Wyngarde in 1976, by Allan Warren
|Born||Cyril Louis Goldbert [disputed ]|
23 August 1927 [disputed ]
Marseille, France [disputed ]
|Died||15 January 2018 (aged 90)|
|Occupation||Actor (film, TV and theatre)|
Peter Wyngarde (23 August 1927[disputed ] – 15 January 2018) was a British actor best known for playing the character Jason King, a bestselling novelist turned sleuth, in two television series: Department S (1969–70) and Jason King (1971–72). His flamboyant dress sense and stylish performances led to popular success, and he was considered a style icon in Britain and elsewhere in the early 1970s; Mike Myers credited Wyngarde with inspiring the character Austin Powers.
Background and early life
Peter Wyngarde's date and place of birth, his birth name, and his parents' nationalities and occupations are all disputed. According to his own account, he was born Peter Paul Wyngarde on 23 August 1933 to a French mother and a British father named Wyngarde at an aunt's home in Marseille, France. He claimed that his father worked for the British Diplomatic Service in Hong Kong, Malaya, Singapore and India, before becoming an importer-exporter living in Eaton Square, London. He also claimed to be the nephew of French actor and director Louis Jouvet.
Primary sources indicate the probability of a different birth name, year of birth and family background. Wyngarde gave his place of birth as Singapore on a 1960 immigration application, although a 1956 Straits Times article about his mother does give Marseille as his birthplace. Wyngarde's birthday is normally given as 23 August, but different sources suggest a birth year between 1924 and 1937, with 1927 being the most authoritative.[note 1] In a 1993 interview Wyngarde claimed not to know his own age. Reports of his death in January 2018 gave his age as 90, suggesting that he was born in 1927.
Other evidence suggests that Wyngarde's original name was Cyril Goldbert and that he changed his name after arriving in the UK in the mid-1940s. Author J. G. Ballard, with whom he endured the Japanese internment camp Lunghua, said that he and his family knew Wyngarde as Cyril Goldbert in Shanghai during the Second World War, but in interviews Wyngarde denied knowing Ballard.
Peter Wyngarde's mother was Marcheritta "Madge" Goldbert, née Ahin, later Macauley. The Ahins were a Eurasian family living in Singapore in the 1890s. Records indicate that she was a Swiss national and that she re-married in 1947 and moved to Malaysia. His father may be the Mr H. Goldbert who is named as Cyril's next of kin when he arrives in the UK in 1945.
Interviewed in 1973, Wyngarde said: "As a child it was difficult to differentiate sometimes between fact and fantasy." He often spoke about his traumatic early life. He told an interviewer that his parents divorced when he was very young, and that his father took him to China "only months before war with China broke out" in the summer of 1937. He said that he was living in Shanghai when the Japanese Army took over the Shanghai International Settlement on 8 December 1941, and began acting during his internment when he played all the characters in a version of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde. In April 1943 Cyril Goldbert was interned in the Lunghua civilian internment camp.
Correspondence held in the UK's National Archives shows that in 1942/43 the 15-year-old son of merchant seaman Henry Goldbert, and his two younger siblings, were living in Shanghai. Efforts were made by the UK's Ministry of War Transport, the Prisoners of War Department and various boarding schools to facilitate the children's repatriation from Shanghai to the UK, but the older boy could not be accommodated because of his age.
Following liberation, Cyril Goldbert sailed from Shanghai to Southampton on the Cunard White Star line ship Arawa. He is listed as an 18-year-old passenger travelling alone. After arrival in the UK on 14 December 1945, Cyril Goldbert is not found in any further UK public records.
In an interview, Wyngarde said that he studied in the Faculty of Law, University of Oxford for three months, before leaving to work in a London advertising agency, though there is no supporting evidence for the claim.
