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Archive for December, 2018

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John James

John James

John James was born April 18, 1956 and is is an American actor and producer best known to television audiences for playing the character of Jeff Colby in both the prime-time soap opera Dynasty and its spin-off series The Colbys throughout the 1980s.

James is a veteran of daytime soaps, first appearing in Search for Tomorrow in the late 1970s. In 1981 he won the role of Jeff Colby in Dynasty, appearing in the very first episode, “Oil“, and remaining on the soap opera until the final episode, Catch 22 in 1989. James played the same role in The Colbys between 1985 and 1987, and one last time in the 1991 TV movie, Dynasty: The Reunion.

James was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for his role in Dynasty in 1985 and appeared at the 1986 ceremony. The Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film went to Olmos.[2]

James returned to the genre playing Rick Decker on As the World Turns in 2003–04. In May 2006, he was cast in the role of Dr. Jeff Martin (the first husband of Erica Kaneplayed by series star Susan Lucci) on the ABC daytime soap opera All My Children. He began airing the following month. On July 15, 2008, James returned to As the World Turns, reprising the role of demented Dr. Rick Decker.

In film, James starred in Icebreaker (2000) with Sean AstinBruce Campbell, and Stacy Keach; in The Cursed aka Peril (2001) with Morgan Fairchild and Michael Pare; in Lightning: Fire from the Sky (2001) with Jesse Eisenberg, Stacy Keach and John Schneider and in Chronology (2015) with William Baldwin and Danny Trejo.

He produced and starred in Illegal Aliens (2007). All four movies were directed by David Giancola. In 2012, James starred in the Giancola documentary, Addicted to Fame (2012), about the making of their film Illegal Aliens.

Currently James is producing and starring in another Giancola’s film, the sci-fi action adventure, Axcellerator. This film reunites him with The Colbys co-star Maxwell Caulfield while James’ daughter Laura plays one of the roles.

James was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota as one of the three children of radio broadcaster Herb Oscar Anderson (1928-2017). and his first wife. His brother, Herb Oscar Anderson II, is an actor.

In 1989, James married Denise Ellen Coward (born 1955 in Australia), a model and 2nd Runner-up for Miss World 1978.  They have two children. In 2012, James’ daughter, Laura, won America’s Next Top Model, Cycle 19. His son Phillip is serving in the United States Air Force.

In 2014, James considered running as a Republican for New York’s 21st congressional district. “A fourth potential candidate, John James, the actor who played Jeff Colby on the long-running TV show ‘Dynasty,’ is considering the race, according to Republican leaders. James lives on a farm he owns in Cambridge.


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Risteard Cooper

Ristard Cooper

Risteard Cooper (Wikipedia)

Risteard Cooper is an Irish actor, comedian, singer and writer and is one third of comedy trio Après Match.

Cooper graduated from the acting program at the Samuel Beckett Centre, Trinity College. He lived in New York for several years where he worked at the Ensemble Studio Theatre, the Irish Rep and Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company (founded by, amongst others, John Malkovich) playing Mickey in the American premiere of Jez Butterworth’s Olivier award-winning play, Mojo directed by Ian Rickson.

He has played lead roles in the major theatres in Ireland including Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme at the Abbey TheatreAuntie and Me at the Gaiety TheatreI Keano at the Olympia Theatre, and in numerous productions at the Gate Theatre such as ArcadiaAn Ideal HusbandSee You Next TuesdayEccentricities of a NightingaleBetrayal (Pinter Festival) and The Deep Blue Sea.

In 2009, he played the role of Dmitri in Brian Friel‘s play The Yalta Game, directed by Patrick Mason for the Gate Theatre at the 2009 Sydney and Edinburgh International Festivals.

He played the leading role of Michael in the RTÉ/Element Pictures film Bitter Sweet for which he received a Best Actor nomination at the 2009 Monte Carlo Television and Film Awards.

He starred as Setanta de Paor in An Crisis, an Irish language satirical comedy series for TG4 for which he was also nominated at the 2010 Monte Carlo Awards, this time in the Best Comedy Actor category.

