGARDE) arrives at the gates of Florence, he does so with one object: to relieve as many people of the great City of their money. The young man, we soon learn, is a hustler and confidence trickster who, armed with a marked deck of cards, seeks out a suitable dupe to scam.

A suitable mug soon appears in the form of Sandro, who has been entrusted with money raised by a group of freedom-fighters to print protest literature denouncing the ruling de Medici family. Colonna immediately homes in on the tipsy chump, and professes to know nothing about gambling for which the City of Florence is so renowned. Inviting the young stranger to join him at Niccolo – his favourite watering hole, the trusting Sandro doesn’t see that Colonna has switched the house cards for his own deck.

After just a few hands, Sandro’s friends and fellow member of the Republican Campaign, Angelica and Marco del Monte, arrive just in time to see the hapless stooge play his last coin. When reality finally bites, the brawny Sandro is too shamefaced to face his comrades, and leaves the inn under a cloud. Meanwhile Colonna, believing that no one is watching, switches the cards again – leaving the ‘good’ deck on the table. However, unbeknown to him, del Monte has spotted his deception, and instructs Angelica to use her feminine wiles to get the cards from the Stranger “by any means” she can. In the meantime, he follows Sandro outside.

Sandro, it transpires, has decided to throw himself into the River Arno. Marco leaves just in time to see his friend leap into the murky waters below, where he’s forced to follow and drag him safely to the bank.vlcsnap-2016-12-27-10h48m12s222_zpsp79vciir

When ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Sebastiano (Basil Dignham) – another member of the rebel gang, learns of Sandro’s stupidity, del Monte pledges to recover the coins on his thoughtless friend’s behalf, and immediately sets about devising a plan.

The dice-makers of Florence are renowned across Europe for the great pride they take in their workmanship and honesty, so it’s no easy task for Marco to find one who’s willing to sell him a weighted set. The Craftsman tells Marco that he’s only willing help if he promises to destroy the dice the moment they’re no longer needed, to which he agrees. The next thing on the agenda is to find Colonna and to earn his trust.

Marco and Angelica manage to track down the cunning rogue, who is just about the leave the City. After first threatening to report him to the authorities – the punishment for cheating at cards being hanging or strangulation, they then make him an offer; to join them in a scam of their own. In view of the alternative, the Sicillian gladly agrees. Del Monte tells Colonna that a meeting of the city’s bankers and merchants is planned to take place at Niccola’s that evening, where the three of them could make a fortune at their expense. 

Later that evening at the inn, del Marco produces the modified dice he’d acquired earlier in the day, and challenges Colonna to a game of chance whilst they wait for the wealthy personages to arrive. He offers he young man the bagged and sealed dice to inspect, and once he’s happy with them, the game begins.

Colonna, however, is entirely bemused can’t by how his luck has changed, when Marco repeatedly throws one double-six after another. Nevertheless, he continues to lay his bet in the hope that his fortunes will improve. They don’t, and soon he’s lost every Florin he’d taken from Sandro.

In a fit of rage, Colonna accuses del Monte of cheating, but the artist is unrepentant – saying that he’s only taken back the money that Sandro had been tricked out of. The coins are immediately returned to Sebastiano, who plans to use it to print a batch of anti-de Medici pamphlets.SWORD-2

Of course, Colonna isn’t the type of man to let del Monte and his group get away with ‘his’ money, and so he follows Marco, Angelica and Sebastiano back to the artist’s studio on the banks of the river. Once alone Colonna – dagger drawn, confronts del Marco, and the two men contest a deadly fight, until the Sicilian card shark is inevitably disarmed and plunges to his death in the river below.

Afterthoughts

As always PETER steals the episode from what is otherwise a lacklustre and mediocre cast.

It was interesting to see that he was wearing the same (red) jacket as Colonna as he did in the ‘Lucy in London’ segment during which he played Petruchio to Lucille Ball’s Kate. He also looked rather strange with one earring in his left ear.

The episode was unremarkable, yet enjoyable. It was clear from the opening scenes that crafty scoundrel would, inevitably, be beaten at his own game by the lantern-jawed hero, Robert Purdom. But, who cares! The pleasure of seeing a very young PETER in tights was worth purchasing the ‘Sword of Freedom’ DVD set for on its own.