Early acting career: 1940s to 1960s
In 1946, Wyngarde took his first professional roles in theatre productions, first appearing at the Buxton Playhouse, and the following year in a production of Noël Coward's Present Laughter at the Theatre Royal, Birmingham. He appeared with Alec Guinness in Hamlet in London in 1951 and with Siobhán McKenna in Saint Joan in 1954. His theatre appearances included playing opposite Vivien Leigh in 1958, and as Cyrano de Bergerac at the Bristol Old Vic in 1959, which he considered a highlight of his career.
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 Long John Silver in a 1958 adaptation of The Adventures of Ben Gunn, and as Sir Roger Casement in an episode of the Granada Television's On Trial series produced by Peter Wildeblood. He also featured in the title role of Rupert of Hentzau in 1964.
Wyngarde's film work was not extensive, but gained attention. He took the role of Pausanias opposite Richard Burton in the film Alexander the Great (1956), and appeared in the film The Siege of Sidney Street (1960) with Donald Sinden. In Jack Clayton's The Innocents (1961), he had brief unspeaking scenes as the leering Peter Quint with Deborah Kerr and Pamela Franklin. He followed this appearance as the lead in the occult thriller Night of the Eagle (US title: Burn Witch Burn, 1962), his only film appearance in a lead role.
By the late 1960s, Wyngarde was guest starring in television series of the time, many of which were shown internationally, including The Avengers, The Saint, The Baron, The Champions and I Spy. He also appeared in The Prisoner ("Checkmate", 1967) as the authority figure called Number Two. Wyngarde was also a guest star, playing himself as a Shakespearean actor in the 1966 prime-time TV special, Lucy in London starring Lucille Ball.
Popular success as Jason King
Wyngarde became a British household name through his starring role in the espionage series Department S (1969). His Jason King character, a novelist turned sleuth, was reputedly based on the author Ian Fleming. King led a hedonistic lifestyle; he often got the girl but as she is about to kiss him 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 of 26 fifty-minute episodes.
One obituary described Wyngarde as playing the role "in the manner of a cat walking on tiptoe, with an air of self-satisfaction", but that increasingly his acting became more mannered and he came to believe his own publicity. His director, Cyril Frankel, said: "It got to a point where he wouldn't accept direction." Frankel also said: "He was a very fine actor, but unfortunately a difficult person."
The series led Wyngarde to briefly become an international celebrity, being mobbed by female fans in Australia. In the role, he "became a style icon, with his droopy moustache, hair that looked like a bearskin hat and a wardrobe of wide-lapelled, three-piece suits, cravats and open-necked shirts in colours so bright they might hurt sensitive eyes." In 1970, he was described as "Britain’s best-dressed male personality", and the following year it was reported that more babies were christened Jason that year than ever before. Mike Myers later credited Wyngarde's dress sense with helping to inspire the character Austin Powers.
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. In the late 1970s he performed in the theatre in South Africa and Austria. Also on stage he appeared in the thriller Underground with Raymond Burr and Marc Sinden (whose father Donald had worked with Wyngarde on The Siege of Sydney Street) at the Royal Alexandra Theatre, Toronto and at the Prince of Wales Theatre, London in 1983.
Wyngarde played the masked character Klytus in the film Flash Gordon (1980) and Sir Robert Knight in the film Tank Malling (1989) with Ray Winstone. On TV he appeared in The Two Ronnies 1984 Christmas Special as Sir Guy. Other TV appearances include Doctor Who (in the four-episode-story Planet of Fire, 1984), Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense (1984), Bulman (1985), The Lenny Henry Show (1994) and The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (1994).
After leaving a 1995 stage production of The Cabinet of Dr Caligari due to a throat infection while still in previews Wyngarde mostly stopped acting but did occasional voice work.
