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Pleasence in London, 1973. Portrait by Allan Warren
|Born||Donald Henry Pleasence
5 October 1919
Worksop, Nottinghamshire, England
|Died||2 February 1995
Cause of death
|Alma mater||Ecclesfield School|
Linda J. Kentwood
(1988–1995; his death)
Donald Henry Pleasence, OBE (//; 5 October 1919 – 2 February 1995) was an English film, television, and stage actor. His most notable film roles include psychiatrist Dr. Sam Loomis in most of the Halloween series, the villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld in the James Bond film You Only Live Twice, and RAF Flight Lieutenant Colin Blythe in The Great Escape.
Pleasence was born in Worksop, Nottinghamshire, England, the son of Alice (née Armitage) and Thomas Stanley Pleasence, a railway stationmaster. He was brought up as a strict Methodist, and raised in the small village of Grimoldby, Lincolnshire. Pleasence attended Ecclesfield Grammar School, in Sheffield, Yorkshire, and subsequently dropped out to work as a railway clerk, while looking for a job as an actor. During the Second World War Pleasence was initially a conscientious objector, but later changed his stance and was commissioned into the Royal Air Force, serving 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 the German prisoner-of-war camp Stalag Luft I, where he produced and acted in plays. He would later play Flight Lieutenant Colin Blythe in The Great Escape where much of the story takes place inside a German POW camp.
In 1939 Pleasence started working in repertory theatre as an assistant stage manager with Jersey Repertory, making his acting debut with the company as Hareton in Wuthering Heights. He subsequently worked in repertory theatre in Birmingham and Bristol before making his London stage debut as Valentine in Twelfth Night in 1942.
In 1960 Pleasence won acclaim as the tramp in Harold Pinter's The Caretaker at the Arts Theatre, a part he would again play in a 1990 revival. Other stage work in the 1960s included Anouilh's Poor Bitos (1967) and Robert Shaw's The Man in The Glass Booth (1967), for which he won the London Variety Award for Stage Actor of the Year in 1968.
Pleasence made his television debut in I Want to Be A Doctor in 1946. In 1954 he received critical acclaim as Syme in a BBC adaptation of George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. The adaptation was by Nigel Kneale and also starred Peter Cushing, another British actor who would go on to find fame in many horror-film roles.
Pleasence played Prince John in several episodes of the ITV series The Adventures of Robin Hood (1956–1958). He appeared twice with Patrick McGoohan in the British spy series, Danger Man, in episodes "Position of Trust" (1960) and "Find and Return" (1961). Pleasence's first appearance in America was in an episode of The Twilight Zone, playing an aging (and suicidal) teacher at a boys' school in the episode "The Changing of the Guard" (1962). In 1963, he appeared in an 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.
In 1973 Pleasence played the murderer in an episode of Columbo entitled "Any Old Port in a Storm". He also had the distinction of playing a culprit captured by Mrs. Columbo in "Murder is a Parlour Game" (1979). In 1978, he played a scout, Sam Purchas in James A. Michener's Centennial. Pleasence starred as the Reverend Septimus Harding in the BBC's 1982 TV series The Barchester Chronicles.
In 1986, Pleasence joined Ronald Lacey and Polly Jo Pleasence for the television thriller 'Into The Darkness', filmed in Manchester and Malta by David Kent-Watson for his Ice International Films. Co-stars Brett Paul and John Ryan, and the supporting cast of models and actresses found Donald to be a most supportive actor and the most jovial and delightful company off-set. The film has been renamed 'Poisoned Minds' for its re-release.
Pleasence made his big-screen debut with The Beachcomber (1954). Some notable early roles include Parsons in 1984 (1956), his second Orwell film, and minor roles opposite Alec Guinness in Barnacle Bill (1957) and Dirk Bogarde in The Wind Cannot Read (1958). In Tony Richardson's film of Look Back in Anger (1959) he plays a vindictive market inspector opposite Richard Burton.
