Peter Ustinov


Actor
Peter Ustinov

About

Also Known As
Peter Alexander Ustinov, Sir Peter Ustinov
Birth Place
London, England, GB
Born
April 16, 1921
Died
March 28, 2004
Cause of Death
Heart Failure

Biography

By his mid-20s, this multi-faceted talent had achieved considerable success in both theater and cinema directing, writing and acting in cultivated, witty comedies. Peter Ustinov later won international acclaim and reached the peak of his fame in the early 1960s for his appearances in sweeping epics and lighthearted romps. He won two Best Supporting Actor Oscars, for his clown in "Spartac...

Photos & Videos

Family & Companions

Suzanne Cloutier
Wife
Actor. Married on February 15, 1954; divorced in 1971; mother of Pavla, Igor and Andrea.
Helene du Lau d'Allemans
Wife
Press agent. Married in 1972.

Bibliography

"Monsieur Rene: A Novel"
Peter Ustinov, Prometheus Books (1999)
"Life Is an Operetta and Other Short Stories"
Peter Ustinov, Prometheus Books (1997)
"Quotable Ustinov"
Peter Ustinov, Prometheus Books (1995)
"Ustinov Still at Large"
Peter Ustinov, Prometheus Books (1995)

Notes

He was named Commander of the British Empire in 1975 and knighted in 1990.

Until 2000 when Michael Caine picked up his second Oscar, Ustinov was the only British male to have won two acting Academy Awards.

Biography

By his mid-20s, this multi-faceted talent had achieved considerable success in both theater and cinema directing, writing and acting in cultivated, witty comedies. Peter Ustinov later won international acclaim and reached the peak of his fame in the early 1960s for his appearances in sweeping epics and lighthearted romps. He won two Best Supporting Actor Oscars, for his clown in "Spartacus" (1960) and his engaging con man in "Topkapi" (1964). Ustinov has also earned critical praise for his directorial efforts (which he also produced, starred in and wrote): "Romanoff and Juliet" (1962), a biting Cold War satire based on his own play, the bracing "Billy Budd" (1962) and the "Faust"-inspired Elizabeth Taylor-Richard Burton vehicle "Hammersmith Is Out" (1972). The spotlight fell on Ustinov as a personality, too. Throughout the 1960s and early 1970s, he was a favored raconteur on talk shows whether or not he was publicizing a film.

Ustinov was only 17 years old when he made his stage debut in "The Wood Demon" in the provinces. The following year, he made his London debut in the title role of "The Bishop of Limpopoland," a sketch at the Players Club, which he also wrote. His first play to reach NYC was "The Loves of Four Colonels" (1953) but it was not until 1957 that he made his Broadway acting debut as The General in "Romanoff and Juliet," which he wrote. (He later toured the USA and the Soviet Union with the show.) By the time of his American debut, Ustinov was a top draw in England, having either written or starred in numerous stage productions. He continued playing roles on stage well into the 80s and in 1990 performed internationally in the one-man show "An Evening With Peter Ustinov." Proving to be a true man of the theater, Ustinov has not only performed in and written shows but also has directed (e.g., "Fishing for Shadows" 1940) and designed sets and costumes (for the 1973 London production of "The Unknown Soldier and His Wife"). Among his successes as playwright are "Who's Who in Hell" (1974), and "Beethoven's Tenth" (1984).

Moving to the big screen in 1940, the portly, often mustachioed actor was featured in the British propaganda film "Mein Kampf, My Crimes." He went on to play the title role in "Private Angelo" (1949), a deserter from the Italian army who accidentally becomes a hero, and garnered kudos for his turn as Emperor Nero in the costume epic "Quo Vadis" (1951). Some critics claim he stole the show as Lentulus Batiatus in "Spartacus" as he unquestionably did in "Topkapi," as the duped con man turned mole. (The scene in which he is asked to hold the rope during the crime is alone worth the price of admission.) "Romanoff and Juliet" (1961) was adapted from the stage play, with Ustinov recreating his role. "Viva Max!" (1969) found him playing a Mexican general retaking the Alamo, and in 1978, he began his impersonations of Agatha Christie's master detective Hercule Poirot in "Death on the Nile," a role he again essayed in "Evil Under the Sun" (1982) and in three TV-movies produced in the 80s. More recently, he was a stuffy expert in "Lorenzo's Oil (1992).