In 2011, he wrote and starred in a series of parodies on YouTube sponsored by sports betting agency Betdaq.

Later that year he played Henry Higgins in the Abbey Theatre’s first ever production of Shaw’s Pygmalion going on in 2012 to star as Joxer Daly with Ciarán Hinds (Boyle) and Sinéad Cusack (Juno) in O’Casey’s Juno and the Paycock at the Abbey Theatre, before transferring to the National Theatre of Great Britain.

In 2013 he played Finbar in a production of Conor McPherson’s The Weir at The Donmar Warehouse, which transferred to the West End in 2014. It also starred Brian Cox, Dervla Kirwin, Ardal O’Hanlon and Peter McDonald and was directed by Josie Rourke.

In September 2014 he appeared as Sir Henry Coverly in the ITV drama The Suspicions of Mr Whicher “The Ties That Bind”, while in 2015 he portrayed Dermot Nally in RTÉ’s “Charlie” and most recently, the serial-killer Laurie Gaskell in the critically acclaimed eight-part comedy-drama “No Offence” for Channel 4.

Cooper also writes for the newspaper, The Irish Times.

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Constance Bennett

Constance Bennett

Constance Bennett (Wikipedia)

Constance Bennett was an American stage, film, radio and television actress. She was a major Hollywood star during the 1920s and 1930s and for a time during the early 1930s, she was the highest-paid actress in Hollywood, as well as one of the most popular. Bennett frequently played society women, focusing on melodramas in the early 1930s and then taking more comedic roles in the late 1930s and 1940s. She is best known today for her leading roles in What Price Hollywood? (1932), Bed of Roses (1933), Topper (1937), Topper Takes a Trip (1938), and had a prominent supporting role in Greta Garbo‘s last film, Two-Faced Woman (1941).

She was the daughter of stage and silent film star Richard Bennett, and the older sister of actress Joan Bennett.

Constance Bennett was born in New York City, the eldest of three daughters of actress Adrienne Morrison and actor Richard Bennett. Her younger sisters were actresses Joan Bennett and Barbara Bennett. All three girls attended the Chapin School in New York. 

After some time spent in a convent, Bennett went into the family business. Independent, cultured, ironic and outspoken, Constance, the first Bennett sister to enter motion pictures, appeared in New York-produced silent movies before a meeting with Samuel Goldwyn led to her Hollywood debut in Cytherea (1924). She abandoned a burgeoning career in silents for marriage to Philip Plant in 1925, but resumed her film career after their divorce, with the advent of talking pictures (1929), and with her delicate blonde features and glamorous fashion style, she quickly became a popular film star.

In the early 1930s, Bennett was frequently among the top actresses named in audience popularity and box-office polls. For a short time, she was the highest-paid actress in Hollywood. So successful was Bennett during this time, that RKO, Bennett’s home studio at the time, controlled the careers of actresses Ann Harding and Helen Twelvetrees in a similar manner, hoping to duplicate Bennett’s success.

In 1931, a short-lived contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer earned her $300,000 for two movies which included The Easiest Way and made her one of the highest-paid stars in Hollywood. Warner Brothers paid her the all-time high salary of $30,000 a week for Bought! in 1931.[4] Richard Bennett, her father, was also cast in this film.

The next year she moved to RKO, where she acted in What Price Hollywood? (1932), directed by George Cukor, an ironic and at the same time tragic behind-the-scenes looks at the old Hollywood studio system, in which she portrayed waitress Mary Evans, who becomes a movie star. Lowell Sherman co-starred as the film director who discovers her, and Neil Hamilton as the wealthy playboy she marries. It was a critical and box office hit at the time of its release. The film Morning Glory had been written with Bennett in mind for the lead role, but producer Pandro S. Berman gave the role to Katharine Hepburn, who won an Academy Award for her performance.

