Vladek Sheybal

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Vladek Sheybal
Vladek Sheybal as Kronsteen.jpg
Sheybal as Kronsteen in From Russia with Love (1963)
BornWładysław Rudolf Z. Sheybal
(1923-03-12)12 March 1923
Zgierz, Poland
Died16 October 1992(1992-10-16) (aged 69)
London, England
Cause of deathAortic aneurysm
Resting placePutney Vale Cemetery, London, England
51°26′12″N 0°14′34″W / 51.436588°N 0.242655°W / 51.436588; -0.242655
ResidenceUnited Kingdom
Alma materMerton College, Oxford
Years active1957–1992

Vladek Sheybal (born Władysław Rudolf Z. Sheybal; 12 March 1923 – 16 October 1992) was a Polish character actor and director of both television and stage productions.[1] He was well known for his portrayal of the chess grandmaster Kronsteen in the James Bond film From Russia with Love (1963), a role for which he had been personally recommended by his friend Sean Connery, and Otto Leipzig in Smiley's People (1982).

He became a naturalised British citizen, but remained "fiercely proud of his homeland and its culture."[1]

Life and career[edit]

Sheybal was born in Zgierz, near Łódź, in the Second Polish Republic.[2] He appeared in the film Kanał (1957, credited as Władysław Sheybal), directed by Andrzej Wajda, before emigrating to the United Kingdom, where he was typically cast in villainous roles. He also appeared as Holocaust survivor Egon Sobotnik in the television mini-series QB VII.

He had a dual role as "the Director" and as Pierre Louys in Ken Russell's The Debussy Film, one of Russell's composer biopics for the BBC. Other Russell films in which he appeared were Billion Dollar Brain, Women in Love and The Boy Friend.

His other films include Casino Royale, Doppelgänger, The Last Valley, Puppet on a Chain, Innocent Bystanders, The Wind and the Lion, The Lady Vanishes, Fire and Sword and Red Dawn.

Sheybal's other TV credits include Z-Cars, Danger Man, The Troubleshooters, The Saint, The Baron, The Champions, Callan, Strange Report, UFO, The New Avengers, Supernatural, Lord Mountbatten: The Last Viceroy, Shōgun and Smiley's People.

A granite headstone with a cross inscribed on it and a bunch of red and white flowers next to it, among many other gravestones
Sheybal's grave at Putney Vale Cemetery, London, in 2015

In 1977, he won the Dracula Society's prestigious Hamilton Deane Award for his performance in the BBC play Night of the Marionettes, part of the Supernatural series, in which he played a sinister Austrian innkeeper whose life-size puppets supposedly inspired Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Sheybal's final stage appearance was as Friedrich Nietzsche in the Pierre Bourgeade play The Eagle and the Serpent at London's Offstage Downstairs Theatre in 1988.

He died in London in 1992, aged 69, from a ruptured aortic aneurysm. He is buried in Putney Vale Cemetery.[3]

Selected filmography[edit]


  1. ^ a b Flintoff, Ian (30 October 1992). "Vladek Sheybal: A very Polish practitioner". The Guardian. Manchester.
  2. ^ "Vladek Sheybal". The Times. London. 16 November 1992.
  3. ^ "Vladek Sheybal". British Film Institute. Retrieved 29 May 2009.

External links[edit]