Charles Gray (actor)

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Charles Gray
Gray as Dikko Henderson in You Only Live Twice (1967)
Donald Marshall Gray

(1928-08-29)29 August 1928
Died7 March 2000(2000-03-07) (aged 71)
Other namesOliver Gray
  • Actor
Years active1957–1998

Charles Gray (born Donald Marshall Gray; 29 August 1928 – 7 March 2000[1]) was an English actor and voice artist.[2] Appearing in around 140 films and TV series, he was best known as the arch-villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld in the James Bond film Diamonds Are Forever;[3] Dikko Henderson in a previous Bond film, You Only Live Twice;[4] Sherlock Holmes's brother Mycroft Holmes in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes; and The Criminologist in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Early life[edit]

Gray was born in Bournemouth, Hampshire,[nb 1] the son of surveyor Donald Gray (died 1975), who had served as a Captain in the Royal Engineers, and Maude Elizabeth (née Marshall).[5][6] Gray attended Bournemouth School alongside Benny Hill, whose school had been evacuated to the same buildings, during the Second World War. Some of his friends remember that his bedroom walls were plastered with pictures of film stars.

Stage career[edit]

By his mid-twenties, Gray had left his first job as a clerk for an estate agent to become an actor. He began his stage experience at the theatre club next to the Palace Court Hotel in Bournemouth, where he was a last-minute cast replacement in The Beaux' Stratagem.[7] Gray surprised everyone, including himself, with the quality of his performance. He later made his first professional stage appearance under his given name, Donald Gray, as Charles the Wrestler in Roger Atkins' production of As You Like It.[8] He moved away from Bournemouth in the late 1950s, but his parents remained at the family home until their deaths.

On becoming a professional actor he had to change his name, as there was already an actor named Donald Gray. He chose Charles Gray partly because Charles was the name of his maternal grandfather, partly because he had a close friend named Charles, and partly because he thought it sounded nice. For his first appearance on Broadway, in the 1961 musical Kean, he went under the name Oliver Gray.

Charles Gray distinguished himself in theatrical roles, in the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre, London, at the Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford-Upon-Avon and at the Old Vic. He received his vocal training at the RSC and became noted for his imposing presence.

Film and television[edit]

He played Bob Gringle in the TV Western Gunsmoke in the 1958 episode "Lynching Man" (S4:E10).

During the 1960s, Gray established himself as a successful character actor and made many appearances on British television. Work in this period included Danger Man, with Patrick McGoohan, and Maigret. Gray also appeared opposite Laurence Olivier in the film version of The Entertainer (1960) as a reporter. He played Jack Baker that same year in the Perry Mason episode, "The Case of the Bullied Bowler".

His breakthrough year was 1967, when he starred with Peter O'Toole and Omar Sharif in the Second World War murder-mystery film The Night of the Generals.[2] The same year, he played Dikko Henderson, a British intelligence officer assigned to their Embassy in Tokyo, in the Bond film You Only Live Twice (1967). Four years later, he appeared as Ernst Stavro Blofeld in the James Bond film Diamonds Are Forever (1971), both films starring Sean Connery as James Bond.[3]

Gray's most prolific work as an actor was between 1968 and 1979, when he appeared in more than forty major film and television productions. From this period, he is perhaps best known for portraying the Criminologist (the narrator) in The Rocky Horror Picture Show and a similar character, Judge Oliver Wright, in its sequel Shock Treatment (1981). This more expansive role is said to be the same character (the Criminologist in The Rocky Horror Picture Show is not named). In 1973, he played Lord Seacroft in the television series The Upper Crusts opposite Margaret Leighton, and in 1983, he starred alongside Coral Browne and Alan Bates in the award-winning made-for-TV film An Englishman Abroad. In 1985, he starred in an episode of the BBC-TV detective series Bergerac, entitled "What Dreams May Come?". Other well-known film work includes The Devil Rides Out, Mosquito Squadron, Cromwell and The Beast Must Die. In 1991, Gray co-starred with Oliver Tobias in the science-fiction film Firestar – First Contact for Ice International Films.

Later work[edit]

Gray portrayed Mycroft Holmes in both the film The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (1976) and opposite Jeremy Brett's Sherlock[9] in four episodes of the Granada Television series The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1984). In two episodes of the final Brett series, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, he had leading roles as Mycroft, the first because Edward Hardwicke, who played Doctor Watson, was busy on another project and the second as a result of Brett's illness.

Other television appearances included roles in Dennis Potter's Blackeyes,[9] The New Statesman, Thriller, Upstairs, Downstairs,[9] Bergerac, Porterhouse Blue plus a range of Shakespearean roles, such as Caesar in Julius Caesar and Pandarus in Troilus and Cressida. He dubbed for Jack Hawkins in the film Theatre of Blood and others after Hawkins's larynx was removed to combat throat cancer.[10]


Gray died of cancer in a London hospital on 7 March 2000 at the age of 71.[11]

Selected filmography[edit]

Explanatory notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Before 1 April 1974 it was in Hampshire


  1. ^ Shorter, Eric (9 March 2000). "Charles Gray". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 22 March 2024.
  2. ^ a b "Charles Gray, 71, Cats' Friend, Bond's Enemy". The New York Times. Reuters. 10 March 2000.
  3. ^ a b Canby, Vincent. "Diamonds Are Forever (1971) A Benign Bond:007 Stars in 'Diamonds Are Forever'". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 25 August 2017. Retrieved 18 February 2017.
  4. ^ "Charles Gray". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. Baseline & All Movie Guide. 2016. Archived from the original on 5 March 2016. Retrieved 18 February 2017.
  5. ^ People of Today, Debrett's Peerage Ltd, 1995, p. 797
  6. ^ "Charles Gray Biography (1928–2000)".
  7. ^ "Charles Gray". Bond Scenes. Retrieved 3 February 2023.
  8. ^ Shorter, Eric. "Charles Gray". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 27 February 2024. Retrieved 22 March 2024.
  9. ^ a b c "Charles Gray; British Actor Specialized in Icy Villains". Los Angeles Times. 9 March 2000. Retrieved 21 October 2018.
  10. ^ "Veteran actor Charles Gray dies". BBC News. 8 March 2000.
  11. ^ Shorter, Eric (8 March 2000). "Charles Gray: Actor who played a series of elegant cads – and a memorable opponent for James Bond". The Guardian. London.

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