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Mark Lester (born Mark A. Letzer; 11 July 1958) is an Englishmarker former child actor known for playing the title role in the 1968 musical film version of Oliver! and starring in a number of other British and European films of the 1960s and 70s.


Early life and film career

Lester was born in Oxford, Oxfordshiremarker, to actress Rita Keene Lester and actor and producer Michael Lester (originally Michael Boris Letzer). His father was Jewish and his mother Anglican. He attended the independent Halliford Schoolmarker in Sheppertonmarker, Middlesex, and the independent Corona Academy stage school in Hammersmithmarker, London, and had supporting roles in several British television series, including The Human Jungle and Danger Man.

In 1964, at the age of six, Lester was cast in Robert Dhery's movie Allez France! with Diana Dors (who appeared in a 1948 film version of Oliver Twist). He played a small part as the second schoolboy in Fahrenheit 451.

In 1968, at the age of nine, Lester was cast as Oliver in the film version of Lionel Bart's musical Oliver!. He played the title character in the multiple Academy Award-winning musical adaptation of Charles Dickens' novel, which co-starred Jack Wild, Ron Moody, Shani Wallis and Oliver Reed, and was directed by Sir Carol Reed. Lester was good friends with Wild throughout the making of the film and their friendship continued post-production with Lester describing Wild as a "long lost brother". When Wild was nominated for an Academy Award for the film, they were flown together to the USA for the ceremony.

These two child actors later reunited for Melody (1971), which depicted British schoolchildren in love. Tracy Hyde played the role of Melody in the film, which used music from the Bee Gees and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

In 1969, Lester received critical acclaim for his portrayal of a dysfunctional and withdrawn only child in Run Wild, Run Free, starring opposite Sir John Mills, and then as a disturbed child in the first regular episode of Then Came Bronson. Lester's acting roles peaked as he starred in Eyewitness (1970), with Susan George, Night Hair Child (1971) with Britt Ekland, Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? (1971), with Shelley Winters, Melody and Black Beauty. After this period, his acting roles in the UK would begin to wane as he found good roles harder to come by. He extended his range with roles in a series of films in Italy including Redneck (1972) with Telly Savalas and the Western Scalawag (1973) with Kirk Douglas. The final film of his Italian-based career was in the costume drama La Prima volta sull'erba (Love Under the Elms, 1974), which was nominated for the Best Film prize at the Berlin Film Festival. Lester wrapped up his British film career with the lead role in the all-star film Crossed Swords aka The Prince and Pauper (1977), starring Raquel Welch, Charlton Heston, Rex Harrison, George C. Scott, and Oliver Reed, who had played Bill Sikes in Oliver.

Adult life

After the poor reception of Crossed Swords Lester gave up acting at the age of 19. He took his A Levels at the age of 28 and became an osteopathic physician, studying at the British School of Osteopathy. In 1993, Lester opened the Carlton Clinic, an acupuncture clinic in Cheltenhammarker.

He married in January 1993 and with his wife had 4 children, but divorced in 2005. He remarried, to a psychiatric nurse named Lisa in 2006.

He is an honorary patron of The Music Hall Guild of Great Britain and America.

Lester was a close friend of Michael Jackson from 1982 until Jackson's death in 2009, and Jackson chose him to be godfather to the children. In August 2009, Lester gave an interview to the British tabloid newspaper News of the World, claiming that he could be the biological father of Paris Katherine Jackson, the late singer's daughter. Lester claimed to have been a sperm donor for Jackson in 1996, and announced that he was willing to take a paternity test to determine whether he was the father.

He stated in a video interview for the newspaper that his motivation, as godfather of the children, was that he had not been allowed contact with them since Jackson's death: "It's very, very upsetting not being able to see all those children; they're my godchildren, and I love them dearly." Brian Oxman, former lawyer for the Jackson family, rejected the claim in a television interview, stating, “The thing I always heard from Michael was that Michael was the father of these children, and I believe Michael."


  1. BFI | Film & TV Database | LESTER, Mark

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