Bennett next showed her versatility in the likes of Our Betters (1933), writer/director Gregory La Cava‘s  Bed of Roses (1933) with Pert KeltonAfter Tonight (1933) (co-starring with future husband Gilbert Roland), The Affairs of Cellini (1934), After Office Hours (1935) with Clark Gable, the original Topper (1937, in a career standout as Marian Kerby opposite Cary Grant, a role she repeated in the 1939 sequel, Topper Takes a Trip), the ultimate madcap family comedy Merrily We Live (1938) and Two-Faced Woman (1941, supporting Greta Garbo).

By the 1940s, Bennett was working less frequently in film but was in demand in both radio and theatre. She had her own program, Constance Bennett Calls on You, on ABC radio in 1945-1946. Shrewd investments had made her a wealthy woman, and she founded a cosmetics and clothing company.

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Alex Jennings

Alex Jennings

Alex Jennings (Wikipedia)

Alex Jennings was born 10 May 1957 and is an English actor, who has worked extensively with the Royal Shakespeare Company and National Theatre. A three-time Olivier Award winner, he won for Too Clever by Half (1988), Peer Gynt (1996), and My Fair Lady (2003). He is the only performer to have won Olivier awards in the drama, musical and comedy categories. He played Prince Charles in the 2006 film The Queen. His other film appearances include The Wings of the Dove (1997), Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (2004), Babel(2006) and The Lady in the Van (2015). He also played Edward VIII, the Duke of Windsor, in the critically acclaimed Netflix series The Crown.

Jennings was born in Essex, the son of Peggy Patricia (née Mahoney) and Michael Thomas Jennings. He attended Abbs Cross Technical High School in Hornchurch and then studied English and Theatre studies at the University of Warwick, graduating in 1978. He said he saw his first theatre when he was in high school and went to the Old Vic Theatre, which led him to be inspired to be an actor.[5]

He trained as an actor for two years at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School.

Jennings began his career in regional repertory theatre, in 1985 playing a range of roles including Maximilien Robespierre in The Scarlet Pimpernel. Jennings met director Nicholas Hytner during this production and has worked with him many times since.[1]

For his performance as Gloumov in Too Clever by Half at the Old Vic, he won the Olivier Award for Best Comedy Performance in 1988. He was nominated in the same category the following year for portraying Dorante in The Liar.

He has performed for the Royal National Theatre in a number of plays, including Leontes in The Winter’s Tale and the title role in Albert Speer.

His Royal Shakespeare Company roles include the title role in Peer Gynt (for which he won an Olivier Award 1995-06 for Best Actor), the title role in Richard II (opposite Anton Lesser as Henry Bolingbroke), Theseus/Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (UK, American tour and Broadway), Angelo in Measure for Measure, and the title role in Hamlet.

In 2002, he appeared in the Cameron Mackintosh/Trevor Nunn revival of My Fair Lady at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane and won an Olivier Award as Best Actor in a Musical. He was an Associate Artist at the Royal Shakespeare Company.

In 2007, he played the role of Garry Essendine in Noël Coward‘s Present Laughter at the NT.[1]

In 2011, he played Mikhail Bulgakov in the National Theatre’s production of Collaborators.

In 2014, he played the role of Willy Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory the Musical, which was directed by Sam Mendes and was performed on London’s West End theatre district.nnnHe took over the role from Douglas Hodge in 2014.

In 2016, he reprised his role as Professor Henry Higgins in the Australian 60th Anniversary production of My Fair Lady, directed by Julie Andrews.

Jennings’ work in film includes a portrayal opposite Helen Mirren as Charles, Prince of Wales in the Stephen Frears directed film, The Queen.

He also appeared in War Requiem, the RSC’s film version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Lord Mark in the Oscar-nominated movie The Wings of the DoveJoseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and The Four Feathers.

Jennings portrays playwright Alan Bennett in the 2015 film The Lady in the Van opposite Academy Award winner Maggie Smith in the title role.n. The film is directed by Nicolas Hytner, who is a long-time collaborator from the theatre.