On the small screen, Ustinov's work has often tilted towards the high brow, or substantive or prestige projects. He appeared in numerous installments of NBC's "Omnibus" series in the late 50s, including an Emmy-winning portrayal of Dr Samuel Johnson, and was a regal Herod the Great in Franco Zeffirelli's miniseries "Jesus of Nazareth" (NBC, 1977). Mostly, Ustinov is remembered for several remarkable Emmy-winning performances in "Hallmark Hall of Fame" specials: as Socrates in "Barefoot in Athens" (1966) and as a Jewish deli owner who takes in a black youth in "A Storm in Summer" (1970). he also was "Gideon" (NBC, 1971), the Israelite who defeats the oppressors only to have his own vainglory defeat himself. Ustinov has frequently hosted and/or narrated reality-based shows, such as "Omni: The New Frontier" (syndicated, 1981), and numerous specials. Although very British in manners, he was outwardly proud of his Russian heritage, speaking of it often and creating and hosting: "Peter Ustinov's Russia: A Personal History" for the BBC in 1986.

Filmography

 

Director (Feature Film)

Memed My Hawk (1987)
Director
Hammersmith Is Out (1972)
Director
Lady L (1966)
Director
Billy Budd (1962)
Director
Romanoff and Juliet (1961)
Director
Private Angelo (1949)
Director
Vice Versa (1948)
Director
School For Secrets (1946)
Director

Cast (Feature Film)

Luther (2003)
Prince Frederick
My Khmer Heart (2000)
Narrator
The Bachelor (1999)
Alice in Wonderland (1999)
Animal Farm (1999)
Voice
Stiff Upper Lips (1997)
The Phoenix and the Magic Carpet (1995)
Voice
Inside the Vatican (1994)
Narration
Inside the Vatican (1994)
Host
Lorenzo's Oil (1992)
C'era un castello con 40 cani (1990)
La Revolution Francaise (1990)
Appointment with Death (1988)
Peep and the Big Wide World (1988)
Narrator
Memed My Hawk (1987)
Abdi Aga
Agatha Christie's Murder In Three Acts (1986)
Hercule Poirot
Agatha Christie's Dead Man's Folly (1986)
Agatha Christie's 13 At Dinner (1985)
Evil Under The Sun (1982)
Hercule Poirot
Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen (1981)
The Great Muppet Caper (1981)
Truck Driver
Grendel, Grendel, Grendel (1980)
Voice
Einstein's Universe (1979)
Himself
Ashanti (1979)
Suleiman
Nous maigrirons ensemble (1979)
Victor
Players (1979)
Tarka the Otter (1979)
Narration
The Thief of Bagdad (1978)
Death on the Nile (1978)
Hercule Poirot
The Mouse and His Child (1977)
Voice Of Manny
Un Taxi mauve (1977)
Taubelman
The Last Remake of Beau Geste (1977)
Double Murder on Via Governo Vecchio (1977)
Harry Hellman
Treasure of Matecumbe (1976)
Dr Snodgrass
Logan's Run (1975)
One of Our Dinosaurs Is Missing (1975)
Robin Hood (1973)
Voice
Hammersmith Is Out (1972)
Doctor
Viva Max! (1969)
Gen. Maximilian Rodrigues de Santos
Hot Millions (1968)
Marcus Pendleton
Blackbeard's Ghost (1968)
Captain Blackbeard
The Comedians (1967)
Ambassador Pineda
Lady L (1966)
Prince Otto
John Goldfarb, Please Come Home! (1965)
King Fawz
Topkapi (1964)
Arthur Simpson
Women of the World (1963)
Narrator
Billy Budd (1962)
Capt. Edward Fairfax Vere
The Man Who Wagged His Tail (1961)
Mr. Bossi
Romanoff and Juliet (1961)
The General
Spartacus (1960)
Batiatus
The Sundowners (1960)
Rupert Venneker
The Spies (1957)
We're No Angels (1955)
Jules
Lola Montes (1955)
Circus Master
The Egyptian (1954)
Kaptah
Beau Brummell (1954)
[George IV] Prince of Wales
Le Plaisir (1952)
Voice
Quo Vadis (1951)
Nero
The Magic Box (1951)
Private Angelo (1949)

