Donald Pleasence


Actor
Donald Pleasence

About

Also Known As
Sir Donald Pleasence
Birth Place
Nottinghamshire, England, GB
Born
October 05, 1919
Died
February 02, 1995

Biography

Possessed with an unassuming manner that offset his intensity, British actor Donald Pleasence accrued over 200 film and television roles in an impressive career that spanned more than four decades. Getting his start in the theaters of England and Scotland after World War II, he began making a name for himself with small roles in film and TV projects such as "1984" (1956) and "The Adventu...

Family & Companions

Meira Shore
Wife
Actor. Married on October 10, 1970.
Linda Pleasence
Wife
Fourth wife; survived him.

Biography

Possessed with an unassuming manner that offset his intensity, British actor Donald Pleasence accrued over 200 film and television roles in an impressive career that spanned more than four decades. Getting his start in the theaters of England and Scotland after World War II, he began making a name for himself with small roles in film and TV projects such as "1984" (1956) and "The Adventures of Robin Hood" (ITV, 1955-1960). His first role in a major Hollywood blockbuster came as a part of the ensemble cast of director John Sturges' "The Great Escape" (1963). It was, however, his iconic portrayal of James Bond's evil nemesis, Blofeld, in "You Only Live Twice" (1967) that most affected the trajectory of Pleasence's future output. Considered mostly for the parts of villains or madmen, he frequently played the heavy in films like "Will Penny" (1968) and "The Eagle Has Landed" (1976). Although he did manage to play the hero in his most recognizable role as Dr. Loomis in director John Carpenter's "Halloween" (1978), it would, nonetheless, help solidify his growing reputation as a stock horror movie actor, resulting in appearances in "Dracula" (1979), "Phenomena" (1985) and "Prince of Darkness" (1987). Donald Pleasence would long be remembered for his always reliable performances in many of the most beloved films of the 20th century.

Born Donald Henry Pleasence on Oct. 5, 1919 in Worksop, Nottinghamshire, England, he was the younger of two boys born to Alice and Thomas Pleasence. Donald's father, a strict Methodist, worked as a railway stationmaster, and the family traditionally lived in an apartment above the station. With one year left before graduation, and tired of the lengthy train commute, he left Ecclesfield Grammar School in order to pursue an acting career. Although he had auditioned to attend the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, Pleasence was unable to enroll, due to a lack of funds and his failure to secure a scholarship. To make ends meet, he worked at a railway station for a time before working switching career gears by landing the job of assistant stage manager at a theater on a small island in the English Channel. Pleasence made his stage acting debut in 1939 in a production of "Wuthering Heights," and worked steadily in other productions over the next few years, including his debut on the London stage in a production of Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" in 1942. Unfortunately, the outbreak of World War II interrupted Pleasence's burgeoning acting career. Initially a conscientious objector, he eventually enlisted in the British Royal Air Force, where he served as a crewmember on a bomber before being shot down over France and incarcerated at a German POW camp for the remainder of the war. During this trying period, Pleasence and his fellow prisoners buoyed their spirits by mounting several stage shows. Upon his post-war return to England, he landed a role in a stage production of "The Brothers Karamazov," starring Alec Guiness. This led to a prolific period for Pleasence, as he worked with various productions and repertory companies throughout England and Scotland.

