Leonard Whiting

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Leonard Whiting
Born (1950-06-30) 30 June 1950 (age 71)
London, England
OccupationActor, singer
Years active1966–1975, 1990–1995, 2015
Spouse(s)Cathee Dahmen (1971–1977)
Lynn Presser (1995–Present)

Leonard Whiting is a British actor and singer who is best known for his role as Romeo in the 1968 Zeffirelli film version of Romeo and Juliet,[1] a role which earned him the Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year – Actor.[2]

Early life[edit]

Whiting was born on 30 June 1950,[3] in Wood Green, moving with his two sisters to Holloway, another area of North London, England. The only son of Peggy Joyce (O'Sullivan) and Arthur Leonard Whiting, he has English, Irish and some Romani ancestry. Whiting's love of performing was encouraged at his local Church and Primary School, St Josephs R.C Highgate, where he and sister Linda acted in the school's nativity plays. Leonard went on to attend St. Richard of Chichester School, Camden Town, leaving just a week or two before beginning work on Romeo and Juliet (1968).[citation needed]


Whiting had some success as a child singer, almost winning a Butlin's Talent Contest (he came second) hosted in the holiday camp's packed out Gaiety Theatre.[4]Whiting was later spotted by a theatrical agent at the Connaught Rooms Holborn, where he was performing at a Jewish wedding at the age of 12. He only sang one song ("Summertime") which he had rehearsed as a one-off song with the group Teal Lewis and the Fourtunes, who provided the evening entertainment. This was set up by his father to get him noticed. After hearing him sing, the agent suggested he try out for Lionel Bart's Oliver! which constantly needed replacements for its child performers.[4] Whiting played the Artful Dodger in the long-running London musical for 15 months, and for 13 months in 1965–1966 appeared at Laurence Olivier's National Theatre in the production of William Congreve's Love for Love opposite Olivier, which toured Moscow and Berlin.[5][6][7]

Director Franco Zeffirelli described his discovery, from 300 youngsters who auditioned over a period of more than three months: "He has a magnificent face, gentle melancholy, sweet, the kind of idealistic young man Romeo ought to be."[4]

In the mid-1970s, his voice caught the attention of Abbey Road and The Dark Side of the Moon engineer Alan Parsons, who was in the process of recording what was to be the first album by the Alan Parsons Project, Tales of Mystery and Imagination. Whiting performed lead vocals on the song "The Raven"[8] and he also narrated the introduction of the five part musical rendition of The Fall of the House of Usher on the original 1976 album, which was then replaced by Orson Welles on the 1987 remixed version.

Whiting was cast as the Pharaoh in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in London's Westminster Theatre between 27 November 1978 and 17 January 1979. This was a Ken Hill production with the Pharaoh played by Whiting in the style of Elvis Presley.[9][10]

In 1990, Whiting provided the voice of the Urpney scientist Urpgor in the children's animated television series The Dreamstone.[11] After voicing the character for three seasons, he was replaced by Colin Marsh for the fourth and final season.

In 2014, he reunited with Olivia Hussey for the film Social Suicide (2015), their first work together in the 46 years since Romeo and Juliet.[12]

Personal life[edit]

In 1971, Whiting married model Cathee Dahmen.[13] In 1972 they had a daughter, Sarah Beth Whiting, who died in 2014 from cervical cancer.[13] Following his divorce from Dahmen in 1977, Whiting had a relationship with Valerie Tobin, who gave birth to their daughter Charlotte. Charlotte has said publicly that she did not meet her father until she was 12 years of age, by which time she had taken her step father's surname Westenra, whom her mother had married in 1982. Charlotte Westenra became a theatre director.[14] In 1995, Whiting married his assistant, Lynn Presser. Whiting ended his film career, for the most part, in the mid 1970s and subsequently placed his focus upon his theatrical career as an actor and writer.[15] He and his wife live in Steele's Village, London.[16]


Year Film Role Other notes
1968 Romeo and Juliet Romeo Winner: Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year – Actor, 1969[2]

Winner: David di Donatello Golden Plate Award 1969 (Shared with Olivia Hussey)[17]

1969 Giacomo Casanova: Childhood and Adolescence Giacomo Casanova
The Royal Hunt of the Sun Young Martin
1970 Say Hello to Yesterday Boy
1972 À la guerre comme à la guerre [fr] Franz Keller
1975 Rachel's Man Jacob
2015 Social Suicide Julia's Father
Year Title Role Notes
1965 A Poor Gentleman The Page TV film
1965 Laughter from the Whitehall Albert Butch Episode: "Women Aren't Angels"
1966 The Wonderful World of Disney Jimmy the Dip Episode: "The Legend of Young Dick Turpin"
1973 Frankenstein: The True Story Victor Frankenstein TV film
1973 Love Story Nicholas Miller Episode: "My Brother's House"
1973 Smike! Nicholas Nickleby TV film
1990–1994 The Dreamstone Urpgor (voice)


  1. ^ Ebert, Roger. "Romeo and Juliet movie review (1968) | Roger Ebert". rogerebert.com. Retrieved 4 September 2020.
  2. ^ a b "Leonard Whiting". www.goldenglobes.com. Retrieved 4 September 2020.
  3. ^ "Birthdays". The Sunday Times. 30 June 2013.
  4. ^ a b c "Pin by lesley on Olivia Hussey & Len Whiting | Romeo and juliet, Posters uk, Leonard whiting". Pinterest. Retrieved 17 June 2021.
  5. ^ Aba, Marika (9 August 1970). "Film Romeo Continues His Success Story". Los Angeles Times.
  6. ^ "Production of Love For Love | Theatricalia". theatricalia.com. Retrieved 6 September 2020.
  7. ^ "Then and Now: Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey (1967). British Film Institute". Youtube.
  8. ^ "The Alan Parsons Project - Tales of Mystery And Imagination - Edgar Allan Poe". Discogs. Retrieved 5 September 2020.
  9. ^ "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat". TheatreGold. 16 January 2019. Retrieved 6 September 2020.
  10. ^ "Joseph and the Amazing Techni color Dreamcoat". The Radio Times (2876). 21 December 1978. p. 55. ISSN 0033-8060. Retrieved 6 September 2020.
  11. ^ "Leonard Whiting". IMDb. Retrieved 5 September 2020.
  12. ^ "'Romeo and Juliet' Stars Leonard Whiting, Olivia Hussey Reuniting for 'Social Suicide' | Hollywood Reporter". www.hollywoodreporter.com. Retrieved 4 September 2020.
  13. ^ a b "Sarah Beth Whiting Knestrick - Obituary". www.legacy.com. 13 March 2014. Retrieved 8 September 2020.
  14. ^ Rapaport, Carrie. "Charlotte Westenra: Bringing Social Awareness to the Stage". Journo Portfolio. Retrieved 4 September 2020.
  15. ^ Brennan, Sandra. "Biography". Archived from the original on 19 April 2018. Retrieved 2 December 2011.
  16. ^ Marshall, Tom (9 November 2014). "My Steele's Village: Actor Leonard Whiting, star of Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet, praises his 'amazing community'". Hampstead Highgate Express. Retrieved 8 September 2020.
  17. ^ "Leonard Whiting - Awards". IMDb. Retrieved 6 September 2020.

External links[edit]