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Peter Ustinov Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (3) | Trivia (31) | Personal Quotes (21)

Overview (4)

Date of Birth 16 April 1921London, England, UK
Date of Death 28 March 2004Genolier, Vaud, Switzerland  (heart failure)
Birth NamePeter Alexander Freiherr von Ustinov
Height 5' 11" (1.8 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Peter Ustinov was a two-time Academy Award-winning film actor, a director, writer, journalist and raconteur. He wrote and directed many acclaimed stage plays and led numerous international theatrical productions.

He was born Peter Alexander Freiherr von Ustinov on April 16, 1921, in Swiss Cottage, London, England, the son of Nadezhda Leontievna (Benois) and Iona von Ustinov. His father was of one quarter Polish Jewish, one half Russian, one eighth African Ethiopian, and one eighth German, descent, while his mother was of one half Russian, one quarter Italian, one eighth French, and one eighth German, ancestry. Ustinov had ancestral connections to Russian nobility, as well as to the Ethiopian Royal Family. His father, also known as "Klop", was a pilot in the German Air Force during World War I. In 1919, Peter's father joined his own mother and sister in St. Petersburg, Russia. There he met Peter's mother, artist Nadia Benois, who worked for the Imperial Mariinsky Ballet and Opera House in St. Petersburg. In 1920, in a modest and discrete ceremony at a Russian-German Church in St. Petersburg, Ustinov's father married Nadia. Later, when she was seven months pregnant with Peter, the couple emigrated from Russia, in 1921, in the aftermath of the Communist Revolution.

Young Peter was brought up in a multi-lingual family--he was fluent in Russian, French, Italian and German, and also was a native English speaker. He attended Westminster College in 1934-37, took the drama and acting class under Michel St. Denis at the London Theatre Studio, 1937-39, and made his stage debut in 1938 in a theatre in Surrey. In 1939 he made his London stage debut in a revue sketch, then had regular performances with Aylesbury Repertory Company. In 1940 he made his film debut in Hullo, Fame! (1940).

From 1942-46 Ustinov served as a private soldier with the British Army's Royal Sussex Regiment. He was batman for David Niven and the two became lifelong friends. Ustinov spent most of his service working with the Army Cinema Unit, where he was involved in making recruitment films, wrote plays and appeared in three films as an actor. At that time he wrote and directed The Way Ahead (1944) (aka "The Immortal Battalion").

Ustinov had a stellar film career as actor, director and writer, appearing in more than 100 film and television productions. He was awarded two Oscars for Best Supporting Actor--one for his role in Spartacus (1960) and one for his role in Topkapi (1964)--and received two more Oscar nominations as an actor and writer. His career slowed down a bit in the 1970s, but he made a comeback as Hercule Poirot in Death on the Nile (1978) by director John Guillermin. In the 1980s Ustinov reprized the Poirot role in several subsequent television movies and theatrical films, such as Evil Under the Sun (1982) and Appointment with Death (1988). Later he appeared as a sympathetic doctor in the disease thriller Lorenzo's Oil (1992).

Ustinov's effortless style and his expertise in dialectic and physical comedy made him a regular guest of talk shows and late night comedians. His witty and multi-dimensional humor was legendary, and he later published a collection of his jokes and quotations, summarizing his wide popularity as a raconteur. He was also an internationally acclaimed TV journalist. Ustinov covered over 100,000 miles and visited more than 30 Russian cities during the making of his well-received BBC television series Russia (1986).

In his autobiographical books, such as "Dear Me" (1977) and "My Russia" (1996), Ustinov revealed a wealth of thoughtful and deep observations about how his life and career was formed by his rich multi-cultural and multi-ethnic background. He wrote and directed numerous stage plays, having success presenting his plays in several countries. His autobiographical play "Photo Finish" was staged in New York, London and St. Petersburg, Russia, where Ustinov directed the acclaimed production starring Elena Solovey and Petr Shelokhonov.

Outside of his acting and writing professions, Ustinov served as a Goodwill ambassador for UNICEF and president of WFM, a global citizens movement. He was knighted Sir Peter Ustinov in 1990. From 1971 to his death in 2004, Ustinov lived in a château in the village of Bursins, Vaud, Switzerland, He died of heart failure on March 28, 2004, in a clinic in Genolier, Vaud, Switzerland. His funeral service was held at Geneva's historic cathedral of St. Pierre, and he was laid to rest in the village cemetery of Bursins, Switzerland. He was survived by three daughters, Tamara, Pavla, and Andrea, and son, Igor Ustinov.

