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Wyngarde in 1976, by Allan Warren
|Occupation||Film and television actor|
Peter Wyngarde's date and place of birth, his birth name and his family origins are all disputed.
The biography at IMDb, which is not supported by any primary sources but often used in other accounts of his life, states that he was born Peter Paul Wyngarde on 23 August 1933 at an aunt's home in Marseille, France. His British father Henry is said to have worked for the British Diplomatic Service resulting in the family living in various countries, including British Malaya and China, where as a child he is said to have been interned by the Japanese at the Lunghua civilian internment camp. He is said to be the nephew of French actor/director Louis Jouvet.
Original primary sources indicate a different birth name, year of birth, place of birth, and family background. There is evidence that Peter Wyngarde was born as Cyril Goldbert, possibly in Singapore, which is the place of birth Wyngarde gave on a 1960 immigration application. The author J. G. Ballard has written in his memoir and in interviews and private letters that he and his family knew Wyngarde as Cyril Goldbert in Shanghai during World War II,. This is supported by other sources which show that many of the specifics of Cyril Goldbert's early life closely match the authorised version of Peter Wyngarde's life before moving to the UK. This includes the names of his parents and siblings, location of his upbringing, internment by the Japanese in Shanghai during World War II, and his travel itinerary to the UK.
Cyril Goldbert's father was Henry Peter (Harry) Goldbert, born in present-day Ukraine and raised in Singapore where his mother ran the Singapore public house. Henry Goldbert became a naturalised British subject in 1919 and travel records from the mid-1940s show that he was working as Second Chief Engineer in the British Merchant Navy In 1956 Peter Wyngarde's mother was interviewed by the Straits Times and named as Madge Macauley, who had remarried since her son was born. Marriage records show that Madge Macauley's previous married name was Marcheritta Goldbert, maiden name Ahin. As for the claim that Wyngarde is Louis Jouvet's nephew, Jouvet's biography confirms he only had two brothers, neither of whom were related to Cyril Goldbert's parents by blood or marriage. The full names of Cyril Golbert's younger siblings match Wyngarde's siblings: Adolphe (later Henry) Peter "Joe" Goldbert (1930-2011) and Marion Colette Simone Goldbert, later Wells (1932-2012).
About Wyngarde's date of birth there is considerable variation. J.G. Ballard writes in his autobiography Miracles of Life that Cyril Goldbert, "the future Peter Wyngarde ... was four years older than me..." Ballard was born in November 1930, giving Cyril Goldbert an estimated birth year of 1926 by Ballard's judgement. Immigration records from Cyril Goldbert's arrival in the UK in 1945 say he was 18 at the time, with a birth year of 1927, and Wyngarde's first listing on the UK electoral roll in 1948 also suggests a date of birth in 1927, since only those aged 21 and over were included. Records compiled in Shanghai in 1943 say Cyril Goldbert was born in 1928, and travel records from Wyngarde's trip to the USA in 1960 say 1929. More recently, Peter Wyngarde himself says he was born in 1933 and some sources use this date.
In the early 1940s, Peter Wyngarde was living in Shanghai, possibly with his Swiss mother and two younger siblings, although some biographies of Wyngarde state that he was living in Shanghai with a surrogate Swiss family unrelated to him. The Japanese Army took over Shanghai's International Settlement on 8 December 1941, and as a British citizen he was interned in the Lunghua civilian internment camp on 10 April 1943. His younger siblings also had British nationality, but they may have been protected from internment by their mother's Swiss nationality.
After internment, Peter Wyngarde sailed from Shanghai to Southampton in December 1945 on the Cunard White Star Line vessel the Arawa. There is no listing of a passenger of that name, but the 18-year old Cyril Goldbert was a passenger. JG Ballard was also on board. Goldbert's parents had separated, and his father was now based in Liverpool, working as a Second Chief Engineer on ships sailing between Liverpool and North America.