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

WHEN SEX LEERS ITS INQUISITIVE HEAD

A look at the re-issue of PETER’s (in)famous self-titled album on CD

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For four years fans waited with baited breath whilst one record company after another did battle over the reissue of PETER’s album on CD. Then, in 1998, Sheffield based R.P.M. finally came up with the goods under the title, ‘When Sex Leers Its Inquisitive Head’, which came complete with a re-designed sleeve and re-mastered sound.

R.P.M. were renowned as a company who liked to pitch a curved ball. Sometimes it was the restoration of a long lost classic, such as ‘The Teenage Opera’; occasionally it was a barely musical but kitsch experience along the lines of the 1970 ‘England World Cup Album’; or it could be a real slice of classic pop culture like the fabulous ‘Jamie Jones Singles Collection’. So it shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise the R.P.M. has again took one of pop’s more bizarre offerings – PETER’s one and only recording venture, and album steeped in myth and controversy.

RCA, who issued the original album, gave total artistic control to PETER, the Valverde Brothers and producer, Vic Smith. The result ended up being an album that was banned by the BBC due in large part to the “Rape” cut that seems to make light of the act.

“Well, I did promise at the beginning of the album a pleasant evening… with a few surprises!” PETER says with a grin. “The song was never meant to be about physical rape. People take things so literally these days and ignore the humour in it. I’m not saying that rape is meant to be taken light-heartedly. My album was meant to be a bit of fun, that’s all!”

It’s been suggested by some misinformed journalists that the album was withdrawn within a week of its release. THIS IS NOT TRUE. In fact, it completely sold out in just 3 days, resulting in PETER becoming one of RCA’s most successful acts ever (second only the Elvis Presley) based on initial album sales.

“It sold out in next to no time,” PETER explains, with a sardonic smile. “But RCA point-blankly refused to press any more. I was fuming, as I’d been given a three-album contract with the company, who promised to release one LP every 12 months. The excuse was that production was being moved from Middlesex, I think, to Hollywood in Gloucestershire. They told me that everything would have to go on the backburner, but I just believe that they got cold feet”.

In spite of this, and due to the divisive nature of the album, the decision was made to make no further pressings. Since its original release, the album has achieved a legendary status over the years, with some copies of the album fetching as much as £400+ on the collector’s market.

When, in the 1990’s, it was decided that the time was ripe to re-issue the record, the various labels found to their dismay that it’d become mired in contractual complications, so R.P.M. alone certainly couldn’t have found the resources to free it up. Indeed, the title was scheduled to appear on Creation’s re-issue label, Rev-Ola in 1997, until the powers that be at the label (in the form of CEO, Alan McGhee) said “No way!”, and R.P.M. were able to offer it a more suitable home.

PETER’s masterful portrayal as Jason King, the TV sleuth masquerading as a crime-fighting shag-monster, was so rooted in its rakish era that a revival seemed as likely as the return of the classic Bentley Continental he drove.

The character of Jason King, who was first created for ITC’s ‘Department S’ series back in 1969, epitomised “easy” culture; a decorative hirsute look comprising of sideburns, moustache, and a matching collar-and-tie of raw silk, and suits that made heads turn right around.

For women, most of whom were still chained to the kitchen sink, Jason King was the Romeo who’d come to liberate them from suburban domesticity. All of which makes PETER’s vinyl love-letter, even more bizarre.

A collection of contemporary standards it is not. The album includes songs which explode into rages of male sexuality, crouching in an aesthetic abandon that set off the alarm bells even in those permissive climes. Labels had long been sniffing around, hoping to get PETER into the studio.

“I’d known the Valverde Brothers for a while, and had written some lyrics for them which they used on tour. They’d been on at me for years to collaborate with them, but I hadn’t really taken it seriously. When RCA came up with an offer, they told me I could do whatever I liked – that’s what really appealed to me. I saw the record as an entertainment in its own right; to be enjoyed tongue-in-cheek.

“I think they (RCA) expected eight or nine Sinatra cover-versions, but we wanted to do something new. The album’s success really took them by surprise. They were mired in a scenario similar to ‘The Producers’, were the only really successful act they had on their books at the time was Elvis Presley, and the plan was that my record would go down as a tax loss. It rocked them on their heels when the opposite happened and it became a tax gain!

The central idea was to string the songs together into one long suite and none were more interesting than the opening trio of ‘Come In’, ‘You Wonder How These Things Begin’ and ‘Rape’. Truly the album’s centre-piece, it’s this suit which has given the album such cult notoriety that collectors will happily shell out £400+ for an original copy. PETER defends the piece on which his musical infamy is based:

“Is it politically incorrect? I’ve really no idea. It’s about all kinds of rape. There’s so much rape going on; rape within bureaucracy, rape at so many government levels, rape of countries. You know, even attempting to explain it totally defeats its purpose.”

