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Appreciation: Peter Wyngarde obituary

Peter Wyngarde in Departmen S in 1969.
Peter Wyngarde in Departmen S in 1969. Photograph: Allstar/Carlton

The obituary of Peter Wyngarde overlooked a number of the talents and successes of this suave and charismatic performer who never lost his ability to inspire fascination.

Before Jason King he had an early television success as Will Shakespeare (1953) – a taxing part that earned him the admiration of the production’s pioneering producer/director Rudolph Cartier. By 1965, when lured to play the arrogant and dangerous Baron Grüner in an episode of Sherlock Holmes, he had enough clout for the producers to accede to his agent’s stipulation that on foreign sales prints he – uniquely – be inserted into the opening titles and credited alongside the leads (Douglas Wilmer and Nigel Stock, both of whom he was also paid considerably more than).

His quirky tastes embraced cult shows which showcased his versatility and zeal – he is glorious in both of his episodes of The Avengers (1966-67) and a cunning and aloof Number Two in The Prisoner (1967). As the religious zealot Timanov in the 1984 Doctor Who story Planet of Fire he imbues a flawed character with a tremendous tragic dignity.

His non-speaking role in the film The Innocents (1961) is no glorified bit part. He is a memorably spooky, spectral presence and gets second billing, a year after his effective turn as a ruthless gang leader in The Siege of Sidney Street.

His extensive theatre work attracted many good notices from the outset and included Shylock and King John, via Jack Pinchwife (The Country Wife) and more than 200 performances as the lead in The King and I (Adelphi theatre and tour, 1973-74). He also directed productions at the Bristol Old Vic and the Yvonne Arnaud theatre, Guildford.

In later years he was gracious with fans and a writer of detailed and helpful letters crafted in attractive – if minute – handwriting, generously extolling the virtues of colleagues he admired such as Cartier, Wilfred Lawson and Patrick McGoohan: unpredictable talents all, who should give some clue as to where his sensibilities lay.

A perfectionist, he was doubtless sometimes difficult, but the scandal that dented his career should not overshadow the many fine qualities of a charming, seductive, watchable leading actor with an offbeat streak.

This article titled "Appreciation: Peter Wyngarde obituary" was written by Toby Hadoke, for The Guardian on Tuesday 23 January 2018 04.44pm

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