Alan Bates

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Sir Alan Bates
Alan Bates.jpg
Bates in 1975
BornAlan Arthur Bates
(1934-02-17)17 February 1934
Allestree, Derbyshire, England, UK
Died27 December 2003(2003-12-27) (aged 69)
Westminster, London, England, UK
Years active1956–2003
Spouse(s)Victoria Ward (m. 1970–1992) (her death)
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For other people named Alan Bates, see Alan Bates (disambiguation).
Sir Alan Bates
Alan Bates.jpg
Bates in 1975
BornAlan Arthur Bates
(1934-02-17)17 February 1934
Allestree, Derbyshire, England, UK
Died27 December 2003(2003-12-27) (aged 69)
Westminster, London, England, UK
Years active1956–2003
Spouse(s)Victoria Ward (m. 1970–1992) (her death)

Sir Alan Arthur Bates, CBE (17 February 1934 – 27 December 2003) was an English actor who came to prominence in the 1960s, a time of high creativity in British cinema, when he appeared in films ranging from the popular children's story Whistle Down the Wind to the "kitchen sink" drama A Kind of Loving. He is also known for his performance with Anthony Quinn in Zorba the Greek, as well as his roles in King of Hearts, Georgy Girl, Far From the Madding Crowd, and The Fixer, which gave him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. In 1969, he starred in the Ken Russell film Women in Love with Oliver Reed and Glenda Jackson.

Bates went on to star in The Go-Between, An Unmarried Woman, Nijinsky, and The Rose with Bette Midler, as well as playing varied roles in television drama, including The Mayor of Casterbridge, Harold Pinter's The Collection, A Voyage Round My Father, An Englishman Abroad (as Guy Burgess), and Pack of Lies. He also continued to appear on the stage, notably in the plays of Simon Gray, such as Butley and Otherwise Engaged.

Early life[edit]

Bates was born at the Queen Mary Nursing Home,[1] Darley Abbey, Derby, England, on 17 February 1934, the eldest of three sons of Florence Mary (née Wheatcroft), a housewife and a pianist, and Harold Arthur Bates, an insurance broker and a cellist,[2] who lived in Allestree, Derby, at the time. The family briefly moved to Mickleover, then returned to Allestree.

The Blue Plaque on Alan Bates' childhood home. In association with The British Film Institute

Both of his parents were amateur musicians, and encouraged him to pursue music, but by age 11, young Bates already had determined his life's course as an actor, and so they sent him for dramatic coaching instead.[3] He also saw productions at Derby's Little Theatre.

He was educated at the Herbert Strutt Grammar School, Derby Road, Belper, Derbyshire (now 'Strutts', a volunteer led Business & Community Centre) and later gained a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, where he studied with Albert Finney and Peter O'Toole, before leaving to join the RAF for National Service at RAF Newton.


Bates' stage debut was in 1955, in You and Your Wife, in Coventry.[4] In 1956, Bates debuted in London in the West End as Cliff in Look Back in Anger, a role he had originated at the Royal Court and which made him a star. He also played the role on television (for the ITV Playhouse) and on Broadway. In the late 1950s, he appeared in several plays for television in Britain. In 1960, he appeared in The Entertainer opposite Laurence Olivier, his first film role. Bates worked for the Padded Wagon Moving Company in the early 1960s while acting at the Circle in the Square Theatre in New York City. Throughout the 1960s he starred in several major films including Whistle Down the Wind (1961), A Kind of Loving (1962), Zorba the Greek (1964), Philippe de Broca's King of Hearts (1966), Georgy Girl (1966), Far From the Madding Crowd (1967), and in the Bernard Malamud film The Fixer (1968), which gave him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. In 1969, he starred in Women in Love.

Bates was handpicked by director John Schlesinger (with whom he had previously worked on A Kind of Loving and Far From The Madding Crowd) to star in the film Sunday Bloody Sunday (1971) in the role of Dr. Daniel Hirsh. Bates was held up filming The Go-Between (1970) for director Joseph Losey, and had also become a father around that time, and so he had to pass on the project. (The part then went first to Ian Bannen, who balked at kissing and simulating sex with another man, and then to Peter Finch, who earned an Academy Award nomination for the role.)