680d0b075f4dd6153e4b71ff2576dbedThe records’ outrageousness often overwhelms what would still be one of the most curious episodes in popular music. The listener is unlikely to forget ‘The Hippy and the Skinhead’, in which PETER reads out a letter written to The Times by two Home Counties Skinhead girls, or the tale of ‘Billy the Queer, Pilly Sexy Hippy’, sung over an incongruous Nashville backing. And there’s even something for discerning lovers of the late Sixties British rock as he takes on The Attack’s ‘Neville Thumbcatch’, which was written by Vic Smith.

Until the release of ‘When Sex Leers Its Inquisitive Head’ the ‘PETER WYNGARDE’ album had largely been circulated on enthusiastically-copied cassettes. That was because of how quickly RCA snuffed it out. Over 45 years later, perhaps the rest of the world has finally caught up with PETER’s postmodernist bent. And as with all R.P.M.’s releases, this reissue had been specially crafted. Careful sound restoration has been couple with another of their large fold-out inlays, covered in pictures and notes, which PETER penned as if written by Jason King for the original sleeve, are all included in full.

Catalogue No.: RPM 187

HOW IT NEARLY DIDN’T HAPPEN (As reported in the Hellfire Club quarterly magazine):

Winter 1994: Rumour has it that Creation Records are planning to re-release PETER’s wonderful self-titled album on compact disc in the near future, via their Rev-Ola label.

Summer 1995: Creation Records tell us that the reason for the delay in releasing PETER’s self-titled album on CD as hoped, is down to their inability to track down his original contract with EMI.

Winter 1996: Following Creation’s failed attempt to re-issue PETER’s self-titled album on CD back in 1994, Island Records are now showing a keen interest in putting the recording back on the market.

At the time of writing, Island’s Bernard McMahon is having discussions with PETER regarding the missing part of his original contract with RCA which, as many of you may remember reading in earlier issues of this magazine, was one of the reasons behind Creation’s failure to re-issue the album originally

Spring 1997: After what has seemed like an eternity in the making, Creation Records have finally named the day for the release of PETER’s album on CD as Monday, 12th May, 1997.

At the time of going to print, Creation were negotiating with PETER in regard to his taking part in a signing session at one of London’s leading record stores, but as yet, nothing has been confirmed.

Summer 1997. After almost five years of battling it out with EMI for the right to re-issue PETER’s album on CD, London-based Creation Records have decided NOT to release the LP after all!

Although Creation have not as yet bothered to let us in on the ‘official’ reason behind their suddenly getting cold feet, their reasoning appears to be based on a press leak which suggested that many newspapers and magazines might slate the album because they felt that the track, ‘Rape’, might now be considered “politically incorrect’.

As a result of Creation’s decision, a number of interviews between PETER and various music-related publications – including Melody Maker, had to be cancelled during the latter part of April.

Winter 1997: According to a letter that I received on Friday, October 25th, (1997) Creation Records appear to have had a change of heart concerning the re-issue of PETER’s LP on CD. This appears to have a lot to do with the fact that they’ve finally secured the licence to “immediately” release the recording – pipping RCA themselves to the post.

However, in spite of an initial invitation to all members of the Hellfire Club to attend the launch party in London prior to release, I am yet to receive confirmation of a date, time or venue.

Spring 1998: Having recently released the highly successful collection of recordings from the BBC archives, which included Sandie Shaw’s ‘Live in the 80’s’, and Ian Gillan’s ‘The BBC Sessions’, R.P.M Records have indicated that they may now be interested in taking over where Creation/Rev-Ola left off last year, and re-issue PETER’s album on CD.

Although nothing has as yet been confirmed, rumours are circulating that there could be a “late Spring” release.

Autumn 1998: Early indications are that PETER’s new CD is selling extremely well. The Virgin Megastore in London’s Oxford Street announced sales upwards of 25 units during its first week of release, and the HMV shop – also in Oxford Street, displayed posters and a standee to promote it.

For more information on the original album, click here

Song lyrics


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

REVIEW: Dick Barton Strikes Back!

  • Country of Origin: United Kingdom
  • Duration: 73 Minutes
  • Format: Black and White
  • Released: 1948
  • Certificate: U (UK)

Character: Army Cadet (unnamed)

BART1Although PETER only makes a fleeting appearance in this film, as a completest project, I feel that it’s still necessary to include it on this ‘Site.

