Michael Gwynn

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Michael Gwynn (30 November 1916 in Bath, Somerset – 29 January 1976 in London) was an English actor. He attended Mayfield College near Mayfield, Sussex. During the Second World War he served in East Africa as a major and was adjutant to the 2nd (Nyasaland) Battalion of the King's African Rifles.

He is perhaps best remembered in contemporary culture as the shyster "Lord" Melbury who attempts to con £200 and a set of British Empire coins from the unsuspecting Basil Fawlty, in the first ever episode of the BBC comedy Fawlty Towers. In the world of cult films, he did three Hammer horror films: Never Take Sweets from a Stranger (1960), a rare drama film for the studio, The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958) where he was Karl, and Scars of Dracula (1970) where he was a priest determined to battle Dracula.

Gwynn also appeared on several adaptations of plays on the Caedmon Records label. Among them were Cyrano de Bergerac, in which he played Le Bret, and Julius Caesar, in which he played Casca. Both productions starred Ralph Richardson in the title role.

He died on 29 January 1976 in London from a heart attack, aged 59.

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A versatile performer, British character actor Michael Gwynn is today best remembered for a single television episode. Born and raised in the spa city of Bath, he entered the army during World War II, serving in Africa and eventually rising to the rank of Major. When the war was over, Gwynn returned to England and took up acting, getting his start in the theater. In under 25 years, he appeared in over 80 films and television series, though memorable leading parts largely eluded him. One exception was the 1958 horror film "The Revenge of Frankenstein," a variant on the famous tale where the well-meaning Dr. Frankenstein experiments upon his hunchback assistant, Karl, giving him a new body; Gwynn delivered a memorably frenzied performance as the freshly undeformed Karl. On stage, Gwynn held his own opposite famed thespians like John Gielgud and Alan Bates, as well as recording many plays for Caedmon Records. But the part he's still remembered for came in 1975 on John Cleese's beloved sitcom "Fawlty Towers." As the guest star of the very first episode, he portrayed Lord Melbury, a phony aristocrat who tries to swindle Cleese's snobbish hotel proprietor. The next year, he died of a heart attack. Michael Gwynn was an actor who had a successful Hollywood career. Gwynn began his acting career with roles in such films as the crime feature "The Secret Place" (1957) with Belinda Lee, the adaptation "Dunkirk" (1958) with John Mills and "The Camp on Blood Island" (1958). He also appeared in the dramatic adaptation "The Doctor's Dilemma" (1958) with Leslie Caron and the horror sequel "The Revenge of Frankenstein" (1958) with Peter Cushing. He continued to act in productions like "Never Take Sweets From a Stranger" (1960), "Question 7" (1961) and the mystery adaptation "Village of the D*mned" (1961) with George Sanders. He also appeared in "Barabbas" (1962) and "Cleopatra" (1963). Toward the end of his career, he continued to act in the adventure "Jason and the Argonauts" (1963) with Todd Armstrong, the Sophia Loren adaptation "The Fall of the Roman Empire" (1964) and the Dave Clark comedy "Having A Wild Weekend" (1965). He also appeared in "The Scars of Dracula" (1970) with Christopher Lee and "The Virgin Soldiers" (1970) with Lynn Redgrave. Gwynn more recently appeared in "Kiss Kiss, Kill Kill" (ABC, 1973-74).