Donald Sinden

Donald Sinden
Sir Donald Sinden

Production poster for
An Evening with... Sir Donald Sinden
Born Donald Alfred Sinden
9 October 1923 (1923-10-09) (age 88)
Plymouth, Devon, England
Residence Kent, England
Occupation Actor
Spouse Diana Mahony
(m. 1948– 2004, her death)
Children Jeremy Sinden (deceased)
Marc Sinden
Awards Evening Standard Best Actor; SOLT Best Actor; Tony Award Best Actor nomination etc.

Sir Donald Alfred Sinden CBE (born 9 October 1923) is an English actor of theatre, film and television.[1]


Personal life

Sinden was born in Plymouth, Devon, England, on 9 October 1923. The son of Alfred Edward Sinden and his wife Mabel Agnes (née Fuller), he grew up in the Sussex village of Ditchling, where their home ('The Limes') doubled as the local chemist shop.[2] He was married to actress Diana Mahony from 1948 until her death in 2004.[3][4] He lives near Tenterden, Kent.[5]

The couple had two sons: actor Jeremy Sinden, who died of lung cancer in 1996, and Marc Sinden who is a West End theatre producer.[6]

Early career

He trained as an actor at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art and made his first stage appearance at the Brighton Little Theatre (of which he later became President) in January 1941, playing Dudley in George and Margaret. He broke into professional acting after appearing with the Mobile Entertainments Southern Area company in modern comedies for the armed forces during the Second World War.[6]

Rank Organisation

In 1953 he was contracted for seven years to the Rank Organisation at Pinewood Studios and subsequently starred in many outstanding British films of the 1950s including The Cruel Sea, Mogambo, Doctor in the House, Above Us The Waves, Doctor at Large, The Siege of Sidney Street, Twice Round the Daffodils and with a very young Adam Faith in Mix Me a Person.[7]

Royal Shakespeare Company

Sinden has been an Associate Artiste of the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) since the early 1960s. Among his many notable stage appearances for the RSC are in The Wars of the Roses (as the Duke of York) opposite Dame Peggy Ashcroft (as Queen Margaret). For the 1976 Stratford season and then at the Aldwych in 1977, he played Benedick opposite Dame Judi Dench’s Beatrice in the highly-acclaimed 'British Raj' revival of Much Ado About Nothing.[8] He also won the Evening Standard Award for Best Actor that year for his performance in the title role of King Lear. Other memorable RSC performances were Twelfth Night, The Relapse and London Assurance for which he received the 1975 Drama Desk Special Award.[9]


Theatre being his first 'love',[10] he is a noted farceur and has won Best Actor awards for his appearances in Ray Cooney farces Not Now Darling; Two Into One and Out of Order. Other memorable productions have been leading performances in There's a Girl in My Soup; An Enemy Of The People; Major Barbara; The Scarlet Pimpernel; That Good Night and Quartet.[9]


His distinctive voice was heard frequently on radio, including as Sir Charles Baskerville in a Radio 4 adaptation of the Sherlock Holmes story The Hound of the Baskervilles.[6] He also starred in multiple adaptations of John Dickson Carr's Dr. Gideon Fell mysteries, including The House on Gallows Lane, The Hollow Man and Black Spectacles, To Wake the Dead, The Blind Barber and The Mad Hatter Mystery.


He achieved an early wider fame with the non-theatregoing public in 1963 through the Associated Rediffusion series Our Man at St Marks followed by Our Man from St Marks and then again in 1975 through the London Weekend Television situation comedy Two's Company, in which he played an English butler, Robert, to Elaine Stritch's American character, Dorothy. Much of the humour derived from the culture clashes between Robert's very stiff-upper-lip Britishness and Dorothy's devil-may-care New York view on life. Two's Company was exceptionally well-received in Britain, despite being broadcast in the so-called 'graveyard slot' of Sunday night at 10:30pm. Stritch and Sinden also sang the theme tune to the programme. The format was sold to NBC and remade in the US as The Two of Us starring Peter Cook, however the remake was a failure and only lasted one season. The original British version is now available on DVD in both the UK and the US.