Jennings’ work in television includes appearances in The State WithinSmiley’s PeopleThe Franchise AffairInspector MorseLewisAlfonso Bonzo, the title role in AshendenDead Poets SocietyInspector AlleynHard TimesBad Blood, and Peter Ackroyd‘s London. His many radio credits include Casino RoyaleThe Way of the WorldStrange Meeting, Vorbis in Small Gods, and The Old Curiosity Shop

In 2007, he portrayed the Rev Hutton in the BBC series Cranford. He also played John Le Mesurier in the one-off BBC drama Hancock and Joan.

In 2009, he appeared in The Habit of Art as Benjamin Britten.

In 2010, he played Captain Shipshape in the CBeebies second series of Grandpa In My Pocket and starred in the film Belle. After that, he played Henry Tizard in Castles in the Sky.

From 2011 to 2014, Jennings played Alan Cowdrey QC in the BBC One legal drama Silk. In 2016, he appeared in the Netflix series The Crown as Prince Edward, Duke of Windsor (former Edward VIII), great uncle to Prince Charles (whom Jennings played in The Queen), as well as Leopold I of Belgium in the ITV series Victoria. In 2018 he played Liberal MP Peter Bessell in A Very English Scandal, a miniseries about the Jeremy Thorpe affair by Stephen Frears.

In June 2008, he made his operatic debut at the ENO in Robert Carsen‘s production of Bernstein’s Candide, in which he played Voltaireand Doctor Pangloss.

Audiobooks and narrationsEdit

He has recorded the audio versions of the books The Horse and His BoyOut of the Silent Planet, and Perelandra by C.S. Lewis20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne, and Attention All Shipping by Charlie Connelly, which was selected in June 2008 as one of the top 40 audiobooks of all time. In 2006, he recorded an abridgement of A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon. He is also a regular narrator on BBC Radio 4’s Book at Bedtime.

He was also a member of the BBC‘s Radio Drama Company.

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Pauline Flanagan

Pauline Flanagan

Pauline Flanagan (Wikipedia)

Pauline Flanagan was a County Sligo-born Irish actress who had a long career on stageAmerican television audiences best knew her as Maeve Ryan’s sister, Annie Colleary, on the soap opera Ryan’s Hope in 1979 and again in 1981. She later returned to the show as Sister Mary Joel.

She appeared in many Broadway plays, starting in 1957 with Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood. he starred in the 1976 Broadway revival of The Innocents. She appeared on Broadway in Philadelphia, Here I Come! in 1994.

She appeared Off-Broadway, several times with the Irish Repertory Theatre, including Juno and the Paycock (1995). She appeared in the Harold Prince play Grandchild of Kings at the Irish Repertory Theatre in February 1992, receiving the 1992 Outer Critics Circle Awardnomination for Best Actress. Other Off-Broadway work included Yeats: A Celebration.

She appeared in the play Summer, by Hugh Leonard at the Hudson Guild Theater, directed by Brian Murray. (Summer premiered at the Olney Theatre, Maryland, in August 1974.)

A resident of Glen Rock, New Jersey, she died at The Valley Hospital in Ridgewood, New Jersey one day before her 78th birthday of heart failure following a battle with lung cancer. She was survived by her husband, George Vogel (whom she married in 1958), a sister, Maura McNally, and her daughters Melissa Brown and Jane Holtzen.

In 1997 she won the Barclays Theatre Awards for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her role in Jennifer Johnston‘s Desert Lullaby, at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast. (The Barclays Theatre Awards are for outstanding regional theatre (including opera and dance) in the UK.)

She was nominated for the 1982 Drama Desk Award, Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play for Medea in which she performed on Broadway in 1982. In 2001 she won an Olivier Award, Best Supporting Actress, for her performance in Frank McGuinness‘ Dolly West’s Kitchen at the Old Vic.

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John Shrapnel

 
John Shrapnel

John Shrapnel (Wikipedia)

John Shrapnel was born 27 April 1942 & is an English actor.