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 4 Timeshift documentary strand, How to Be 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 Turk 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 released by 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. Wyngarde claimed that: "It sold out in next to no time... but RCA point-blankly refused to press any more. I was fuming, as I’d been given a three-album contract with the company, who promised to release one LP every 12 months. The excuse was that production was being moved... They told me that everything would have to go on the back burner, but I just believe that they got cold feet". 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, re-titled When Sex Leers Its Inquisitive Head. The album is now usually treated as a curiosity because of its unusual spoken-word style and the controversial subject matter of some of the tracks.
Wyngarde said that as a young man he was married to the actress Dorinda Stevens for three years, and a Dorinda and Peter Wyngarde are shown living together on the 1953 electoral roll for Holland Park. From 1956 to 1958 he was living with Ruby Talbot in London. He also called Vivien Leigh "the love of my life"..
In the 1960s, he shared a flat with fellow actor Alan Bates; according to some sources this was a sexual relationship. It was well known within the acting community that Wyngarde was gay – reputedly he acquired the nickname Petunia Winegum, though this was disputed by others who said that the name had merely been invented for a comedy sketch.
Public attention was drawn to his personal life in September 1975 when he was fined £75 (under his probable real name, Cyril Louis Goldbert) for gross indecency with a crane driver in public toilets in Gloucester bus station. This followed an arrest and caution for similar acts in the toilets at Kennedy Gardens in Birmingham the previous year.
He told an interviewer in 1993 that he was an alcoholic and that at the height of his fame "I drank myself to a standstill ... I am amazed I am still here", but that he stopped drinking in the early 1980s.
A Peter Wyngarde appreciation society, The Hellfire Club, was founded in 1992 with Wyngarde's support, with members receiving its quarterly magazine by post. It went online in 2000, and maintains a regularly updated blog and Facebook page.
- Dick Barton Strikes Back (1949) – soldier (uncredited)
- Alexander the Great (1956) – Pausanias
- The Siege of Sidney Street (1960) – Peter
- The Innocents (1961) – Peter Quint
- Night of the Eagle (1962) – Norman Taylor
- Himmel, Scheich und Wolkenbruch (1979) – Scheich Al-Abdullah
- Flash Gordon (1980) – Klytus
- Tank Malling (1989, also released as Beyond Soho) – Sir Robert Knight
Selected television appearances
- BBC adaptation of A Tale of Two Cities (as Sydney Carton) (1957)
- The Adventures of Ben Gunn (1958) (from the novel by R. F. Delderfield)
- Rupert of Hentzau (1964)
- The Saint (1966–7) (two episodes)
- The Avengers (1966–7) (two episodes)
- The Prisoner: "Checkmate" (1967)
- The Champions: "The Invisible Man" (1968) (As Dr John Hallam)
- Department S (as Jason King) (1969–70)
- Jason King (1971–72)
- Doctor Who: "Planet of Fire" as Timanov (1984)
- Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes as Langdale Pike in The Three Gables (1994)
- Immigration records from his arrival in the UK in 1945 indicate he was 18 years old 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 on the electoral roll at that time. A 1954 press profile of Wyngarde begins "Born in 1927 at Marseilles...", and almost all media reports of Wyngarde's death and obituaries in 2018 gave his age as 90, with a birth year of 1927. Separately, in January 1950 the Essex Newsman-Herald said Wyngarde was 25, suggesting a birth year of 1924 or 1925. J. G. Ballard writes in his autobiography Miracles of Life that Cyril Goldbert, "the future Peter Wyngarde ... was four years older than me..." As Ballard was born in November 1930, this would indicate, presuming Ballard's accuracy, that Cyril Goldbert was born in or around 1926. Records compiled in Shanghai in 1943 say Cyril Goldbert was born in 1928, while travel records from Wyngarde's trip to the USA in 1960 say 1929, and a Straits Times article in September 1956 gave his age as 26, suggesting a 1930 birthdate. The web site of his appreciation society has always stated that he was born in 1933, and this was the year used by BAFTA in the obituary at their 2018 awards. After his death the appreciation society changed the date to 28 August 1937, citing a Jersey passport.
