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Donald Henry Pleasence OBE, (5 October 1919 – 2 February 1995) was an Englishmarker actor, having accumulated over 200 screen credits throughout his long career. Although he often found himself typecast as villainous and/or psychopathic characters, Pleasence was perhaps best known for his work on two of cinema's most enduring franchises; the James Bond and Halloween series.

Early life

Pleasence was born in Worksopmarker, Nottinghamshiremarker, Englandmarker, the son of Alice (née Armitage) and Thomas Stanley Pleasence, a railway stationmaster. He was brought up in the small village of Grimoldbymarker, Lincolnshiremarker and raised a strict Methodist. Pleasence attended Ecclesfieldmarker Grammar School, in Sheffieldmarker, Yorkshiremarker, and subsequently dropped out to work as a railway clerk, whilst looking for a job as an actor.

His acting career began in a production of Wuthering Heights, but was interrupted by World War II. He was at first a conscientious objector, but later joined the Royal Air Force and served with 166 Squadron, RAF Bomber Command. His Avro Lancaster was shot down on 31 August 1944 during a raid on Agenville. He was taken prisoner and placed in a German prisoner-of-war camp, where he produced and acted in plays. Coincidentally, he later played Flight Lt. Colin Blythe in The Great Escape where much of the story takes place inside a German POW camp.

Career

Pleasence returned to acting after the war, and critics began to call him the "Man with the Hypnotic Eye". Coupled with his bald head and quiet but intense voice, he specialised in insane and evil characters, including Prince John in the ITV series The Adventures of Robin Hood, Heinrich Himmler in The Eagle Has Landed, and the Bond villain Blofeld in You Only Live Twice. In his later years, he became known to a younger generation as Dr. Loomis in Halloween. His trademark voice may be credited to elocution lessons he had as a child. He reprised his role as Dr. Loomis in Halloween II, IV, V and VI.

In the early 1960s, he recorded several children story records on the Atlas Record label under the Talespinners series in the UK, later released in the U.S. as Tale Spinners For Children on the United Artists label. The stories included were Don Quixote and the Brave Little Tailor.

Perhaps his most sympathetic role was as the tragic POW Colin Blythe in the 1963 film The Great Escape, who discovers he is slowly going blind, but nonetheless participates in the escape, and is shot down by Nazi officers because he is unable to see them. In 1967's The Night of the Generals, he plays another uncharacteristically sympathetic role, as a Heer General involved in a plot to kill Hitler. In the latter film, he co-starred with Charles Gray, another Blofeld (in Diamonds are Forever (1971)), also playing an anti-Hitler general.

He played Satan (in several human disguises) in the 1965 religious epic The Greatest Story Ever Told. He was one of many stars who appeared in cameos throughout the film. Perhaps his most bizarre and powerful film role occurred in Polanski's "Cul de Sac" (1966) in which he portrayed the love-sodden husband of a much younger French wife (Françoise Dorléac).

One of his earliest roles on television, as Syme in the BBC's highly-acclaimed 1954 adaptation of George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, also starred Peter Cushing – another actor who would go on to find fame in many horror film roles. He appeared twice with Patrick McGoohan in the British spy series, Danger Man, in episodes "Find and Return" and "Position of Trust". His first appearance in America was in an episode of The Twilight Zone, playing an aging (and suicidal) teacher at a boys' school in the 1962 episode "The Changing of the Guard". In 1963, he appeared in a 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 (which, because of Fear's raucous performance and the sick, dark humor of the sketches, hasn't been seen on television since its first airing)

Pleasence starred as Rev. Septimus Harding in the BBC's 1982 production of The Barchester Chronicles. He played the murderer in an episode of Columbo entitled "Any Old Port in a Storm" and also had the distinction of having been a culprit captured by Mrs. Columbo in "Murder is a Parlor Game." Pleasence also provided the voiceover 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.

His acting hero was Sir Laurence Olivier whom he worked with many times, including the 1979 version of Dracula. Pleasence even does an amusingly broad impersonation of Olivier as horror film actor "Valentine De'ath" in the 1977 film The Uncanny.

Pleasence was nominated twice for the Tony award for best performance by a leading actor in a play: in 1969 for The Man in the Glass Booth and in 1972 for Wise Child; and he was awarded an OBE in 1994.

Personal life

Pleasence was married four times and had five daughters from his first three marriages. He was married to Miriam Raymond 1941 – 1958 and they had Angela and Jean. His 1959 – 1970 marriage to actress and singer Josephine Martin Crombie produced Lucy and Polly. He was married to Meira Shore 1970 – 1988 and they had a daughter, Miranda. His last marriage to Linda Kentwood lasted until his death in 1995.

He died at the age of 75 in Saint-Paul-de-Vencemarker, Francemarker, from complications after heart valve replacement surgery. Pleasence was cremated. His ashes were given to his family.

Filmography (incomplete)



Legacy

  • 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.


References

  1. http://www.archive.org/stream/playeraprofileof002609mbp/playeraprofileof002609mbp_djvu.txt
  2. 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.
  3. www.imdb.com Power Play


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