Writer (Feature Film)

Inside the Vatican (1994)
Writer
Memed My Hawk (1987)
Screenwriter
Hot Millions (1968)
Screenwriter
Lady L (1966)
Screenwriter
Billy Budd (1962)
Screenwriter
Romanoff and Juliet (1961)
Screenwriter
School For Scoundrels (1960)
Screenplay
Vice Versa (1948)
Screenwriter
The True Glory (1945)
Screenwriter

Producer (Feature Film)

My Khmer Heart (2000)
Producer
Billy Budd (1962)
Producer
Romanoff and Juliet (1961)
Producer
Vice Versa (1948)
Producer

Director (Special)

Love, Life, Liberty & Lunch (1976)
Director

Cast (Special)

Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures (2001)
On the Trail of Mark Twain With Peter Ustinov (1999)
25th International Emmy Awards (1998)
Host
Peter Ustinov's Mendelssohn (1997)
Peter Ustinov Talking With David Frost (1996)
Guest
Celebrating Haydn With Peter Ustinov (1994)
Host
The Alistair Cooke Salute (1992)
Co-Host
The Wonderful Kangaroo (1990)
Narration
The Mozart Mystique With Peter Ustinov (1990)
Monet: Legacy of Light (1990)
Voice Of Monet
The Secret Identity of Jack the Ripper (1988)
The Immortal Beethoven With Peter Ustinov (1987)
The Kennedy Center Honors: A Celebration of the Performing Arts (1986)
Performer
The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby (1983)
Why Didn't They Ask Evans? (1981)
The Seven Dials Mystery (1981)
Love, Life, Liberty & Lunch (1976)
Admiral (Story 2)
Burt Bacharach: Opus No. 3 (1973)
Gideon (1971)
Gideon

Writer (Special)

On the Trail of Mark Twain With Peter Ustinov (1999)
Writer
Love, Life, Liberty & Lunch (1976)
Writer
Crescendo (1957)
Writer

Special Thanks (Special)

On the Trail of Mark Twain With Peter Ustinov (1999)
Writer
Love, Life, Liberty & Lunch (1976)
Writer
Crescendo (1957)
Writer

Cast (Short)

The Comedians in Africa (1967)
Himself

Cast (TV Mini-Series)

Salem Witch Trials (2003)
Victoria & Albert (2001)
The Old Curiosity Shop (1995)
Granpa (1989)
Voice Of Granpa
Around the World in 80 Days (1989)
Jesus of Nazareth (Do Not Use) (1977)

Life Events

1938

First stage appearance as Waffles in "The Wood Demon" at Barn Theatre in Shere

1939

Joined Aylesbury Repertory Company

1941

Screen acting debut, "Mein Kampf" (semi-documentary)

1941

Began stage directing career with "Squaring the Circle"

1941

Wrote first full-length staged play, "House of Regrets"

1942

Joined Royal Sussex Regiment of Army; transferred to the Directorate of Army Psychiatry, writing recruitment and propaganda films

1944

First screenwriting credit, "The Way Ahead" (with Eric Ambler)

1946

Directed first film, "School For Secrets"; also screenplay)

1949

First film as producer, "Private Angelo"; also director and screenplay)

1953

NY stage debut as playwright, "The Love of Four Colonels"

1957

Broadway acting debut, "Romanoff and Juliet"; also wrote play; later toured the USA

1957

US TV debut, "The Life of Samuel Johnson"; won first Emmy Award

1960

Won first Oscar for his comic turn in "Spartacus"

1964

Co-starred in "Topkapi"; won second Oscar

1978

Played Hercule Poirot in "Death on the Nile"

1981

Hosted TV series, "Omni: The New Frontier"