"I am an international citizen conceived in Russia, born in England, working in Hollywood, living in Switzerland, and touring the World" said Peter Ustinov.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Steve Shelokhonov

Spouse (3)

Helene du Lau d'Allemans (17 June 1972 - 28 March 2004) (his death)
Suzanne Cloutier (14 February 1954 - 1971) (divorced) (3 children)
Isolde Denham (1940 - 3 February 1950) (divorced) (1 child)

Trivia (31)

His mother was artist Nadia Benois, the niece of Alexandre Benois. Both were designers for the Mariinsky Opera and Ballet in St. Petersburg, Russia. Both also worked for the "Russian Seasons" and "Ballets Russes" productions by impresario Sergei Diaghilev.
Was knighted Sir Peter Ustinov.
Awarded the CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire).
The New London Theatre in Drury Lane WC2 first opened on 2nd January 1973 with Peter Ustinov's play "The Unknown Soldier and His Wife"
Was the Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF from 1968 until his death in 2004.
During WWII Pvt. Peter Ustinov was batman to Lt. Col. David Niven.
His father was a German subject who came to Soviet Russia on personal business where he met his future wife. Shortly after they were married they decided to leave Russia and settle in Britain. As Ustinov has said, "It is for that very reason that I am addressing you today in English."
First marriage to Isolde Denham, daughter of Reginald Denham and Moyna MacGill. Their daughter is Tamara Ustinov. Isolde was half-sister of Angela Lansbury.
In January 1963, the Mirisch Company sued him for damages after he pulled out of The Pink Panther (1963), which was in production in Rome with his replacement, Peter Sellers.
Peter and Suzanne had 3 children: two daughters, Pavla Ustinov and Andrea Ustinov, and a son Igor Ustinov.
Chancellor of the University of Durham from 1992 until his death in 2004.
Has a song written about him: "The Night I Saved Peter Ustinov" - written and recorded by Lauren Christy.
Was fluent in French, German, English, Italian, Russian and Spanish, and could pass in Turkish and Greek among others.
He was known to proudly say "I have Russian, German, Spanish, Italian, French and Ethiopian blood in my veins."
Funeral service held at Geneva's historic Cathedral of St Pierre. He was later buried in the village of Bursins, where he had lived in a Chateau since 1971. (April 2004)
According to Peter Wright, in his book "Spycatcher," Ustinov's father was Klop Ustinov, who had been active in MI5 (British Security Service, Counterespionage) as an agent runner during the Second World War. He also had the distinction of having held commissions in the Russian, German and British armies (presumably at different times).
He was a Humanist Laureate, a member of the International Academy of Humanism.
In 1958, received two Tony Award nominations for "Romanoff and Juliet": as Best Actor (Dramatic) and as Best Play Author.
In 1964, he accepted the Oscar for "Best Actress in a Supporting Role" on behalf of Margaret Rutherford, who wasn't present at the awards ceremony
Member of the jury at the Cannes Film Festival in 1966
Winning a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Lentulus Batiatus in Spartacus (1960), Ustinov stands as the only actor to win an Oscar for a Stanley Kubrick film. In fact, Peter Sellers is the only other actor to receive so much as a nomination.
Both his father and uncle were officers in the German army and fought Britain in WWI.
Made a comedy record in the late 1950s, "Mock Mozart" and "Phoney Folk Lore". He had been performing these as party pieces. Overdubbing allowed Ustinov to sing multiple parts. His producer was George Martin, future producer of The Beatles. (Martin later described Ustinov as "Britain's answer to Orson Welles.")
Member of the jury at the Venice Film Festival in 1986.
On 31 October 1984 he was waiting in the garden of Prime Minister of India Mrs. Indira Gandhi to interview her for an Irish television documentary when she was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards (Beant Singh, who was killed while trying to escape after his arrest, and Satwant Singh, sentenced to hang in 1988) as she was approaching Ustinov and his film crew.
His father was of one quarter Polish Jewish, one half Russian, one eighth African Ethiopian, and one eighth German, descent, while his mother was of one half Russian, one quarter Italian, one eighth French, and one eighth German, ancestry. Peter was a member of the royal family of Russia and the royal family of Ethiopia. Peter's paternal grandfather, Plato Grigorivich von Ustinov, was Russian. Peter's paternal grandmother, Magdalena Hall, was born in Magdala, Ethiopia (Magdalena's father, Moritz Hall, born in Krakow, was of Polish Jewish descent, while Magdalena's mother was born in Ethiopia, to a German father, Christoph Eduard Zander, from Kothen, and to a black Ethiopian mother, Woizero Essete Work Meqado de Choa, making Peter of 1/16th Ethiopian descent). Peter's maternal grandfather, Leontij Ludovic Benois, was born in Saint Petersburg, Russia, to a prominent artistic family, and was of one quarter French, one quarter German, and one half Italian, ancestry. Peter's maternal grandmother, Maria Alexandrovna Sapjhnkoff, was Russian.
He played the Prince of Wales (the future King George IV) in Beau Brummell (1954), his younger brother and eventual successor King William IV in Victoria & Albert (2001) and their great-nephew King Edward VII in Strumpet City (1980).
Anonymously dubbed several Italian actors on the soundtrack of Beat the Devil (1953).
Auditioned for the role of Detective Fix in the movie Around the World in 80 Days but was rejected. Would later get the part in television remake more than 30 years later.
Directed one Oscar nominated performance: Terence Stamp in Billy Budd (1962).
Rector of the University of Dundee in Scotland from 1968 to 1974.

