Spinetti, Victor 1933-

views updated

Spinetti, Victor 1933-


Born September 2, 1933, in Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, Wales; son of Giuseppe and Lily Spinetti. Education: Attended the College of Music and Drama, Cardiff, Wales.


Agent—Howes & Prior, 66 Berkley House, Hay Hill, London W1, England.


Author. Actor, 1953—. Stage roles in numerous plays, including Fleet Street Editor, Saville, 1958; Expresso Bongo, Saville, 1958; Candide, Saville, 1959; Make Me an Offer, Theatre Royal, Stratford East, then New Theatre, 1959; Every Man in His Humour, Theatre Royal, Stratford East, 1960; Fings Ain't Wot They Used T'Be, Theatre Royal, Stratford East, 1963; Oh, What a Lovely War!, Theatre Royal, Stratford East, then Wyndham's Theatre, 1963, and Broadhurst, NY, 1964; Merry Roosters Panto, Theatre Royal, Stratford East, 1963; Henry IV, Edinburgh Festival, 1964; Skyscraper, Fisher Auditorium (Detroit, MI), 1965; La Grosse Valise, 54th Street (New York, NY), 1965; The Odd Couple, Queen's, 1966; Cat among the Pigeons, Prince of Wales, 1969; The Philanthropist, Barrymore, NY, 1971; Macbeth, Bankside Globe, 1973; Hard Times, Belgrade (Coventry, England), 1973; Emu in Pantoland, Shaftesbury, 1976; Dick Wittington and His Wonderful Cat, Palladium (London, England), 1980; one-man show, Edinburgh Festival, 1984.

Actor in feature films, including Help!, A Hard Day's Night, Magical Mystery Tour, The Taming of the Shrew, Under Milk Wood, The Return of the Pink Panther, and Voyage of the Damned.

Also actor on British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) television shows, including Take My Wife, The Sea, and Victor Spinetti Chat Show.

Director of theater productions, including The Lennon Play: In His Own Write (and cowriter, see below), National Theatre at the Old Vic, 1968; Shirley Abicair's Evening, Arts, 1969; and The Bed, Royalty, 1970.

Assisted in theater productions, including Cocky, 1970; Hair, 1970; Jesus Christ Superstar, 1972; Off the Peg, 1974; Let's Get Laid, 1974; Deja Revue, 1974; Come into My Bed, 1976; Don't Bother to Dress, 1977; and Yes We Have No Pyjamas, 1979.


Tony Award, 1964, for role in Oh, What a Lovely War!


(With Adrienne Kennedy and John Lennon; and director) The Lennon Play: In His Own Write, Cape (London, England), 1968.

(With Peter Rankin) Victor Spinetti Up Front …, Robson (London, England), 2006.


The man often called the "sixth Beatle," veteran Welsh comic actor Victor Spinetti "appeared in all three Beatles movies," A Hard Day's Night, Help!, and Magical Mystery Tour, "and enjoyed lifelong friendships with" the Beatles, wrote Debi Lee Mandel in a review for Digitally Obsessed. "Spinetti was already an accomplished actor when two young musicians visited him backstage after his Tony-winning performance in Oh, What a Lovely War! in 1964 and asked him to be in their movie. ‘Me mum would come to see it then,’ said George Harrison. The second admirer was John Lennon, and ‘their movie’ was A Hard Day's Night." An accomplished stage actor, Spinetti maintains close personal friendships with Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, the surviving members of the Beatles. Spinetti's account of his own life and friendship with the Beatles, titled Victor Spinetti Up Front … (written with Peter Rankin), has won acclaim from critics in the United States and England. "While humor is still apparently his trademark," Mandel stated. "Spinetti is a thoughtful man who also speaks many words of wisdom."

A large part of Victor Spinetti Up Front … is devoted to stories about his life working with the Beatles and the impact this relationship had on his career. "Beatlemania in Europe was amazing, but in New York it was something else altogether," Spinetti told Siobhan Roberts in an interview for Absolute Elsewhere: The Spirit of John Lennon. "People went mad, absolutely insane about the Beatles. On the first night on Broadway of Oh, What a Lovely War!, which was a musical about the First World War, I came out on stage and a group of girls at the back screamed, ‘Victor Spinetti, aaaaahhhhhhhh!’ They were shouting things like, ‘he's touched George!’ I said to the cast, ‘It's all right, there's a bit of a disturbance, hang on.’" Spinetti eventually calmed the women down by promising them a ten-minute question-and-answer session with the Beatles after the play. In the United States, Spinetti became so popular because of his association with the Beatles that he had his own fan club. "It was like that joke about the Pope," he told Roberts. "I'm standing next to the Beatles at the door of the plane, waving with the lads, and these people were shouting, ‘Victor! Victor!’ John said, ‘Hey, Vic, we're really impressed, think we could join?’ So I wrote to the lady who ran the club, and the Beatles and Brian Epstein all got a card saying they were members of the Official Victor Spinetti Fan Club of America."

"Spinetti's work and friendship with the Beatles is at the heart of his ‘whole different career’ as a raconteur," declared Graham Tomlinson in Kettering—The Magazine of Elderly British Comedy. Nonetheless, he also regales readers with tales drawn from his extensive stage experience, involving such strong show-business personalities as Bette Davis, Terence Rattigan, Laurence Olivier, Tallulah Bankhead, Richard Burton, and Elizabeth Taylor. "Some of the stories have a welcome dash of vinegar," Hugh Massingberd stated in a review for the London Telegraph. "There are brickbats for Lee Strasberg and Adrian Noble of the [Royal Shakespeare Company, and] a devastating demolition job on the unspeakable Peter Sellers (who cut Spinetti's best bits from The Return of the Pink Panther)." In general, however, "Spinetti paints the international showbiz scene of the '60s as a grand adventure full of warm fellowship," a Kirkus Reviews contributor wrote. Spinetti allows readers, Tomlinson stated, to "form [their] own judgments on his work and his famous friends and, as befits an actor happy to let others take the limelight, with very few bad words to say about his fellow professionals." Victor Spinetti Up Front …, Tomlinson concluded, "is an account of a singular life in show business, which is funny, perceptive and thoughtful, and also blessedly free from the score-settling and self-congratulation which so often taints the genre."



Contemporary Theatre, Film, and Television, Volume 2, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1985.


Kirkus Reviews, October 1, 2007, review of Victor Spinetti Up Front….

Telegraph (London, England), December 11, 2006, Hugh Massingberd, "My Pages Were Pinned to Poor Irene's Mound of Venus," review of Victor Spinetti Up Front….


Absolute Elsewhere: The Spirit of John Lennon,http://articles.absoluteelsewhere.net/ (July 24, 2008), Siobhan Roberts, "Victor Spinetti among the Beatles: The Group's Old Friend Tells Stories from the Days of Beatlemania," author interview.

Digitally Obsessed,http://www.digitallyobsessed.com/ (July 24, 2008), Debi Lee Mandel, "The 6th Beatle: A Hard Day's Night with Victor Spinetti," author interview.

Film Reference,http://www.filmreference.com/ (July 24, 2008), "Victor Spinetti Biography."

IMDB.com,http://www.imdb.com/ (July 24, 2008), author information.

Kettering—The Magazine of Elderly British Comedy,http://myspace.com/ketteringmag/ (July 24, 2008), Graham Tomlinson, review of Victor Spinetti Up Front….