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 (Bachelor of Arts)
Yale University (Master of Fine Arts)
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 original 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 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 with Cyd Hayman in the Crime of Passion series.[7] After playing Thomas Culpeper in an episode of The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1970), he starred in the series Moonbase 3 (1973) and 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 often was chosen to play a Frenchman on television, such as in an 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 sitcom Farrington of the F.O. (1986) with Angela Thorne and Joan Sims.

Private life[edit]

Bates was divorced from the actress Joanna Van Gyseghem,[13] and survived by his second wife, actress Virginia Wetherell (married 1973–1991). The couple had a son and a daughter.[citation needed]


Bates was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and died from the disease in London, aged 51.[14] The large metal cross marking his grave at Chiswick New Cemetery bears the epitaph "Don't Worry. Be_Happy!"[15]

The Ralph Bates Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund is a registered charity.[16]


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


  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. ^ Mangos, Anthony. "'Ralph Bates: A Biography' Sheds a Bright Light on a Beloved Actor - Diabolique Magazine".
  14. ^ "About Ralph Bates | The Ralph Bates Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund".
  15. ^ "Ralph Bates (1940-1991) - Find a Grave Memorial". Find a Grave.
  16. ^ "Ralph Bates Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund". www.ralphbatespcr.org.uk.

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