Shrapnel was born in BirminghamWarwickshire, the son of Mary Lillian Myfanwy (néeEdwards) and journalist/author Norman Shrapnel.

Shrapnel was educated at the City of London School, an independent school for boys in the City of London, and Mile End School, Stockport where he was first involved in acting as a member of the school’s drama society, followed by St Catharine’s CollegeCambridge, where he obtained an M.A..

As a stage actor, Shrapnel was a member of Laurence Olivier‘s National Theatre Company and the Royal Shakespeare Company and most recently appeared as Sir Oliver Surface in The School for Scandal (directed by Deborah Warner) at the Barbican Centre in 2011.

Shrapnel has also appeared extensively on television in roles in Elizabeth RZ-CarsEdward and Mrs. SimpsonSpace: 1999Inspector MorseGBHCoogan’s Run and Foyle’s War. He presented an episode of the 1983 BBC television travel series Great Little Railways. He gave performances in three entries in the BBC Television Shakespeare plays and as Creon in the BBC‘s productions of the Three Theban plays (1986) of Sophocles. He also played Pompey in the second episode of Ancient Rome: The Rise and Fall of an Empire and the Jail Warden in The 10th Kingdom, an epic fantasy miniseries.

His film career has included roles in Nicholas and Alexandra (1971), Pope Joan (1972), Hennessy (1975), Personal Services (1987), Testimony (1988), How to Get Ahead in Advertising (1989), England, My England (1995), 101 Dalmatians (1996), Notting Hill (1999), The Body (2001), K-19: The Widowmaker (2002) and Alien Autopsy (2006). He has also appeared in historical films such as Gladiator (2000) as Senator Gaius, Troy (2004) as Nestor, Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007) as Lord Howard and The Duchess (2008) as General Grey.

Shrapnel has the rare distinction of appearing in two episodes of Midsomer Murders as two characters, in Death in Chorus and Written in Blood. Shrapnel appeared in an episode of Jonathan Creek as Professor Lance Graumann in the episode The Omega Man. He appears in Chemical Wedding alongside Simon Callow, telling the tale of the resurrection of occultist Aleister Crowley. He played John Christie in the episode “Solidarity” of the long running TV series Waking the Dead

Shrapnel also has experience in the field of BBC radio drama: He has played Colin Dexter‘s Inspector Morse (opposite Robert Glenister as Sgt. Lewis) and has starred in William Gibson‘s Neuromancer. Shrapnel played the character Deputy Assistant Commissioner John Felsham in the New Tricks episode The Fourth Man (2010). He also narrates episodes of Wild Discovery.

Shrapnel is the son-in-law of British film actress Deborah Kerr and film and television executive Tony Bartley, through his 1975 marriage to their younger daughter Francesca Ann Bartley. He and Francesca have three sons, the actors Lex Shrapnel (b. 1979) and Tom Shrapnel (b. 1981) and the writer Joe Shrapnel (b. 1976). They live in Highburynorth London.

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Phoebe Nichols

Phoebe Nichols

Phoebe Nichols (Wikipedia)

Phoebe Nichols was born in 1957) & is an English film, television, and stage actress. She is known for her roles as Cordelia Flyte in Brideshead Revisited and as the mother of John Merrick in The Elephant Man.

Nicholls is the daughter of actors Anthony Nicholls and Faith Kent. She trained at the Central School of Speech and Drama. Nicholls married director Charles Sturridge on 6 July 1985;  they have two sons, including actor Tom Sturridge, and a daughter. Her grandfather is photojournalist Horace Nicholls.