In 1951, Pleasence crossed the Atlantic and made his Broadway debut in a production of "Caesar and Cleopatra." Screen work also began to come his way, leading to several British TV guest starring roles and his feature film debut with a small part in "The Beachcomber" (1955). The following year saw Pleasence perform in the cinematic adaptation of George Orwell's "1984" (1956), having already appeared in a made-for-television version of the dystopian cautionary tale in 1954. By the mid-1950s he had become one of the most recognizable faces on British television, with a recurring role as Prince John on "The Adventures of Robin Hood" (ITV, 1955-1960) being just one of his multitude of small screen roles at the time. More film parts were coming Pleasence's way, such as a supporting role in the drama "Look Back in Anger" (1959), alongside British film icon Richard Burton. Remaining active in theater, he appeared with Alan Bates and Robert Shaw in a London production of Harold Pinter's "The Caretakers" in 1960. For his performance in the play, Pleasence won the British Critics Award for Best Performance of the Year, in addition to being nominated for a Tony Award after the production moved to Broadway. It would the first of four Tony nominations he would receive over the years. Around the same time, Pleasence's film career picked up considerable momentum in the type of projects that would - for better or worse - become a staple for the actor. He appeared as one-half of a pair of grave robbers in the Peter Cushing period thriller "Flesh and the Fiends" (1960), in addition to a turn in the horror movie "The Hands of Orlac" (1960), starring Christopher Lee.

On American television, Pleasence starred in a well-remembered episode of the classic anthology series "The Twilight Zone" (CBS, 1959-1964) in 1962, prior to joining the all-star cast of one of the decade's biggest blockbuster movies. That film was the World War II adventure epic "The Great Escape" (1963), starring Steve McQueen and James Garner, in which Pleasence gave a wonderfully understated performance as Lt. Blythe, "The Forger." From that moment onward, Pleasence worked relentlessly in film projects of all genres and budgetary scales. He embodied Satan in the religious epic "The Greatest Story Ever Told" (1965), worked under director Roman Polanski in the comedy thriller "Cul-de-sac" (1966), and played the bad guy in the special effects spectacular "Fantastic Voyage" (1966). One of Pleasence's most iconic roles was as super villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld in "You Only Live Twice" (1967), the fifth entry in the James Bond franchise, starring Sean Connery. Thirty years later, comic actor Mike Myers would pay homage to Pleasence's performance with his Dr. Evil character; the bald, cat-loving, would-be world conqueror in the spy spoof "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery" (1997). Continuing to work with the best and brightest stars in Hollywood, Pleasence gave an unforgettable performance as Quint, a demented, vengeful preacher out to punish Charlton Heston in the Western adventure, "Will Penny" (1968).

In George Lucas' feature film directorial debut, the visually stunning "THX 1138" (1971), Pleasence played a man attempting to escape an underground totalitarian society along with Robert Duvall in the title role. Considering the staggering volume of work he took on, it was no surprise that not all of the projects Pleasence collaborated on would be as prestigious as his work with Heston and Lucas. Films like the subterranean horror tale "Raw Meat" (1973) were examples of material on the other end of the cinematic spectrum. He appeared alongside Michael Caine in the gritty crime tale "The Black Windmill" (1974), and shared screen time with Caine again as Nazi leader Heinrich Himmler in the taut WWII thriller "The Eagle Has Landed" (1976). Two years later, Pleasence began a fruitful professional relationship with director John Carpenter that would last throughout the remainder of his life. As Dr. Sam Loomis, a psychiatrist obsessed with stopping psychotic mass murderer Michael Myers, in Carpenter's seminal slasher film "Halloween" (1978), Pleasence effectively replaced Blofeld as his most memorable role. He would go on to reprise the character of Loomis three more times, with varying results. In a more refined entry in the horror genre, the actor enjoyed the added treat of performing with his personal idol of stage and screen, Sir Laurence Olivier, in "Dracula" (1979), starring Frank Langella as Bram Stoker's vampire count. In a bit of incongruous casting, English-born Pleasence reteamed with Carpenter to play the kidnapped President of the United States in the futuristic action-thriller "Escape from New York" (1981), in addition to making his second appearance as Dr. Loomis in the sequel "Halloween II" (1981).

