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Basil Coleman obituary

Theatre, opera and television director who worked closely with Benjamin Britten

The theatre, opera and television director Basil Coleman, who has died aged 96, was a prolific and determined populariser of classic works. His acclaimed 10-part television adaptation of Anna Karenina (1977) starred Nicola Pagett and Eric Porter. For the BBC Shakespeare series he directed As You Like It (1978), with Helen Mirren: it was filmed at Glamis Castle and in the surrounding Scottish countryside, one of only two of the BBC Shakespeare series plays shot entirely on location.

His long association and friendship with Benjamin Britten began when the director Tyrone Guthrie made him assistant director on the composer's realisation of The Beggar's Opera with the English Opera Group at the Arts theatre, Cambridge (1948). Coleman then directed the first production of Britten's work for children Let's Make an Opera (1949), at Aldeburgh. Further premieres included the huge challenge of Billy Budd (1951) at the Royal Opera House,
See full article at The Guardian - TV News »

Alec Guinness personal letters and diaries acquired by British Library

Archive of theatre knight, famed for Ealing comedies, reveal Pooterish moments and brickbats for Sir Laurence

On July 12 1989, one of the greatest actors of his generation was reflecting in his diary on the death of another. If Sir Alec Guinness's thoughtswords of praise for Sir Laurence Olivier were extracted, as theatre promoters routinely do with critics' write-ups, it could read as a rave review.

The full text, revealed for the first time in the actor's personal archive just acquired by the British Library, tells a different story. In his impeccably neat tiny script, Guinness wrote of Olivier: "I greatly admired his extraordinary courage … as a comedian he was superb … technically brilliant … he was a great actor."

But he also wrote: "Like so many people whose ambition drive them to great eminence, he had a cruel and destructive streak. Side by side with his generosity, he could be unpleasant, possibly even vindictive.
See full article at The Guardian - Film News »

Spielberg gives War Horse author Michael Morpurgo a chance to live his dream

Michael Morpurgo's bit part in Stephen Spielberg's film version of War Horse revived his ambition to follow his parents into an acting career

Michael Morpurgo is one of Britain's most popular writers, a former children's laureate whose novel, War Horse, captivated international audiences as a sell-out play before inspiring Steven Spielberg to adapt it for the big screen. Yet, despite his success as a writer, he would rather have been an actor, he has told the Observer.

The 68-year-old author admitted that, deep down, he wishes he had followed his parents in a career as a thespian. "I didn't have the courage to do what my mother and father had done. I sort of regret it. A missed opportunity," he said. "I grew up an actor manqué."

Such is his longing that he asked the film's producer whether he could appear as an extra. As a result, Morpurgo
See full article at The Guardian - Film News »

John Neville obituary

Leading light of the British stage once seen as Gielgud's successor

John Neville, who has died aged 86, was a leading light of the Old Vic, the charismatic artistic director of the Nottingham Playhouse in the early 1960s and, after emigrating to Canada in 1972, a renowned leader of that country's theatre, notably at Stratford, Ontario. Tall, handsome and authoritative on the stage, and best known today, perhaps, for his sinister role as the Well-Manicured Man in The X-Files on television – was he on the side of good or evil? – he was often thought of as the natural successor to John Gielgud.

He found huge matinee-idol success early on, in the Gielgud roles of Hamlet and Richard II, though his patrician veneer and noble bearing could be easily discarded, as he showed to devastating effect in 1963, when he played Bill Naughton's Alfie at the Mermaid theatre, the role that became Michael Caine
See full article at The Guardian - Film News »

John Neville obituary

Leading light of the British stage once seen as Gielgud's successor

John Neville, who has died aged 86, was a leading light of the Old Vic, the charismatic artistic director of the Nottingham Playhouse in the early 1960s and, after emigrating to Canada in 1972, a renowned leader of that country's theatre, notably at Stratford, Ontario. Tall, handsome and authoritative on the stage, and best known today, perhaps, for his sinister role as the Well-Manicured Man in The X-Files on television – was he on the side of good or evil? – he was often thought of as the natural successor to John Gielgud.

He found huge matinee-idol success early on, in the Gielgud roles of Hamlet and Richard II, though his patrician veneer and noble bearing could be easily discarded, as he showed to devastating effect in 1963, when he played Bill Naughton's Alfie at the Mermaid theatre, the role that became Michael Caine
See full article at The Guardian - TV News »

Silvio Narizzano obituary

Director best known for Georgy Girl, a romantic comedy set in 60s London

The film and TV director Silvio Narizzano, who has died aged 84, handled several genres throughout his career, including black comedies, period pieces, social dramas, action thrillers and horror movies. But one picture, his swinging London romantic comedy Georgy Girl (1966), stands out from the rest of his eclectic filmography.

