Michael Gough


Actor
Michael Gough

About

Born
November 23, 1916
Died
March 17, 2011

Biography

A ubiquitous presence in British film and television for nearly 50 years, Michael Gough played well-heeled, occasionally cruel, slightly mad men in films and television ranging from "The Horse's Mouth" (1959) and "The Go-Between" (1970) to "Horror of Dracula" (1958) and "Berserk!" (1967). His saturnine features and resonant voice made him ideal for upper-class gentlemen with a taste for ...

Notes

"There was some indecision as to when I was born. My sister said it was 1916. I'd lost my birth certificate." --Gough in the London Times, June 23, 1997

Biography

A ubiquitous presence in British film and television for nearly 50 years, Michael Gough played well-heeled, occasionally cruel, slightly mad men in films and television ranging from "The Horse's Mouth" (1959) and "The Go-Between" (1970) to "Horror of Dracula" (1958) and "Berserk!" (1967). His saturnine features and resonant voice made him ideal for upper-class gentlemen with a taste for flaunting their power in unpleasant ways, as his many horror and exploitation features evidenced. But he could also play fatherly - and grandfatherly - as evidenced by his four turns as butler Alfred in four of the "Batman" features (1989-1995). A wealth of varied projects were woven through his five decades of screen appearances, but no matter the quality of the role or the film, Gough gave his all, which made him a beloved and well-remembered performer.

Born Nov. 23, 1917 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Gough (pronounced "GOFF") attended Wye Agricultural College before seeing Rex Harrison in a production of "Sailors Don't Care" that convinced him to become an actor. Training at the Old Vic and appearances with their theater company in 1936 preceded his debut on Broadway in "Love of Women" in 1937; his London debut came a year later in "The Zeal of Thy House." For nearly a decade, Gough was seen predominately on British stages, and his association with classical theater would carry him over to the relatively new medium of television, beginning in 1946 with a BBC production of George Bernard Shaw's "Androcles and the Lion." His feature film debut came two years later in the 1948 UK production of "Anna Karenina," with Vivian Leigh in the title role. Gough's commanding voice and steely demeanor made him a natural go-to for men of power and influence, like his fabric mill owner in Alexander Mackendrick's "The Man in the White Suit" (1951), and various noblemen in the Walt Disney-produced "The Sword and the Rose" (1953) and "Rob Roy, the Highland Rogue" (1953). His onscreen efforts frequently linked back to his theatrical origins; he was one of the murderers in Laurence Olivier's "Richard III" (1955), and Cassius in a 1959 BBC production of "Julius Caesar." Gough also showed a comic side in "The Horse's Mouth" (1959) as a sculptor who aids dissolute painter Alec Guinness in completely destroying a patron's apartment.

Despite the critical acclaim of projects like these, Gough was probably best known for a string of wildly overacted performances in U.K.-made horror and exploitation films that spanned from 1958 to the late 1970s. His association with the genre began in 1958 with "Horror of Dracula" for Hammer Films. There, he was relatively restrained as Arthur Holmwood, whose sister and wife fall victim to Christopher Lee's sexually alluring Count. But for his next effort, "Konga" (1961), Gough let loose with an unbridled, scenery-destroying turn as a mad scientist whose experiments cause a chimpanzee to mutate into a giant ape. The performance set the tone for most of his horror efforts that followed; in "Horrors of the Black Museum" (1959), he was a madman who used the torture devices from Scotland Yard's Black Museum to eliminate his enemies, while in "Black Zoo" (1961), he worshipped the big cats under his care at a local zoo - and used them to kill as well. For a time in the mid to late 1960s, Gough was making regular appearances in horror films, including "The Skull" (1965), "Dr. Terror's House of Horrors" (1965), "Berserk" (1967) and "Curse of the Crimson Altar" (1969). Gough was frequently the elegant source of the supernatural mayhem in these pictures, or its snide, catty and altogether deserving victim. Gough's villainy extended to television as well; in 1966, he menaced "Doctor Who" (BBC, 1963- ) as the Celestial Toymaker, and contributed similar turns to such cult series as "The Avengers" (ITV, 1961-69) and "The Champions" (ITC, 1968-69).