1986

Served as host for BBC TV series "Peter Ustinov's Russia: A Personal History"

1992

Last film for seven years, "Lorenzo's Oil"

1999

Returned to features as a tea plantation owner in Raj India in the comic spoof "Stiff Upper Lips"

2001

Appeared in the British TV drama "Victoria & Albert"; aired on A&E in USA

2003

Cast as William Stoughton in the TV MiniSeries "The Salem Witch Trials

2003

Co-starred in "Luther," a biopic of religious reformer Martin Luther

Photo Collections

Billy Budd - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for Billy Budd (1962), starring Robert Ryan, Peter Ustinov, Melvyn Douglas and Terence Stamp. One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.
Evil Under the Sun - Movie Poster
Evil Under the Sun - Movie Poster

Videos

Movie Clip

Lola Montes (1955) - Femme Fatale Wild spectacle with Peter Ustinov (as "Circus Master") in perfect French, introducing the central motif and the title character (Martine Carol), opening Max Ophuls' Lola Montes, 1955.
Billy Budd (1962) - What Was His Crime? The merchant ship from which he was pressed still on the horizon, title character Terence Stamp is made to witness the administration of punishment by Master-At-Arms Claggart (Robert Ryan), Peter Ustinov (who also directed and co-wrote) in command, Melvyn Douglas as veteran seaman Dankser, in BIlly Budd, 1962, from the Herman Melville novel.
Billy Budd (1962) - Too Much Perfection With officers Seymour (Paul Rogers) and Ratcliffe (John Neville), Peter Ustinov (who also directed and co-wrote) as Captain Vere considers the promotion of the the title character (Terence Stamp, not seen) and the challenge posed by his abusive Master-At-Arms, on a British fighting ship, ca. 1800, in BIlly Budd, 1962, from the Herman Melville novel.
Billy Budd (1962) - To Subdue All Things Committing the body of a sailor whose death was caused by the cruelty of one commander (Robert Ryan as Claggart), Peter Ustinov as Captain Vere officiates, also directing, from his co-written screenplay, Melvyn Douglas joining the liturgy as Dansker, Terence Stamp as the title character reflects, Victor Brooks and Thomas Heathcote his jaded colleagues, in Billy Budd from the Herman Melville novel.
Billy Budd (1962) - Is It Ignorance Or Irony? Part of a notable exchange, pivotal in the original Herman Melville novel, Terence Stamp as the ingenuous title character converses with his cynical Master-At-Arms Claggart (Robert Ryan), whose role in the death of a colleague he earlier exposed, on board a British man-of-war during the Napoleonic wars, in BIlly Budd, 1962, directed by co-star Peter Ustinov.
Sundowners, The (1960) - Lower Your Blunderbuss With his mum Ida (Deborah Kerr), just arrived in a new piece of 1920'a Australia, young Sean (Michael Anderson Jr.) goes off in search of his dad, instead meeting the philosophical Rupert Venneker (Peter Ustinov, his first scene), in Fred Zinnemann's The Sundowners, 1960.
School For Scoundrels (1960) - They Have A Tendency To Sulk Joining the scene in which downtrodden Palfrey (Ian Carmichael), looking to impress April (Janette Scott) finds his staff didn’t make a reservation, working on the headwaiter (John Le Mesurier) when the villain (Terry-Thomas as Delauney) makes his first appearance, in the British-made School For Scoundrels, 1960.
School For Scoundrels (1960) - Pioneers Of Hemispherical Combustion Bothered by a romantic rival who drives a sporty “Bellini,” well-off but uninformed Palfrey (Ian Carmichael) is ensnared by the “Winsome Welshmen,” Dennis Price as Dunstan and Peter Jones as Dudley, who claim to have a prized classic car to sell, in School For Scoundrels, 1960.
School For Scoundrels (1960) - He Who Is Not One Up Joining the opening (from a script by Peter Ustinov and others), Ian Carmichael has arrived at a South Somerset town (actually shot in Hertfordshire, suburban London) where he meets a servant (Anita Sharp-Bolster) and the proprietor of his new school, Alastair Sim as Potter, in School For Scoundrels, 1960.
Sundowners, The (1960) - Never Use A Woman Cook Aussie Ida (Deborah Kerr) and son Sean (Michael Anderson Jr.) are trying to persuade dad Paddy (Robert Mitchum) to take a steadier sheep-shearing job, colleague Rupert (Peter Ustinov) joining as they meet hiring chief Quinlan (Chips Rafferty), in Fred Zinnemann's The Sundowners, 1960.
Quo Vadis (1951) - Our Unconquerable Children MGM going very big with the parade for conqueror Vinicus (Robert Taylor), observed by Christian convert and former slave Lygea (Deborah Kerr) and overseen by emperor Nero (Peter Ustinov) and consort Poppaea (Patricia Laffan) in Quo Vadis, 1951.
Spartacus (1960) - You Have A Certain Education Roman general Crassus (Laurence Olivier) and wife (Nina Foch), with her ambitious brother Glabrus (John Dall) and wife (Joanna Barnes), are guests of gladiator-dealer Batiatus (Peter Ustinov), but most interested in Britannic slave Varinia (Jean Simmons), in Spartacus, 1960, starring Kirk Douglas.

