7 October 1929|
Southampton, Hampshire, England, UK
|Died||19 April 1980
Los Angeles, California, USA
Cause of death
|Cancer (possibly AIDS)|
Derek Anthony "Tony" Beckley (7 October 1929 – 19 April 1980) was an English character actor. A graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, Beckley went on to carve out a career on film and television throughout the 1960s and 1970s often playing villainous roles, as well as being a veteran of numerous stage productions.
Beckley was born in Southampton, Hampshire, England. He was a child out of wedlock and never met his father. His mother, Beatrice Mitchell, was a stewardess who worked on ocean liners such as the RMS Mauretania and the RMS Aquitania. Due to work commitments she was often away and Beckley was brought up mainly by another lady he referred to as his aunt.
When he was five years old Beckley and his mother moved to Portsmouth and when World War II broke out he was sent to Winchester where he attended boarding school at Winton House. As a school boy he enjoyed reading, English and painting and it was in Winchester where he first became interested in acting. While his mother wanted him to do "something nice and safe", i.e. working in the civil service, Beckley felt he had discovered that acting was what was going to make him happy when he saw a performance of Emlyn Williams' "The Corn is Green" by the Portsmouth local repertory company the Court Players.
Beckley left school at the age of 16 in pursuit of his acting career. He worked as a stage sweeper and tea maker for two or three months before moving to London. As he could not get work in the theatre he did odd jobs as a waiter and in an ice cream factory while spending his spare time watching actors like Laurence Olivier, Ralph Richardson and Alec Guinness and the Old Vic productions at the New Theatre.
Shortly before turning 18, he joined the Royal Navy. Beckley spent two years as a seaman aboard the destroyer HMS Scorpion where he found the time to prepare for admission to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA). He joined RADA on an ex-Navy grant and during his two-year training befriended people such as actress Sheila Hancock and playwright Charles Laurence.
After graduating from RADA, Beckley started working for various provincial repertory companies, eventually settling with a company near London (Bromley Repertory) which opened up opportunities for television work. After guest roles in popular TV series such as Sergeant Cork, The Saint, Z-Cars and the then revolutionary comedy programme Dig This Rhubarb Beckley made his film debut in 1965 as Ned Poins in Orson Welles' Chimes at Midnight.
Beckley appeared in a number of films for director Peter Collinson: The Penthouse (1967); The Long Day's Dying (1968); and most memorably as Camp Freddie in The Italian Job (1969). His only starring role was as the psychotic Kenny Wemys in The Fiend (1972), and he made his last film appearance in 1979 playing another psychopath in When a Stranger Calls. Other films include The Lost Continent (1968), Get Carter (1971), Assault (1971), Sitting Target (1972), Gold (1974), and Revenge of the Pink Panther (1978).
On television he guested on shows such as Manhunt, Callan, Jason King, Special Branch, and perhaps most notably as the villainous Harrison Chase in the popular six-part Doctor Who serial The Seeds of Doom.
Beckley died shortly after principal photography was completed for When a Stranger Calls. Just before his death he had been signed for further work in the U.S. He was supposed to costar with Elizabeth Montgomery in a television movie called My Fat Friend and appear in a film (American Dreamer). He was also to appear in the NBC miniseries Beulah Land alongside Lesley Ann Warren, Don Johnson and others.
The cause of his death was given as cancer (brain tumour ) but appeared "mysterious". According to his friend Sheila Hancock it could have been AIDS, a disease then almost unknown. Beckley died at the Medical Center of the University of California at Los Angeles and is buried at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.
In an interview in 1979 Beckley stated that there was nothing in his background to explain why he became an actor except for possibly "a desire for some attention, which I really didn't get much as a kid."
While often playing villains and psychopaths on screen his personal self seemed far removed from it. Beckley is described as friendly and funny by people who met him and as someone who could tell a good story. Beckley remarked himself that he would be surprised if people could find anything psychotic in his behaviour.
For more than 15 years Beckley was in a relationship with film producer Barry Krost. When Krost opened up his own management company Beckley became his first client. Krost also produced Beckley's last film When A Stranger Calls and was a production associate on The Penthouse.
