Ralph Bates

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Ralph Bates
Actor Ralph Bates.jpg
Photo by Edward Wing, 1970s
Born(1940-02-12)12 February 1940
Bristol, England
Died27 March 1991(1991-03-27) (aged 51)
London, England
EducationTrinity College, Dublin (BA)
Yale University (MFA)
Years active1967–1991
Spouse(s)Joanna Van Gyseghem (1964–1973)
Virginia Wetherell (1973–1991)

Ralph Bates (12 February 1940 – 27 March 1991) was an English film and television actor, known for his role in the British sitcom Dear John and the hugely successful TV drama Poldark.[1]


Bates was born in Bristol, England.[2] His parents were both psychiatrists, his mother was French[3] and he was a great-great-grandson of French scientist Louis Pasteur.[4] He held dual-nationality and was bilingual,[3] and was educated at Trinity College Dublin.[4] He read French there, before winning a scholarship to Yale Drama School. The course completed, Bates returned to Ireland to make his stage debut in Shaw's You Never Can Tell at The Gate Theatre, Dublin, in 1963. A career in repertory theatre soon followed and the young actor gained experience in productions ranging from Hedda Gabler to raucous comedies.

Later, Bates carved a niche in the world of horror films and played important roles or the lead in several Hammer Horror productions, such as Taste the Blood of Dracula, The Horror of Frankenstein, Lust for a Vampire, and Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde, in which he played a doctor who mistakenly transforms himself into a beautiful siren.[5][6]

He portrayed Caligula in the series The Caesars and alongside Cyd Hayman in a passionate French tale of murder and mystery - Crime of Passion series.[7] After playing Thomas Culpeper in an episode of The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1970), he went on to star in the BBC drama series, Moonbase 3 (1973) and the long-running Poldark, in which he played villainous George Warleggan.[2] The series ran for 29 episodes, starting in 1975.[8] He also played communist Paul Vercors in the final season of the drama series Secret Army.[9] Because of his French ancestry and dark looks, he was often chosen to play a Frenchman on television, as for instance in a second series episode of ITV comedy drama Turtle's Progress.[10] Bates also appeared in the television movie Minder on the Orient Express, again as a Frenchman.[11]

It looked, for some time, as if he might remain typecast in sinister roles, but he was offered a part in a comedy series by the writer John Sullivan, which saw Bates cast in a more sympathetic role as the newly divorced member of a singles group. Dear John (1986–87), ran for two series, and gave him chance to display a talent for comic roles.[12] Around the same time he appeared in the ITV Yorkshire Television sitcom Farrington of the F.O. (1986) with Angela Thorne and Joan Sims.


Bates became ill and was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and died in London at age 51 from the disease.[13]

The Ralph Bates Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund is a registered charity, number 1007819.[14]


Bates was divorced from the actress Joanna Van Gyseghem,[15] and survived by his second wife, the actress Virginia Wetherell (married 1973–1991). The couple had one daughter, actress Daisy Bates (b. 1974), and a son William Bates (b. 1977), an actor and musician.[citation needed]


Year Title Role Notes
1970 Taste the Blood of Dracula Lord Courtley
1970 The Horror of Frankenstein Victor Frankenstein
1971 Lust for a Vampire Giles Barton Alternate titles: Love for a Vampire, To Love a Vampire
1971 Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde Dr. Henry Jekyll
1972 Fear in the Night Robert Heller
1974 Persecution David Masters Alternate titles: Sheba, The Terror of Sheba, The Graveyard
1975 I Don't Want to Be Born Gino Carlesi Alternate titles: The Devil Within Her, The Monster
1985 Minder on the Orient Express Francois LeBlanc TV movie
1986 Letters to an Unknown Lover Bernard TV movie
1990 King of the Wind LeDuc (final film role)


  1. ^ "Poldark actor dies". Newcastle Evening Chronicle. 28 March 1991. p. 7. Retrieved 2 August 2019 – via British Newspaper Archive.
  2. ^ a b "Ralph Bates (1940-1991) - Find A Grave Memorial". www.findagrave.com.
  3. ^ a b Gillian Rose (10 July 1986). "Ralph lets life run as the work rolls in". The Stage. p. 19. Retrieved 2 August 2019 – via British Newspaper Archive.
  4. ^ a b "Cancer claims TV and stage star". Aberdeen Press and Journal. 29 March 1991. p. 13. Retrieved 2 August 2019 – via British Newspaper Archive.
  5. ^ "Ralph Bates - Biography, Movie Highlights and Photos - AllMovie". AllMovie.
  6. ^ "BFI Screenonline: Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde (1971)". www.screenonline.org.uk.
  7. ^ "The Caesars · British Universities Film & Video Council". bufvc.ac.uk.
  8. ^ "Angharad Rees". www.telegraph.co.uk.
  9. ^ "BFI Screenonline: Secret Army (1977-79) Credits". www.screenonline.org.uk.
  10. ^ "It's So Last Century - Turtle's Progress - Series 2". www.itssolastcentury.co.uk.
  11. ^ "Minder on the Orient Express (1985) - Francis Megahy - Cast and Crew - AllMovie". AllMovie.
  12. ^ BBC. "Dear John".
  13. ^ "About Ralph Bates | The Ralph Bates Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund".
  14. ^ "Ralph Bates Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund". www.ralphbatespcr.org.uk.
  15. ^ Mangos, Anthony. "'Ralph Bates: A Biography' Sheds a Bright Light on a Beloved Actor - Diabolique Magazine".

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