OBITUARY BY DEREK ELLEY
Donald Pleasence, the balding, beady-eyed British character actor who created such memorable screen villains as Ernst Stavro Blofeld in You Only Live Twice, died Feb. 2 at his home in St. Paul de Vence in southern France. He was 75.
Pleasence had been recovering from a heart operation just before Christmas, during which he had a valve replaced. He had been planning to visit London to complete work on Halloween VI.
He had recently completed work on the Channel 4 movie Safe Haven with his youngest daughter, Miranda, and was scheduled to star in a touring production of King Lear with daughters Miranda, Angela and Polly.
His last appearance on British TV was as a villain in the BBC series Signs and Wonders.
The son of a railroad station master, Pleasence was born in Worksop, Nottinghamshie. He studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London.
During World War II, he served in the Royal Air Force and spent a year in a German POW camp after being shot down.
He made his stage debut in repertory in Jersey, and his London debut at the Arts Theatre in The Twelfth Night.
It was in the mid-50's that he came to public attention, playing Prince John in the popular TV series Robin Hood (1955-57). Critical kudos came in 1960 for his perf as the tramp in Harold Pinter's chamber drama The Caretaker, a role he reprised in the 1963 film version and revived on the London stage in 1991.
His earliest film roles were as a clerk in the Somerset Maugham adaption The Beachcomber (1954), and as Parsons in the Orwellian 1984 (1956). Though rarely in a starring role, he often contributed the most memorable performance in a string of movies that ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous.
As a jobbing character actor in a movie career spanning 40 years and more than 100 pix, Pleasence essayed almost every conceivable genre and every type of production.
Latter ranged from Hollywood blockbusters (the Devil in The Greatest Story Ever Told, a POW in The Great Escape) through British quickies (Circus of Horrors), to American genre items (the psycho-hunting psychiatrist in five Halloween pix).
At the same time, he created memorable roles in more serious fare such as Roman Polanski's Cul-De-Sac, Jack Cardiff's Sons and Lovers and Claude Chabrol's Blood Relatives.
Included among his large canon of quiet-spoken screen villains are a mad scientist in Fantastic Voyage, an unscrupulous Nazi suspect in Night of the Generals and the title role in the 1963 Dr. Crippen.
He also played a crotchety baron in Jacques Demy's The Pied Piper and a kidnapped U.S. president in John Carpenter's Escape From New York.
His many TV roles included Hitler in a 1972 series and Dr. Johnson in the 1983 The Falklands Factor.
Pleasence was awarded the OBE in 1993.
He is survived by his fourth wife, Linda, and five daughters.
Obituary © 1995 VARIETY. All Rights Reserved.
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