Donald Pleasence

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Donald Pleasence
Donald Pleasence Allan Warren edit.jpg
Pleasence in London, 1973. Portrait by Allan Warren
BornDonald Henry Pleasence
(1919-10-05)5 October 1919
Worksop, Nottinghamshire, England
Died2 February 1995(1995-02-02) (aged 75)
Saint-Paul-de-Vence,
Alpes-Maritimes, France
Cause of deathHeart failure
Resting placeCremated
NationalityBritish
Alma materEcclesfield School
OccupationActor
Years active1939–1995
Spouse(s)Miriam Raymond
(1941–1958)
Josephine Crombie
(1959–1970)
Meira Shore
(1970–1988)
Linda J. Kentwood
(1988–1995; his death)
Children5
 
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Donald Pleasence
Donald Pleasence Allan Warren edit.jpg
Pleasence in London, 1973. Portrait by Allan Warren
BornDonald Henry Pleasence
(1919-10-05)5 October 1919
Worksop, Nottinghamshire, England
Died2 February 1995(1995-02-02) (aged 75)
Saint-Paul-de-Vence,
Alpes-Maritimes, France
Cause of deathHeart failure
Resting placeCremated
NationalityBritish
Alma materEcclesfield School
OccupationActor
Years active1939–1995
Spouse(s)Miriam Raymond
(1941–1958)
Josephine Crombie
(1959–1970)
Meira Shore
(1970–1988)
Linda J. Kentwood
(1988–1995; his death)
Children5

Donald Henry Pleasence, OBE (/ˈplɛzəns/;[1] 5 October 1919 – 2 February 1995)[2] was an English film, television, and stage actor. His most notable film roles include psychiatrist Dr. Sam Loomis in the Halloween series, the villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld in the James Bond film You Only Live Twice, and RAF Flight Lieutenant Colin Blythe in The Great Escape.

Early life[edit]

Pleasence was born in Worksop, Nottinghamshire, England, the son of Alice (née Armitage) and Thomas Stanley Pleasence, a railway stationmaster.[3] He was brought up as a strict Methodist, and raised in the small village of Grimoldby, Lincolnshire.[4] Pleasence attended Ecclesfield Grammar School, in Sheffield, Yorkshire, and subsequently dropped out to work as a railway clerk, while looking for a job as an actor.[4] During the Second World War Pleasence was initially a conscientious objector, but later changed his stance and was commissioned into the Royal Air Force, serving with 166 Squadron, RAF Bomber Command. His Avro Lancaster was shot down on 31 August 1944, during a raid on Agenville.[5] He was taken prisoner and placed in the German prisoner-of-war camp Stalag Luft I, where he produced and acted in plays. He would later play Flight Lieutenant Colin Blythe in The Great Escape where much of the story takes place inside a German POW camp.

Career[edit]

Stage[edit]

In 1939 Pleasence started working in repertory theatre as an assistant stage manager with Jersey Repertory, making his acting debut with the company as Hareton in Wuthering Heights. He subsequently worked in repertory theatre in Birmingham and Bristol before making his London stage debut as Valentine in Twelfth Night in 1942.[6]

In the 1950s Pleasence's stage work included performing as Willie Mossop in a 1952 production of Hobson's Choice at the Arts Theatre and as Dauphin in Jean Anouilh's The Lark (1956).[6]

In 1960 Pleasence won acclaim as the tramp in Harold Pinter's The Caretaker at the Arts Theatre, a part he would again play in a 1990 revival.[6] Other stage work in the 1960s included Anouilh's Poor Bitos (1967) and Robert Shaw's The Man in The Glass Booth (1967), for which he won the London Variety Award for Stage Actor of the Year in 1968.[6]

Pleasence's later stage work included performing in a double bill of Pinter plays, The Basement and Tea Party, at the Duchess Theatre in 1970.[6]

Television[edit]

Pleasence made his television debut in I Want to Be A Doctor in 1946.[6] In 1954 he received critical acclaim as Syme in a BBC adaptation of George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.[6] The adaptation was by Nigel Kneale and also starred Peter Cushing, another British actor who would go on to find fame in many horror-film roles.

Pleasence played Prince John in several episodes of the ITV series The Adventures of Robin Hood (1956–1958). He appeared twice with Patrick McGoohan in the British spy series, Danger Man, in episodes "Position of Trust" (1960) and "Find and Return" (1961). Pleasence's first appearance in America was in an episode of The Twilight Zone, playing an aging (and suicidal) teacher at a boys' school in the episode "The Changing of the Guard" (1962). In 1963, he appeared in an episode of The Outer Limits entitled "The Man With the Power". He hosted the 1981 Halloween episode of Saturday Night Live with music guest Fear.

