Donald Pleasence Poster


Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (4) | Trade Mark (3) | Trivia (24) | Personal Quotes (15) | Salary (1)

Overview (4)

Date of Birth 5 October 1919Worksop, Nottinghamshire, England, UK
Date of Death 2 February 1995Saint-Paul-de-Vence, Alpes-Maritimes, France  (complications from heart valve replacement surgery)
Birth NameDonald Henry Pleasence
Height 5' 6" (1.68 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Balding, quietly-spoken, of slight build and possessed of piercing blue eyes -- often peering out from behind round, steel-rimmed glasses -- Donald Pleasence had the necessary physical attributes which make a great screen villain. In the course of his lengthy career, he relished playing the obsessed, the paranoid and the purely evil. Even the Van Helsing-like psychiatrist Sam Loomis in the Halloween (1978) franchise seems only marginally more balanced than his prey. An actor of great intensity, Pleasence excelled on stage as Shakespearean villains. He was an unrelenting prosecutor in Jean Anouilh's "Poor Bitos" and made his theatrical reputation in the title role of the seedy, scheming tramp in Harold Pinter's "The Caretaker" (1960). On screen, he gave a perfectly plausible interpretation of the head of the SS, Heinrich Himmler, in The Eagle Has Landed (1976). He was a convincingly devious Thomas Cromwell in Henry VIII and His Six Wives (1972), disturbing in his portrayal of the crazed, bloodthirsty preacher Quint in Will Penny (1967); and as sexually depraved, alcohol-sodden 'Doc' Tydon in the brilliant Aussie outback drama Wake in Fright (1971). And, of course, he was Ernst Stavro Blofeld in You Only Live Twice (1967). These are some of the films, for which we may remember Pleasence, but there was a great deal more to this fabulous, multi-faceted actor.

Donald Henry Pleasence was born on October 5, 1919 in Worksop, Nottinghamshire, England, to Alice (Armitage) and Thomas Stanley Pleasence. His family worked on the railway; his grandfather had been a signal man and both his brother and father were station masters. When Donald failed to get a scholarship at RADA, he joined the family occupation working as a clerk at his father's station before becoming station master at Swinton, Yorkshire. While there he wrote letters to theatre companies eventually being accepted by one on the island of Jersey in Spring 1939 as an assistant stage manager. On the eve of World War II, he made his theatrical debut in "Wuthering Heights". In 1942, he played Curio in "Twelfth Night", but his career was then interrupted by military service in the RAF. He was shot down over France, incarcerated and tortured in a German POW camp. Once repatriated, Donald returned to the stage in Peter Brook's 1946 London production of "The Brothers Karamazov" with Alec Guinness although he missed the opening due to measles, followed by a stint on Broadway with Laurence Olivier's touring company in "Caesar and Cleopatra" and "Anthony and Cleopatra". Upon his return to England, he won critical plaudits for his performance in "Hobson's Choice". In 1952, Donald began his screen career, rather unobtrusively, in small parts. He was only really noticed once having found his métier as dastardly, sneaky Prince John in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1955). It took several more years, until international recognition came his way: first, through the filmed adaptation of The Guest (1963); and, secondly, with his blind forger in The Great Escape (1963), a role imbued with added conviction due to his own wartime experience.

Some of his best acting Donald reserved for the small screen. In 1962, the producer of The Twilight Zone (1959), Buck Houghton, brought Donald to the United States ('damn the expense'!) to guest star in the third season episode "The Changing of the Guard". He was given a mere five days to immerse himself in the part of a gentle school teacher, Professor Ellis Fowler, who, on the eve of Christmas is forcibly retired after fifty-one years of teaching. Devastated, and believing himself a failure who has made no mark on the world, he is about to commit suicide when the school's bell summons him to his classroom. There, he is confronted by the spirits of deceased students who exhort him to consider that his lessons have had fundamental effects on their lives, even leading to acts of great heroism. Upon hearing this, Fowler is now content to graciously accept his retirement. Managing to avoid maudlin sentimentality, Donald's performance was intuitive and, arguably, one of the most poignant ever accomplished in a thirty-minute television episode. Once again, against type, he was equally delightful as the mild-mannered Reverend Septimus Harding in Anthony Trollope's The Barchester Chronicles (1982). Whether eccentric, sinister or given to pathos, Donald Pleasence was always great value-for-money and his performances have rarely failed to engage.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: I.S.Mowis

Spouse (4)

