Donald Pleasence

Donald Pleasence
Donald Pleasence

Pleasence in London, 1973
Born Donald Henry Pleasence[1]
5 October 1919(1919-10-05)
Worksop, Nottinghamshire, England
Died 2 February 1995(1995-02-02) (aged 75)
Saint-Paul-de-Vence, Alpes-Maritimes, France
Cause of death Heart Failure
Nationality British
Alma mater Ecclesfield School
Occupation Actor
Years active 1954–95
Spouse Miriam Raymond (1941–58)
Josephine Crombie (1959–70)
Meira Shore (1970–88)
Linda J. Kentwood (1988-95)

Sir Donald Henry Pleasence, OBE, (5 October 1919 – 2 February 1995) was a British actor who gained more than 200 screen credits during a career which spanned over four decades. Known for his piercing blue eyes and bald head, Pleasence is arguably best remembered for his work in the Halloween and James Bond franchises.


Early life

Pleasence was born in Worksop, Nottinghamshire, England, the son of Alice (née Armitage) and Thomas Stanley Pleasence, a railway stationmaster.[2] He was brought up in the small village of Grimoldby, Lincolnshire, and raised a strict Methodist.[3] Pleasence attended Ecclesfield Grammar School, in Sheffield, Yorkshire, and subsequently dropped out to work as a railway clerk, whilst looking for a job as an actor.[3] During World War II 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 Avro Lancaster was shot down on 31 August 1944 during a raid on Agenville.[4] He was taken prisoner and placed in a German prisoner-of-war camp, where he produced and acted in plays. He would later play Flight Lt. Colin Blythe in The Great Escape where much of the story takes place inside a German POW camp.



Pleasence's acting career began in a production of Wuthering Heights, but was interrupted by World War II. Pleasence returned to acting after the war, and critics began to call him the "Man with the Hypnotic Eye". Equipped with a shiny bald head and a quiet but intense voice to go with his trademark penetrating gaze, he specialised in portraying insane or evil characters, including the violent alcoholic Doc Tydon in Wake in Fright (1971), the mad Doctor in the Bud Spencer-Terence Hill movie 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 predominate in popular culture considering the popularity of the comic villain, Dr. Evil in the successful Austin Powers film series, which primarily parodies it.

Perhaps his most sympathetic screen role was as the tragic POW Colin Blythe in the 1963 film 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 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 (taking on several human disguises) in the religious epic The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965). He was one of many stars who were given cameos throughout the film. Perhaps his most bizarre and powerful film role occurred in 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 became best known to a younger generation of cinema-goers as Dr. Loomis in Halloween (1978). The distinctive, rather sinister accent that he employs in this and other movies may be credited to the elocution lessons that he had as a child. He reprised his role as Dr. Loomis in Halloween II (1981), IV (1988), V (1989) and VI (1995).

His acting hero was Sir Laurence Olivier,[5] with whom he worked on-stage in the 1950s, and later on the 1979 movie 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.


One of his earliest roles on television was as Syme in the BBC's highly acclaimed 1954 adaptation of George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. This adaptation 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). His first appearance in America was in an episode of The Twilight Zone, playing an aging (and suicidal) 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". He hosted the 1981 Halloween episode of Saturday Night Live with music guest Fear (which, because of Fear's raucous performance and the ultra-dark humour of the sketches, hasn't been seen on television since its first airing).

In 1973 Pleasence played the murderer in an episode of Columbo entitled "Any Old Port in a Storm". He also had the distinction of playing a culprit captured by Mrs. Columbo in "Murder is a Parlor Game" (1979). 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 starred as the Reverend Septimus Harding in the BBC's 1982 TV serial The Barchester Chronicles.

Spoken records

During the early 1960s, he 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 USA as Tale Spinners For Children by United Artists. The stories included Don Quixote and the Brave Little Tailor.


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.


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.

He was made 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 was married to Miriam Raymond in 1947–1958, and they had Angela and Jean. His 1959–1970 marriage to actress and singer Josephine Martin Crombie produced Lucy and Polly. He was married to Meira Shore in 1970–1988 and they had a daughter, Miranda. His last marriage to Linda Kentwood lasted until his death in 1995 and was without issue.