In 1973 Pleasence played the murderer in an episode of Columbo entitled "Any Old Port in a Storm". He also had the distinction of playing a culprit captured by Mrs. Columbo in "Murder is a Parlour Game" (1979). In 1978, he played a Union general in James A. Michener's Centennial. Pleasence starred as the Reverend Septimus Harding in the BBC's 1982 TV series The Barchester Chronicles.

In 1986, Pleasence joined Ronald Lacey and Polly Jo Pleasence for the television thriller 'Into The Darkness', filmed in Manchester and Malta by David Kent-Watson for his Ice International Films. Co-stars Brett Paul and John Ryan, and the supporting cast of models and actresses found Donald to be a most supportive actor and the most jovial and delightful company off-set. The film has been renamed 'Poisoned Minds' for its re-release.

Cinema[edit]

Donald Pleasence in the trailer for the 1967 film Eye of the Devil.

Pleasence made his big-screen debut with The Beachcomber (1954). Some notable early roles include Parsons in 1984 (1956), his second Orwell film, and minor roles opposite Alec Guinness in Barnacle Bill (1957) and Dirk Bogarde in The Wind Cannot Read (1958). In Tony Richardson's film of Look Back in Anger (1959) he plays a vindictive market inspector opposite Richard Burton.

Equipped with a shiny bald head and a quiet but intense voice to go with his trademark penetrating gaze, he specialised in portraying insane or evil characters, including the violent alcoholic Doc Tydon in Wake in Fright (1971), the mad Doctor in the Bud SpencerTerence Hill film Watch Out, We're Mad (1974), Heinrich Himmler in The Eagle Has Landed (1976), and the Bond arch-villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld in You Only Live Twice (1967), the first film in which the villain's face is clearly seen. His interpretation of the character has become predominant in popular culture considering the popularity of the comic villain, Dr. Evil in the successful Austin Powers film series, which primarily parodies it. In the crime drama Hell is a City (1960) he starred opposite Stanley Baker. The film was shot on location in Manchester.

Perhaps his most sympathetic screen role was as the tragic POW forger Colin Blythe in the 1963 film The Great Escape, who discovers that he is slowly going blind, but nonetheless participates in the mass break-out, only to be shot down by German soldiers because he is unable to see them. In The Night of the Generals (1967), he played another uncharacteristically sympathetic role, this time as an old-school German general involved in a plot to kill Adolf Hitler. In 1971, he returned to the realm of the deranged, delivering a tour de force performance in the role of an alcoholic Australian doctor in Ted Kotcheff's nightmarish outback drama Wake in Fright.

Pleasence played Lucifer in the religious epic The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965). His character taking on many dark, shadowy human disguises throughout the film was unprecedented in breathing life into the Luke 4:13 phrase "... he left Him until an opportune time ..." He was one of many stars who were given cameos throughout the film.

Perhaps his most bizarre and powerful film role occurred in Roman Polanski's Cul-de-sac (1966), in which he portrayed the love-sodden husband of a much younger French wife (Françoise Dorléac). In 1968, he ventured successfully into American cowboy territory, playing a sadistic self-styled preacher who goes after stoic Charlton Heston in the Western Will Penny.

In his later years, he became best known to a younger generation of cinema-goers as Dr. Loomis in Halloween (1978), Dr. Kobras in The Pumaman (1980) and the President in Escape from New York. The distinctive, rather sinister accent which Pleasence employed in this and other films may be credited to the elocution lessons that he had as a child. He reprised his role as Dr. Loomis in Halloween II (1981), Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988), Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989) and Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995).

Pleasence's acting hero was Sir Laurence Olivier,[7] with whom he worked on-stage in the 1950s, and later on the 1979 film version of Dracula. Two years earlier, Pleasence did an amusingly broad impersonation of Olivier in the guise of a horror-film actor called "Valentine De'ath" in the film The Uncanny.

Spoken records and voiceovers[edit]

During the early 1960s, Pleasence recorded several children's-story records on the Atlas Record label. These were marketed as the Talespinners series in the UK. They were also released in the United States as Tale Spinners For Children by United Artists. The stories included Don Quixote and the Brave Little Tailor.

Pleasence provided the voice-over for the British Public Information Film, The Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water in 1973. The film, intended to warn children of the dangers of playing near water, attained notoriety for allegedly giving children nightmares.

