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Donald Pleasence

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Donald Pleasence

Donald Pleasence
Pleasence in London, 1973. Portrait by Allan Warren
Born Donald Henry Pleasence
(1919-10-05)5 October 1919
Worksop, Nottinghamshire, England
Died 2 February 1995(1995-02-02) (aged 75)
Alpes-Maritimes, France
Cause of death Heart failure
Resting place Cremated
Nationality British
Alma mater Ecclesfield School
Occupation Actor
Years active 1939–1995
Spouse(s) Miriam Raymond
Josephine Crombie
Meira Shore
Linda J. Kentwood
(1988–1995; his death)
Children 5 daughters

Donald Henry Pleasence, OBE (;[1] 5 October 1919 – 2 February 1995)[2] was an English film, television, and stage actor. His most notable film roles include psychiatrist Dr. Sam Loomis in most of the Halloween series, the villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld in the James Bond film You Only Live Twice, RAF Flight Lieutenant Colin Blythe in The Great Escape, and Cul-de-sac.

Early life

Pleasence was born in Worksop, Nottinghamshire, England, the son of Alice (née Armitage) and Thomas Stanley Pleasence, a railway stationmaster.[3] He was brought up as a strict Methodist, and raised in the small village of Grimoldby, Lincolnshire.[4] Pleasence attended Ecclesfield Grammar School, in Sheffield, Yorkshire, and subsequently dropped out to work as a railway clerk, while looking for a job as an actor.[4] During the Second World War Pleasence was initially a conscientious objector, but later changed his stance and was commissioned into the Royal Air Force, serving with 166 Squadron, RAF Bomber Command. His Lancaster NE112 was shot down on 31 August 1944, during a raid on Agenville.[5][6] He was taken prisoner and placed in the German prisoner-of-war camp Stalag Luft I, where he produced and acted in plays. He would later play Flight Lieutenant Colin Blythe in The Great Escape where much of the story takes place inside a German POW camp.



In 1939 Pleasence started working in repertory theatre as an assistant stage manager with Jersey Repertory, making his acting debut with the company as Hareton in Wuthering Heights. He subsequently worked in repertory theatre in Birmingham and Bristol before making his London stage debut as Valentine in Twelfth Night in 1942.[7]

In the 1950s Pleasence's stage work included performing as Willie Mossop in a 1952 production of Hobson's Choice at the Arts Theatre and as Dauphin in Jean Anouilh's The Lark (1956).[7]

In 1960 Pleasence won acclaim as the tramp in Harold Pinter's The Caretaker at the Arts Theatre, a part he would again play in a 1990 revival.[7] Other stage work in the 1960s included Anouilh's Poor Bitos (1967) and Robert Shaw's The Man in The Glass Booth (1967), for which he won the London Variety Award for Stage Actor of the Year in 1968.[7]

Pleasence's later stage work included performing in a double bill of Pinter plays, The Basement and Tea Party, at the Duchess Theatre in 1970.[7]


Pleasence made his television debut in I Want to Be A Doctor in 1946.[7] In 1954 he received critical acclaim as Syme in a Nineteen Eighty-Four.[7] The adaptation was by Nigel Kneale and also starred Peter Cushing, another British actor who would go on to find fame in many horror-film roles.

Pleasence played Prince John in several episodes of the ITV series The Adventures of Robin Hood (1956–1958). He appeared twice with Patrick McGoohan in the British spy series, Danger Man, in episodes "Position of Trust" (1960) and "Find and Return" (1961). Pleasence's first appearance in America was in an episode of The Twilight Zone, playing an aging teacher at a boys' school in the episode "The Changing of the Guard" (1962). In 1963, he appeared in an episode of The Outer Limits entitled "The Man With the Power".

In 1973 Pleasence played the murderer in an episode of Columbo, in which Lt. Columbo took actual pity on, entitled "Any Old Port in a Storm". He also had the distinction of playing a culprit captured by Mrs. Columbo in "Murder is a Parlour Game" (1979). In 1978, he played a scout, Sam Purchas in James A. Michener's Centennial. Pleasence starred as the Reverend Septimus Harding in the BBC's 1982 TV series The Barchester Chronicles. In this series has daughter Angela Pleasence played his onscreen daughter Susan.

He hosted the 1981 Halloween episode of Saturday Night Live with music guest Fear.

In 1986, Pleasence joined Ronald Lacey and Polly Jo Pleasence for the television thriller Into The Darkness.


Donald Pleasence in the trailer for the 1967 film Eye of the Devil.