Linda Kentwood (3 January 1989 - 2 February 1995) (his death)
Miera Shore (10 October 1970 - 1 February 1988) (divorced) (1 child)
Josephine Crombie (1959 - 1970) (divorced) (2 children)
Miriam Raymond (1941 - 1958) (divorced) (2 children)

Trade Mark (3)

Bald head and piercing blue eyes
Dr. Sam Loomis from the Halloween films
Intense performances

Trivia (24)

His portrayal of Ernst Stavro Blofeld in You Only Live Twice (1967) will always be an influence of the Dr. Evil character in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997) and Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999). Both Dr. Evil (Mike Myers) and Pleasence's Blofeld have a large facial scar.
Father of Angela Pleasence, Jean Pleasence, Polly Jo Pleasence, Lucy Pleasance (1962) and Miranda Pleasence.
He had elocution lessons as a child.
The only actor to have appeared in both The Great Escape (1963) and its television sequel The Great Escape II: The Untold Story (1988). Ironically, he played one of the would-be great escapees in the first film and one of the German executioners in the second. Strangely he even played the role of the SS and Gestapo chief, Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler, in the film The Eagle Has Landed (1976). Heinrich Himmler was the one who ordered the secret murder of "the 50" POWs. Thus, Pleasence is likely to be one of only a few actors to have ever portrayed all three roles of murder conspirator, executioner, and victim (although technically he was not among the 50. His character died earlier.).
Was originally chosen to play Blair in The Thing (1982), but a scheduling conflict prevented him from doing so. Therefore, the role went to Wilford Brimley.
When Moustapha Akkad asked Donald Pleasence how many more Halloween (1978) films he was planning to make, Donald replied "I stop at twenty-two!"
Married four times and had five daughters. Angela Pleasence and Jean Pleasence were born from his marriage to actress Miriam Raymond; Lucy Pleasance and Polly Jo Pleasence were the products of his union with actress/singer Josephine Crombie and Miranda Pleasence was conceived during his marriage to singer Miera Shore.
Shortly before his death in 1995, he was scheduled to star in a production of "King Lear" that would have featured daughters Angela Pleasence, Polly Jo Pleasence and Miranda Pleasence.
His father was a stationmaster.
He was initially a conscientous objector during World War II, but later changed his mind and joined the British Royal Air Force. His plane was shot down and was taken prisoner of war by the Nazis until his release in 1945.
Was held at Stalag Luft I, near the Baltic Sea. While a POW during World War II, he organized a theatre company in order to pass the time. His productions included "The Petrified Forest", in which he played the Leslie Howard role opposite a 6' 1" Canadian who played the Bette Davis part.
Played Loomis in Innocent Bystanders (1972), Dr. Sam Loomis in most of the first six Halloween (1978) movies (Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982) was not a "Michael Myers" movie) and Father Loomis in Prince of Darkness (1987).
One of the stars of The Great Escape (1963) to have actually been a World War II prisoner of war (Hannes Messemer, who played Colonel Lugo the camp commander, was a German soldier in World War II and was captured by American troops and held in a POW camp until the end of the war). He was also a POW in Russia. When he kindly offered advice to director John Sturges, he was politely asked to keep his "opinions" to himself. Later, when another star from the film informed Sturges that Pleasence had actually been an RAF officer in a World War II German POW camp, Sturges requested Pleasance's technical advice and input on historical accuracy from that point forward.
Was nominated for four Tony Awards as Best Actor (Dramatic): in 1962 for "The Caretaker", a part he recreated in the film version also titled The Guest (1963); in 1965 for "Poor Bitos"; in 1969 for "The Man in the Glass Booth" and, in 1972 for "Wise Child" - but he never won.
He was a wireless operator in Lancaster bombers in 166 Squadron, Royal Air Force.
Often joked to friends and family that, before Halloween (1978) came out, he was typecast as villains and psychopaths, never having been given the chance to play a good guy or hero. However, after his portrayal of the heroic, Van Helsing-like Dr. Sam Loomis in Halloween, he had the exact opposite problem in that no one wanted to see him play bad guys anymore, that the only parts offered to him were avengers and heroes.
He was flying in a Lancaster NE112 "AS-M" when it was shot down on September 9, 1944.
Is Carrie Anderson's great-uncle.
Daughter, Jean, is an occupational therapist at a psychiatric hospital.
He was good in school plays and won prizes.
Among the possible actors for the role of Fallanda in Lifeforce (1985). Frank Finlay won the role.
He was the first actor to play Ernst Stavro Blofeld in the James Bond films. However, he was a last-minute replacement for a Czech actor, Jan Werich.
He and his The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965) co-stars Telly Savalas and Max von Sydow all later played the Bond villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld: Pleasence in You Only Live Twice (1967), Savalas in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) and von Sydow in Never Say Never Again (1983).
He was awarded the OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) in the 1994 Queen's New Year Honours List for his services to drama.