Endowed with a shiny bald head, a penetrating stare, and an intense voice, usually quiet but capable of a piercing scream, he specialised in portraying insane or evil characters, including the title role in Dr Crippen (1962), the violent alcoholic Doc Tydon in Wake in Fright (1971), the mad Doctor in the Bud Spencer–Terence Hill film Watch Out, We're Mad (1974), Heinrich Himmler in The Eagle Has Landed (1976), and the Bond arch-villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld in You Only Live Twice (1967), the first film in which the villain's face is clearly seen. His interpretation of the character has become predominant in popular culture considering the popularity of the comic villain, Dr. Evil in the successful Austin Powers film series, which primarily parodies it. In the crime drama Hell is a City (1960) he starred opposite Stanley Baker. The film was shot on location in Manchester.
Perhaps his most sympathetic screen role was as the tragic POW forger Colin Blythe in the 1963 film The Great Escape, who discovers that he is slowly going blind, but nonetheless participates in the mass break-out, only to be shot down by German soldiers because he is unable to see them. In The Night of the Generals (1967), he played another uncharacteristically sympathetic role, this time as an old-school German general involved in a plot to kill Adolf Hitler. In 1971, he returned to the realm of the deranged, delivering a tour de force performance in the role of an alcoholic Australian doctor in Ted Kotcheff's nightmarish outback drama Wake in Fright.
Pleasence played Lucifer in the religious epic The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965). His character taking on many dark, shadowy human disguises throughout the film was unprecedented in breathing life into the Luke 4:13 phrase "... he left Him until an opportune time ..." He was one of many stars who were given cameos throughout the film.
Perhaps his most bizarre and powerful film role occurred in Roman Polanski's Cul-de-sac (1966), in which he portrayed the love-sodden husband of a much younger French wife (Françoise Dorléac). In 1968, he ventured successfully into American cowboy territory, playing a sadistic self-styled preacher who goes after stoic Charlton Heston in the Western Will Penny.
In his later years, he became best known to a younger generation of cinema-goers as Lucas Deranian in Walt Disney's Escape to Witch Mountain, Dr. Loomis in Halloween (1978), Dr. Kobras in The Pumaman (1980) and the President in Escape from New York. The distinctive, rather sinister accent which Pleasence employed in this and other films may be credited to the elocution lessons that he had as a child. He reprised his Dr. Loomis role in Halloween II (1981), Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988), Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989) and Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995).
Pleasence's acting hero was Sir Laurence Olivier, with whom he worked on-stage in the 1950s, and later on the 1979 film version of Dracula. Two years earlier, Pleasence did an amusingly broad impersonation of Olivier in the guise of a horror-film actor called "Valentine De'ath" in the film The Uncanny.
Spoken records and voiceovers
During the early 1960s, Pleasence recorded several children's-story records on the Atlas Record label. These were marketed as the Talespinners series in the UK. They were also released in the United States as Tale Spinners For Children by United Artists. The stories included Don Quixote and the Brave Little Tailor.
Pleasence provided the voice-over 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.
Pleasence was the author of the 1977 children's book Scouse the Mouse (London: New English Library), which was animated by Canadian animator/film director Gerald Potterton (a friend of the actor, who directed him in the 1973 Canadian film The Rainbow Boys, retitled The Rainbow Gang for VHS release in the United States) and also adapted into a children's recording (Polydor Records, 1977) with Ringo Starr voicing the book's title character, Scouse the Mouse.
In his book British Film Character Actors (1982), Terence Pettigrew described him as 'a potent combination of eyes and voice. The eyes are mournful but they can also be sinister or seedy or just plain nutty. He has the kind of piercing stare which lifts enamel off saucepans.'
Pleasence was nominated four times for the Tony Award for best performance by a leading actor in a Broadway play: in 1962 for Harold Pinter's The Caretaker, in 1965 for Jean Anouilh's Poor Bitos, in 1969 for Robert Shaw's The Man in the Glass Booth, and in 1972 for Simon Gray's Wise Child.
Pleasence was appointed an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for his services to the acting profession by Queen Elizabeth II in 1994.
Pleasence married four times and had five daughters from his first three marriages. He had Angela and Jean with Miriam Raymond (m. 1947–1958); Lucy and Polly with Josephine Martin Crombie (m. 1959–1970); and Miranda with Meira Shore (m. 1970–1988). His last marriage to Linda Kentwood (m. 1988–1995; his death) produced no children.