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- "Obituary - Peter Wyngarde, flamboyant actor known for Jason King and Flash Gordon". The Herald. Glasgow. 18 January 2018.
- Giannangeli, Marco (29 March 2015). "Jason King still reigns, just less of a woman's man". Express.co.uk. Retrieved 2 October 2016.
- "A Short Biography of Peter Wyngarde". Radiosoundsfamiliar.com. Retrieved 2 October 2016.
- "Peter Wyngarde (1928–), Actor". National Portrait Gallery. Retrieved 9 September 2017.
- "The Ultimate Peter Wyngarde Interview". Hellfire Hall. Peter Wyngarde Appreciation Society. 1 September 2017. Archived from the original on 14 December 2017.
- "Wiki-Freaks". Hellfire Hall. Official Peter Wyngarde Appreciation Society. 15 December 2017. Archived from the original on 21 December 2017.
- "California, Passenger and Crew Lists, 1882–1959". Ancestry.com. National Archives, Washington, D.C. Retrieved 7 September 2017.
- "140-mile drive to see a very special film". The Straits Times. 13 September 1956 – via NewspaperSG.
- London Electoral Roll, 1948, Camden, Hampstead area.
- McFarlane, Brian (2016). The Encyclopedia of British Film (Fourth ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 9781526111968.
- Ballard, J. G. (2008). Miracles of Life: Shanghai to Shepperton: an autobiography. London, UK: Fourth Estate. ISBN 978-0-00-727072-9.
- Document FO 916/1345, The National Archives, Kew, England
- Room, Adrian (2010). Dictionary of Pseudonyms: 13,000 Assumed Names and Their Origins (5th ed.). McFarland. p. 516. ISBN 9780786457632 – via Google Books.
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- "Andrew Billen talks to Peter Wyngarde". The Observer. 19 December 1993. p. D8 – via The Guardian.
- Gaughan, Gavin (18 January 2018). "Peter Wyngarde obituary". The Guardian.
- Grossman, Lev. "The Life of J. G. Ballard: An Alien Among Us". Time.com. Retrieved 2 October 2016 – via time.com.
- A, Pereira Alexius (21 December 2016). "Singapore Eurasians: Memories, Hopes And Dreams". World Scientific. Retrieved 27 December 2017 – via Google Books.
- The National Archives of the UK; Kew, Surrey, England; General Register Office: Foreign Registers and Returns; Class: RG 33; Piece: 31
- 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 Next of Kin: Mr H. Goldbert, c/o Ministry of Shipping, London Shipping line: Cunard White Star Official Number: 140148
- David Parkinson, "In memory of Peter Wyngarde, debonair star behind Jason King", BFI, 18 January 2018
- Civil Assembly Organization entry list, British Residents' Association, June 1943.
- "Reference MT 9/3722. Repatriations (Code 115): Arrangements for repatriation from Shanghai of the children of Henry Goldbert of S.S. 'LYEMOON'". The National Archives. 1942–1943.
- "Board of Trade: Commercial and Statistical Department and successors: Inwards Passenger Lists, Class: BT26; Piece: 1215; Item: 46". Kew, Surrey, England: National Archives of the UK. Retrieved 29 December 2017 – via Ancestry.com.
- peterwyngarde (3 April 2017). "EVERYTHING YOU WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT PETER WYNGARDE…". Peterwyngarde.wordpress.com. Retrieved 4 September 2017.
- Brown, Mark (16 March 2013). "Newly unearthed ITV play could be first ever gay television drama". The Guardian.
- Belam, Martin (18 January 2018). "'What a life. What a legend': tributes paid to cult TV star Peter Wyngarde". The Guardian.
- "Screening TV". The Philadelphia Inquirer. 275 (117). 25 October 1966. p. 36 – via newspapers.com.
- Jason King on IMDb
- Adrian Wright, West End Broadway, Woodridge: Boydell Press, 2012, p. 92.
