Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Actor Sir Donald Sinden Passes On

Sir Donald Sinden, who appeared frequently on the British stage, in British films, and on television, died on 11 September 2014 at the age of 90. He had been diagnosed with prostate cancer years ago.

Sir Donald Sinden was born on 9 October 1922 in Plymouth, England. He grew up in Ditchling, East Sussex. As a child he suffered from asthma, a condition that would prevent him from later joining the British Navy. At age 15 he was apprenticed in carpentry and he took classes in draughting of an evening with the goal of becoming an architect and surveyor. It was in Brighton where he worked that he became involved in amateur theatrical productions. This led to Charles F Smith, director of the Theatre Royal, to inviting him to join his Mobile Entertainments Southern Area (MESA) company. He made his debut with Mr. Smith's company as Dudley in a production of George and Margaret in 1942.

Kept out of the service due to his asthma, Mr. Smith entertained the troops as part of many MESA productions. He trained as an actor at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art before joining the  Leicester Rep and in 1946 the Stratford-upon-Avon Memorial theatre. In 1948 Mr. Sinden made his film debut in a minor role in the film Lost Daughter. In 1949 he appeared at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket in a production of The Heiress.

It was in 1953 that Sir Donald Sinden starred in The Cruel Sea. The success of the film led to a seven year contract with the Rank Organisation. It was in 1954 that Donald Sinden appeared as skirt chasing medical student Tony Benskin in Doctor in the House. Mr. Sinden reprised his role as Tony Benskin in Doctor at Large in 1957. During the Fifties he appeared in such films as Mogambo (1953), A Day to Remember (1953), You Know What Sailors Are (1954), The Beachcomber (1954), Simba (1955), An Alligator Named Daisy (1955), Tiger in the Smoke (1956), Rockets Galore (1958), The Captain's Table (1959), and Your Money or Your Wife (1960).  Mr. Sinden made his television debut in a BBC Sunday-Night Theatre production of The Frog in 1958. He appeared on ITV Play of the Week and ITV Television Playhouse. He appeared as John Jaspar in an ITV mini-series adaptation of The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

In the Sixties Mr. Sinden appeared on stage in productions of There's a Girl in My Soup (1966) and Not Now, Darling (1967).  On television he played the Reverend Stephen Young in the series Our Man at St. Marks and as Richard, Duke of York in The War of the Roses.  He appeared in the role of The Colonel in The Prisoner episode "Many Happy Returns". He also appeared on such shows as Drama '61, Festival, First Night, Blackmail, and Armchair Theatre. He appeared in the films Twice Round the Daffodils (1962), Mix Me a Person (1962), and Decline and Fall... of a Birdwatcher (1968).

In the Seventies Sir Donald Sinden appeared in the Thirty-Minute Theatre mini-series Seven Days in the Life of Andrew Pelham. He starred in the TV shows Father, Dear Father; The Organisation; and Two's Company. He appeared in the films Villain (1971), Rentadick (1972), The National Health (1973), The Day of the Jackal (1973) , The Island at the Top of the World (1974), and That Lucky Touch (1975). He appeared on stage in productions of  In Praise of Love (1973) of An Enemy of the People (1975). He appeared on Broadway in London Assurance and Habeas Corpus.

In the Eighties Sir Donald Sinden starred in the long running sitcom Never the Twain. He appeared in the film The Children (1990). He appeared on stage in productions of Present Laughter (1981); The School for Scandal (1983); The Scarlet Pimpernel (1985); and  Major Barbara (1988). In the Nineties Mr. Sinden provided the voice of Doc in Balto (1995). He appeared in the TV films The Treasure Seekers, Richard II, and The Canterville Ghost. He appeared on stage in productions of That Good Night (1996) and Quartet (1999). In the Naughts Mr. Sinden starred in the legal drama Judge John Deed. He appeared in the films The Accidental Detective (2003). In the teens Mr. Sinden appeared in the film Run for Your Wife (2012). He guest starred on Midsomer Murders and Agatha Christie's Miss Marple.

To modern audiences Sir Donald Sinden may be best known as fussy antiques dealer Simon Peel  on Never the Twain, but he played a wide variety of roles throughout his life. Indeed, his television roles alone were quite varied. On Two's Company he played Robert, the English butler with a stiff upper lip. In his guest appearance on The Prisoner episode "Many Happy Returns" he played "The Colonel", one of Number Six's former colleagues. Sir Donald Sinden played a wide variety of roles in film too. He was the womanising Tony Benskin in the "Doctor" films, the brutal criminal Wade in Eyewitness (1956), and barrister Philip Bellamy in Mix Me a Person (1962). Sir Donald Sinden was an incredibly talented actor with a very wide range, as capable of playing a brutal criminal as he was a very proper butler or a doctor with the eye for the ladies. While he may now be best known for his work in television, he had a rich and varied career in film and stage as well.

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