⇐PETER with Don Stannard and Bruce Walker

‘Dick Barton Strikes Back’ was the second of three films based on the radio series ‘Dick Barton Special Agent’. The trio of movies were quickly churned out by the newly-founded Hammer Films between 1948 and 1950. Directed by Godfrey Grayson, ‘…Strikes Back’ starred lantern-jawed Don Stannard as the former Commando-turned-secret-agent, with Bruce Walker as his sidekick, Snowey White, and Sebastian Cabot as the dastardly villain, Fouracada.   

Given that the film was produced in the post-war years, the story naturally reflects the issues of the day – namely a suspicion of Johnny Foreigner (the villains, unsurprisingly, have Middle-Eastern or South-American inflections), whilst the typically English characters (who have either Upper Class or Cockney accents) – are merely disgruntled at their inability to get a decent pint of beer in a Britain that was still under Rationing.

With the war now at an end, Barton finds himself at somewhat of a loose end, so when he’s approached by the powers that be to take on assignments that were deemed too sensitive for British Intelligence, he enlists the assistance of his two old Army chums, Snowey and Jock, who are only to happy to go along for the ride.

Although ‘Dick Barton Strikes Back’ was the last of a trio of films to be made, it was actually released between the other two films – ‘Dick Barton Special Agent’ (1948), and ‘Dick Barton At Bay’ (1950). There had been plans to make more films in the series, but that was until Don Satnnard died tragically in a car accident in 1949. His screen adversary, Sebastian Cabot, had been travelling in the same car, but had managed to escape virtually unscathed. BART2

You might be forgiven for thinking that you were watching an episode of ‘Department S’ when viewing the opening few minutes of ‘…Strikes Back’, as it reveals everything in secluded English village lying in silence, and all the inhabitants dead. As might be expected, Barton and Snowey are called upon to find out what the bally hell has been going on, and they soon find themselves on the tail of a band of travellers who lead them to the door of arch-villain, Delmonte Fourcada.

Fourcada, it emerges, is the henchman of a crazed scientist, who has developed a lethal Sonic Death-Ray that’s found to be responsible for wiping out the village. Alarmingly, the Ray is now being trained on London.

Despite their best efforts, Fourcada and his hoodlums always seem to be one step ahead of Barton and his colleagues, which inexorably leads to heaps of thrilling chases and lashings of exciting incidental music to accompany them. The story ends with a thrilling pursuit up Blackpool Tower no less, where Fourcada plans to signal his diabolical Sonic Ray to destroy the Capital. The bounder!

BART3

 

 

 

 

 

⇑ An original poster from the film

PETER’s ROLE

A VERY young PETER plays an Army Cadet, who descends a metal staircase at HQ to hand Barton and Snowey a futuristic-looking wire helmet, which proves invaluable to their solving the case. Hoo-rah! His appearance on screen last just a few seconds, and the character was unnamed in the credits.  


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

DONALD SPOTO: “Once Upon A Time…”

“I could not believe it when I read that American biographer had said all those things about me!” PETER WYNGARDE

Although Donald Spoto’s ‘Otherwise Engaged: The Life of Alan Bates‘ has been referred to on this Website several times within the context of other articles, we’ve never thus far had an detailed look at the ‘biography’ and the content relevant to this Blog; namely those sections concerning PETER’s ‘supposed’ relationship with its subject.

Spoto was born in New York in 1941, Donald Spoto is a writer and theologian. He’s penned numerous ‘biographies’ about religious figures as well as film and theatre actors. Some of those include James Dean, Grace Kelly, Ingrid Bergman, Tennessee Williams and Saint Francis of Assisi.

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‘Otherwise Engaged: The Life of Alan Bates‘. was published in the UK in 2008 (Arrow Publishing: ISBN-10: 009949096X)both from the press and public. Some professional critics wrote that it was too involved; as if Spoto was trying to include excessive amounts of irrelevant information, whilst cinema aficionados and fans alike saw an opportunity to protest against the author – not only in response to this volume, but for the numerous inaccuracies contained in his previous biographies, which included those of Hollywood stars Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe and Joan Crawford.

There was similar criticism of Spoto’s 1993 account of Laurence Olivier’s life, with no detractor more vocal than the actor’s son, Traquin (1936- ), who reacted angrily to allegations made in the book about his father. Whilst anyone familiar with Spoto’s earlier works would ascribe little importance to the writers’ claims, Tarquin justifiably saw these charges as being detrimental to Olivier’s legacy.

