Pleasence, Donald

views updated


Nationality: British. Born: Worksop, Nottinghamshire, 5 October 1919. Education: Attended grammar school in Ecclesfield, Yorkshire. Military Service: Royal Air Force during World War II: in prison camp for a year: discharged 1946 as flight lieutenant. Family: Married 1) Miriam Raymond, 1941 (divorced 1958), daughters: Angela and Jean; 2) Josephine Martin Crombie, 1959, daughters: Lucy and Polly Jo; 3) Meira Shore, 1971, daughter: Alexis. Career: Worked for the railways, becoming manager of a station at Swinton, Yorkshire; 1939—assistant stage manager, then manager, of a theater in Jersey: stage debut in Wuthering Heights; 1942—London debut in Twelfth Night; 1946—on stage in London in Vicious Circle, then at Birmingham Repertory Theatre, 1948–50, and Bristol Old Vic Company, 1950–51; 1951—New York stage debut in Caesar and Cleopatra; 1954—film debut in The Beachcomber; 1960—stage role in The Caretaker, repeated in film version, 1963; 1977—in TV mini-series Jesus of Nazareth, in The Bastard, 1978, Centennial, 1978, and Sighs and Wonders, 1995; in TV series The Barchester Chronicles, 1982; co-founder, with Harold Pinter and Robert Shaw, Glasshouse Productions. Died: In St.-Paul-de-Vence, France, 2 February 1995.

Films as Actor:


The Beachcomber (Box) (as Tromp); Orders Are Orders(Paltenghi) (as Corporal Martin)


Value for Money (Annakin) (as Limpy)


1984 (Anderson) (as Parsons); The Black Tent (Hurst) (as Ali)


The Man in the Sky (Deception against Time) (Crichton) (as Crabtree); Manuela (Stowaway Girl) (Hamilton) (as Evans);Barnacle Bill (Frend) (as bankteller)


A Tale of Two Cities (Thomas) (as Barsad); Heart of a Child(Clive Donner) (as Speil); The Wind Cannot Read (Tho-mas) (as doctor); The Man Inside (Gilling) (as organ grinder); The Two Headed Spy (de Toth) (as General Hardt)


Look Back in Anger (Richardson) (as Hurst); Killers of Kilimanjaro (Thorpe) (as Captain); The Battle of the Sexes(Crichton) (as Irwin Hoffman)


The Shakedown (Lemont) (as Jessel); The Flesh and the Fiends (Mania) (Gilling) (as William Hare); Hell Is a City (Guest) (as Gus Hawkins); Circus of Horrors (Hayers) (as Vanet); Sons and Lovers (Cardiff) (as Pappleworth); The Big Day (Scott) (as Victor Partridge); Suspect (The Risk)(Boulting) (as Brown); The Hands of Orlac (Les Mains d'Orlac) (Gréville) (as Coates); A Story of David (McNaught)(as Nabal)


No Love for Johnnie (Thomas) (as Roger Renfrew); The Wind of Change (Sewell) (as Pop); Spare the Rod (Norman) (as Jenkins); The Horsemasters (Fairchild) (as Major Pinksy);What a Carve Up! (Jackson) (as Everett Sloane); The Inspector (Lisa) (Dunne) (as Sergeant Walters)


Dr. Crippen (Lynn) (title role)


The Caretaker (The Guest) (Clive Donner) (as Davis); The Great Escape (John Sturges) (as Blythe)


The Greatest Story Ever Told (Stevens) (as the Dark Hermit);The Hallelujah Trail (John Sturges) (as Oracle Jones)


Cul-de-Sac (Polanski) (as George); Matchless (Lattuada) (as Andreanu); Eye of the Devil (Thompson) (as Pere Domi-nic); The Night of the Generals (Litvak) (as General Kahlenberge); Fantastic Voyage (Fleischer) (as Dr. Michaels)


Will Penny (Gries) (as Preacher Quint); You Only Live Twice(Gilbert) (as Blofeld)


The Madwoman of Chaillot (Forbes) (as prospector); Arthur Arthur (Gallu) (cameo role)