Gough's film career found some balance between the outré and the arthouse in the late 1960s and early 1970s; there were appearances in Ken Russell's "Women in Love" (1969), Joseph Losey's "The Go-Between" (1971) and "Savage Messiah" (1972), the Charlton Heston-led "Julius Caesar" (1970), and the 1971 miniseries "The Search for the Nile" (BBC) as Dr. David Livingstone. Numerous quality miniseries also followed, including "QB VII" (NBC, 1974), "Brideshead Revisited" (ITV, 1981), "Inside the Third Reich" (NBC, 1982) and "Smiley's People" (BBC, 1982), though there was still plenty of low-budget nastiness that bore Gough's name, including "Satan's Slave" (1976) and "Venom" (1981). The latter seemed to come to an end in the early 1980s, and Gough settled into a long series of quality projects, including "The Dresser" (1983), "Out of Africa" (1985), and Derek Jarman's experimental film, "Caravaggio" (1986). Gough also found time to return to the theater throughout this period, winning a Tony in 1979 for "Bedroom Farce."

Though now in his seventies, Gough worked tirelessly in film and theater and on television throughout the 1980s and 1990s, and found what was to be his greatest screen exposure since his horror efforts in the 1960s. After authoritative supporting turns in such films as "The Fourth Protocol" (1987), "The Serpent and the Rainbow" (1988) and "Strapless" (1989), Gough was cast as Alfred, faithful manservant to Bruce Wayne, a.k.a. "Batman" (1989) in Tim Burton's big screen revival of the DC Comics franchise. The picture of British gentility and reserve, his Alfred hewed closely to the character as created in the original comics, but with a hint of understanding and infinite patience for his employer's complex psyche. Gough would reprise the role in four sequels, which starred three different Dark Knights: Michael Keaton in "Batman" and "Batman Returns" (1992), Val Kilmer in "Batman Forever" (1995), and George Clooney in the critically reviled "Batman and Robin" (1997). Gough also played Alfred in six American television commercials for the OnStar automobile tracking system.

Gough's participation in the "Batman" franchise made him a favorite of director Burton, who would cast him in several subsequent projects, including "Sleepy Hollow" (1999) and "Tim Burton's Corpse Bride" (2005), which made excellent use of his sepulchral voice. Meanwhile, Gough, now in his eighties but still remarkably active, continued to essay men of high rank and carriage in features and television, including a hanging judge with an agenda in Peter Medak's "Let Him Have It" (1991), a member of New York's upper crust in Martin Scorsese's "The Age of Innocence" (1993), and a noble servant in his final days in Michael Cacoyannis' adaptation of Chekhov's "The Cherry Orchard" (1999). Gough appeared to retire from the business following his voice contribution to "Corpse Bride" in 2005, but in 2010, he could be heard as the voice of the Dodo Bird in Burton's blockbuster "Alice in Wonderland." The veteran actor passed away on March 17, 2011. He was 94.