Donald's grandson from his daughter of second wife Josephine has gone on to be a successful music video director in the UK. Jak O'Hare also known as Jak FrSH, working with Tinie Tempah, Wretch 32, Fazer and Tinchy Stryder. Directing a commercial for Vauxhall Motors "Conductivity".
Selected TV and Filmography
|1952||The Dybbuk||Second Batlon||TV film|
|1952||BBC Sunday-Night Theatre||Corporal||TV series (episode: "Arrow to the Heart (I)")|
|1954||Montserrat||Juan Alvarez||TV film|
|1954||The Face of Love||Alex||TV film|
|1954||BBC Sunday-Night Theatre||Chamberlain||TV series (episode: "Such Men Are Dangerous")|
|1954||Orders Are Orders||Corporal Martin||Credited as Donald Plesance|
|1954||BBC Sunday-Night Theatre||Syme||TV series (episode: "Nineteen Eighty-Four")|
|1955||Value for Money||Limpy|
|1955||BBC Sunday-Night Theatre||Foreign Minister||TV series (episode: "The Moment of Truth")|
|1956||The Black Tent||Ali|
|1956||The Adventures of Robin Hood||Prince John||TV series (4 episodes)|
|1956||The Adventures of Robin Hood||Bailiff Baldwin||TV series (episode: "A Village Wooing")|
|1956||ITV Television Playhouse||William||TV series (episode: "Ever Since Paradise")|
|1956||ITV Television Playhouse||Albert||TV series (episode: "Chance Meeting")|
|1957||The Man in the Sky||Crabtree||(titled Decision Against Time in the U.S.)|
|1957||Assignment Foreign Legion||Commandant||TV series (episode: "The Coward")|
|1957||Barnacle Bill||Cashier||(titled All at Sea in the U.S.)|
|1958||I Spy||Mr. Frute||TV film|
|1958||ITV Television Playhouse||Captain Browne||TV series (episode: "Fate and Mister Browne")|
|1958||A Tale of Two Cities||John Barsad|
|1958||Heart of a Child||Spiel|
|1958||The Wind Cannot Read||Doctor|
|1958||The Man Inside||Organ-grinder|
|1958||The Two-Headed Spy||General Hardt|
|1959||The Scarf||Detective Inspector Harry Yates||TV series (6 episodes)|
|1959||Look Back in Anger||Hurst|
|1959||ITV Television Playhouse||Leonard Browne||TV series (episode: "Mr. Browne Comes Home")|
|1959||BBC Sunday-Night Theatre||Doctor||TV series (episode: "The Millionairess")|
|1959||ITV Television Playhouse||Robert Robertson||TV series (episode: "The Silk Purse")|
|1959||The Adventures of William Tell||The Spider||TV series (episode: "The Spider")|
|1959||The Traitor||Grantley Caypor||TV film|
|1959||Killers of Kilimanjaro||Captain|
|1959||The Battle of the Sexes||Irwin Hoffman|
|1960||The Shakedown||Jessel Brown|
|1960||Hell Is a City||Gus Hawkins|
|1960||Circus of Horrors||Vanet|
|1960||The Four Just Men||Paul Koster||TV series (episode: "The Survivor")|
|1960||Interpol Calling||Karl Haussman||TV series (episode: "The Absent Assassin")|
|1961||What a Carve Up!||Everett Sloane|
|1962||The Inspector||Sergeant Wolters|
|1962||Dr Crippen||Dr Crippen|
|1963||The Great Escape||RAF Flight Lieutenant. Colin Blythe, "The Forger"|
|1963||The Outer Limits||Prof. Harold Finley||TV series (episode: "The Man With the Power")|
|1965||The Hallelujah Trail||Oracle Jones|
|1965||The Greatest Story Ever Told||Satan|
|1966||Fantastic Voyage||Dr. Michaels|
|1967||You Only Live Twice||Ernst Stavro Blofeld|
|1968||The Other People||Clive|
|1968||Will Penny||Preacher Quint|
|1970||Soldier Blue||Isaac Q. Cumber|
|1971||THX 1138||SEN 5241|
|1971||Wake in Fright||Doc Tydon|
|1972||Death Line||Inspector Calhoun|
|1972||Henry VIII and His Six Wives||Thomas Cromwell|
|1972||The Jerusalem File||Major Samuels|
|1972||Wedding in White||Jim Dougall|
|1973||Columbo||Adrian Carsini||TV series (episode: "Any Old Port in a Storm")|