THX 1138 (Lucas) (as SEN 5241); Soldier Blue (Nelson) (as Isaac Cumber); Mister Freedom (Klein) (as Dr. Freedom)


The Pied Piper (Demy) (as Baron)


Kidnapped (Delbert Mann) (as Ebenezer Balfour); Innocent Bystanders (Collinson) (as Loomis); Henry VIII and His Six Wives (Hussein) (as Thomas Cromwell); The Jerusalem File (Flynn) (as Maj. Samuels); Death Live (Raw Meat)(Sherman) (as Inspector Colquhoun)


Wedding in White (Fruet) (as Jim); From beyond the Grave(Connor) (as peddler); Tales That Witness Madness (Fran-cis) (as Tremayne)


The Black Windmill (Siegel) (as Cedric Harper); The Mutations (Cardiff) (as Nolter); Barry Mackenzie Holds His Own (Beresford) (as Erich, Count Plasma); Journey into Fear (Daniel Mann) (as Kuvetli)


The Count of Monte Cristo (Greene—for TV) (as Danglars);Heart of the West (Hollywood Cowboy) (Zieff) (as A. J.Nietz); I Don't Want to Be Born (The Devil within Her)(Sasdy) (as Dr. Finch); Escape to Witch Mountain (Hough)(as Deranian)


The Devil's Men (Land of the Minotaur) (Carayiannis) (as Father Roche); The Last Tycoon (Kazan) (as Boxley); The Passover Plot (Campus) (as Pontius Pilate); Dirty Knights' Work (Trial by Combat; A Choice of Weapons) (Connor)(as Sir Giles Marley)


The Eagle Has Landed (John Sturges) (as Heinrich Himmler);Telefon (Siegel) (as Nicolai Dalchimsky); The Uncanny(Heroux) (as Valentine De'Ath); Oh, God! (Carl Reiner)(as Dr. Harmon); Night Creature (Madden); Goldenrod(Hart—for TV)


Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Schultz) (as B. D. Brockhearst); Halloween (Carpenter) (as Loomis);Power Play (Burke) (as Blair); The Dark Secret of HarvestHome (Leo Penn—for TV) (as narrator); L'Ordre et la securité du monde (d'Anna); The Defection of Simas Kurdirka (Rich—for TV)


Gold of the Amazon Women (Lester—for TV); Tomorrow Never Comes (Collinson) (as Dr. Todd); All Quiet on the Western Front (Delbert Mann—for TV) (as Kantoreck);Les Liens du sang (Blood Relatives) (Chabrol) (as Doniac);Dracula (Badham) (as Seward); Better Late Than Never(Crenna—for TV); Good Luck, Miss Wyckoff (Chomsky)(as Steiner); Jaguar Lives (Pintoff) (as General Villinova);L'Homme en colère (The Angry Man; Jigsaw) (Pinoteau)(as France)


Halloween II (Rosenthal) (as Loomis)


Escape from New York (Carpenter) (as President of the U.S.);The Monster Club (Baker) (as Pickering); The Thing(Carpenter)


Alone in the Dark (Sholder); Witness for the Prosecution(Gibson—for TV); Race for the Yankee Zephyr (Treasure of the Yankee Zephyr) (Hemmings); To Kill a Stranger(Moctezuma) (as Col. Kostik)


The Devonsville Terror (Lommel)


Warrior of the Lost Word (Worth); A Breed Apart (Mora);Where Is Parsifal? (Helman); The Ambassador (Peacemaker) (Thompson) (as Minister Eretz)


The Corsican Brothers (Sharp—for TV); Terror in the Aisles(Kuehn—compilation film) (as narrator); Arch of Triumph(Hussein—for TV) (as Haake); Frankenstein's Great Aunt Tillie (Gold); Phenomena (Creepers) (Argento) (as John McGregor); Sotto il vestito niente (Nothing Underneath)(Vanzina) (as Inspector); Treasure of the Amazon (Cardona)(as Klaus)


Cobra Mission (The Rainbow Professional) (Ludman)