After Cyril Goldbert's arrival in the UK in 1945, he disappears from public records. JG Ballard has written that "I bumped into him once or twice [in London] in the 1950s. The last time, when he had begun to be successful, he cut me dead in St James's Park".
Acting career: 1940s to 1970s
In 1946 Peter Wyngarde took his first professional roles in theatre productions. An early success was in the part of Morris Albert in a production of Noel Coward's Present Laughter which opened on 7 August 1947 at the Theatre Royal, Birmingham. By 1948, he was 21 years old and on the London Electoral Roll as Peter Wyngarde.
From the mid-1950s Wyngarde had roles in feature films, television plays and television series guest appearances. One of these, a television adaptation of Julien Green's novel South (1959, originally Sud), in which Wyngarde featured in a lead role, is thought to be the earliest television play with an overtly homosexual theme. He appeared as Pausanias opposite Richard Burton in the film Alexander the Great (1956), played a lead role in the film The Siege of Sidney Street (1960), and appeared as Sir Roger Casement in an episode in the Granada TV's On Trial series produced by Peter Wildeblood. Wyngarde's other film work was limited but had impact. In Jack Clayton's The Innocents (1961), he had brief (unspeaking) scenes as the leering Peter Quint with Deborah Kerr and Pamela Franklin. The following year he was the lead actor in the occult thriller Night of the Eagle.
By the late 1960s, he was a regular guest star on many of the popular UK series of the day — many of which were espionage adventure series — including The Avengers, The Saint, The Baron, Sherlock Holmes, The Champions, The Troubleshooters, Love Story, I Spy and The Man In Room 17. He also played the authority figure Number Two in The Prisoner ("Checkmate", 1967).
Wyngarde became a British household name through his starring role in the espionage series Department S (1969). His Jason King character often got the girl and as she is about to kiss him, he manages to avoid it, much to the annoyance of co-actor Joel Fabiani. After that series ended, his character, the suave womaniser Jason King, was spun off into a new action espionage series entitled Jason King (1971), which ran for one season (26 one-hour episodes). The series was sold overseas and Wyngarde briefly became an international celebrity, being mobbed by female fans in Australia. A revival in October 1973 of The King and I, featuring Wyngarde in the male lead role, and initially with Sally Ann Howes as Anna, ran for 260 performances at the Adelphi Theatre in London.
Later life and career
After leaving a 1995 stage production of The Cabinet of Dr Caligari mid-performance during previews, Wyngarde has not taken any more acting roles.
In recent years Peter Wyngarde has appeared at Memorabilia and other science fiction and cult television memorabilia events. He appeared as a guest of Simon Dee in the Channel Four one-off revival of his chat show Dee Time in 2003. In 2007, he participated in recording extras for a box-set of The Prisoner, including a mock interview segment titled "The Pink Prisoner".
In January 2014 he narrated an episode of the BBC's Timeshift documentary strand, Sherlock Holmes: The Many Faces of a Master Detective. In the 2015 documentary series for Channel Four, It was Alright in the 1960s, Wyngarde expressed his unease at having to don blackface to play a Turkish man in The Saint, but said that he had done it only in the hope that a theatre director might pick him to play Othello.
In 1970, Wyngarde recorded an album for RCA Victor entitled simply Peter Wyngarde, featuring a single, "La Ronde De L'Amour/The Way I Cry Over You". The album is a collection of spoken word/musical arrangements produced by Vic Smith and Hubert Thomas Valverde. A promo single of the track "Rape" (entitled "Peter Wyngarde Commits Rape") was also issued in 1970.
In 1998, the album was reissued on CD by RPM Records, now titled When Sex Leers Its Inquisitive Head. According to Wyngarde himself (quoted in the liner notes of the CD re-issue), prior to the RCA deal, EMI Records had also been interested in cashing in on his fame and suggested issuing an album of him performing a selection of Sinatra songs. However, RCA allowed him carte blanche, assuming that the record would be a failure and could be used by them as a tax loss. However, when the initial pressings quickly sold out and it showed a profit, they declined to press any more copies.