Italian horror director Dario Argento tapped Pleasence to play a Loomis-like character opposite a young Jennifer Connelly in the gory, supernatural tale "Phenomena" (1985). Even in his later years, the actor worked relentlessly, perhaps at times to the detriment of his professional reputation. Subpar efforts like the Sybil Danning sword and sex fantasy "Warrior Queen" (1987) certainly did nothing to help break the increasing trend of accepting virtually any role that was offered - something he admitted regretting later in life. Pleasence was, however, always happy to work with Carpenter again, and lent his talents to the role of a priest who uncovers the gateway to the apocalypse in "Prince of Darkness" (1987). He took part in a made-for-TV sequel to his breakout film - the only member of the original cast to do so - in "The Great Escape II: The Untold Story" (NBC, 1988). When venerated actor-director Woody Allen cast his ode to the German expressionist films of the 1930s, he wisely cast Pleasence in the darkly hilarious "Shadows and Fog" (1991). Fittingly, Pleasence's final performance would be in the role he had become the most associated with, that of the indefatigable Dr. Loomis in "Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers" (1995). Actor Donald Pleasence died in France while recovering from heart surgery on Feb. 2, 1995. He was 75 years old.

By Bryce P. Coleman

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

In and Out of Fashion (1998)
Arabian Knight (1995)
Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)
Guinevere (1994)
Merlin
The Advocate (1994)
The Big Freeze (1993)
Dien Bien Phu (1992)
American Rickshaw (1991)
Shadows And Fog (1991)
Miliardi (1991)
Ripa
Li Avvoltolo Puo Attendere (1990)
Thriller Zone, Volume 2 (1990)
Buried Alive (1990)
Casablanca Express (1990)
Paganini Horror (1989)
Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)
River of Death (1989)
Blade on the Feather (1989)
Jason Cavendish
Ten Little Indians (1989)
Hanna's War (1988)
Ground Zero (1988)
Prosper Gaffney
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)
Nosferatu a Venezia (1988)
Don Alvise
Phantom of Death (1988)
Spettri (1987)
Professor Lasky
To Kill a Stranger (1987)
Colonel Kostik
Prince of Darkness (1987)
Fuga Dall'inferno (1987)
Cobra Mission (1987)
Warrior Queen (1987)
A Breed Apart (1986)
J P Whittier
The Ambassador (1985)
The Corsican Brothers (1985)
Chancellor
Frankenstein's Great-Aunt Tillie (1985)
Warriors of the Lost World (1985)
Creepers (1985)
John Mcgregor
Sotto il Vestito Niente (1985)
Inspector
Arch Of Triumph (1985)
Haake
El Tesoro del Amazones (1985)
Klaus
Where Is Parsifal? (1984)
Mackintosh
Terror in the Aisles (1984)
The House of Usher (1983)
Witness for the Prosecution (1982)
Mr Myers
The Devonsville Terror (1982)
Alone in the Dark (1982)
Computercide (1982)
George Dettler
Halloween II (1981)
