Peter Vaughan

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Peter Vaughan
Peter Vaughan.jpg
Peter Ewart Ohm

(1923-04-04)4 April 1923
Wem, Shropshire, England
Died6 December 2016(2016-12-06) (aged 93)
Education Uttoxeter Grammar School
Years active1931–2016

Peter Vaughan (born Peter Ewart Ohm; 4 April 1923 – 6 December 2016) was an English character actor known for many supporting roles in British film and television productions. [1] He also acted extensively on the stage.


He was best known for his role as Grouty in the sitcom Porridge (despite appearing in only three episodes and in the 1979 film), and had a recurring role alongside Robert Lindsay in Citizen Smith , written by John Sullivan. He played Tom Franklin in Chancer (1990–1991), the father of Anthony Hopkins's character in The Remains of the Day , and Maester Aemon in HBO's Game of Thrones (2011–2015), his final role.

Early life

Vaughan was born Peter Ewart Ohm [2] on 4 April 1923 [3] in Wem, Shropshire, [4] the son of a bank clerk, Max Ohm, who was an Austrian immigrant, [5] and Eva Wright, a nurse. [6] The family later moved to Wellington, in the same county, where he began his schooling. Vaughan said that while reciting a poem at infant school in Wellington he first experienced the applause and admiration coming from a good performance. [7] From the age of seven he lived in Staffordshire, [8] where he attended Uttoxeter Grammar School. [6]

After leaving school, Vaughan joined the Wolverhampton Repertory Theatre, and gained experience in other repertory theatres as well, before army service during the Second World War. He was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Royal Corps of Signals on 9 June 1943, [9] and served in Normandy, Belgium, and the Far East. [3] [10] At the end of the war, Vaughan was in Singapore during the liberation of Changi Prison. [6]


Vaughan made his film debut in 1959 in an uncredited role as a police officer in The 39 Steps . [6] He continued for several years to play small parts, including more cameos as policemen in Village of the Damned and The Victors, before gaining his first starring role, in a minor picture called Smokescreen (1964), where he played an insurance assessor investigating a businessman’s disappearance in one of the last, and best, of the old-style British B-movies. [6] In 1967, he received second billing opposite Frank Sinatra in the film The Naked Runner . His performance was not well received by critics who accused him of overacting in his role as a British agent. [11] He played Mr. Freeman in Karel Reisz's 1980 The French Lieutenant's Woman , alongside Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons. [12]

Possibly Vaughan’s highest-profile film performance was as the father of Anthony Hopkins's character in The Remains of the Day (1993). [13] He was also cast in Terry Gilliam's The Man Who Killed Don Quixote , but had not shot any material before that project was abandoned. He had previously appeared for Gilliam in Time Bandits and Brazil . Vaughan appeared as a menacing character in Straw Dogs (1971), and with Bill Murray in a film of W. Somerset Maugham's novel The Razor's Edge in 1984. In 1996, he appeared as Giles Corey in The Crucible , and in 1997 he appeared alongside Robert Carlyle and Ray Winstone in Face . In 1998, Vaughan played Bishop Myriel in Les Misérables, alongside Liam Neeson. His most unusual role may have been as SS Obergruppenführer Arthur Nebe in the 1994 film of Robert Harris's novel Fatherland .[ citation needed ]

He appeared in the music video for Kate Bush's song Experiment IV.


Vaughan became known for his performances on television, including supporting roles in Porridge (as "Genial" Harry Grout) and Citizen Smith as Charles Johnson (his role in the latter series was taken over by Tony Steedman). Vaughan's role in Porridge brought him a great deal of public recognition despite his character appearing in only three episodes and in the 1979 film of the series. [14] In 1975, he appeared as Tony Kirby in an episode of the hard hitting police drama The Sweeney entitled Stay Lucky, Eh?

Vaughan also appeared as "The Fence" in the well known humorous advert for McVities Fruit Shortcake biscuits along with Harry Fowler.

In 1969, Vaughan appeared in Randall and Hopkirk in the episode "Never Trust a Ghost". In the same year, he starred in the thirteen-part London Weekend Television TV series The Gold Robbers. In December 1972 ,he appeared as Mr. Paxton in the BBC television adaptation of the M.R. James ghost story A Warning to the Curious , [6] shown as part of their annual series A Ghost Story for Christmas . [15]

Vaughan starred as Billy Fox in the Thames Television series Fox (1980). [6] The saga was written by Trevor Preston, directed by Jim Goddard, and produced by Verity Lambert. Other Fox family members were played by Elizabeth Spriggs, Ray Winstone, Larry Lamb, and Bernard Hill. Historical roles Vaughan played include those of Russian foreign minister Alexander Izvolsky in the serial Fall of Eagles (1974), British politician Thomas Inskip in the mini-series Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years (1981), the title role in A Last Visitor for Mr. Hugh Peter (1981), and German Nazi figures Kurt Zeitzler in the miniseries War and Remembrance (1988) and Hermann Göring in the Granada Television-PBS docu-drama Countdown to War (1989). He also appeared in many literary adaptations, such as Bleak House (BBC, 1985), in which he played the sinister lawyer Mr. Tulkinghorn, and Our Mutual Friend (BBC Two, 1998). Other television work includes the espionage thriller Codename: Kyril (1988), in a lead role as the head of the KGB.[ citation needed ]

In 1986, Vaughan appeared in the promotional video for Kate Bush's "Experiment IV" single. In 1991, he played John Turner with a convincing Australian accent in an episode of Granada Television's The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes titled '"The Boscombe Valley Mystery".[ citation needed ]

Vaughan later attained particular acclaim for his supporting role as the Alzheimer's sufferer Felix Hutchinson in Our Friends in the North (BBC Two, 1996), a role that garnered a Best Actor nomination at the 1997 British Academy Television Awards. [16] He played the clockmaker George Graham in Longitude , the TV drama adaptation of Dava Sobel's eponymous non-fiction novel about the quest for a means to determine longitude at sea. In 2007, Vaughan starred in the television series Mobile, and as Uncle Alfie in the film Death at a Funeral . [17] In 2011, Vaughan starred as Michael Dodd in the BBC courtroom drama Silk . [18] His final role, between 2011 and 2015, was Maester Aemon in the HBO series Game of Thrones . [19] [20]


Vaughan was heard as Superintendent Kirk in the BBC dramatisation of Dorothy L. Sayers' Peter Wimsey novel Busman's Honeymoon, and as Denethor in the 1981 BBC Radio production of The Lord of the Rings . [6] He played Charles Augustus Milverton in a 1993 BBC radio dramatization of the Sherlock Holmes short story. [21]


Vaughan's first breakout role was in 1964 as Ed in Joe Orton's work Entertaining Mr Sloane performed at Wyndham's Theatre. [6]

Personal life and death

The first of Vaughan's two marriages was to Billie Whitelaw, whom he married in 1952 and divorced in 1966. [3] [6] His second wife was actress Lillias Walker, with whom he lived in the village of Mannings Heath, in West Sussex, until his death, having previously lived in Crawley. [22] His stepdaughter Victoria Burton (actress and producer) is married to Gregor Fisher. [23]

Vaughan was partially blind in his old age. On 6 December 2016, Vaughan died peacefully of natural causes at the age of 93. [24] [25]


Vaughan appeared in the following films and television series: [1]

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