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

Alice in Wonderland (2010)
Tim Burton's Corpse Bride (2005)
Voice Of Elder Gutknecht
St. Ives (2001)
The Cherry Orchard (1999)
Sleepy Hollow (1999)
A Village Affair (1997)
Batman & Robin (1997)
Alfred Pennyworth
Batman Forever (1995)
Alfred Pennyworth
The Haunting of Helen Walker (1995)
The Advocate (1994)
Uncovered (1994)
Nostradamus (1994)
The Age Of Innocence (1993)
Wittgenstein (1993)
Batman Returns (1992)
Alfred Pennyworth
Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland (1992)
Voice Of Of 2nd Teacher
The Garden (1990)
Voice -Overs
The Shell Seekers (1989)
Blackeyes (1989)
Strapless (1989)
Douglas Brodie
Rarg (1989)
Voice
Batman (1989)
Alfred Pennyworth
The Serpent And The Rainbow (1988)
Memed My Hawk (1987)
Kerimoglu
The Fourth Protocol (1987)
Maschenka (1987)
Vater
Caravaggio (1986)
Cardinal Del Monte
Shattered Spirits (1986)
Fred
Out Of Africa (1985)
Stranger Than Fiction (1985)
Voice
Arthur the King (1985)
Archbishop
Oxford Blues (1984)
Dr Ambrose
Top Secret! (1984)
Dr Flammond
A Christmas Carol (1984)
Mr Poole
The Dresser (1983)
Witness for the Prosecution (1982)
Judge
Venom (1981)
David Ball
The Wizard of Speed and Time (1980)
Actor
The Boys From Brazil (1978)
Mr Harrington
L' Amour en Question (1978)
Sir Baldwin
Satan's Slave (1976)
Alexander Yorke
Galileo (1974)
The Legend of Hell House (1973)
Horror Hospital (1973)
Savage Messiah (1972)
M. Gaudier
Crucible of Horror (1971)
Walter Eastwood
The Go-Between (1971)
Mr. Maudsley
Women in Love (1970)
Tom Brangwen
The Crimson Cult (1970)
Elder, the butler
Trog (1970)
Sam Murdock
Julius Caesar (1970)
Metellus Cimber
A Walk with Love and Death (1969)
Mad monk
Berserk (1967)
Dorando
They Came from Beyond Space (1967)
Monj
Candidate for Murder (1966)
Donald Edwards
The Skull (1965)
Auctioneer
Dr. Terror's House of Horrors (1965)
Eric Landor
Tamahine (1964)
Cartwright
Black Zoo (1963)
Michael Conrad
I Like Money (1962)
Tamise
What a Carve Up! (1962)
Fisk
The Phantom of the Opera (1962)
Lord Ambrose D'Arcy
Konga (1961)
Dr. Charles Decker
Horrors of the Black Museum (1959)
Edmond Bancroft
Model for Murder (1959)
Kingsley Beauchamp
The Horse's Mouth (1958)
Abel
Night Ambush (1958)
Andoni Aoidakis
Horror of Dracula (1958)
Reach for the Sky (1956)
Flying Instructor
Richard III (1955)
Dighton--Murderer
Rob Roy: The Highland Rogue (1954)
Duke of Montrose
The Sword and the Rose (1953)
Duke of Buckingham
The Man in the White Suit (1951)
Michael Corland
Saraband for Dead Lovers (1948)
Blanche Fury (1948)
Anna Karenina (1948)

Music (Feature Film)

Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure (2000)
Song Performer

Sound (Feature Film)

Iron Will (1994)
Adr Voice

Cast (Special)

The Secret of the U-110 (2001)
Voice
The Wild West (1993)
Voice
Sleepers (1991)
The Case of the Late Pig (1989)
To the Lighthouse (1984)

Cast (TV Mini-Series)

Young Indiana Jones: Travels With Father (1996)
The Mountain and the Molehill (1991)
Winnie the Pooh and Christmas Too (1991)
Voice Of Gopher
Lace II (1985)
Mistral's Daughter (1984)
Cardinal
Inside the Third Reich (1982)
Smiley's People (1982)
QB VII (1974)

Life Events

1936

Made stage acting debut at the Old Vic in London

1937

Made New York stage debut in the play, "Love of Women"

1938

Returned to the London stage in the play, "The Zeal of Thy House"

1947

Made feature film debut in the costume drama, "Blanche Fury"

1953

First U.S. feature credit, the U.S.-U.K. co-production, "Rob Roy, the Highland Rogue," produced by Walt Disney Studios

1955

Portrayed one of the murderers in Laurence Olivier's adaptation of "Richard III"

1957

Appeared in the classic Powell & Pressburger WW2 drama "Ill Met By Moonlight"

1958

First Hammer horror film, "The Horror of Dracula"

1962

Second Hammer horror film, "The Phantom of the Opera"

1969

Featured in Ken Russell's "Women in Love"

1972

Played Dr. David Livingstone on the short-lived NBC historical drama series, "Search for the Nile"

1974

First miniseries to air on U.S. TV, "QB VII"

1979

Returned to Broadway for his Tony winning role in the comedy, "Bedroom Farce"

1979

Featured in "The Boys From Brazil," starring Gregory Peck and Laurence Olivier

1984

Played the captured father in the Zucker Brothers' comedy "Top Secret!"