Trailer

School For Scoundrels (1960) - Like A Wild Uncivilized Savage Quick and clever exposition, hero Palfrey (Ian Carmichael) leads Potter (Alastair Sim), head of the “Lifemanship” school in which he’s just enrolled, into flashback introducing Janette Scott (as April), then three employees who report to pompous Gloatbridge (Edward Chapman), early in School For Scoundrels, 1960.
Romanoff And Juliet (1961) -- (Original Trailer) Peter Ustinov is director and star of the Hollywood version of his own London and Broadway hit play, starring John Gavin and Sandra Dee, Romanoff And Juliet, 1961.
Death on the Nile - (Original Trailer) Hercule Poirot (Peter Ustinov) investigates the murder of an heiress during an Egyptian tour in Agatha Christie's Death on the Nile (1978).
Billy Budd - (Original Trailer) Original trailer for Billy Budd, 1962, from the Herman Melville novel, starring Terence Stamp, Robert Ryan, and Peter Ustinov, who also produced and directed.
Sundowners, The - (Original Trailer) An Australian sheep-herder and his wife clash over their nomadic existence and their son's future in The Sundowners (1960) starring Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr.
Quo Vadis (1951) - (Original Trailer) A Roman commander falls for a Christian slave girl as Nero intensifies persecution of the new religion in Quo Vadis (1951) starring Robert Taylor.
Topkapi - (Original Trailer) An international band of thieves plots to steal a priceless treasure from a heavily guarded museum in Topkapi (1964) starring Peter Ustinov and Maximilian Schell.
Beau Brummell (1954) - (Original Trailer) An English Don Juan (Stewart Granger) courts the Prince of Wales's favor while romancing his way through society in Beau Brummell (1954).
Comedians, The - (Original Trailer) American and British tourists get caught up in political unrest in Haiti in Graham Greene's The Comedians (1967) starring Elizabeth Taylor.
Hot Millions - (Original Trailer) A computer whiz and his pregnant girlfriend set out to rob a massive corporation in Hot Millions (1968), starring Peter Ustinov.
Lady L - (Original Trailer) Beautiful laundress Sophia Loren rises through European society via Paul Newman and David Niven in Peter Ustinov's Lady L (1965).
Logan's Run - (Original Trailer) A futuristic police officer uncovers the deadly secret behind a society that worships youth in Logan's Run (1976) starring Michael York, Jenny Aguttar, Peter Ustinov, and Farrah Fawcett-Majors.

Family

Alexandre Benois
Grandfather
Art director. Designed Abel Gance's "Napoleon"; maternal grandparent.
Iona Von Ustinov
Father
Journalist, diplomat. German; wrote under the pseudonym 'Klop'.
Nadia Benois
Mother
Painter, stage designer.
Tamara Ustinov
Daughter
Born on July 25, 1945; mother, Isolde Denham.
Pavla Ustinov
Daughter
Mother, Suzanne Cloutier.
Igor Ustinov
Son
Mother, Suzanne Cloutier.
Andrea Ustinov
Daughter
Mother, Suzanne Cloutier.