As a child actress in several films she was billed as Sarah Nicholls.  In her early 20s, she appeared in David Lynch‘s The Elephant ManMichael Palin‘s The Missionary and as Cordelia Flyte in Brideshead Revisited. Since then, she has worked almost exclusively in television and theatre. Debuting in Michael Lindsay-Hogg‘s original staging of Whose Life Is It Anyway? in 1978, she went on to perform in Robert Strura’s revival of Three Sisters with Vanessa RedgraveStephen Daldry‘s acclaimed National Theatre version of J.B. Priestley‘s An Inspector Calls and in the Olivier Award-winning productions of Pravda, with The Elephant Man co-star Sir Anthony Hopkins and Terry Johnson‘s Hysteria. Her supporting performances in the 2008 West End revivals of Noël Coward‘s The Vortex and Harley Granville Barker‘s Waste earned her the 2009 Clarence Derwent Award from Equity. She also played the conniving art critic Rivera in the Royal National Theatre production of the Howard Barker drama, Scenes from an Execution.

She appeared in the 1995 BBC film Persuasion, an adaptation of Jane Austen‘s novel. She has made guest appearances on several television mystery series, including Kavanagh QCPrime SuspectMidsomer MurdersLewisThe Ruth Rendell Mysteries (“May and June”, 1997), Foyle’s WarSecond Sight starring Clive Owen, and the 2012 Christmas episode of Downton Abbey, a role she reprised for the 2014 season. She has also appeared in several works directed by her husband, Charles Sturridge, including his 1995 television adaptation of Gulliver’s Travels, where she portrayed the Liliputian Empress, the 1997 film Fairy Tale: A True Story and Shackleton in 2002.


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Aisling O’Sullivan

Aisling O’Sullivan

Aisling O’Sullivan (Wikipedia)

Aisling O’Sullivan was born in 1968 in Tralee, Co Kerry.

O’Sullivan attended the Gaiety School of Acting in Dublin and joined the Abbey Theatre in 1991.

She garnered major acclaim for her performance as Widow Quin in Druid Theatre Company‘s 2004 production of The Playboy of the Western World, which toured throughout Ireland including her native Kerry, and also starred Cillian Murphy and Anne-Marie Duff

In 2011 and 2012, she toured Ireland again with Druid, playing the titular character in Big Maggie by John B. Keane and was consequently nominated for Best Actress in the Irish Times Irish Theatre Awards.

At the National Theatre she played in LiolàMutabilitie, and The Cripple of Inishmaan.

She played the role of Aileen Beck in the “Best Boys” episode of the 1995 TV series Cracker.

O’Sullivan had a small part in Michael Collins (1996).

She appeared in another Neil Jordan film, The Butcher Boy (1997) as Francie’s mentally unstable mother.

In a 1998 PBS adaptation of Henry James novel The American, she played the part of Claire De Cintré, opposite Matthew Modine and Diana Rigg.

She played the grieving mother who commits suicide in Six Shooter, playwright Martin McDonagh‘s Oscar-winning short film.[3]

She is familiar to Irish television audiences as Dr. Cathy Costello from Series 1 to Series 5 in the drama series The Clinic, a role for which she has won an Irish Film and Television Awards best actress award in 2008.

She had a leading role in the Channel 4 thriller Shockers (1999). She starred in Seasons 2 through 5 in Raw, an RTÉ drama portraying the lives of a restaurant staff, playing manager Fiona Kelly.


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Eric Porter

Eric Porter

Eric Porter obituary in “The Independent” in 1995.

When television producers were casting demons and po-faced characters in the Sixties and Seventies, Eric Porter seemed to be on all their shortlists, becoming a star as Soames Forsyte in The Forsyte Saga in 1967, after more than 20 years in acting.

The role of the brutal lawyer in John Galsworthy’s story of a family of London merchants at the turn of the century catapulted Porter to world- wide fame – and infamy. “They buttonholed me in Detroit, in Malta and on a Spanish beach”, Porter once said. “There was no hiding place. Even in Budapest this large lady with dyed hair came beaming over, placed a plump hand on my chest and said, “Aaaach, Soooames Forsyte”.

Porter was born in London in 1928, the son of a bus conductor. His parents wanted him to qualify as an electrical engineer, so he went to Wimbledon Technical College at the age of 15 and, a year later, started work for the Marconi Telegraph and Wireless Company, solderingjoints. But he had acted in school plays, and was soon trying to get into the theatre.    