1985

Appeared opposite Robert Redford and Meryl Streep in "Out of Africa" as Lord Delamere

1987

Cast in the film adaptation of Frederick Forsyth's "The Fourth Protocol," starring Michael Caine and Pierce Brosnan

1988

Returned to Broadway in the drama, "Breaking the Code"; received a Tony nomination as Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play

1989

Cast as Alfred the butler in Tim Burton's "Batman," opposite Michael Keaton

1992

Reprised role of Alfred in "Batman Returns"

1993

Featured in Martin Scorsese's "The Age of Innocence"

1995

Played Alfred to Val Kilmer's Bruce Wayne in "Batman Forever"

1997

Again played Alfred, this time opposite George Clooney in "Batman & Robin"

1999

Gave a wonderful performance as Feers in "The Cherry Orchard," opposite Alan Bates and Charlotte Rampling

1999

Last on-screen performance reunited him with Burton, playing a cameo in "Sleepy Hollow"

2005

Lent his voice to Burton's "Corpse Bride"

2010

Final film role, voiced Uilleam, the Dodo bird in Burton's "Alice in Wonderland"

Photo Collections

Konga - Lobby Cards
Here are a few lobby cards from Konga (1961). Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.

Videos

Movie Clip

Dresser, The (1983) - Let Them Know You're Coming Backstage at a WWII era English provincial theater, as the end of Othello approaches, Norman (Tom Courtenay, the title character) rushes to support "Sir" (Albert Finney) and company through the curtain call, from the opening scenes of Peter Yates' The Dresser, 1983.
Dresser, The (1983) - You Scotch-Ass Zulu Having rescued "Sir" (Albert Finney, the lead actor and manager of a WWII English Shakespearean theater company) from a senile episode, Norman (Tom Courtenay, title character) prepares him and supporting actors (Michael Gough, Lockwood West) for their performance, in Peter Yates' The Dresser, 1983.
Hour Of Glory (a.k.a. The Small Back Room) -- (1949) - It's A Bit Hush-Hush Second scene introduces David Farrar as the protagonist, weapons expert Sammy in London, 1943, Kathleen Byron as Susan, secretary for his unit, Michael Gough the officer seeking his help, Sid James the barkeep, early in Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s Hour Of Glory (a.k.a. The Small Back Room), 1949.
Horror Of Dracula (1958) - Opening Two simple shots, the opening from Hammer Films’ Horror Of Dracula, 1958, only the studio’s second color horror film and the international hit that led to the studio’s commitment to the genre, starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.
Horror Of Dracula (1958) - Get Some Color Back Into Those Cheeks Without revealing that he’s a vampire hunter, Van Helsing (Peter Cushing, not seen here) has just told Arthur and Mina (Michael Gough, Melissa Stribling) of the death of Harker, fiancè to his sister Lucy (Carol Marsh), who has strangely taken ill, in Hammer Films’ Horror Of Dracula, 1958.
Horror Of Dracula (1958) - Let Me Kiss You Arthur (Michael Gough), now apparently convinced by what Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) has told him about the death of his sister Lucy (Carol Marsh), visits her grave, the servant girl Tania (Janina Faye) wandering the woods, in Hammer Films’ Horror Of Dracula, 1958.
Man in the White Suit, The (1951) - New Contract Inventor Sidney Stratton (Alec Guinness) meets with Birmley (Cecil Parker), Corland (Michael Gough), Sir John (Ernest Thesiger) to sign a new contract, he smells a rat, in Alexander Mackendrick's The Man in the White Suit, 1951.
Saraband For Dead Lovers - I Have Some Influence Not seen, the heroine, Joan Greenwood narrates the arrival of Swedish count Konigsmark (Stewart Granger) in 17th century Hanover, losing at cards to the prince (Peter Bull), then falling into the clutches of powerful Countess Platen (Flora Robson), in the Basil Dearden/Michael Relph production Saraband For Dead Lovers, 1948.
Berserk! (1967) - The Capacity To Love Experienced circus boss Monica (Joan Crawford) throwing cold water on her hot date with youthful acrobat Frank (Ty Hardin), who's then followed by her suspicious partner Dorando (Michael Gough), who finds trouble, in Berserk!, 1967.
Berserk! (1967) - Open, Gaspar Right off the bat opening, Joan Crawford as circus proprietor and and ring mistress "Monica Rivers," nifty graphics as high-wire man Gaspar (Thomas Cimarro) becomes victim number one, in the Herman Cohen production Berserk!, 1967.

Trailer

Bibliography

Notes

"There was some indecision as to when I was born. My sister said it was 1916. I'd lost my birth certificate." --Gough in the London Times, June 23, 1997