- Peter Wyngarde: Flamboyant actor renowned for his salacious exploits who became a household name in the 1970s when he played TV sleuth Jason King - The Times 18 January 2018
- British Theatre Guide, 1983.
- "Christmas Special 1984, The Two Ronnies – BBC One". Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2 October 2016.
- "THE CABINET OF DR CALIGARI". Peterwyngarde.wordpress.com. 2 July 2016. Retrieved 2 October 2016.
- "The Prisoner: The Pink Prisoner". Thetvdb.com. Retrieved 19 January 2018.
- "Web exclusive: Peter Wyngarde on double detection (audio)". BBC. 23 December 2013. Retrieved 10 October 2015.
- "It Was Alright in the..." Channel 4. Retrieved 2 October 2016.
- Bentley, David (27 February 2016). "Which stars are appearing at MCM Birmingham Comic Con in 2016?". Birmingham Mail. Retrieved 2 October 2016.
- "London Film Convention – Dates & Guests". Showmasters Ltd. Archived from the original on 23 September 2016. Retrieved 2 October 2016.
- ""When Sex Leers Its Inquisitive Head"". Peter Wyngarde Appreciation Society. 30 May 2017. Retrieved 19 January 2018.
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- "Jason King – Shapers of the 80s". shapersofthe80s.com. Retrieved 19 January 2018.
- "Jason King's Groovy Pad". Optusnet.com.au. Retrieved 2 October 2016.
- "When Sex Leers Its Inquisitive Head". Teleport-city.com. 14 February 2013. Retrieved 2 October 2016.
- "Peter Wyngarde: When Sex Leers Its Inquisitive Head". Dangerousminds.net. 23 March 2010. Retrieved 2 October 2016.
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- Lewis, Roger (28 June 2007). "'The minute they got close, he ran'". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 18 January 2018.
- "Peter Wyngarde: Jason King star who inspired Austin Powers dies aged 90". News.sky.com. Retrieved 19 January 2018.
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- Richards, Stephen (2003). Crime through time. Mirage Publishing. p. 294. ISBN 978-1-902578-17-0.
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- Before Austin Powers there was 'Jason King' – and the fabulous Peter Wyngarde who has died aged 90 – The Independent 18 January 2018
- "The London Gazette" (PDF). Thegazette.co.uk. 1 September 1988. Retrieved 8 July 2018.
- "Introduction". Web.archive.org. 14 September 2000. Retrieved 8 July 2018.
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- "British Actor Peter Wyngarde Dies in London Hospital Aged 90". The New York Times. Associated Press. 18 January 2018.
- "REVIEW: Dick Barton Strikes Back!". Peterwynhgarde.wordpress.com. 22 May 2017. Retrieved 19 January 2018.
- "In memory of Peter Wyngarde, debonair star behind Jason King". Bfi.org.uk. Retrieved 19 January 2018.
- "Watch and Download "The Siege of Sidney Street" courtesy of Jimbo Berkey". free-classic-movies.com. Retrieved 19 January 2018.
- Pulver, Andrew (22 October 2010). "The Innocents: No 11 best horror film of all time". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 January 2018.
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- "Himmel, Scheich und Wolkenbruch". IMDb.com. 26 January 1979. Retrieved 19 January 2018 – via www.imdb.com.
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- "Tank Malling (1989)". Randomramblingsthoughtsandfiction.blogspot.co.uk. Retrieved 19 January 2018.
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- "REVIEW: The Adventures of Ben Gunn". Peterwyngarde.wordpress.com. 29 June 2016. Retrieved 19 January 2018.
- "TV Versions of 'The Prisoner of Zenda' & 'Rupert of Hentzau'". Silverwhistle.co.uk. Retrieved 19 January 2018.
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- "The Avengers Forever: Peter Wyngarde". theavengers.tv. Retrieved 19 January 2018.
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