Escape From New York (1981)
The Monster Club (1981)
Race For the Yankee Zephyr (1981)
Good Luck, Miss Wyckoff (1979)
Dr Steiner
Dracula (1979)
Seward
Better Late Than Never (1979)
Jaguar Lives! (1979)
All Quiet on the Western Front (1979)
Kantorek
Gold Of The Amazon Women (1979)
Clarence Blasko
The Angry Man (1979)
Tomorrow Never Comes (1978)
The Defection of Simas Kudirka (1978)
Captain Vladimir Popov
L'Ordre et la securite du monde (1978)
Night Creature (1978)
Axel Macgregor
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978)
Bd Brockhurst
Halloween (1978)
Dr Sam Loomis
Power Play (1978)
Oh, God! (1977)
Les Liens de sang (1977)
The Uncanny (1977)
Valentine De'Ath ("Hollywood 1936")
Goldenrod (1977)
Telefon (1977)
The Eagle Has Landed (1976)
Heinrich Himmler
A Choice of Weapons (1976)
Journey Into Fear (1976)
The Last Tycoon (1976)
The Passover Plot (1976)
Pontius Pilate
The Count of Monte Cristo (1975)
Danglars
Hearts of the West (1975)
A J Nietz
The Devil Within Her (1975)
Dr Finch
Escape to Witch Mountain (1975)
The Mutation (1974)
Dr Nolter
The Black Windmill (1974)
Harper
Barry Mckenzie Holds His Own (1974)
La Loba y la Paloma (1973)
Columbo: Any Old Port in a Storm (1973)
Deathline (1973)
The Seaweed Children (1973)
Malachi
Henry VIII and His Six Wives (1973)
Tales That Witness Madness (1973)
Dr Tremayne ("Clinic") Scene
Wedding in White (1973)
Jim
The Pied Piper (1972)
Baron
The Rainbow Boys (1972)
Innocent Bystanders (1972)
Loomis
THX 1138 (1971)
SEN [5241]
Outback (1971)
Doc Tydon
Kidnapped (1971)
Ebenezer Balfour
The Jerusalem File (1971)
Samuels
Mister Freedom (1970)
Dr. Freedom
Soldier Blue (1970)
Isaac Q. Cumber
The Madwoman of Chaillot (1969)
The prospector
Mr. Freedom (1969)
Will Penny (1968)
Preacher Quint
You Only Live Twice (1967)
Ernst Stavro Blofeld
Eye of the Devil (1967)
Père Dominic
Matchless (1967)
Andreanu
The Night of the Generals (1967)
General Kahlenberge
Cul-de-Sac (1966)
George
Fantastic Voyage (1966)
Dr. Michaels
The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965)
The Devil
The Hallelujah Trail (1965)
Oracle Jones
The Hands of Orlac (1964)
Coates
Dr. Crippen (1964)
Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen
The Guest (1964)
Davies
The Great Escape (1963)
[Flt. Lt. Colin] Blythe "The Forger"
What a Carve Up! (1962)
Mr. Sloane
Lisa (1962)
Sergeant Wolters
The Risk (1961)
Brown
Mania (1961)
William Hare
No Love for Johnnie (1961)
Roger Renfrew
Sons and Lovers (1960)
Pappleworth
Killers of Kilimanjaro (1960)
Captain
Hell Is a City (1960)
Gus Hawkins
The Battle of the Sexes (1960)
Irwin Hoffman
The Big Day (1960)
Look Back in Anger (1959)
Hurst
All at Sea (1958)
Cashier
A Tale of Two Cities (1958)
The Wind Cannot Read (1958)
Doctor
Decision Against Time (1957)
Crabtree
Stowaway Girl (1957)
1984 (1956)
Parsons
Nineteen Eighty-Four (1956)
Value For Money (1955)
The Beachcomber (1955)
Tromp