The contentious section(s) that concern our sphere of interest relates to PETER’s so-called ‘relationship’ with Alan Bates. Spoto maintains that the two actors met after a performance of John Osborne’s ‘Look Back In Anger’ at the Royal Court Theatre [1] in May of 1956, when PETER was said to have gone backstage to congratulate Bates on his performance: “Within two weeks,” Spoto declares provocatively, “the two were living together”.

What actually happened is as follows: There was public house in Slone Square where the actors and staff at the Royal Court would often have lunch or wind down after a performance. Bates, who was living in a flat in Battersea at the time, had been asking around the pub if anyone knew of a relatively inexpensive flat nearer to the centre of London.

Following his divorce from actress, Dorinda Stevens in 1955, PETER had been residing with a lady by the name of Ruby Talbot in Paddington, but had latterly purchased a former weavers cottage in Kent – right next door to fellow thespian, Dame Edith Evans, who would engage him to chop wood for her fire in return for lunch. He too had been on the lookout for an apartment in central London which he could use when working “in town”, rather than staying in soulless and expensive hotels. It was he who approached Bates with the idea that they share a place in order to keep down costs.  

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⇑ Electoral register showing PETER living with Ruby Talbot.

PETER was then working at Pinewood Studios on a TV play called ‘The Salt Land’, which had been written by Peter Shafer. His father, who owned several properties in London, was happy to rent out a two-bedroomed ‘Garden Flat’ in a smart Georgian terrace to the two actors.

At no point in his book does Spoto ever make clear that it was common practice both then, and now, for young actors to share accommodation in an effort to reduce living costs. David Niven famously shared a flat with a number of actors, including Errol Flynn, but there was never any suggestion that they were anything other than friends.

“The flat was a blessing”, PETER says. “Whenever I was working, I had it, and vice-versa. On those occasions that we were both working, there was a divan bed in the second bedroom, so it was the perfect set-up.”

In 1958, PETER embarked on a British national tour as Count Marcellus in ‘Duel of Angels’, during the course of which he began a relationship with his Co-star, Vivien Leigh [2]. In early 1959, he became resident at the Old Vic in Bristol for nine months, where he both performed and directed ‘Taming of the Shrew’, ‘Long Day’s Journey Into Night‘ and ‘Cyrano de Bergerac’. Immediately thereafter, he re-joined the company of ‘Duel of Angels’ for an eighteen-month tour of the United States. Throughout that time he rarely, if ever, used the flat in London.18198445_1723067707719978_8872324003202855095_n

A cutting from the Detroit Free Press – Thursday, 24 November, 1960. This was published at the time that Spoto maintains that PETER was in a relationship with Alan Bates ⇒

 

On his return from America, PETER purchased a villa in Spain which he’d often use when he was between jobs, The property had been bought specifically with his parents in mind, as they would often fly out from their home in Scotland to spend time with their son.

“The only time that Alan and I took what might be considered a ‘holiday’ together, was a trip to Greece”, PETER says. “We booked through a travel agent in a dingy part of Earls Court which had a poster in the window which said: ‘Welcome to Greece – a dream come true!’

“Alan had never been farther than Derby, his native hometown. The “dream” meant a four-day, third-class train journey to Brindisi in southern Italy, with nothing to eat but sandwiches and warm Coca-Cola. We then took an old ferry boat (circa 1914) to Crete, on which we had to share a bunkroom  with five Turkish men who told us they worked in the ship’s galley. We only found out when we docked days later at Heraklion that they were wanted for armed robbery. Two of the men had tried to rape Alan one night, so we reported the incident to the Captain who, as it turned out, was related to one of the men. All of them – including the Captain, were arrested when we reached port for smuggling drugs, plus two other minor offences.

“We were both struggling actors, and had saved up for a supposed “guaranteed” First Class return to Crete. The irony was, of course, that Alan returned to Crete when he was offered the part of Basil, in ‘Zorba the Greek’ years later.”

It was around this time that Bates met Victoria Ward (1939-1992), who he subsequently married in 1970. Yet in spite of his involvement with the actress, AND his ‘theoretical’(!) “relationship” with PETER, Bates up sticks and went to live with Rock Hudson in California!

