29 April 1926
|Occupation||Actor, director, painter|
Fenton was born Leonard Feinstein in the East End of London, where he was raised, the son of Jewish parents with ancestral roots in Eastern Europe (Riga and Lithuania). He attended Raine Foundation Grammar School from 1937 to 1944. Fenton originally trained to be a civil engineer at King's College London and during World War II he was conscripted as an army engineer. He worked in this profession for five years after leaving the army, but eventually decided on a career change. He took up acting and won a scholarship to attend the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art in London.
His career in acting spans over fifty years and he continues to act occasionally on television and on stage. One of his earliest acting breaks came when he was offered a role by Orson Welles in his play Chimes At Midnight. Subsequent notable acting credits include: Studio Four (1962); Colditz (1974); Secret Army (1977); Z-Cars (1978); Play for Today (1981); Auf Wiedersehen, Pet (1983), and Shine on Harvey Moon (1982), where he played the Austrian Jew, Erich Gottlieb.
Fenton is best known for playing Dr. Harold Legg, one of the original characters from the BBC soap opera, EastEnders. The character appeared from the show's inception in 1985 until 1997, returning for brief stints in 2000, 2004 and 2007. The character was originally one of the main focal points of the programme, but after 1989 he became less central. After the character's retirement in 1997, Fenton's appearances in EastEnders have been fewer and further between. He made a single appearance in 2004 at the funeral of Mark Fowler, and most recently appeared on 8 June 2007 to counsel Dot Branning regarding her concerns about Romanian 'foundling' baby, Tomas.
Fenton's subsequent television credits have included Rumpole of the Bailey; So You Think You've Got Troubles (1991); Love Hurts (1993) and The Bill (1985; 2001; 2005), among others. In the West End he has played in two productions by Lindsay Anderson, Anton Chekhov's The Seagull and Ben Travers' last play, The Bed Before Yesterday. He has performed numerous radio plays, including The Hobbit as the Elvenking, and The Lord of the Rings as Daddy Twofoot, both for BBC Radio 4. Amongst Fenton's other broadcasting work has been the BBC webcast of the Doctor Who story Death Comes to Time. On 17 February 2006 he made a personal appearance on the Channel 4 entertainment show, The Friday Night Project. His film credits have included roles in Up the Creek (1958), The Devil-Ship Pirates (1964), Robin Hood Junior (1975), Give My Regards to Broad Street (1984), Morons from Outer Space (1985), and the British horror movie The Zombie Diaries (2006).
In December 2004, at the age of 78, Fenton made his directorial debut with After Chekhov, written by four contemporary writers Alan Drury, Martin Jago, Andrew Neil, Olwen Wymark in the 100th anniversary year of Chekhov's death. The piece, produced by Little London Theatre Company was performed at The Soho New Writer's Theatre. In 2012 and again in 2013, Fenton appeared in a production of Cross Purpose, directed by Stephen Whitson at the King's Head Theatre, London.
Fenton and his first wife, cellist Madeline Thorner, have four children. Aside from acting he is also a professional painter and has held several exhibitions. Before the 2010 UK general election, Fenton came out in support for the Labour Party, after appearing in their election broadcast.
- "Leonard Fenton ", Something Jewish. URL last accessed on 25 September 2006
- "The Old Raineians' Association", DavidSpencer.com. URL last accessed on 4 July 2007
- Lynch, Tony (1986). EastEnders Special. BBC books. ISBN 0-86227-384-6.
- Lea, Simon. “Cross Purpose”. The Camus Society, 2012
- "IndieLondon: Cross Purpose returns to the King's Head Theatre - Your London Reviews". www.indielondon.co.uk.
- "Cross Purpose, by Albert Camus (translation by Stuart Gilbert) at King's Head Theatre - 115 Upper Street Islington London N1 1QN - London UK - more on OffWestEnd.com - Listings and showtimes for over 80 Off West End theatres in London UK". www.offwestend.com.
- Kingsley, Hilary (1990). The EastEnders Handbook. BBC books. ISBN 9780563362920.