- 1956 - The Caine Mutiny Court Martial
- 1957 - The Rivals
- 1957 - Look Back In Anger
- 1957 - Teahouse of the August Moon
- 1957 - Night of the Ding Dong
- 1958 - Brothers-in-Law
- 1958 - Jack and the Bean Stalk
- 1959 - Wolf's Clothing
- 1959 - The Entertainer
- 1959 - Bus Stop (as producer)
- 1959 - The Long and the Short and the Tall
- 1960 - Two for the See-Saw (as director)
- 1960 - The Taming of the Shrew
- 1960 - Saint Joan
- 1960 - Time Limit
- 1961 - S. for Scandal
- 1961 - The Merchant of Venice (as producer)
- 1961 - Mother
- 1962 - The Bed Bug
- 1962 - Arden of Faversham
- 1962 - Diary of a Scoundrel
- 1962 - Infanticide in the House of Fred Ginger
- 1966 - Lorca
- 1969 - Hedda Gabler
- 1969 - Cages
- 1973 - Small Craft Warnings
- 1974 - Snap
- 1974 - The Dog Beneath The Skin
- 1965 - Chimes at Midnight
- 1966 - Le Candidat
- 1967 - The Penthouse
- 1968 - The Long Day's Dying
- 1968 - The Lost Continent
- 1969 - The Italian Job
- 1971 - Get Carter
- 1971 - Assault
- 1972 - Sitting Target
- 1972 - The Fiend
- 1974 - Gold
- 1975 - Diagnosis: Murder
- 1978 - Revenge of the Pink Panther
- 1979 - When a Stranger Calls
- 1958 - ITV Television Playhouse (Miss Em No. 3.45)
- 1963 - ITV Play of the Week (War and Peace No. 8.29)
- 1963 - ITV Play of the Week (The Kidnapping of Mary Smith No. 8.30)
- 1963 - Suspense (Sense of Occasion No. 2.21)
- 1963 - Sergeant Cork (The Case of the Two Drowned Men (No. 1.3)
- 1963 - Dig This Rhubarb (14 episodes)
- 1963 - The Saint (Marcia No. 2.6)
- 1963 - The Saint (The Saint Plays With Fire No. 2.11)
- 1964 - Z-Cars (Whistle And Come Home No. 3.33)
- 1964 - Tempo (The Christopher Marlowe Murder Mystery)
- 1964 - Sergeant Cork (The Case of the Wounded Warder No. 1.36 or No. 4.2)
- 1964 - East Lynne
- 1964 - Shakespeare And Music
- 1965 - Knock on Any Door (First Offender No. 1.6)
- 1966 - Sergeant Cork (The Case of a Lady's Good Name No. 2.11)
- 1966 - Conflict (She Stoops To Conquer)
- 1966 - ITV Sunday Night Drama (Four Triumphant: David - for Wales)
- 1968 - ITV Playhouse (Murder: The Dancing Man No. 1.31)
- 1970 - Parkin's Patch (The Journey No. 1.16)
- 1970 - Kate (Say It With Flowers No. 1.7)
- 1970 - Manhunt (The Ugly Side of War No. 1.17)
- 1970 - Manhunt (Machine No. 1.20)
- 1970 - Callan (Suddenly - At Home No. 3.5)
- 1972 - Jason King (Toki No. 1.12)
- 1973 - Arthur of the Britons (The Swordsman No. 2.1)
- 1974 - Special Branch (Catherine the Great No. 4.2)
- 1976 - Doctor Who (The Seeds of Doom)
- 1976 - Little Lord Fauntleroy (3 episodes)
- 1977 - This Is Your Life (Sheila Hancock)
- 1977 - The Velvet Glove (Happy in War No. 1.1)
- 1977 - The Cost of Loving (The Assailants No. 1.5)
- "Tony Beckley, Starred In 'Stranger Calls 'Film", in: The New York Times Biographical Service, Volume 11, Apr 1980, p. 495.
- Tony Beckley (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0065777/) last accessed: 01/03/13
- van Gelder, Lawrence. 1979. "New Face: Tony Beckley - Genial Film Maniac With English Roots." in New York Times, 19 Oct 1979, Section The Weekend, Page C3
- California Death Records – Beckley, Derek Anthony (http://vitals.rootsweb.ancestry.com/ca/death/search.cgi?surname=Beckley&given=Derek) last accessed: 27/02/13)
- Hancock, Sheila. 2004. The Two of Us – My Life with John Thaw. London: Bloomsbury.
- "Obituaries: Mr Tony Beckley" in The Times, 10 Jun 1980, p. 16.