Books[edit]

Pleasence was the author of the 1977 children's book Scouse the Mouse (London: New English Library), which was animated by Canadian animator/film director Gerald Potterton (a friend of the actor, who directed him in the 1973 Canadian film The Rainbow Boys, retitled The Rainbow Gang for VHS release in the United States) and also adapted into a children's recording (Polydor Records, 1977) with Ringo Starr voicing the book's title character, Scouse the Mouse.

In his book British Film Character Actors (1982), Terence Pettigrew described him as 'a potent combination of eyes and voice. The eyes are mournful but they can also be sinister or seedy or just plain nutty. He has the kind of piercing stare which lifts enamel off saucepans.'

Awards[edit]

Pleasence was nominated four times for the Tony Award for best performance by a leading actor in a Broadway play: in 1962 for Harold Pinter's The Caretaker, in 1965 for Jean Anouilh's Poor Bitos, in 1969 for Robert Shaw's The Man in the Glass Booth, and in 1972 for Simon Gray's Wise Child.

Pleasence was appointed an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for his services to the acting profession by Queen Elizabeth II in 1994.

Personal life[edit]

Pleasence married four times and had five daughters from his first three marriages. He had Angela and Jean with Miriam Raymond (m. 1947–1958); Lucy and Polly with Josephine Martin Crombie (m. 1959–1970); and Miranda with Meira Shore (m. 1970–1988). His last marriage to Linda Kentwood (m. 1988–1995; his death) produced no children.

Death[edit]

In 1995, Pleasence died at the age of 75 in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France, from complications of heart failure following heart valve replacement surgery. His body was cremated with no known grave.

Legacy[edit]

Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers and Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later, were both dedicated to the memory of Pleasence, the latter of which he did not appear in.

Dr. Evil, the character played by Mike Myers in the Austin Powers comedy films (1997–2002), is a parody of Pleasence's performance as Blofeld in You Only Live Twice.

Donald's grandson from his daughter of second wife Josephine has gone on to be a successful music video director in the UK. Jak O'Hare also known as Jak FrSH, working with Tinie Tempah, Wretch 32, Fazer and Tinchy Stryder. Directing a commercial for Vauxhall Motors "Conductivity".[8]

Selected filmography[edit]