Around this time he appeared as Col. Vershinin in the National Theatre's film of Three Sisters, directed by and co-starring Laurence Olivier.[5] Laurence Olivier Presents episode of Harold Pinter's The Collection (1976) and A Voyage Round My Father (1982) were later television work with Olivier,

Bates starred in such international films as An Unmarried Woman (1978), Nijinsky (1980), and also played Bette Midler's ruthless business manager in the film The Rose (1979). On television, his parts included Michael Henchard, the ultimately disgraced lead in The Mayor of Casterbridge (1978), his favourite role he said, in the serial adaptation by Dennis Potter. Two diametrically opposed roles were in An Englishman Abroad (1983), as Guy Burgess, a member of the Cambridge spy ring by then exiled in Moscow, and Pack of Lies (1987), in which he played a British Secret Service agent tracking several Soviet spies. He continued working in film and television in the 1990s, including the role of Claudius in Mel Gibson's version of Hamlet (1990), though most of his roles in this era were more low-key.[citation needed]

In 2001, Bates joined an all-star cast in Robert Altman's critically acclaimed period drama Gosford Park, in which he played the butler Jennings. He later played Antonius Agrippa in the 2004 TV film Spartacus, but died before it debuted. The film was dedicated to his memory and that of writer Howard Fast, who wrote the original novel that inspired the film Spartacus by Stanley Kubrick.

On stage, Bates had a particular association with the plays of Simon Gray, appearing in Butley, Otherwise Engaged, Stage Struck, Melon, Life Support and Simply Disconnected, as well as the film of Butley and Gray's TV series Unnatural Pursuits. In Otherwise Engaged, His co-star was Ian Charleson, who became a friend, and Bates later contributed a chapter to a 1990 book on his colleague after Charleson's early death.[6]

Bates was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1996, and was knighted in 2003. He was an Associate Member of RADA and was a patron of The Actors Centre, Covent Garden, London, from 1994 until his death in 2003.[citation needed]

Personal life[edit]

Bates was married to Victoria Ward from 1970 until her death in 1992, although they had separated many years earlier.[7][8] They had twin sons, born in November 1970, the actors Benedick Bates and Tristan Bates. Tristan died following an asthma attack in Tokyo in 1990.[9] Other sources report Tristan died of a heroin overdose in a public toilet.[10]

Bates had numerous homosexual relationships throughout his life, including those with actors Nickolas Grace and Peter Wyngarde, and Olympic skater John Curry.[11] In 1994 Curry died from AIDS in Bates' arms.[11] Even when homosexuality was partially decriminalised in Britain in 1967,[12] Bates rigorously avoided interviews and questions about his personal life, and even denied to his male lovers that there was a homosexual component in his nature.[11] While throughout his life Bates sought to be regarded as a ladies' man or at least as a man who, as an actor, could appear attractive to and attracted by women, he also chose to take on many roles with an aspect of homosexuality or bisexuality.[11] He let this part of his life appear as he played the role of the sexually frustrated Rupert in the 1970 film Women in Love.

In the later years of his life, Bates had a relationship with the Welsh actress Angharad Rees[13] and in the last years, his companion was his lifelong friend, actress Joanna Pettet, his co-star in the 1964 Broadway play Poor Richard. They divided their time between New York and London.

Bates had undergone a hip replacement shortly before being diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer in January 2003. He suffered a stroke, later that year, and died in December after going into a coma.[14]

Otherwise Engaged: The Life of Alan Bates[edit]

The posthumous publication of Donald Spoto's 2007 book, Otherwise Engaged: The Life of Alan Bates,[15] is the only authorised biography of Alan Bates. It was written with the full and complete cooperation of his son Benedick Bates and Bates' younger brother Martin, and includes more than one hundred interviews with people such as Michael Linnit and Rosalind Chatto.