Scoop (Millar—for TV); Spettri (Specters) (Avallone) (as Prof. Lasky, Archaeologist); Warrior Queen (Pompeii)(Vincent) (as Claudius); Il grande ritorno di Django (Django Strikes Again) (Ted Archer); Prince of Darkness (Carpen-ter) (as Priest); Ground Zero (Pattinson and Myles) (as Prosper Gaffney)


Commander (Dawson); The Great Escape II: The Untold Story (Taylor—for TV); Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers (Little) (as Dr. Loomis); Hanna's War(Golan) (as Rosza); Paganini Horror (Coates); Phantom of Death (Deodato); The House of Usher (Birkinshaw) (as Clive Usher)


The Room (Altman); Halloween V: The Revenge of Michael Myers (Othenin-Girard) (as Dr. Loomis); Ten Little Indians(Birkinshaw) (as Justice Wargrave); River of Death (Car-ver) (as Heinrich Spaatz)


I, Charles de Gaulle (Granier-Deferre); Miliardi (Billions(Vanzina) (as Ripa); Buried Alive (Kikoine) (as Dr. Schaeffer)


Dien Bien phu (Schoendoerffer) (as Howard Simpson); American Rickshaw (Martino) (as the Reverend Morton)


Shadows and Fog (Woody Allen) (as Doctor)


Hour of the Pig (Megahey) (as Pincheon); Femme Fatale(Prasad) (as Victor Harty)


Merlin (for TV); Halloween VI: The Curse of Michael Myers(Chapelle) (as Dr. Loomis)


By PLEASENCE: articles—

"Taking the Pick," in Films and Filming (London), August 1962.

Interview with L. Hart, in Cinema Canada (Montreal), June-July 1973.

Interview with Tim Pulleine, in Films and Filming (London), April 1985.

On PLEASENCE: articles—

Current Biography 1969, New York, 1969.

Alion, Y., "Donald Pleasence," in Revue du Cinéma (Paris), April 1992.

Obituary, in New York Times, 3 February 1995.

Obituary, in Variety (New York), 6 February 1995.

"Never to Be Forgotten," in Psychotronic Video (Narrowsburg), no. 20, 1995.

* * *

His distinctive bald pate, a slightly otherworldly glint in his pale blue eyes, and an unnerving fixated manner combined to make Donald Pleasence an arresting character actor. Most often cast as a Milquetoast or unctuous schemer in his early career, he absorbed the same traits into the predominantly villainous roles that became the trademark of his later screen career.

Pleasence made his film debut in Muriel Box's The Beachcomber, a remake of the 1938 Charles Laughton vehicle, opposite Robert Newton as the title character. Turns as the real-life murderer and body snatcher William Hare in John Gilling's The Flesh and the Fiends and the henpecked title character (his only starring role) in Dr. Crippen, a vivid recounting of the legendary case of the British wife murderer of that name, anticipated numerous horror roles to come.

Pleasence drew critical raves for his central role in the dark, absurdist comedy The Guest, based on Harold Pinter's play The Caretaker. The performance attracted the attention of Roman Polanski, who cast Pleasence in his own dark, absurdist comedy Cul-de-Sac, the Polish director's second English-language film. Pleasence played George, the quintessential Polanski protagonist, a man whose life comes undone when his insular world is intruded upon by outsiders, in this case a pair of fleeing gangsters.

The Great Escape, in which Pleasence appeared among a large international cast, opened the door to Hollywood, where he enjoyed a busy career on the big and small screens (appearing in such hit television series as The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits). He made the transition to horror film staple for an entire generation when John Carpenter cast him as the obsessed doctor on the trail of the "ultimate evil," a mass-murdering former patient named Michael Myers, in Halloween. Pleasence's character was named Sam Loomis after the part played by John Gavin in Hitchcock's classic Psycho. Pleasence reappeared as Loomis in five Halloween sequels, the last of which, Halloween VI: The Curse of Michael Myers, was released after Pleasence's death in 1995.

—Bill Wine, updated by John McCarty