Personal Quotes (21)

A diplomat these days is nothing but a head waiter who's allowed to sit down occasionally
...the great thing about history is that it is adaptable.
Comedy is simply a funny way of being serious.
Two members of my profession who are not urgently needed by my profession, Mr. Ronald Reagan and Mr. George Murphy, entered politics, and they've done extremely well. Since there has been no reciprocal tendency in the other direction, it suggests to me that our job is still more difficult than their new one.
[on critics] They search for ages for the wrong word, which, to give them credit, they eventually find.
The habit of religion is oppressive, an easy way out of thought.
I believe that the Jews have made a contribution to the human condition out of all proportion to their numbers: I believe them to be an immense people. Not only have they supplied the world with two leaders of the stature of Jesus Christ and Karl Marx, but they have even indulged in the luxury of following neither one nor the other.
Beliefs are what divide people. Doubt unites them.
Mervyn LeRoy, the director of Quo Vadis (1951), gave me this gem of advice on how to play the Emperor Nero: "The way I see Nero, this is the kinda guy who plays with himself nights".
I was irrevocably betrothed to laughter, the sound of which has always seemed to me to be the most civilized music in the world.
arding his portrayal of supersleuth Hercule Poirit] When Rosalind Hicks, Agatha Christie's daughter, first saw me, she said, "That's not Poirot". I said, "It is now, my dear".
People are annoyed with the Chinese for not respecting more human rights. But with a population that size it's very difficult to have the same attitude to human rights.
[about the collapse of the Soviet Union] I suppose you can't blame [Mikhail Gorbachev, but it is his fault for making America the only superpower.
[on the American and British invasion of Afghanistan in 2001] You can't fight terrorism without becoming a terrorist yourself.
[on Palestinian suicide bombers] They require the kind of courage that none of us would have. It's a kind of courage that's very hard to understand. And it's our duty to try to understand it because it is the courage of desperation. And what is the difference between somebody who goes into a coffee house with the intention of killing as many people as possible - and does so - and somebody who's in an aeroplane at the height of five miles, unobtainable by any anti-aircraft gun, and lets their bombs drop as scientifically as possible, in order to kill as few people as possible? I guarantee that the one who tries to kill as few people as possible will kill many more than the one who goes into a snack bar and blows himself or herself up. But in this campaign, I wonder how many of the people who have been killed were terrorists? I think very, very few. To my mind, it's a big lie.
[on Russian-American relations] There was a great campaign to make life difficult for Vladimir Putin when he came in. Nobody ever mentions that George Bush was head of the CIA. What's the difference between the CIA and the KGB? Except that probably the KGB are more thorough, intelligent and more respectful of foreign traditions.
[on the invasion of Iraq in 2003] Terrorism is the war of the poor, and war is the terrorism of the rich.
World government is not only possible, it is inevitable; and when it comes, it will appeal to patriotism in its truest, in its only sense, the patriotism of men who love their national heritages so deeply that they wish to preserve them in safety for the common good.
Rita Hayworth wanted to be the next Mrs. [David Niven. Rita was a great deal of fun and extremely beautiful - all that glorious red hair. David loved her, but not enough to want her for his wife. I don't know if he loved Hjördis [his wife Hjördis Genberg], but when she became Mrs. David Niven it made him safe from all the others who wanted to be his wife.
Life is unfair but remember it is unfair in your favor.
[Responding, when he was asked if he thought there was too much sex in movies and on television]: No. My feeling is that we're going to discover and exploit some entirely new and unsuspected erogenous zone. The one I'm thinking of is the ear. Think of it. It's ideal. It's circular, there's a cavity in it, and it's surrounded by hair. I can imagine them hiding ears in the movies and TV, and people saying, 'For a second there, you could get a flashing look at her left lobe.'

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