Although Porter failed to get a scholarship to RADA, a district schools drama organiser obtained an interview for him with Robert Atkins, director of the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre company at Stratford-upon-Avon, which later became the Royal Shakespeare Company. He was signed up, in 1945, aged 17, and made his stage debut carrying a spear, at £3 a week. He then joined Lewis Casson’s theatre company in a revival of Saint Joan, making his London debut in 1946 at the King’s Theatre, Hammersmith (now the Lyric), as Dunois’s page.

After nine months’ National Service as an engine mechanic in the RAF, Porter toured with Sir Donald Wolfit, acted in repertory theatre in Birmingham, Bristol and at the London Old Vic, and appeared in Sir John Gielgud’s Hammersmith season and in the West End.

He made his first Broadway appearance as the Burgomaster in The Visit at the opening of the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre and, back in Britain, played Rosmer in Rosmersholm at the Royal Court Theatre, which won him the London Evening Standard Drama Award as Best Actor in 1959.

Porter’s television career began with The Physicist and he later appeared in The Wars of the Roses (1965), before fame came with the part of the brutal Soames Forsyte, in 1967. The Forsyte Saga, adapted from John Galsworthy’s novel, was an instant hit, featuring Porter as a monster who is incredibly cruel to his first wife, Irene (played by Nyree Dawn Porter), but who became loved by female viewers throughout the world. However, the scene where Soames rapes Irene shocked everyone – including the cast and crew. ”I tugged and pulled at her bodice,” Porter recalled, ”and to everyone’s horror, there was blood all over the place. I had gashed my hand on a brooch she was wearing.”

His role in the 26-part series, screened initially on BBC2 but repeated on BBC1 the following year, and enjoying another two repeat runs, won him Best Actor awards from Bafta and the Guild of Television Producers and Directors. The programme would have become a long-term best-seller for the BBC, but suffered from being the last important television drama series to be made in black and white.

Having made his name, Porter took the title roles in television productions of Cyrano de Bergerac (1968) and Macbeth, appeared in The Winslow Boy, Man and Superman – opposite Maggie Smith – Julius Caesar and Separate Tables. He and Nyree Dawn Porter played man and wife one more time in an episode of Love Story called “Spilt Champagne”. Ten years after The Forsyte Saga made waves, Porter teamed up again with its producer, Donald Wilson, and reprised his viciousness in a BBC adaptation of Anna Karenina, in which he played the dull government official Karenin, who throws his pregnant wife Anna (Nicola Pagett) across the bedroom into a chair.

His subsequent television roles included Neville Chamberlain in Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years (1981), a po-faced deputy governor in The Crucible, an ageing playwright in A Shilling Life, Moriarty in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Fagin in Oliver Twist. He also played the elderly, silver-haired Russian aristocrat Count Bronowsky in the 1984 blockbuster series The Jewel in the Crown as well as appearing more lightheartedly in The Morecambe and Wise Show. Porter’s last small-screen appearance was as Player in a new production of Dennis Potter’s Message for Posterity. It was completed earlier this year.

Anthony Hayward

Eric Porter was one of those actors often thought to be on the brink of greatness, rather than actually great at any time, writes Peter Cotes.

He was always compelling in whatever he tackled, and could claim at one time to be one of the most versatile players in Britain who seriously made each role he enacted true. Few tricksy tactics were resorted to; the actor was there to serve the play.

In the 1950s, he emerged as an actor to be watched and capable when young of playing middle-aged and even old men without resorting to the heavy make-up, that look and smell of glue, and the obligatory facial greasepaint lining that can look artificial and at times absurd.

