Peter Wyngarde

The actor Peter Wyngarde has died at the age of 90.

Peter Wyngarde was best known for playing Jason King, the bestselling novelist turned sleuth who appeared in the British television series Department S and Jason King, inspiring the Mike Myers character Austin Powers. He appeared in the 1984 Doctor Who story Planet of Fire playing Timanov the devout religious leader of the planet Sarn.

Peter Wyngarde’s origins are shrouded in mystery with the actor himself giving different accounts of his parents and birthplace. He is believed to have been born in France in the late 1920’s, with 1927 being the most authoritative date. He grew up in the far east and during World War II was interned in the Lunghua internment camp in Shanghai, set up by the Japanese for European and American citizens living in the city.

After the war, he sailed to the United Kingdom on the Cunard White Star Line vessel the Arawa, arriving in Southampton at the age of 18.

After briefly studying law he joined an advertising agency and in 1946 won his first professional role in the theatre. One of his earliest roles was a production of Noël Coward’s Present Laughter at the Theatre Royal, Birmingham.

His first television appearance was a bit part in the 1949 production of Dick Barton Strikes Back. He soon graduated to leading roles playing John the Baptist in the 1956 version of Jesus of Nazareth and Sydney Carton in A Tale of Two Cities.

In 1959 he played Lt Jan Wicziewsky in South one of the earliest gay-themed British TV dramas. the play came just two years after the Wolfenden Report, when homosexuality was still very much a taboo subject, making Wyngarde’s impassioned performance all the more extraordinary.

In 1969 Wyngarde won the role that would make him a household name in the espionage series Department S. He played the suave womaniser Jason King, a character so popular that he was spun off into his own action espionage series Jason King, which ran for one season of 26 fifty-minute episodes. The series enjoyed global success with Wyngarde briefly becoming an international celebrity.

During the seventies, he has a succession of smaller roles on television. in 1973 he played the King of Siam in a revival of the musical The King and I at London’s Adelphi Theatre. In 1980 he appeared as the masked character Klytus in the film Flash Gordon.

In 1982 he made his appearance in Doctor Who playing Timanov. He wanted to play the part in heavy disguise but was persuaded by producer John Nathan Turner to show his face.

Wyngarde virtually retired from acting after a throat infection forced his withdrawal from a stage production of The Cabinet of Dr Caligari. His public appearances were mainly restricted to Memorabilia events.

Peter Wyngarde died at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London on 15 January 2018.

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