YearTitleRoleNotes
1952The DybbukSecond BatlonTV film
1952BBC Sunday-Night TheatreCorporalTV series (episode: "Arrow to the Heart (I)")
1954The BeachcomberTromp
1954MontserratJuan AlvarezTV film
1954The Face of LoveAlexTV film
1954BBC Sunday-Night TheatreChamberlainTV series (episode: "Such Men Are Dangerous")
1954Orders Are OrdersCorporal MartinCredited as Donald Plesance
1954BBC Sunday-Night TheatreSymeTV series (episode: "Nineteen Eighty-Four")
1955Value for MoneyLimpy
1955BBC Sunday-Night TheatreForeign MinisterTV series (episode: "The Moment of Truth")
19561984R. Parsons
1956The Black TentAli
1956The Adventures of Robin HoodPrince JohnTV series (4 episodes)
1956The Adventures of Robin HoodBailiff BaldwinTV series (episode: "A Village Wooing")
1956ITV Television PlayhouseWilliamTV series (episode: "Ever Since Paradise")
1956ITV Television PlayhouseAlbertTV series (episode: "Chance Meeting")
1957The Man in the SkyCrabtree(titled Decision Against Time in the U.S.)
1957Assignment Foreign LegionCommandantTV series (episode: "The Coward")
1957ManuelaEvans
1957Barnacle BillCashier(titled All at Sea in the U.S.)
1958I SpyMr. FruteTV film
1958ITV Television PlayhouseCaptain BrowneTV series (episode: "Fate and Mister Browne")
1958A Tale of Two CitiesJohn Barsad
1958Heart of a ChildSpiel
1958The Wind Cannot ReadDoctor
1958The Man InsideOrgan-grinder
1958The Two-Headed SpyGeneral Hardt
1959The ScarfDetective Inspector Harry YatesTV series (6 episodes)
1959Look Back in AngerHurst
1959ITV Television PlayhouseLeonard BrowneTV series (episode: "Mr. Browne Comes Home")
1959BBC Sunday-Night TheatreDoctorTV series (episode: "The Millionairess")
1959ITV Television PlayhouseRobert RobertsonTV series (episode: "The Silk Purse")
1959The Adventures of William TellThe SpiderTV series (episode: "The Spider")
1959The TraitorGrantley CayporTV film
1959Killers of KilimanjaroCaptain
1959The Battle of the SexesIrwin Hoffman
1960The ShakedownJessel Brown
1960Hell Is a CityGus Hawkins
1960Circus of HorrorsVanet
1960The Four Just MenPaul KosterTV series (episode: "The Survivor")
1960Interpol CallingKarl HaussmanTV series (episode: "The Absent Assassin")
1961What a Carve Up!Everett Sloane
1962The InspectorSergeant Wolters
1962Dr CrippenDr Crippen
1963The Great EscapeRAF Flight Lieutenant. Colin Blythe, "The Forger"
1963The Outer LimitsProf. Harold FinleyTV series (episode: "The Man With the Power")
1965The Hallelujah TrailOracle Jones
1965The Greatest Story Ever ToldSatan
1966Fantastic VoyageDr. Michaels
1966Cul-de-sacGeorge
1967You Only Live TwiceErnst Stavro Blofeld
1968The Other PeopleClive
1968Will PennyPreacher Quint
1970Soldier BlueIsaac Q. Cumber
1971THX 1138SEN 5241
1971Wake in FrightDoc Tydon
1972Death LineInspector Calhoun
1972Henry VIII and His Six WivesThomas Cromwell
1972The Jerusalem FileMajor Samuels
1972Wedding in WhiteJim Dougall
1973ColumboAdrian CarsiniTV series (episode: "Any Old Port in a Storm")
1974Watch Out, We're MadThe Doctor
1974From Beyond the GraveJim UnderwoodSegment: "An Act of Kindness"
1975Escape to Witch MountainLucas Deranian
1975The Count of Monte CristoBaron Danglars
1976The Eagle Has LandedHimmler
1976The Last TycoonBoxley
1976The Passover PlotPontius Pilate
1977Oh, God!Dr. Harmon
1977TelefonNikolai Dalchimsky
1978HalloweenDr. Loomis
1978Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club BandB.D. Hoffler/B.D. Brockhurst
1978Power PlayBlair
1978Jesus of NazarethMelchior
1979Good Luck, Miss WyckoffDr. Steiner
1979DraculaDr. Jack Seward
1980The PumamanDr. Kobras
1980Halloween: Extended EditionDr. LoomisAppeared in additional footage (filmed during the production of Halloween II) not included in the original film but featured in the NBC television broadcast.
1981Halloween IIDr. Loomis
1981Race for the Yankee ZephyrGilbert "Gibbie" Carson
1981Escape from New YorkMr. President
1982Alone in the DarkDr. Leo Bain
1982The Barchester ChroniclesReverend Septimus HardingTV series
1983Warrior of the Lost WorldProssor
1983The Devonsville TerrorDr. Warley
1984A Breed ApartJ.P. Whittier
1985The Treasure of the AmazonKlaus von Blantz
1985PhenomenaJohn McGregor
1987Django 2Gunn
1987SpectersProfessor Lasky
1987Prince of DarknessPriest
1988Hanna's WarCaptain Thomas Rosza
1988Halloween 4: The Return of Michael MyersDr. Loomis
1988The CommanderPhotographer
1989Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael MyersDr. Loomis
1989Ten Little IndiansJudge Lawrence Wargrave
1989River Of DeathHeinrich Spaatz
1991Shadows and FogDoctor
1992Dien Bien Phu (film)Howard Simpson (writer, journalist)
1993The Thief and the CobblerPhido the Vulture (voice)
1993The Hour of the PigPincheon
1995Halloween: The Curse of Michael MyersDr. Loomis

The film was dedicated to his memory.

1996Fatal FramesProf. Robertson

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Pleasence", Collins English Dictionary
  2. ^ "England and Wales Births 1837–1983". Freebmd.org.uk. 2010-09-10. Retrieved 2010-10-06. 
  3. ^ Ross, Helen; Lillian Ross (1962). The Player: A Profile of an Art. Simon and Schuster. p. 256. ISBN. 
  4. ^ a b "Full text of "The Player A Profile Of An Art"". Archive.org. Retrieved 2010-10-06. 
  5. ^ Chorley, W.R. (1997), Royal Air Force Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War, Volume 5: 1944; p 407. Midland Counties Publications, UK. ISBN 0-904597-91-1.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g "Obituaries: Donald Pleasence". The Independent. 3 February 1995. Retrieved 14 February 2012. 
  7. ^ "Donald Pleasence'S Biography". Pleasence.com. Retrieved 2010-10-06. 
  8. ^ [1], Conductivity.

External links[edit]