Pleasence died at the age of 75 in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France, from complications of heart failure following heart valve replacement surgery. He was cremated.


Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers and Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later, were both dedicated to the memory of Pleasence, the latter of which he did not appear in.

Dr. Evil, the character played by Mike Myers in the Austin Powers comedy films (1997–2002), is a parody of Pleasence's performance as Blofeld in You Only Live Twice.

Selected filmography

Year Film Role Notes
1952 The Dybbuk Second Batlon TV movie
1952-1959 BBC Sunday-Night Theatre Corporal TV series, episode Arrow to the Heart (I) (1952)
Chamberlain Episode Such Men are Dangerous (1954)
Syme Episode Nineteen Eighty-Four (1954)
Foreign Minister Episode The Moment of Truth (1955)
Doctor Episode The Millionairess (1959)
1954 The Beachcomber Tromp
Montserrat Juan Alvarez TV movie
The Face of Love Alex TV movie
Orders Are Orders Corporal Martin
1955 Value for Money Limpy
1956 1984 R. Parsons
The Black Tent Ali
1956-1958 The Adventures of Robin Hood Prince John (4 episodes) TV series, episodes The Prisoner (1956), Isabella (1956), Ambush (1957), Marian's Prize (1958)
Bailiff Baldwin (1 episode) Episode A Village Wooing (1956)
1956-1959 ITV Television Playhouse William TV series, episode Ever Since Paradise (1956)
Albert Episode Chance Meeting (1956)
Captain Browne Episode Fate and Mister Browne (1958)
Leonard Browne Episode Mr. Browne Comes Home (1959)
Robert Robertson Episode The Silk Purse (1959)
1957 The Man in the Sky Crabtree Titled Decision Against Time in USA
Assignment Foreign Legion Commandant TV series, episode The Coward
Manuela Evans
Barnacle Bill Cashier Titled All at Sea in USA
1958 I Spy Mr. Frute TV movie
A Tale of Two Cities John Barsad
Heart of a Child Spiel
The Wind Cannot Read' Doctor
The Man Inside Organ-grinder
The Two-Headed Spy General Hardt
1959 The Scarf Detective Inspector Harry Yates TV series, 6 episodes
Look Back in Anger Hurst
William Tell The Spider TV series, episode The Spider
The Traitor Grantley Caypor TV movie
Killers of Kilimanjaro Captain
The Battle of the Sexes Irwin Hoffman
1960 The Shakedown Jessel Brown
The Four Just Men Paul Koster TV Series, episode The Survivor
Interpol Calling Karl Haussman TV series, episode The Absent Assassin
1962 The Inspector Sergeant Wolters
1963 The Great Escape Flight Lieutenant Colin Blythe RAF, "The Forger"
1965 The Hallelujah Trail Oracle Jones
1966 Fantastic Voyage Dr. Michaels
Cul-de-sac George
1967 You Only Live Twice Ernst Stavro Blofeld
1970 Soldier Blue Isaac Q. Cumber
1971 THX 1138 SEN 5241
1972 Death Line Inspector Calhoun
1974 Watch Out, We're Mad The Doctor
1976 The Eagle Has Landed Himmler
1977 Telefon Nikolai Dalchimsky
1978 Halloween Dr. Loomis
1981 Halloween II
1982 Escape from New York Mr. President
Alone in the Dark Dr. Leo Bain
1985 Phenomena John McGregor
1987 Prince of Darkness Priest
1988 Hanna's War Captain Thomas Rosza
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers Dr. Loomis
1989 Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers
Ten Little Indians Judge Lawrence Wargrave
1993 The Thief and the Cobbler Phido the Vulture (voice)
1995 Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers Dr. Loomis
1996 Fatal frames: Fotogrammi mortali Professor Robinson


  1. ^ "England and Wales Births 1837–1983". 2010-09-10. Retrieved 2010-10-06. 
  2. ^ Ross, Helen; Lillian Ross (1962). The Player: A Profile of an Art. Simon and Schuster. p. 256. ISBN. 
  3. ^ a b "Full text of "The Player A Profile Of An Art"". Retrieved 2010-10-06. 
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ "Donald Pleasence'S Biography". Retrieved 2010-10-06. 

External links

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