Tristan Bates Theatre[edit]

Bates and his family set up the Tristan Bates Theatre at the Actors' Centre in Covent Garden, in memory of his son, Tristan, who died at the age of 19.[16] Tristan's twin brother, Benedick, is a vice-director.[17]


1956ITV Play of the WeekCliff Lewisepisode: Look Back in Anger
1959ITV Television PlayhouseRikki Barofskiepisode: The Jukebox
ITV Play of the WeekEddie Burke
Charles Tritton
episode: The Square Ring
episode: The Wind and the Rain
Armchair TheatreLewis Blackepisode: The Thug
1960The EntertainerFrank Rice
ITV Television PlayhouseRalph Freemanepisode: Incident
ITV Play of the WeekPeter Garsideepisode: The Upstart
The Four Just MenGiorgioepisode: Treviso Dan
1961Whistle Down the WindThe Man
1962A Kind of LovingVictor Arthur 'Vic' BrownNominated—BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
1963The CaretakerMick(also known as The Guest)
The Running ManStephen Maddux
1964Zorba the GreekBasil
Nothing But the BestJimmy Brewster
1966Georgy GirlJos JonesNominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Most Promising Newcomer - Male
King of HeartsCharles Plumpick
The Wednesday PlayGrigor Pecharinepisode: A Hero of Our Time
1967Far From the Madding CrowdGabriel OakNominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Drama
1968The FixerYakov BokNominated—Academy Award for Best Actor
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Drama
1969Women in LoveRupert BurkinNominated—BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
1970Three SistersCol. Vershinin
The Go-BetweenTed Burgess
1972A Day in the Death of Joe EggBri
1973Story of a Love StoryHarry
1974ButleyBen Butley
The Story of Jacob and JosephNarrator(voice only)
1975In CelebrationAndrew Shaw
Royal FlashRudi Von Sternberg
Play for TodayCharles
episode: Two Sundays
episode: Plaintiffs and Defendants
Nominated—BAFTA TV Award for Best Actor
1976Great PerformancesJamesepisode: The Collection
1977Piccadilly CircusGrayepisode: Plaintiffs and Defendants
1978An Unmarried WomanSaul
The ShoutCrossley
The Mayor of CasterbridgeMichael Henchard(TV miniseries)
7 episodes
1979The RoseRudge Campbell
1980NijinskySergei Diaghilev
1981Rece do góryWikto
QuartetH.J. Heidler
The TrespasserSiegmund(TV movie)
Very Like a WhaleSir Jock Mellor(TV movie)
1982The Return of the SoldierChris Baldry
Britannia HospitalMacready
1983The Wicked LadyJerry Jackson
Separate TablesJohn Malcolm
Maj. Pollock
(TV movie)
CableACE Award for Best Actor in a Theatrical or Non-Musical Program
An Englishman AbroadGuy Burgess(TV movie)
BAFTA TV Award for Best Actor
Broadcasting Press Guild Award for Best Actor
CableACE Award for Best Actor in a Theatrical or Dramatic Special
Royal Television Society Award for Best Performance
1984A Voyage Round My FatherJohn Mortimer(TV movie)
1985Dr. Fischer of GenevaAlfred Jones(TV movie)
1986Duet for OneDavid Cornwallis
1987A Prayer for the DyingJack Meehan
Pack of LiesStewart(TV movie)
1988We Think the World of YouFrank Meadows
The Ray Bradbury TheaterJohn Fabianepisode: And So Died Riabouchinska
1989Force majeureMalcolm Forrest
The Dog It Was That DiedBlair(TV movie)
1990Mister FrostFelix Detweiler
HamletClaudiusNominated—BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Dr. MDr. Marsfeldt
Screen TwoMarcel Proustepisode: 102 Boulevard Haussmann
1991ShuttlecockMajor James Prentis VC
Secret FriendsJohn
1992Screen OneHenry Sitchellepisode: Losing Track
Unnatural PursuitsHamish Parttepisode: I Don't Do Cuddles
episode: I'm the Author
Nominated—BAFTA TV Award for Best Actor
1993Silent TongueEamon McCree
1994Hard TimesJosiah Bounderby(TV series)
4 episodes
1995The GrotesqueSir Hugo Coal(also known as Gentlemen Don't Eat Poets)
Oliver's TravelsOliver(TV miniseries)
5 episodes
1998Nicholas' GiftReg Green(TV movie)
1999The Cherry OrchardGayev
2000The Prince and the PauperKing Henry VIII(TV movie)
Arabian NightsStoryteller(TV movie)
St. Patrick: The Irish LegendCalpornius(TV movie)
In the BeginningJethro(TV movie)
2001Gosford ParkJenningsBroadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Cast
Florida Film Critics Circle Award for Best Cast
Online Film Critics Society Award for Best Cast
Satellite Award for Best Cast - Motion Picture
Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
Nominated—Phoenix Film Critics Society Award for Best Cast
Love in a Cold ClimateUncle Matthew(TV miniseries)
Nominated—BAFTA TV Award for Best Actor
2002The Sum of All FearsDressler
The Mothman PropheciesAlexander Leek
EvelynTom Connolly
Bertie and ElizabethKing George V(TV movie)
Salem Witch TrialsSir Williams Phips(TV movie)
2003Hollywood NorthMichael Baytes
MeanwhileFather Peter
The StatementArmand Bertier
2004SpartacusAntonius Agrippa(TV movie)