|1974||Watch Out, We're Mad||The Doctor|
|1974||From Beyond the Grave||Jim Underwood||Segment: "An Act of Kindness"|
|1974||Barry Mckenzie Holds His Own||Count Plasma|
|1975||Escape to Witch Mountain||Lucas Deranian|
|1975||The Count of Monte Cristo||Baron Danglars|
|1976||Land of the Minotaur||Father Roche|
|1976||The Eagle Has Landed||Himmler|
|1976||The Mind Beyond||George Livingston||TV series (episode: "Meriel the Ghost Girl")|
|1976||The Last Tycoon||Boxley|
|1976||The Passover Plot||Pontius Pilate|
|1977||Oh, God!||Dr. Harmon|
|1978||Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band||B.D. Hoffler/B.D. Brockhurst|
|1978||Jesus of Nazareth||Melchior|
|1978||L'Ordre et la sécurité du monde (fr)||Rothko|
|1979||Good Luck, Miss Wyckoff||Dr. Steiner|
|1979||Dracula||Dr. Jack Seward|
|1980||The Pumaman||Dr. Kobras|
|1980||Halloween: Extended Edition||Dr. Loomis||Appeared in additional footage (filmed during the production of Halloween II) not included in the original film but featured in the NBC television broadcast.|
|1981||Halloween II||Dr. Loomis|
|1981||Race for the Yankee Zephyr||Gilbert "Gibbie" Carson|
|1981||Escape from New York||Mr. President|
|1981||Saturday Night Live||Himself-Guest host||10/31/81 Halloween show with musical guest punk rock band Fear. John Belushi makes a guest appearance in the opening sketch. This would be Belushi's last SNL appearance.|
|1982||Alone in the Dark||Dr. Leo Bain|
|1982||The Barchester Chronicles||Reverend Septimus Harding||TV series|
|1983||Warrior of the Lost World||Prossor|
|1983||The Devonsville Terror||Dr. Warley|
|1984||A Breed Apart||J.P. Whittier||1984|
|Treasure of the Amazon||Klaus von Blantz|
|1985||Nothing Underneath||Inspector Danesi|
|1987||Prince of Darkness||Priest|
|1988||Hanna's War||Captain Thomas Rosza|
|1988||Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers||Dr. Loomis|
|1988||Vampire in Venice||Don Alvise|
|1989||Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers||Dr. Loomis|
|1989||Ten Little Indians||Judge Lawrence Wargrave|
|1989||River of Death||Heinrich Spaatz|
|1991||Shadows and Fog||Doctor|
|1992||Dien Bien Phu||Howard Simpson (writer, journalist)|
|1993||The Thief and the Cobbler||Phido the Vulture (voice)|
|1993||The Hour of the Pig||Pincheon|
|1995||Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers||Dr. Loomis||
The film was dedicated to his memory.
|1996||Fatal Frames||Prof. Robertson|
- "Pleasence", Collins English Dictionary
- "England and Wales Births 1837–1983". Freebmd.org.uk. 2010-09-10. Retrieved 2010-10-06.
- Ross, Helen; Ross, Lillian (1962). The Player: A Profile of an Art. Simon and Schuster. p. 256. ISBN.
- "Full text of "The Player A Profile Of An Art"". Archive.org. Retrieved 2010-10-06.
- 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.
- "Obituaries: Donald Pleasence". The Independent. 3 February 1995. Retrieved 14 February 2012.
- "Donald Pleasence'S Biography". Pleasence.com. Retrieved 2010-10-06.
- , Conductivity.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Donald Pleasence.|
- Donald Pleasence at the Internet Movie Database
- Donald Pleasence at the Internet Broadway Database
- Donald Pleasence at TV Tropes
- Donald Pleasence at screenonline
- Donald Pleasence-bio at (re)Search my Trash
- The Man with the Hypnotic Eye A Tribute to Donald Pleasence
- Photograph of a theatrical production in prisoner of war camp featuring Donald Pleasence
- Lonely Water Public Information Film on YouTube