Peter Wyngarde (1927-2018)

Wyngarde starred as Timanov in Doctor Who: Planet of Fire

British actor Peter Wyngarde died January 15, aged 90. Genre work included The Innocents (1961), Night of the Eagle (1962), and Flash Gordon (1980). He was announced as a guest at last October’s Festival of Fantastic Films in Manchester, but pulled out as he’d found a recent appearance at the MCM in London too exhausting.

The BBC calls him the cult TV star who inspired Austin Powers:

…In 1959, he starred in ITV’s South – which some have claimed was the first gay drama on British television.

Set during the US Civil War, it featured Wyngarde as a Polish army lieutenant Jan Wicziewsky, who must decide who he loves: Miss Regina, a plantation owner’s niece; or a tall, rugged officer called Eric MacClure.

Broadcast live at a time when homosexuality had not been decriminalised in the UK, the drama received scathing reviews in the press….

Unbeknownst to the general public, Wyngarde was himself gay and, after a brief marriage to actress Dorinda Stevens in the 1950s, and had a long-term relationship with the actor Alan Bates.

“I think you have to give Wyngarde a massive pat on the back in terms of the bravery in taking this role,” said BFI curator Simon McCallum when South was rediscovered five years ago.

The furore over the programme did not affect the actor’s career, and he guest-starred in a number of 1960s television shows including The Saint, The Prisoner and The Avengers before debuting Jason King in the spy drama Department S.

The character proved so popular that Wyngarde got a spin-off series, which made him a household name in the US and Australia.

King remained his best-known character, a globe-trotting playboy with an astonishing array of outfits. And it wasn’t just his sartorial extravagance that inspired Mike Myers to create Austin Powers: King even uttered the phrase “groovy, baby” in one episode.

“I decided Jason King was going to be an extension of me,” he once said. “I was inclined to be a bit of a dandy – I used to go to the tailor with my designs.”

[Thanks to Steve Green and Chip Hitchcock for the story.]

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5 thoughts on “Peter Wyngarde (1927-2018)

  1. “A small Pixel in the SK scroll, your Majesty. The inhabitants refer to it as the planet…*Earth*.”

    Rest in Peace.

  2. Mm-yes and on TV, his three major roles (all done by ITC -the prodn arm of Lew (later Lord) Grade’s ATV/ITV UK Co) were (a) as one of the No 2s in “THE PRISONER” (currently celebrating its UK 50th anniv of 1st transmission, 1st shown on CBS in the US in mid-1968 and the show lost to 2001-A Space Oydssey for the then one classification Dramatic Presentation Hugo at Worldcon 1969), (b) as “Jason King” in “Department S” and later ( c ) as his own character (JS) in the ITC show –derived from (b)– of that name. He attended briefly –he was in a wheelchair and not a well man– the Network DVD Prisoner 50th celebrations in The Village (Portmeirion N W Wales) on 29 Sept 2017 (on The Prisoner’s actual 50th). During this forthcoming Sunday’s Prisoner 50th events (Sun 21 Jan) in Elstree (UK’s Hollywood, just nth of Central London), there will be tributes to him. Only now two Prisoner No 2s remain with us-Rachel Herbert (“Free for All”) and Derren Nesbitt (“A Change Of Mind”). [ For data on the two Elstree events (1st one FREE, 2nd NOT FREE), go on www(dot)theunmutual(dot)co(dot)uk. best and …BCNU!]

  3. Wasn’t Jason King the model for Richard Jeperson, the Man from the Diogenes Club, in Kim Newman’s book of that title?

  4. What I remember him for is Burn, Witch, Burn, the film version of Leiber’s Conjure Wife.

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