Porter enjoyed playing classical roles in the theatre best of all and was unusually happy, in a way that few other actors were, when touring with Sir Donald Wolfit. He found both the Birmingham Rep and Bristol Old Vic much to his liking and the regular audiences attending those playhouses admired this highly dependable actor who was capable of making small roles big without ever stepping out of line and “hogging the limelight”. His Bolingbroke to Paul Scofield’s Richard II in 1952 at the Lyric, Hammersmith, was a case in point – he repeated the character in Henry IV at the Old Vic three years later. Before that time he had done more than his fair share of touring since making his debut in 1945. Seasons with the Travelling Repertory Theatre Company took him to the King’s Theatre, Hammersmith, before he did National Service with the RAF (1946-47).

After stints with the extrovert Wolfit, travelling the “sticks” in the Forties, and the shy introvert Barry Jackson at Birmingham, learning about “attack” from the former and “taste” from the latter, Porter found himself in Hammersmith again playing Jones at a moment’s notice in Galsworthy’s The Silver Box at the Lyric Theatre there. He caught the critical eye and there was no looking back.

Chekhov followed at the Aldwych, in the West End, when he made an arresting Solyoni in The Three Sisters in the early Fifties. He joined Gielgud’s Company in a “season” and I saw him at the Lyric Hammersmith as Bolingbroke,in February 1953, followed by such costume pieces as The Way of the World and Venice Preserv’d, both in the same season, before he returned to play leading roles. He was accorded leading-man status at the Bristol Old Vic, where he made an impressive Becket in Murder in the Cathedral and Father Browne in The Living Room, before returning to the Old Vic, in London, playing featured roles.

Since the 1960s he had been one of the leading players at the RSC, for whom his characters had included an outstanding Antonio in The Duchess of Malfi, a striking Barabas in The Jew of Malta, and such “friendly villains” as Shylock and Macbeth as well as a majestic Lear (on Wolfit lines caught from watching that grand Lear play the role). And a Captain Hook in Peter Pan in the 1970s not only of “Eton and Balliol” but as Barrie’s play demands “of green-light melodrama” also.

After such a succession of hits, Porter was hardly ever away from plum parts in England, and made appearances on Broadwaybefore returning to London for his award-winning Rosmer in 1959. Although now recognised as a star by his fellow actors, he found that the world-wide stardom associated so often with the playing the great parts eluded him, despite a Malvolio of wit and pathos and a Leontes in The Winter’s Tale of depth and poignancy at Stratford.

Porter injected more into the theatre than he ever took out of it considering the parts he so finely portrayed and the dignity he gave to the roles he embellished with his out-of-the- ordinary talent – mostly in the theatre classics which he loved best but also in such “moderns” on television as Separate Tables.

Porter used to say he was “lucky” in his parts and accepted philosophically the fact that many a lesser actor than himself caught the stardom which is often accorded to the ordinary rather than the great.

But who can doubt that Eric Porter had more than a modicum of greatness in his talent?

Eric Porter will always be part of television history for his performance in The Forsyte Saga, in 1967. But his work in films was also more than appreciable, writes Tom Vallance.

Though his cinema work included classic roles familiar from his stage career, he is best remembered for two Hammer films, The Lost Continent (1968) – adapted from Dennis Wheatley’s Uncharted Seas, in which he was top billed as the captain whose tramp steamer wanders into an unknown civilisation – and Peter Sasdy’s Hands of the Ripper (1971), in which he co-starred with Angharad Rees as a doctor using Freudian theories to try to cure the murderous daughter of Jack the Ripper.

His authoritarian demeanour led to his frequent casting as military men or aristocracy in such films as Charlton Heston’s ponderous Antony and Cleopatra (1973 – he was Enobarbus), Fall of the Roman Empire (1964), The Heroes of Telemark (1965) and Nicholas and Alexandra (1971). In Fred Zinnemann’s gripping thriller The Day of the Jackal (1973), Porter is the fanatical head of a secret military organisation who believes General de Gaulle has betrayed France by giving Algeria independence, and hires a professional killer to assassinate him. It was not a large role but a pivotal one to which Porter brought typically chilling conviction.

Eric Porter, actor: born London 8 April 1928; died London 15 May 1995.

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Gary Whelan

Gary Whelan