- Byford, Timothy. "Autobiography. Chapter 6 – Television: the BBC." (http://www.timothybyford.com/work_Chapter-6---Television:-the-BBC_1484) last accessed: 01/03/13
- Outsider. 1963. "Digging it up" in The Observer Weekend Review, 22 Sep 1963, p. 23. (http://www.solearabiantree.net/namingofparts/pdf/observer/wideningradioshorizons22september1963.pdf)
- "Deaths Elsewhere -Tony Beckley" in The Blade: Toledo, Ohio, 28 Apr 1980, p. 15. (http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=ah1PAAAAIBAJ&sjid=jwIEAAAAIBAJ&dq=tony-beckley&pg=7197%2C3831633)
- "Stars added to cast" in The Free Lance-Star Town & County Magazine, 12 Jan 1980, p. 15. (http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=hv5NAAAAIBAJ&sjid=1IsDAAAAIBAJ&dq=tony-beckley&pg=2668%2C1631981)
- Osborne, Charles. 1986. Giving it away: the memoirs of an uncivil servant.London: Secker & Warburg. p. 75.
- Tony Beckley – Find A Grave (http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=6343), last accessed: 01/04/13.
- Philip Hinchcliffe and John Challis on Doctor Who - The Seeds of Doom DVD Extra "Podshock", 2010
- Koffler, Kevin. 1994. Out. Volume 3, Issues 1-5, p. 88.
- "Bromley Players Excel In 'The Caine Mutiny'". In The Stage, 22 Nov 1956, p. 11
- "Bromley Celebrates Second Birthday". In The Stage, 7 Mar 1957, p. 11
- "Another Successful Season At Bromley". In The Stage, 27 Dec 1957, p. 7.
- Plays and Players, Volume 4, Issue 10, Hansom Books, 1957.
- "Incident in Adelaide". In The Stage, 20 Jun 1957, p. 10.
- "Documentary Of Legal Life". In The Stage, 7 Feb 1957, p. 10.
- "Bromley - 'Jack And The Beanstalk". In The Stage, 2 Jan 1959, p. 7.
- Hobson, Harold. 1959. International Theatre Annual, Issue 4, Citadel Press, p. 271.
- "'Entertainer' not for the Round". In The Stage, 22 Oct 1959, p. 37
- "Actor - Director". In The Stage, 3 Mar 1960, p. 18.
- "A lively and versatile 'Shrew' at Oxford". In The Stage, 28 Apr 1960, p. 21.
- "Miss Jenkins' fine diction". In The Stage, 20 Oct 1960, p. 17.
- Plays and Players, Volume 8, Hansom Books, 1960
- "Return of Sonia Dresdel". In The Stage, 9 Feb 1961, p. 13
- Shakespeare Quarterly, Volume 11, Folger Shakespeare Library 1960, p. 108.
- "Drama With Too Much Doctrine" in The Times, 16 May 1961, p. 17
- Mermaid Theatre: The Bed Bug. 1962 (http://www.infotextmanuscripts.org/webb/webb_bed_bug.pdf)
- "Balloons of Dialogue" in The Times, 26 Apr. 1962, p. 8
- Time & Tide, Volume 43, Time and Tide Publishing Company, 1962
- Theatricalia.com (http://theatricalia.com/play/4y/infanticide-in-the-house-of-fred-ginger/production/10g)
- "Playwright makes Lorca a lay figure" in The Times, 7 Sep. 1966, p. 16
- "Fenella Fielding as Hedda Gabler" in The Times, 20 Mar 1969, p. 16
- "Entertainments - Theatres" in The Times, 5 Aug 1974, p. 6
- The Times, 30 Jul 1977
- British Film Institute - Tony Beckley (http://explore.bfi.org.uk/4ce2ba123ba84) last accessed: 08/03/13
- "East Lynne". In The Stage, 5 Nov 1964, p. 14.
- "Derek Hart presents music programme". In The Stage, 17 Dec 1964, p. 9.
- TV Times, Scottish Edition, Friday 28 Oct 1966, p. 51.
- TV Times, Scottish Edition, Sunday 18 Dec 1966, p. 23.
- TV Times, Scottish Edition, Tuesday 6 Jan 1966, p. 35.
- TV Times, Scottish Edition, Tuesday 17 Feb 1970, p. 37.
- TV Times, Scottish Edition, Sunday 23 Oct 1977, p. 47.