PETER-1⇐PETER around the time he first met Alan Bates

Spoto also alleged that “EVERYONE” within the acting fraternity “KNEW” that PETER was “gay”. The film and theatre community is very large, and encompasses not only the actors themselves, but directors, producers, technicians and all points between, and yet the author was either unable or unwilling to provide any corroborative evidence to back up this statement. In spite of the absence of any supporting testimony, Spoto attempted to expand on the ‘everyone knew’ stance, when he asserts that PETER was broadly known amongst his colleagues from the late Fifties onwards as ‘Petunia Winegum’.

In reality, this name was first used in a sketch by the Two Ronnies comedy double-act during a Jason King parody that was broadcast on Thursday, 22nd November, 1973 [3]. Spoto, an American, was unlikely to be familiar with the hilarious duo, or of their immense popularity in the UK during the 1970’s and 80’s. [4]. It’s probable that the author heard mention of the name whilst he was researching his book, and simply slotted it in at a random point in the timeline, as it suited his agenda.

It’s important to note that PETER had only ever seen himself as a mentor to Bates, with whom he freely shared his contacts and knowledge of the business. On reading Spoto’s book, it soon becomes clear to anyone with even the most minute glimmer of insight, that PETER was far more sinned against than sinning – yet the author does everything in his power to paint him as a villain.

It was only after Bates took up with his future wife, Victoria Ward, that any unsound theories of his relationship with PETER began to circulate. The following is a quote from the actress, Mary Ure (1933-1975), who appeared alongside PETER in ‘Duel of Angels’ (1958, 1959-60) and ‘The Two Character Play’ (1967):

“Victoria (Ward) was known to be a loose cannon and was incredibly possessive. A couple of friends and I had bumped into Alan, and we arranged to go for dinner at a little place we knew in Chelsea, when Victoria burst in and began screaming that PETER WYNGARDE had been f*****g her husband. We all knew it was ridiculous, but Alan was absolutely mortified!”

Whilst researching his book, Spoto had requested a meeting with PETER to discuss his friendship with Bates, which ran into several hours over the course of two weeks. PETER had specifically requested that Spoto forward him a signed agreement to remove any material that he (PETER) didn’t agree upon. Needless to say, the author inevitably reneged on this assurance, and only sent the document AFTER the book was published.

Such underhandedness deserves only the most savage contempt.

[1] PETER was a founding member of The Royal Court Theatre.

[2] Further reading: ‘Damn You, Miss Scarlett’

[3] Since the Two Ronnies sketch which first used the name ‘Petunia Winegum’ was only broadcast in 1973, it couldn’t possibly have been widely known by British actors prior to that date.

[4] The Two Ronnies Show ran from 1971 to 1987.

 READERS COMMENTS ON ‘OTHERWISE ENGAGED: THE LIFE OF ALAN BATES’:

  •  Disappointing. Hard to put my finger on why this book was so unappealing – it guess it lacked depth and insight and was neither for someone interested in his acting (too superficial – summarising plot and quoting reviews) or his personal life (he was a wonderful chap who did not like getting too close to people – except his immediate family).
  • The book seemed well researched but ended up as a list of acting jobs with little insight beyond repetitive praise of what a good actor Bates was and how the company liked working with him. I’m not sure if it was the kindle edition, but the book had typos and also should have been better edited, if only to avoid repetition.
  • If you are a fan of Alan Bates and are looking for a decent biography then give this book a miss. One wonders why the Bates family entrusted this task to an American writer who is better known for production line bios of Hollywood stars and “celebrities” than serious actors.
  • The book reads more like a chronological list of Bates’ films and plays than a record of one of the most appealing actors of his generation.
  • Spoto shows little knowledge or understanding of the UK or the British theatre or cinema. Much of the material “quoting” Bates read suspiciously like a cut and paste job. John Mortimer’s play and TV version ‘A Voyage Around My Father’, which also featured Olivier, is dismissed in a few sentences, as is ‘Women in Love’. Once again no attempt seems to have been made to talk to other participants, such as director Ken Russell or actress Glenda Jackson, who could have given some comments and insights. Bates was in the first performance of John Osborne’s ‘Look Back in Anger’ which revolutionized the British stage, but Spoto does not have the insight to convey the importance of this breakthrough.
  • He is careless with facts. For example, he quotes a character as saying “Brendan Behan reminds me of another Welshman, Richard Burton”. Behan is in fact Irish. He refers to Diane Cilento as an “English actress” although she’s Australian…
  • Films like ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’ are treated superficially, with no build up and no follow up. One wonders whether Spoto even tried to talk to other actors involved, such as Terence Stamp (who has also become a writer) or Julie Christie. 

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