From 1981 he was also to star as Simon Peel in the Thames TV situation comedy Never the Twain, in which he played a snooty antiques dealer who had to live next door to Oliver Smallbridge (played by Windsor Davies), who also ran an antique shop. The characters hated each other and were horrified when they discovered that their son and daughter were to be married - thus meaning they were related. Despite a lack of critical acclaim, the series proved to be popular with audiences and ran for 11 years. One episode had Sinden being literally picked up by two police officers played by his own actor sons.[11]

Other featured television roles included guest-starring in the cult series The Prisoner. From 2001 - 2007 he played the part of senior judge (and father-in-law of the title character) Sir Joseph Channing in Judge John Deed and is the voice of Totally Viral.

Sinden was spoofed on Spitting Image, the British satirical television programme in which famous people were lampooned by caricatured latex puppets. For example, when his puppet, sitting in a restaurant, summons a waiter and asks "Do you serve a ham salad?" the waiter replies "Yes, we serve salad to anyone". He (or his puppet) was also shown fawning to the Queen and requesting a knighthood from her. He did in fact receive a knighthood in 1997.


Sinden has written two autobiographical volumes, A Touch of the Memoirs (1982) and Laughter in the Second Act (1985), as well as a collection of "epitaphs and final utterances," The Last Word (1994). He was also a leading figure in the fight to launch the Theatre Museum in London's Covent Garden in the 1980s.[6]

He is believed to be the last person alive to have known Oscar Wilde's lover Lord Alfred "Bosie" Douglas and is writing his memories of their friendship.[12][13]


In 2002, the purpose-built theatre at Homewood School, Ashford Road, Tenterden, Kent was named The Sinden Theatre.[14]

In 2007, Sinden embarked on a UK and European theatre tour, produced by his son Marc, to talk about his life, work and anecdotes in An Evening with... Sir Donald Sinden. This included, on 8 November 2007 as part of the British Theatre Season, Monaco a performance in front of HSH Prince Albert of Monaco at the Théâtre Princesse Grace, Monte Carlo.[15]

Charles Spencer, the drama critic for the Daily Telegraph, reported that Sinden is currently filming a documentary series called Great West End Theatres, which will describe the history and stories associated with each of the 40 London theatres. Produced and directed by his son Marc Sinden, it is to be released as a DVD.[16][17][18]

Sinden is a patron of ME Solutions, a charity dedicated to finding a breakthrough in the treatment of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis through targeted and comprehensive biomedical research, focusing on the physical causes of M.E.

In October 2010, his grandson Hal and two of his granddaughters (Kezia and Harriet) each announced their engagements and forthcoming marriages.[19][20]



  1. ^
  2. ^ "Pieces Of Me". London: The Guardian. 4 February 2009. Retrieved 04/02/2009. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ Who's Who (2007)
  5. ^ "County Questions". BBC Kent. 2007-02-22. Retrieved 20/11/2008. 
  6. ^ a b c d Debrett's Distinguished People of Today (2007)
  7. ^ "IMDB". Retrieved 14/02/2009. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ a b Who's Who in the Theatre, 17th edition (1981)
  10. ^ Croydon Life issue 14 June 2008
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ "British Theatre Guide". Retrieved 14/02/2009. 
  15. ^
  16. ^ "Donald Sinden - Great night out with a reluctant hero: Charles Spencer column". London: Daily Telegraph. 2010-03-08. Retrieved 2010-03-12. 
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^ "Sir Donald Sinden's hat trick of engagements: Mandrake column". London: Daily Telegraph. 2010-10-21. Retrieved 2010-10-21. 
  20. ^ "Double celebration for Sir Donald Sinden's acting dynasty: Mandrake column". London: Daily Telegraph. 2010-10-20. Retrieved 2010-10-20. 

External links

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