Pleasence made his big-screen debut with The Beachcomber (1954). Some notable early roles include Parsons in 1984 (1956), his second Orwell film, and minor roles opposite Alec Guinness in Barnacle Bill (1957) and Dirk Bogarde in The Wind Cannot Read (1958). In Tony Richardson's film of Look Back in Anger (1959) he plays a vindictive market inspector opposite Richard Burton.

Endowed with a shiny bald head, a penetrating stare, and an intense voice, usually quiet but capable of a piercing scream, he specialised in portraying insane or evil characters, including the title role in Dr Crippen (1962), the double agent Dr. Michales in the (1966) sci-fi hit "Fantastic Voyage", the violent alcoholic Doc Tydon in Wake in Fright (1971), the mad Doctor in the Bud SpencerTerence Hill film Watch Out, We're Mad (1974), Heinrich Himmler in The Eagle Has Landed (1976), and the Bond arch-villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld in You Only Live Twice (1967), the first film in which the villain's face is clearly seen. His interpretation of the character has become predominant in popular culture considering the popularity of the comic villain, Dr. Evil in the successful Austin Powers film series, which primarily parodies it. In the crime drama Hell is a City (1960) he starred opposite Stanley Baker. The film was shot on location in Manchester.

He appeared as the POW The Great Escape, who discovers that he is slowly going blind, but nonetheless participates in the mass break-out, only to be shot down by German soldiers because he is unable to see them. In The Night of the Generals (1967), he played another uncharacteristically sympathetic role, this time as an old-school German general involved in a plot to kill Adolf Hitler. In 1971, he returned to the realm of the deranged, delivering a tour de force performance in the role of an alcoholic Australian doctor in Ted Kotcheff's nightmarish outback drama Wake in Fright.

Pleasence played Lucifer in the religious epic The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965). His character taking on many dark, shadowy human disguises throughout the film was unprecedented in breathing life into the Luke 4:13 phrase "... he left Him until an opportune time ..." He was one of many stars who were given cameos throughout the film.

He also acted in Roman Polanski's Cul-de-sac (1966), in which he portrayed the love-sodden husband of a much younger French wife (Françoise Dorléac). In 1968, he ventured successfully into American cowboy territory, playing a sadistic self-styled preacher who goes after stoic Charlton Heston in the Western Will Penny.

In his later years he portrayed Lucas Deranian in Walt Disney's Escape to Witch Mountain (1975), Dr. Loomis in Halloween (1978), Dr. Kobras in The Pumaman (1980) and the President in Escape from New York (1981). The distinctive, rather sinister accent which Pleasence employed in this and other films may be credited to the elocution lessons that he had as a child. He reprised his Dr. Loomis role in Halloween II (1981), Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988), Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989) and Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995).

Pleasence admired Sir Laurence Olivier,[8] with whom he worked on-stage in the 1950s, and later on the 1979 film version of Dracula. Two years earlier, Pleasence did an amusingly broad impersonation of Olivier in the guise of a horror-film actor called "Valentine De'ath" in the film The Uncanny.

Spoken records and voiceovers

During the early 1960s, Pleasence recorded several children's-story records on the Atlas Record label. These were marketed as the Talespinners series in the UK. They were also released in the United States as Tale Spinners For Children by United Artists. The stories included Don Quixote and the Brave Little Tailor.

Pleasence provided the voice-over for the British Public Information Film, The Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water in 1973. The film, intended to warn children of the dangers of playing near water, attained notoriety for allegedly giving children nightmares.


Pleasence was the author of the 1977 children's book Scouse the Mouse (London: New English Library), which was animated by Canadian animator/film director Gerald Potterton (a friend of the actor, who directed him in the 1973 Canadian film The Rainbow Boys, retitled The Rainbow Gang for VHS release in the United States) and also adapted into a children's recording (Polydor Records, 1977) with Ringo Starr voicing the book's title character, Scouse the Mouse.

In his book British Film Character Actors (1982), Terence Pettigrew described him as 'a potent combination of eyes and voice. The eyes are mournful but they can also be sinister or seedy or just plain nutty. He has the kind of piercing stare which lifts enamel off saucepans.'


Pleasence was nominated four times for the Tony Award for best performance by a leading actor in a Broadway play: in 1962 for Harold Pinter's The Caretaker, in 1965 for Jean Anouilh's Poor Bitos, in 1969 for Robert Shaw's The Man in the Glass Booth, and in 1972 for Simon Gray's Wise Child.

Pleasence was appointed an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for his services to the acting profession by Queen Elizabeth II in 1994.

