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Last Updated: Sunday, 28 December, 2003, 09:46 GMT
Obituary: Sir Alan Bates
Alan Bates
Bates starred in Love in a Cold Climate
Actor Sir Alan Bates, who has died aged 69, was one of the most important British actors to emerge during the 1950s and 60s, going on to enjoy a career that spanned almost five decades.

Earlier this year he was made a knight in the New Year Honours list, adding to the CBE he was awarded in 1996, for his services to drama.

Sir Alan made his name on the big screen at the start of the Angry Young Men period in the early 1960s.

The 69-year-old's first major film saw him play opposite Sir Laurence Olivier in The Entertainer in 1960, a film about a second-rate performer who ensures the show must go on, and written by John Osborne.

But Sir Alan shared no similiarities with the central character of the film, having trained on a scholarship at the world famous Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London.

RAF service followed his training, but two years later, at 22, he joined the new English Stage Company at the Royal Court Theatre in London.

In the same year he appeared on stage in Osborne's Look Back in Anger, a performance which turned him into a star.

He performed in works by some of the most respected writers of modern times including Harold Pinter, Simon Gray, Alan Bennett and Tom Stoppard.

He also performed many of the classics including Shakespeare, Chekov and Ibsen.


Sir Alan, who hailed from Derbyshire, worked tirelessly since making his name as an actor, dividing his time between film, television and stage.

But he tended to steer clear of mainstream movies, concentrating on works with more merit than money.

One of his early commercial successes was in Georgy Girl in 1966, where he starred with James Mason and Lynn Redgrave.
Alan Bates in Mayor of Casterbridge
He was cast in the leading role in Thomas Hardy's Mayor of Casterbridge in 1978

Despite the respect he commands from his peers he was only once nominated for an Academy Award.

He was nominated for a best actor award in 1969 for The Fixer, but lost out on the Oscar to Cliff Robertson in Charly.

Sir Alan also starred in Ken Russell's adaptation of D H Lawrence's Women in Love for which his co-star Glenda Jackson won the first of two Oscars.

Twin sons

Other early screen performances included Pinter's The Caretaker, playing Basil in Zorba the Greek and the screen version of A Day in the Death of Joe Egg.

Sir Alan married Victoria Ward in 1970.

She gave birth to twin sons, Tristan and Benedick in 1971, who both went into acting.

Tristan died in 1990 of an asthma attack, followed two years later by his mother.

ALana Bates in Hard Times
Sir Alan played in Josiah Bounderby in the adaptation of Dickens' Hard Times
To help him come to terms with his losses, Sir Alan threw himself into charity work as well as his career.

He was the patron of the Actors Centre in London, a venue set up in the 1970s by actors John Alderton, Sheila Hancock and Clive Swift for the training of performers.

Sir Alan also endowed a theatre at the Covent Garden centre in the memory of Tristan.

Although often looked over for Academy Awards, the British Academy of Film and Television nominated Sir Alan on six occasions.

The last Bafta nomination was for the 2001 mini-series Love in a Cold Climate, based on Nancy Mitford's satire of the British aristocracy.

Outstanding cast

Sir Alan had an eye for choosing classy films to appear in, none more so than the 2001 murder mystery Gosford Park directed by Robert Altman.

The film received critical acclaim in both Britain and the US.

It was nominated for seven Oscars, eventually picking up just the one for best-screenplay for actor and writer Julian Fellowes.

As well as a host of nominations and awards from associations around the world, the ensemble cast won an outstanding performance award from the Screen Actors Guild.

A recent departure for the actor was the role as a baddie in the Hollywood blockbuster The Sum of All Fears, which starred Ben Affleck.

The recognition kept rolling in for Sir Alan, who won a Tony Award in 2002 for best leading man for Fortune's Fool, an adaptation of an 1848 work by Russian author Ivan Turgenev.

Sir Alan Bates dies at 69
28 Dec 03  |  UK
Bates and Scott lead showbiz honours
31 Dec 02  |  Entertainment
Actors show honours nerves
19 Mar 03  |  Entertainment

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