Companions

Suzanne Cloutier
Wife
Actor. Married on February 15, 1954; divorced in 1971; mother of Pavla, Igor and Andrea.
Helene du Lau d'Allemans
Wife
Press agent. Married in 1972.

Bibliography

"Monsieur Rene: A Novel"
Peter Ustinov, Prometheus Books (1999)
"Life Is an Operetta and Other Short Stories"
Peter Ustinov, Prometheus Books (1997)
"Quotable Ustinov"
Peter Ustinov, Prometheus Books (1995)
"Ustinov Still at Large"
Peter Ustinov, Prometheus Books (1995)
"The Old Man and Mr. Smith: A Fable"
Peter Ustinov, Michael O'Mara Books (1990)
"The Disinformer: Two Novellas"
Peter Ustinov, Arcade (1989)
"Ustinov in Russia"
Peter Ustinov, Michael O'Mara Books (1987)
"Beethoven's Tenth"
Peter Ustinov, Samuel French (1985)
"My Russia"
Peter Ustinov, Little, Brown (1983)
"Dear Me"
Peter Ustinov, Little, Brown (1977)
"Krumnagel"
Peter Ustinov, Little, Brown (1971)
"Ustinov in Focus"
Tony Thomas, Zwemmer (1971)
"Halfway Up the Tree: A Comedy in Three Acts"
Peter Ustinov, Random House (1968)
"The Unknown Soldier and His Wife: Two Acts of War Separated by a Truce"
Peter Ustinov, Random House (1967)
"The Frontiers of the Sea"
Peter Ustinov, Little, Brown (1966)
"Photo Finish: An Adventure in Biography in Three Acts"
Peter Ustinov, Heinemann (1962)
"The Loser"
Peter Ustinov, Little, Brown (1961)
"We Were Only Human"
Peter Ustinov, Little, Brown (1961)
"Ustinov's Diplomats"
Peter Ustinov, Bernard Geiss Associates (1960)
"Add a Dash of Pity"
Peter Ustinov, Little, Brown (1959)
"Romanov and Juliet: A Comedy in Three Acts"
Peter Ustinov, English Theatre Guild (1957)
"The Moment of Truth: A Play in Four Acts"
Peter Ustinov, English Theatre Guild (1953)
"The Love of Four Colonels: A Play in Three Acts"
Peter Ustinov, English Theatre Guild (1951)
"The Banbury Nose: A Play in Four Acts"
Peter Ustinov, Jonathan Cape (1945)
"House of Regrets: A Tragi-Comedy in Three Acts"
Peter Ustinov, Jonathan Cape (1943)

Notes

He was named Commander of the British Empire in 1975 and knighted in 1990.

Until 2000 when Michael Caine picked up his second Oscar, Ustinov was the only British male to have won two acting Academy Awards.

"Peter Ustinov is probably the most famous and popular middlebrow entertainer in Britain today. Equally in his plays as in his turns, he always seems to be 'on', to be there, providing a characteristic flourish, a typical ironic joke, a custom-built piece of business, as if the characters and players were projections of himself beaming from some 3-D projector backstage." --Critic Alan Brien, quoted in "The Great Stage Stars" by Sheridan Morley.

Ustinov was a rector of Dundee University (1968, and 1971-73).

He a recipient of the Distingished Service Award, UNICEF (1975).

He was awarded the Prix de la Butte (1978).

Ustinov was named Best Actor for the Variety Clubs of Great Britain (1979).

He was named Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres in 1985 by the French government.

Ustinov was elected to the Academy of Fine Arts in Paris (1988).

Among the honorary degrees Ustinov has received are an honorary doctrate in music from the Cleveland Institute of Music (1967), honorary LLDs from the University of Dundee (1969), LaSalle College of Philadelphia (1971) and University of Lancaster (1972) and an honorary doctorate from the University of Toronto (1984).

Received the UNICEF medal for distinguished services