Personal life

Pleasence married four times and had five daughters from his first three marriages. He had Angela and Jean with Miriam Raymond (m. 1941–1958); Lucy and Polly with Josephine Martin Crombie (m. 1959–1970); and Miranda with Meira Shore (m. 1970–1988). His last marriage to Linda Kentwood (m. 1988–1995; his death)


In 1995, Pleasence died at the age of 75 in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France, from complications of heart failure following heart valve replacement surgery.[9] His body was cremated.


Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later and Halloween Resurrection were both dedicated to the memory of Pleasence, although he did not appear in them.

Dr. Evil, the character played by Mike Myers in the Austin Powers comedy films (1997–2002) and Dr. Claw from Inspector Gadget are a parodies of Pleasence's performance as Blofeld in You Only Live Twice.

Donald's grandson Jack O'Hare has gone on to be a successful director in London UK , Jak O'Hare.

Selected filmography

Year Title Role Notes
1954 The Beachcomber Tromp
1954 Orders Are Orders Corporal Martin Credited as Donald Plesance
1955 Value for Money Limpy
1956 1984 R. Parsons
1956 The Black Tent Ali
1956 The Adventures of Robin Hood Prince John TV series (4 episodes)
1957 The Man in the Sky Crabtree (titled Decision Against Time in the U.S.)
1957 Manuela Evans
1957 Barnacle Bill Cashier (titled All at Sea in the U.S.)
1958 A Tale of Two Cities John Barsad
1958 Heart of a Child Spiel
1958 The Wind Cannot Read Doctor
1958 The Man Inside Organ-grinder
1958 The Two-Headed Spy General Hardt
1959 The Scarf Detective Inspector Harry Yates TV series (6 episodes)
1959 Look Back in Anger Hurst
1959 Killers of Kilimanjaro Captain
1959 The Battle of the Sexes Irwin Hoffman
1960 The Shakedown Jessel Brown
1960 The Flesh and the Fiends William Hare
1960 Sons and Lovers Pappleworth
1960 Hell Is a City Gus Hawkins
1960 Circus of Horrors Vanet
1960 The Hands of Orlac Graham Coates
1961 What a Carve Up! Everett Sloane
1961 No Love for Johnnie Roger Renfrew
1961 A Story of David Nabal
1961 Spare the Rod Mr. Jenkins
1962 The Inspector Sergeant Wolters
1962 Dr. Crippen Dr Crippen
1963 The Great Escape
1963 The Outer Limits Prof. Harold Finley TV series (episode: "The Man With the Power")
1965 The Hallelujah Trail Oracle Jones
1965 The Greatest Story Ever Told Satan
1966 Fantastic Voyage Dr. Michaels
1966 Cul-de-sac George
1966 Eye of the Devil Pere Dominic
1967 You Only Live Twice Ernst Stavro Blofeld
1967 The Night of the Generals General Kahlenberge
1967 Matchless Gregori Andreanu
1968 The Other People Clive
1968 Will Penny Preacher Quint
1969 Arthur? Arthur! Arthur Brownjohn
1969 The Madwoman of Chaillot The Prospector
1970 Soldier Blue Isaac Q. Cumber
1971 THX 1138 SEN 5241
1971 Wake in Fright Doc Tydon
1971 Kidnapped Ebenezer Balfour
1972 The Pied Piper The Baron
1972 Death Line Inspector Calhoun
1972 Innocent Bystanders Loomis
1972 Henry VIII and His Six Wives Thomas Cromwell
1972 The Jerusalem File Major Samuels
1972 Wedding in White Jim Dougall
1973 Tales That Witness Madness Professor Tremayne
1973 Malachi's Cove Malachi
1973 Columbo Adrian Carsini
1974 Watch Out, We're Mad The Doctor
1974 From Beyond the Grave Jim Underwood Segment: "An Act of Kindness"
1974 House of the Damned Martin Zayas Original title: La loba y la Paloma
1974 The Mutations Professor Nolter
1974 The Black Windmill Cedric Harper
1974 Barry Mckenzie Holds His Own Count Plasma
1975 Escape to Witch Mountain Lucas Deranian
1975 The Count of Monte Cristo Baron Danglars
1975 I Don't Want to Be Born Dr. Finch
1975 Journey into Fear Kuvelti
1975 Hearts of the West A.J. Neitz Alternate title: Hollywood Cowboy
1976 Land of the Minotaur Father Roche Alternate title: The Devil's Men
1976 The Eagle Has Landed Himmler
1976 Trial by Combat Sir Giles Marley Alternate title: Dirty Knights' Work
1976 The Last Tycoon Boxley
