Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Actor John Neville Passes On

John Neville, who in his career played both Sherlock Holmes and Baron Munchausen, passed on 19 November 2011 ate age of 86. The cause was Alzheimar's disease.

John Neville was born on 2 May 1925 in Willesden, London. He was the son of a lorry driver. Mr. Neville attended Chiswick School for Boys. It was when his church choir went to see A Midsummer's Night Dream starring  Sir Ralph Richardson and Vivien Leigh that his love for theatre began. He left school at age 16 to work as stores clerk at a garage, but his career would be set when a performance as Hamlet for a church production won him a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. During World War II  John Neville served as a signalman in the British Royal Navy.

John Neville made his debut on the West End in 1947 in a small part in Richard III at the New Thaetre. In 1948 he took part in the Open Air Season at Regent's Park. He played Lysander in A Midsummer's Night Dream and Chatillon in King John. In 1949 he worked with the Birmingham Repertory Theatre where he played John Worthing in The Importance of Being Ernest. He later worked at the Old Vic, where he played Surface in The School for Scandal, Ferdinand in Love's Labour Lost, and Valentine in The Two Gentelmen of Varona.

In 1950 Mr. Neville made his debut on television in the teleplay Mrs. Dot. Throughout the Fifties he appeared on such shows as ITV Playhouse, ITV Play of the Week, Producer's Showcase, The Dupont Show of the Month, and BBC Sunday Night Theatre. In 1960 he made his film debut in Oscar Wilde. In 1953 he was once more at the Old Vic, where among other roles he appeared as Lewis the Dauphin in King John,Orsino in Twelfth Night, Macduff in Macbeth, and Berowne in Love's Labour Lost. In 1955 he received rave notices for his performance of the title role in Richard III. At the Old Vic he played roles ranging from Mark Antony in Julius Ceasar to Hamlet in the play of the same name. It was in 1959 he left the Old Vic. He directed The Importance of Being Ernest at the Bristol Old Vic and appeared as Nestor in Irma La Douce.

In the Sixties John Neville appeared in such films as I Like Money (1961), Billy Budd (1962), Unearthly Stranger (1964), and The Adventures of Gerard (1970). One of his most notable film roles came in 1965 when Mr. Neville played Sherlock Holmes in the movie A Study in Terror. On television he was a regular on both The Company of Five and The First Churchills. He appeared on the programmes Theatre 625 and Half Hour Story. On stage he directed Henry V at the Old Vic. He played the Stranger in The Lady from the Sea and other roles ranging form Macbeth to Faustus.

In the Seventies he appeared in such shows as Shadows of Fear, The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes, Love Story, The Protectors, ITV Saturday Night Theatre, and Benjamin Franklin. On stage he appeared as Captain Macheath in The Beggar's Opera. He took an offer to direct The Rivals at the National Arts centre in Ottawa, Ontario. He would spend the rest of his life in Canada. Over the years, on stage he directed Much Ado About Nothing, Uncle Vanya, Mother Courage, Othello, The Three Sisters, and other plays. He appeared on stage in Cymbeline, The Winter's Tale, Pericles, The Merchant of Venice, and Henry VIII.

In the Eighties John Neville played the title role in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988) . He was a regular on the television programme Grand and appeared on the series Titans.  In the Nineties he played the role of the Well-Manicured Man on The X-Files, a role he reprised in the 1998 movie. Mr. Neville was also a regular on Emily of New Moon and Amazon. He appeared on such television programmes as Avonlea, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Stark. He appeared in such films as The Road to Wellville (1994), Little Women (1994), The Fifth Element (1997), Urban Legend (1998), The Duke (1999), and Sunshine (1999).  In the Naughts he appeared in such films as Time of the Wolf (2002), Hollywood North (2003), The Statement (2003), and Separate Lies (2005). He appeared in such television programmes as Odyssey 5, Bury the Lead, and Friends and Heroes His last role on screen was in the film Bradfordian Rain.

John Neville first came to my notice as Sherlock Holmes in A Study in Terror. In fact, he would prove to be my favourite Holmes besides Basil Rathbone. In the years since I would be impressed by the sheer diversity of roles which Mr. Neville played, everything from the colourful Baron Munchausen to Lt. Radcliffe in Billy Budd. John Neville was versatile to the point that I believe that he could play any role in the world. Indeed, it is for this reason that is career spanned over sixty years. He acted very nearly until his death. Not only could very few actors boast such a long career, but few could boast one that was as diverse and as well done as that of John Neville.


Toby O'B said...

I've seen it written that his career really blossomed after he played Baron Munchausen, but it's evident from your tribute that he was doing quite nicely for himself before that.

Earlier this year I saw him as Dr. Thorndyke in an episode of 'The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes' and I think it could have led to an interesting series. I've read the book of "A Study In Terror" and I should check out the movie now....

Thanks for sharing that!

Marc Elusive said...

Long live the "Well-Manicured Man"! The X-Files