Friday, January 19, 2018

The Late Great Peter Wyngarde

Peter Wyngarde, the actor best known for playing Jason King in the TV show Department S and its spinoff Jason King, as well as making notable guest appearances on shows from The Avengers to The Prisoner, died on January 15 2018. He was reportedly 90.

Peter Wyngarde's early life is a bit of a mystery. While August 23 is generally agreed upon as his birthday, the year in which he was born, where he was born, and even his given name tend to vary depending upon  the account. Peter Wyngarde long maintained he was born Peter Paul Wyngarde in Marseilles, France to a French mother and a father who worked in the British Diplomatic Service with the surname of Wyngarde. Peter Wyngarde also gave his place of birth as Singapore. According to another account Peter Wyngarde was born Cyril Louis Goldbert in Singapore. His father may have been Henry Goldbert. Author J. G. Ballard claimed to have known Peter Wyngarde as Cyril Goldbert in Shanghai and the two of them were imprisoned in the Japanese internment camp Lunghua. Mr. Wyngarde gave 1933 as his year of birth, but J. G. Ballard said that Mr. Wyngarde was four years older than he was, which would place his birth year closer to 1926 or 1927. In an interview published in The Observer in 1993, Peter Wyngarde claimed that he did not know his real age.

Regardless, Peter Wyngarde made his acting debut on stage at the Buxton Playhouse in 1946. His first role of note would be in Noël Coward's Present Laughter at the Theatre Royal in Birmingham in 1947. He made his film debut in 1949 in an uncredited part as a soldier in Dick Barton Strikes Back. He made his television debut in 1952 in an adaptation of The Dybbuk. On television he appeared in such TV productions as Leibelei and The Gambler. He played Sidney Carton in the mini-series A Tale of Two Cities and Long John Silver in the series The Adventures of Ben Gunn. He appeared as John the Baptist in the mini-series Jesus of Nazareth. He guest starred on such shows as Stage by Stage, Terminus, Nom-de-Plume, Assignment Foreign Legion, Sword of Freedom, ITV Television Playhouse, BBC Sunday-Night Theatre, and On Trial. He appeared in the films Alexander the Great (1956) and The Siege of Sidney Street (1960).

In the Sixties Peter Wyngarde starred as Rupert of Hentzau in the TV mini-series Rupert of Hentzau. Towards the end of the decade he starred in what may be his most famous role, Jason King, in the TV series Department S. He made two guest appearances on The Avengers, the most notable being that of the Honourable John Cleverly Cartney in the notorious episode "A Touch of Brimstone". He also guest starred on such shows as One Step Beyond, BBC Sunday-Night Play, Armchair Theatre, R3, Sherlock Holmes, Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Colour, ITV Play of the Week, The Saint, I Spy, The Troubleshooters, The Prisoner, and The Champions. He appeared in the films The Innocents (1961) and Night of the Eagle (1962).

Peter Wyngarde began the Seventies playing Jason King in the TV series Jason King. He appeared in the films Himmel, Scheich und Wolkenbruch (1979) and Flash Gordon (1980).  A 1975 arrest for gross indecency in a bus station loo seriously damaged his career, and he saw little work for much of the decade.

In the Eighties he guest starred on Doctor Who, Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense, The Two Ronnies, Bulman, and The Comic Strip Presents... He appeared in the film Tank Malling (1989).

In the Nineties Peter Wyngarde guest starred on The Lenny Henry Show and The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes

Quite simply, Peter Wyngarde was an incredible actor. If the character of Jason King developed a cult following in late Sixties and early Seventies Britain, it was largely because of Mr. Wyngarde's performance in the role. Jason King was a womanising author who loved the high life, but still found time to have several adventures. While Peter Wyngarde's best known character was decidedly a hero, he had a gift for playing villains. No better proof of this can be found than The Avengers episode "A Touch of Brimstone", in which he played the aristocratic John Cleverly Cartney, the head of a modern revival of the infamous Hellfire Club. He also did an interesting turn as No. 2 in The Prisoner episode "Checkmate". Such was Peter Wyngarde's talent that he could play a wide array of characters, from Sydney Carton to Long John Silver to Ming the Merciless's aide Klytus in the movie Flash Gordon. Few actors had quite the talent of which Peter Wyngarde could boast.

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