Georgy Girl was part of the trend in which British cinema shifted the focus from provincial life and back to the metropolis, celebrating new freedoms and social possibilities. Narizzano, influenced by the French New Wave and his chic contemporaries Richard Lester, John Schlesinger and Tony Richardson, explored such "shocking" subjects as abortion, illegitimacy, adultery and sexual promiscuity with a light touch. The film, which took its cue from the jaunty title song by the Seekers, had superb performances from Lynn Redgrave as the virginal and plain Georgina; Charlotte Rampling
See full article at The Guardian - Film News »

Graham Crowden obituary

Actor with great stage presence who found his metier in comic and satirical roles

There was something extra-terrestrial about the character actor Graham Crowden, who has died aged 87 – a mix of the ethereal eccentricity of Ralph Richardson and the Scottish lunacy and skewiff authoritarianism of Alastair Sim. He specialised in portraying doctors, lawyers or teachers in a satirical way.

Crowden was a tall, red-haired, serious and sometimes professionally diffident man – he turned down the opportunity of succeeding Jon Pertwee as the fourth Doctor Who, remarking that working with a lot of Daleks did not sound like much fun. He had a tremendous stage presence, always moving with an emphatic, loping gait.

Despite his eminence in plays at the Royal Court and the National Theatre, where he introduced roles in works by Nf Simpson and Tom Stoppard, and in films directed by Lindsay Anderson, he did not become widely familiar until
See full article at The Guardian - Film News »

He, Claudius

For any actor overlooked and underappreciated in his or her early days, take heart. Patrick Stewart has tales for you. Bypassed by the Royal Shakespeare Company twice while a young actor, he finally won the chance to understudy there and became a core member years later. Through the help of others, through his own perseverance, he became the noted star of today, earning the admiration and respect of actors of all generations. But he started humbly—in life and as an actor. He eventually garnered supporting roles on television, diligently building a résumé of fascinating characters, from the darkly silent Karla in "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" through the scheming Sejanus in "I, Claudius." Then came his leading roles, creating Captain Picard on "Star Trek: The Next Generation," headlining his own series "Eleventh Hour," and playing Professor Xavier in the vast "X-Men" franchise. He has meanwhile been a gift to the theater,
See full article at Backstage »

Tom Fleming obituary

A renowned Scottish actor and director, he regularly commentated on state occasions for BBC television

Tom Fleming, who has died of cancer aged 82, was an outstanding figure in the Scottish theatre of the second half of the 20th century, the first television "face" of Jesus of Nazareth in a 1953 mini-series, and well known as a BBC television and radio commentator at many royal and ceremonial occasions since he first broadcast, for the BBC, during the Queen's coronation in 1953.

He was a Baptist lay preacher, a deeply private man of great moral integrity and stature. This much was clear not only on stage but also as he spoke in his flawless, rich and velvety baritone voice at the funerals of Diana, Princess of Wales, and the Queen Mother. So assiduous was he in his properly felt sense of duty that he declined the invitation to appear in a play by Mikhail Bulgakov
See full article at The Guardian - TV News »

Tom Fleming obituary

A renowned Scottish actor and director, he regularly commentated on state occasions for BBC television

Tom Fleming, who has died of cancer aged 82, was an outstanding figure in the Scottish theatre of the second half of the 20th century, the first television "face" of Jesus of Nazareth in a 1953 mini-series, and well known as a BBC television and radio commentator at many royal and ceremonial occasions since he first broadcast, for the BBC, during the Queen's coronation in 1953.

He was a Baptist lay preacher, a deeply private man of great moral integrity and stature. This much was clear not only on stage but also as he spoke in his flawless, rich and velvety baritone voice at the funerals of Diana, Princess of Wales, and the Queen Mother. So assiduous was he in his properly felt sense of duty that he declined the invitation to appear in a play by Mikhail Bulgakov
See full article at The Guardian - Film News »

Captain of His Ship

Veteran actor Christopher Plummer admits he would like to have done more contemporary plays, but opportunities never presented themselves. "Perhaps I'm not suited for them," he says. "So I go straight to the revival of the classics. In a short life span, why not do the best?" Plummer's award-winning career has spanned more than 55 years, and he is indisputably one of the most respected classical actors on either side of the Atlantic. He is also a steadily employed film actor, perhaps still most widely identified with the role of Captain von Trapp in the 1965 blockbuster "The Sound of Music." Over the decades, Plummer has appeared in dozens of films and will soon be seen as the irascible gambler and title character in Terry Gilliam's "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus." Most recently Plummer played Leo Tolstoy in "The Last Station." Centering on the final years of Tolstoy's life and his
See full article at Backstage »

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