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|Born||John Anthony Woods
24 December 1941
|Other names||John Anthony Blake
John Levene (born John Anthony Woods, 24 December 1941 in Salisbury, Wiltshire) is an English actor. His best-known role was that of Corporal, and later Warrant Officer, John Benton, of the UNIT in the science-fiction television series Doctor Who.
Life and career
John Woods was working in a men's clothing store on Regent Street in London when Telly Savalas encouraged him to sign up as an actor for The Dirty Dozen (1967). Although he failed to secure a part in the film, since he was not a union member, he became interested in acting. Upon joining Equity, he adopted the professional name John Levene to avoid confusion with another John Woods who was already registered with the union.
Levene's first acting role was in the television series Adam Adamant Lives! Other TV roles included episodes of Callan (1970) and The Adventurer (1972), and he also appeared in the films Go for a Take (1972), Dark Places (1973), Psychomania (1973), and Permission to Kill (1975). He made an uncredited appearance as a Cyberman in the 1967 Doctor Who serial "The Moonbase" and as a Yeti in "The Web of Fear," before making his first appearance as then-Corporal Benton of UNIT in "The Invasion" (1968). "The Web of Fear" was, incidentally, the serial that introduced Benton's commanding officer, Brigadier Alastair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, who was only a colonel at the time. Lethbridge-Stewart and UNIT were featured heavily in early 1970s Doctor Who, and the promoted Sergeant Benton also became a regular.
In 1977, following his final appearance on Doctor Who, Levene gave up acting as a career to set up his own audio-visual company, Genesis Communications. He has since directed more than 45 audio-visuals and live events for various clients including the Ford Motor Company, British Airways, KFC, Amway and Revlon. Levene briefly returned to the role of Benton in the 1988 Reeltime Pictures video production Wartime.
Levene has worked as an entertainer on cruise liners and has also lived in the United States, where he returned to acting under the name John Anthony Blake. ("Blake" was the maiden name of Levene's mother, and as he informed the writers Steve Lyons and Christopher Howarth, he had had a much better relationship with her than with his father.)
Levene's most recent acting work was in an independent film titled CanniBallistic! He has also appeared in an episode of Big Bad Beetleborgs and industrial videos, and has performed voice-over work for Disney and The Queen Mary Hotel, among other companies. His music album The Ballads of Sergeant Benton was released in September 2012. The same year, he returned to the UK to promote himself and his album at a number of Doctor Who events. In 2015, he recorded vocals for an audio adaptation of the charity novel Time's Champion.
- Lyons, Steve and Chris Howarth, "The Good Soldier" Doctor Who Magazine, #230, 27 September 1995, Marvel Comics UK Ltd., p. 44 (interview with Levene).
- Bates, Phillip. "John Levene's Benton Returns in Time's Champion Audiobook!". Kasterborous. Retrieved 22 March 2016.