Colin George Blakely
23 September 1930
Bangor, Northern Ireland
|Died||7 May 1987 (aged 56)|
Colin George Blakely (23 September 1930 – 7 May 1987) was a Northern Irish actor. He had roles in the films A Man for All Seasons (1966), The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970), Murder on the Orient Express (1974), and Equus (1977).
Born in Bangor, County Down, Northern Ireland, Blakely attended Sedbergh School in Yorkshire (now Cumbria), England. At the age of 18 he started work in his family's sports goods shop in Belfast, before going on to work as a timber-loader on the railways. In 1957, after a spell of amateur dramatics with the Bangor Drama Club, he turned professional with the Group Theatre, Belfast.
In 1957, at the age of 27, Blakely made his stage debut as Dick McCardle in Master of the House. He also appeared in several Ulster Group Theatre productions, including Gerard McLarnon's Bonefire (1958) and Patricia O'Connor's A Sparrow Falls (1959). From 1957 to 1959 he was at the Royal Court Theatre, appearing in Cock-A-Doodle Dandy, Serjeant Musgrave's Dance and, to critical approval, The Naming of Murderers Rock. In 1961, he joined the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford-upon-Avon and from 1963 to 1968 was with the National Theatre at the Old Vic. On television, Blakely appeared in the "Armchair Theatre" series in 1962, episode "The Hard Knock" and director Charles Crichton unusually cast Blakely in two different roles during the same run of episodes of the 1967 series Man in a Suitcase. Also in 1967 he appeared in The Avengers in the episode "Murdersville" as Mickle.
In 1969, Blakely's controversial role as an anguished Jesus Christ in Dennis Potter's Son of Man gained him wide recognition. From that time onwards, he was a regular on British television, and in the same year played the leading role in a BBC adaptation of Anthony Trollope's The Way We Live Now.
Among the many stage plays in which he appeared were The Recruiting Officer, Saint Joan, The Royal Hunt of the Sun, Filumena Marturano, Volpone and Oedipus. He returned to the Royal Shakespeare in 1972 in Harold Pinter's Old Times and was subsequently in many West End plays.
Notable film roles included Maurice Braithwaite in This Sporting Life (1963), Vahlin in The Long Ships (1964), Sir Thomas More's house servant Matthew in A Man for All Seasons (1966), Dr. Watson to Robert Stephens's Holmes in Billy Wilder's The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970), and Joseph Stalin in Jack Gold's Red Monarch (1983). In the 1975 British film, It Shouldn't Happen to a Vet, derived from the James Herriot books, Blakely played the eccentric Siegfried Farnon. (Blakely's Son of Man co-star Robert Hardy would play the role in the 1978-1990 BBC television series All Creatures Great and Small.)
Blakely also appeared in Young Winston (1972), The National Health (1973), Murder on the Orient Express (1974), The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976), Equus (1977), The Dogs of War (1980), Nijinsky (1980) and Evil Under the Sun (1982).
A noted Shakespearean actor, Blakely appeared on television as Antony in Antony and Cleopatra (1981), directed by Jonathan Miller as part of the BBC Television Shakespeare series; and as Kent in the 1983 Granada Television version of King Lear which starred Laurence Olivier. Other television appearances included Loophole (1981), The Beiderbecke Affair (1985), Operation Julie (1985) and Paradise Postponed (1986).
Blakely was married to British actress Margaret Whiting for 26 years and had three sons, including twins. He died of leukaemia at the peak of his career as a noted character actor, aged 56.