The album is often rediscovered by bloggers and cultural critics. It is usually treated as a curiosity because of its unusual spoken-word style and the controversial subject matter of some of the tracks. .
Wyngarde has always kept his private life to himself, and in interviews he has spoken about how much he enjoys being single.
In the early 1950s he was married briefly to the actress Dorinda Stevens.
Peter Wyngarde shared a flat in Earls Terrace, Kensington with the actor Alan Bates for some years in the 1960s. In his biography of Bates, Donald Spoto claims that the two were in a decade-long romantic relationship, but other sources say the friendship was platonic.
Wyngarde had some legal problems in the mid-1970s after two arrests related to minor incidents in his personal life. In contemporary press interviews with the News of the World and the Sunday Mercury he explained that the first arrest in 1974 was due to a misunderstanding, and the second, for which he was convicted and paid a fine in October 1975, was a "mental aberration".
In a 1993 interview he spoke about having a drink problem at the height of his career.
He lives in West London.
|This section is incomplete. (May 2016)|
- Alexander the Great (1956)
- The Siege of Sidney Street (1960)
- The Innocents (1961)
- Night of the Eagle (1962)
- Himmel, Scheich und Wolkenbruch (1979)
- Flash Gordon (1980)
- Tank Malling (1989)
- Ballard, J. G. (2008). Miracles of Life: Shanghai to Shepperton: an autobiography. London: Fourth Estate. ISBN 978-0-00-727072-9.
- Available through ancestry.com
- The National Archives of the UK; Kew, Surrey, England; General Register Office: Foreign Registers and Returns; Class: RG 33; Piece: 31
- The regeneration game — TV repeats, The Times, London, 30 November 1991.
- TV Review: Walking On The Wilde Side, Evening Standard, London, 17 July 2001.
- Mr Showbiz Byline Chris Young, Evening Times, Glasgow, 6 April 2002.
- Television: TV Heroes, The Independent, London, 23 January 2003.
- Document FO 916/1345, The National Archives, Kew, England
- Civil Assembly Organization entry list, British Residents' Association, June 1943.
- UK Incoming Passengers Lists via ancestry.co.uk: Port of Departure: Shanghai, China Arrival Date: 30 Apr 1946 Port of Arrival: Southampton, England Ship Name: Strathmore Search Ship Database: Search for the Strathmore in the 'Passenger Ships and Images' database Shipping line: P and O Steam Navigation Company Ltd Official Number: 164521
- UK Incoming Passengers index. Name: C Golbert Birth Date: abt 1927 Age: 18 Port of Departure: Shanghai, China Arrival Date: 14 Dec 1945 Port of Arrival: Southampton, England Ship Name: Arawa Search Ship Database: Search for the Arawa in the 'Passenger Ships and Images' database Shipping line: Cunard White Star Official Number: 140148
- London Electoral Roll, 1948, Camden, Hampstead area
- Mark Brown, "Newly unearthed ITV play could be first ever gay television drama", The Guardian, 16 March 2013.
- Adrian Wright, West End Broadway, Woodridge: Boydell Press, 2012, p. 92.
- British Theatre Guide, 1983.
- "Timeshift, Series 13, How to be Sherlock Holmes: The Many Faces of a Master Detective, Web exclusive: Peter Wyngarde on double detection (audio)". BBC Four. Retrieved 10 October 2015.
- "Peter Wyngarde Discography". Discogs.com. Retrieved 10 October 2015.
- London Electoral Register for 1953 shows Dorinda Wyngarde and Peter Wyngarde living at 9 Holland Park, Kensington
- London Electoral Register 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965: Allan [sic] Bates and Peter Wyngarde living at 1(1) Earls Terrace, Kensington
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