Friday, May 1, 2009

Actor Peter Dennis Passes On

Actor Peter Dennis, well known for his one man shows in which he read from “Winnie-the-Pooh” and other A.A. Milne works passed on April 18 at the age of 75. The cause was cancer.

Peter Dennis was born in Dorking, Surrey on October 25, 1933. His early education was in a Roman Catholic convent. His education was continued at the North Kensington Secondary School in London. At age 14 he left school to train as a surveyor and an accountant. He was working at the T.S. Appleton & Son Ltd. when he was inducted into the British Army. He served for six years in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps and Royal Army Service Corps. After leaving the military Dennis worked as Personal Assistant to Harry Arkle, European Managing Director, Canadian Pacific Railway and Bill Nicol, Deputy Chairman of Guest, Keen & Nettlefolds, Birmingham.

His life was forever changed when on his 29th birthday he saw his first play, a production of Look Back in Anger starring Derek Jacobi. He quit his job the very next day. That fall (the year was 1963) he enrolled at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Over the next few years Dennis would perform at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, the Everyman Theatre, Liverpool, the Liverpool Repertory Theatre, and eventually the West End of London.

Peter Dennis also appeared on television. He made his television debut in a guest appearance on the series No Hiding Place in 1965. He would go onto guest star on such shows as The Rat Catchers, The Avengers, The Troubleshooters, and Detective. The Seventies would see Dennis guest star in such shows as New Scotland Yard, Dial M for Murder, and The Famous Five. He was a regular as the character Sutton on the series Hadleigh. He also appeared in the movies Confessions of a Window Cleaner and The Stud.

It was in 1969 that Peter Dennis would first encounter the works of A. A. Milne, an experience as life changing as seeing Derek Jacobi in Look Back in Anger. It was on October 14. 1976, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Winnie the Pooh, that Peter Dennis gave an impromptu reading of Milne's work at Cambridge University. That reading became the show "Bother!" Over the years he would perform it in both North American and the United Kingdom, including such venues as Westminster Palace and the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles.

In the Eighties Peter Dennis appeared in such shows as Grange Hill, Crown Court, Kit Curran, and C.A.T.S. Eyes. He also appeared in the movie Scandalous. The Nineties saw Dennis move to the United States. He appeared in shows such as Prime Suspect, Murder She Wrote, Murphy Brown, Friends, Melrose Place, The Adventures of Brisco County Jr., The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones, Friends, and Seinfeld. He appeared in the movies Emissary: A Biblical Epic, and The Effects of Magic. The Naughts saw Peter Dennis appear on the shows Star Trek: Voyager and Alias. He also appeared in such films as Hellborn, Sideways, and Man in the Chair. He also began doing voice work, lending his talents to Shrek, Eragon, and Beowulf

I never got to see Bother, but I am guessing it was impressive given Peter Dennis' talent. While he spent much of his career on television and on film in small parts, he always gave an impressive performance. And when he had a larger part he was a sheer pleasure to watch. I remember him best as Reginald, Bowler's butler on the late, lamented Adventures of Brisco County Jr. The part wasn't much, but Dennis made it memorable. It is sad to know he is gone.


Toby O'B said...

I was coming up blank as to who Peter Dennis was until the mention of "Briscoe County" and now it all falls into place. Thanks for letting us know of his passing, Merc. I don't think we might have seen it elsewhere....

Mercurie said...

I only knew because his obituary was in the LA Times. I saw his picture and immediately recognised him!