Source: "Alan Bates". IMDb. Retrieved 3 April 2014. 



  1. ^ Alan Bates | Flickr – Photo Sharing!
  2. ^ "Alan Bates Biography". Archived from the original on 29 September 2007. Retrieved 15 September 2007. 
  3. ^ Karen Rappaport. "Alan Bates Biography". The Alan Bates Archive. Archived from the original on 20 April 2008. Retrieved 11 April 2008. 
  4. ^ Alan Bates Archive Feature: Timeline I, 1954–69
  5. ^ Three Sisters (1970) – IMDb
  6. ^ Ian McKellen, Alan Bates, Hugh Hudson, et al. For Ian Charleson: A Tribute. London: Constable and Company, 1990. pp. 1–5.
  7. ^ Spoto, Donald (21 May 2007). "Alan Bates: A man addicted to love". Daily Mail (UK). Retrieved 8 November 2007. 
  8. ^ BBC – Derby – Around Derby – Famous Derby – Sir Alan Bates biography
  9. ^ BBC article, Sir Alan Bates
  10. ^ Lewis, Roger (28 June 2007). "The Minute They Got Close, He Ran (A Review of Otherwise Engaged: the Life of Alan Bates, by Donald Spoto". Daily Telegraph (UK]). Retrieved 22 April 2013. 
  11. ^ a b c d Spoto, Donald (19 May 2007). "Alan Bates's Secret Gay Affair with Ice Skater John Curry". Daily Mail (London). Retrieved 15 September 2007. 
  12. ^ Albany Trust Homosexual Law Reform Society (1984). "GB 0097 HCA/Albany Trust". AIM25. British Library of Political and Economic Science. Retrieved 10 April 2008. 
  13. ^ "Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes leads tributes to Angharad Rees". The Daily Telegraph (London). 28 September 2012. 
  14. ^ Spoto, Donald (21 May 2007). "Alan Bates: A man addicted to love". Daily Mail (London). 
  15. ^ Spoto, Donald (2007). Otherwise Engaged: The Life of Alan Bates. London: Hutchinson. ISBN 0-09-179735-7. 
  16. ^ Michael Billington (29 December 2003). "Sir Alan Bates". The Guardian (London). Archived from the original on 14 November 2007. Retrieved 4 November 2007. 
  17. ^ "About Tristan Bates Theatre". Tristan Bates Theatre. Retrieved 8 November 2007. [dead link]

External links[edit]