16 July, 2008

Anthony Quayle


Sir John Anthony Quayle was an English actor and director.

He was born in Ainsdale, Southport in Lancashire and trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. After appearing in music hall, he joined the Old Vic in 1932. During the Second World War he was an Army Officer and made one of the area commanders of the auxiliary units. Later he joined the Special Operations Executive and served as a liaison officer with the partisans in Albania. In 1944 he was the aide to the Governor of Gibraltar at the time of the air crash of General Władysław Sikorski's aircraft on July 4, 1943. He described his experiences in a fictionalized form in Eight Hours from England .

From 1948 to 1956 he directed at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, and laid the foundations for the creation of the Royal Shakespeare Company. His own Shakespearian roles included Falstaff, Othello, Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing, and Aaron in Titus Andronicus opposite Sir Laurence Olivier; he played Mosca in Ben Jonson's Volpone; and he also appeared in contemporary plays.

His first film role was a brief unaccredited one as an Italian wigmaker in the 1938 Pygmalion - subsequent film roles included parts in Ice Cold in Alex (1958),Tarzan's Greatest Adventure (1959), The Guns of Navarone (1961) and Lawrence of Arabia (1962). He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1969 for his role in Anne of the Thousand Days. Often cast as the decent British officer he drew upon his own wartime experience, bringing a degree of authenticity to the parts notably absent from the performances of some non-combatant stars. One of his best friends was fellow actor Alec Guinness, whom he knew from his days at the Old Vic, and appeared in several films with him.

Quayle made his Broadway debut in The Country Wife in 1936. Thirty-four years later, he won critical acclaim for his starring role in the highly successful Anthony Shaffer play Sleuth, which earned him a Drama Desk Award.

Television appearances include Armchair Theatre-The Scent of Fear (1959) for ITV, the title role in the 1969 ITC drama series Strange Report and as French General Villers in the 1988 miniseries adaptation of The Bourne Identity. Also he narrated the acclaimed aviation documentary series Reaching for the Skies.

Quayle was knighted in 1985 and he died in London from liver cancer in October 1989, aged 76.

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