1976 The Passover Plot Pontius Pilate
1977 The Uncanny Valentine De'ath Segment: "Hollywood 1936"
1977 Oh, God! Dr. Harmon
1977 Telefon Nikolai Dalchimsky
1977 Jesus of Nazareth Melchior TV miniseries
1978 Halloween Dr. Loomis
1978 Blood Relatives James Doniac
1978 Night Creature Axel MacGregor Alternate title: Out of the Darkness
1978 The Bastard Solomon Sholto TV miniseries
1978 Tomorrow Never Comes Dr. Todd
1978 Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band B.D. Hoffler/B.D. Brockhurst
1978 Power Play Blair
1978 Centennial Sam Purchas TV miniseries
1978 L'Ordre et la sécurité du monde Rothko Alternate title: Last In, First Out
1979 Good Luck, Miss Wyckoff Dr. Steiner
1979 Dracula Dr. Jack Seward
1979 All Quiet on the Western Front Kantorek TV film
1979 Jaguar Lives! General Villanova
1979 The French Atlantic Affair Max Dechambre TV miniseries
1980 The Pumaman Dr. Kobras
1980 The Monster Club Pickering
1980 Halloween: Extended Edition Dr. Loomis Appeared in additional footage (filmed during the production of Halloween II) not included in the original film but featured in the NBC television broadcast.
1981 Halloween II Dr. Loomis
1981 Race for the Yankee Zephyr Gilbert "Gibbie" Carson
1981 Escape from New York Mr. President
1981 Saturday Night Live Himself-Guest host 10/31/81 Halloween show with musical guest punk rock band Fear. John Belushi makes a guest appearance in the opening sketch. This would be Belushi's last SNL appearance.
1982 Alone in the Dark Dr. Leo Bain
1982 The Barchester Chronicles Reverend Septimus Harding TV series
1983 Warrior of the Lost World Prossor
1983 The Devonsville Terror Dr. Warley
1983 Where Is Parsifal? Mackintosh
1984 A Breed Apart J.P. Whittier
1984 The Ambassador Eretz
1984 Frankenstein's Great Aunt Tillie Baron Victor Frankenstein
1985 Black Arrow Oliver Oates TV film
1985 Arch of Triumph Haake
1985 Treasure of the Amazon Klaus von Blantz
1985 Phenomena John McGregor
1985 Nothing Underneath Inspector Danesi
1986 Operation Nam Father Lenoir Alternate title: Cobra Mission
1987 Django 2 Gunn
1987 Specters Professor Lasky
1987 Prince of Darkness Priest
1987 Ground Zero Prosper Gaffney
1988 The Great Escape II: The Untold Story Dr. Absalon TV film
1988 Hanna's War Captain Thomas Rosza
1988 Phantom of Death Inspector Datti
1988 Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers Dr. Loomis
1988 Vampire in Venice Don Alvise
1988 Der Commander Henry Carlson
1988 Last Platoon Colonel B. Abrams
1989 Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers Dr. Loomis
1989 Ten Little Indians Judge Lawrence Wargrave
1989 River of Death Heinrich Spaatz
1989 Casablanca Express Colonel Bats
1990 Buried Alive Dr. Schaeffer
1991 Shadows and Fog Doctor
1992 Dien Bien Phu Howard Simpson
1993 The Thief and the Cobbler Phido the Vulture (voice)
1993 The Big Freeze Soup slurper
1993 The Hour of the Pig Pincheon
1995 Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers Dr. Loomis

The film was dedicated to his memory.

1996 Fatal Frames Prof. Robertson


  1. ^ "Pleasence", Collins English Dictionary
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b
  5. ^ lostaircraft.comRecord for Lancaster NE112 on
  6. ^ Chorley, W.R. (1997), Royal Air Force Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War, Volume 5: 1944; p 407. Midland Counties Publications, UK. ISBN 0-904597-91-1.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g
  8. ^
  9. ^

External links

  • Donald Pleasence at the Internet Movie Database
  • Donald Pleasence at the Internet Broadway Database
  • Donald Pleasence at TV Tropes
  • Donald Pleasence at screenonline
  • Donald Pleasence-bio at (re)Search my Trash
  • The Man with the Hypnotic Eye A Tribute to Donald Pleasence
  • Photograph of a theatrical production in prisoner of war camp featuring Donald Pleasence
  • Lonely Water Public Information Film on YouTube
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