Music (Feature Film)

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978)
Song Performer ("I Want You (She'S So Heavy)")

Cast (Special)

Signs and Wonders (1996)
Scoop (1990)
Lord Copper
Miss Marple: A Caribbean Mystery (1990)
The Room (1987)
Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1973)
Smudge

Cast (TV Mini-Series)

The Great Escape II: Untold Story (1988)
Black Arrow (1985)
Master of the Game (1984)
The French Atlantic Affair (1979)
The Bastard (1978)
The Dark Secret of Harvest Home (1978)
Voice
Jesus of Nazareth (Do Not Use) (1977)

Life Events

1994

Knighted by Queen Elizabeth II

Photo Collections

Escape to Witch Mountain - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for Disney's Escape to Witch Mountain (1975). One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.

Videos

Movie Clip

Look Back In Anger (1959) - Fourteen Pounds Of Jelly Babies Jimmy (Richard Burton) with partner Cliff (Gary Raymond) sets up his candy-stand and encounters the irritating constable Hurst (Donald Pleasence) in Tony Richardson's Look Back In Anger, 1959.
You Only Live Twice (1967) - I Am Ernst Stavro Blofeld Perhaps a SPOILER as it's an hour and thirty-nine minutes into the picture, Blofeld (Donald Pleasence) finally appears facing the camera, having thwarted 007 (Sean Connery) in his scheme to sneak aboard a captured Soviet spaceship, in the fifth James Bond feature, You Only Live Twice, 1967.
Look Back In Anger (1959) - Open, Jimmy A London jazz club is the setting, Jimmy (Richard Burton) wailing on his trumpet, in the opening of Tony Richardson's Look Back In Anger, 1959, co-starring Mary Ure and Claire Bloom, from John Osborne's play.
Night Of The Generals, The (1967) - You've Become Vicious General von Seidlitz-Gabler and his wife (Charles Gray and Coral Browne) host General Tanz (Peter O'Toole) and introduce their daughter (Joanna Pettet) at a reception, in Sam Spiegel's Night of the Generals, 1967.
Night Of The Generals, The (1967) - A Remarkable Officer Narration begins the introduction of General Tanz (Peter O'Toole), accompanied by Col. Sandauer (John Gregson) in the Warsaw ghetto, in producer Sam Spiegel's Nazi murder mystery, Night of the Generals, 1967.
From Beyond The Grave (1973) - I Bet You Was Decorated Ian Bannen as henpecked Lowe has his second meeting with panhandling disabled vet Jim (Donald Pleasence), who flatters him as a military man, inspiring him to return to the shop, greeted by the proprietor Peter Cushing, to obtain the medal he earlier coveted, in the horror anthology From Beyond The Grave, 1973.
Alone In The Dark (1982) - I Want That! Word has not yet gotten around this nameless idyllic town (actually Ridgewood, N.J.) about the big escape at the asylum, especially to the mailman, stalked by resourceful escapees Erland van Lidth, Jack Palance and Martin Landau, in Alone In The Dark, 1982, directed by Jack Sholder.
Alone In The Dark (1982) - I'll Have The Usual Outlandish enough opening from director Jack Sholder (now a professor at Western Carolina University), has Martin Landau dropping in at a diner, meeting the proprietor (Dorothy James) and a customer (Robert Pastner), then Donald Pleasence, before some resolution, in the cult-horror favorite Alone In The Dark, 1982.
Alone In The Dark (1982) - That's The Bleeder? Dr. Potter (Dwight Schultz) is the new doctor at the institute run by Dr. Bain (Donald Pleasence), meeting orderly Ray (Brent Jennings), then the convict-inmates of the 3rd floor, Ronald (Erland van Lidth), “Preacher” (Martin Landau) and Hawkes (Jack Palance), in Alone In The Dark, 1982.
Hearts Of The West (1975) - Open, Real Rugged Gunfighter Smile Opening with Jeff Bridges as Lewis in a screen test, Alan Arkin the voice of the director, which won’t make sense until later in the movie, then with his brothers and Frank Cady his cranky dad, in director Howard Zieff’s Hearts Of The West, 1975, also starring Andy Griffith and Blythe Danner.
Madwoman Of Chaillot, The (1969) - Scratch On The Negative Waitress Irma (Nanette Newman), with Katherine Hepburn (title character), is alarmed for innocent but unconscious bridge-jumper Roderick (Richard Chamberlain), grilled by a Paris cop (Fernand Gravey), a sub-plot in The Madwoman Of Chaillot, 1969, from the Jean Giraudoux play.
Fantastic Voyage (1966) - There Should Be A Tremendous Surge Knocked off course by an undetected medical condition, supervised by military brass Arthur O’Connell and Edmond O’Brien, the crew of the miniaturized submarine (Arthur Kennedy, Stephen Boyd, Donald Pleasence, Raquel Welch, William Redfield) attempt to shoot through the temporarily stopped heart of their Cold War defector patient in Fantastic Voyage, 1966.

Trailer

Family

Angela Pleasence
Daughter
Survived him.
Holly Pleasence
Daughter
Survived him.
Miranda Pleasence
Daughter
The youngest, survived him.

Companions

Meira Shore
Wife
Actor. Married on October 10, 1970.
Linda Pleasence
Wife
Fourth wife; survived him.

Bibliography