Personal Quotes (15)

I'm a professional actor. I get the part. I read the script. If I decide to do it, I learn the lines. I have no theory about acting. For me, there is no Method. I just do it.
I treat all film roles one way - very seriously.
There was a sort of horror picture that I did called The Mutations (1974). I think I did that solely for the money. I have six daughters, and they can be quite expensive, so one has to keep working and be able to pay the bills. I did get to work with Tom Baker. He's a very charming, bright man and I liked him very much. I remember that movie as a very happy time; the whole gang of us were very friendly, and that means so much when you're working together. But I surely wouldn't list that film among my proudest moments.
[on Halloween (1978)] There are parts of the script which I couldn't accept. I believe people are behaving in a way in which they couldn't possibly in real life behave. And that's always difficult because if you're one of the people, then you are the one who's going to look like an idiot.
[on THX 1138 (1971)] It was an enjoyable film to make. Even at that point, I had a feeling George Lucas would go on to do some wonderful things. Technically he knew everything about the business at a very young age.
[from an interview done in 1989] It's gotten to the point where it's big news when I don't do a horror film. At this point in my career, it doesn't bother me much that I'm probably hopelessly typecast. I like to work, and horror films definitely keep me working.
[on The Great Escape (1963)] That was my first big Hollywood picture, and it struck particularly close to home for me because I had been in the RAF and spent some time in a POW camp in Germany. I had a wonderful part and was delighted. Steve McQueen was a bit difficult during the filming, flying in three separate screenwriters to make sure his character was to his liking. Coming from a theater background, I had a lot of qualms with the way this big budget movie was being made, but I kept my mouth shut and was ultimately very happy with the experience.
John Carpenter is the best director I ever worked with. One of the main reasons is his bravery in the way he's cast me in his films. By casting me as the president in Escape from New York (1981) and as the essentially good Dr. Loomis in the original Halloween (1978), he gave me the opportunities that might have been missed had I stayed a stereotypical madman. That casting against type is what made Prince of Darkness (1987) such a lovely bit of business for me. People were walking into the theaters expecting me to be bad, and I ended up representing all the good in the universe.
I don't like horror films. I'm interested in them, but if there were three kinds of film playing across the road at my local cinema, the horror film would not be the one I would go to see. I do a lot of horror films because I'm asked to do them, and I need to make money all the time, so ...
For a while, I wore a toupee because I thought it would help me get work. But it didn't, so eventually I threw it away and said, "They'll have to take me the way I am."
[from an interview in 1988] Being typed as the one who constantly plays the crazy, mixed-up person is something I vehemently deny. I love playing the heavies, like Blofeld in You Only Live Twice (1967); they're usually larger than life and are the characters that most people remember. But as my career has progressed, more and more I'm the good guy chasing after the crazy, mixed-up people. I'm rarely the crazed monster anymore. If the truth be known, I prefer being the pursuer. If the crazed killer was the only role I was being offered, I don't know what I might do to myself.
All kids love horror films. Films of that nature are especially attractive to teenagers for the simple reason that they don't want to sit home with Mom and Dad and watch game shows. Give them a film that's scary, violent, and a little bit funny and they'll be out of the house and into the theaters like a shot.
I don't know if I'm the first actor people think of when it comes to horror films, but I do seem to get these calls pretty regularly. I work all the time, and it's by choice. I've got homes in Spain and France, and I do tend to have, shall we say, extravagant ways. It's nice to know that, at some point, I'll have a month off to work in my garden or be with my grandchildren. But it's equally good to know that a call might come that would take me halfway around the world to make a film.
[on Fantastic Voyage (1966)] I remember being amazed the first day I walked onto the shoot and saw these outsize sets that simulated the human body. I enjoyed that film because, even though my character was the villain, I got to play him as a much gentler person. Of course, he richly deserved to be swallowed by the antibodies at the end.
[om The Flesh and the Fiends (1960)] George Rose and myself were perfectly horrible grave robbers. As I recall, that film had some rather bloody scenes in it which, in 1960, was a rare occurrence in horror films. That was a really atmospheric film, and it portrayed the poverty of 19th century Europe realistically.

Salary (1)

Halloween (1978) $20,000

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