Tony Beckley

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Tony Beckley
Tony Beckley.jpg
Beckley in The Italian Job (1969)
Born
Derek Anthony Beckley

(1927-10-07)7 October 1927
Died19 April 1980(1980-04-19) (aged 52)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Resting place Hollywood Forever Cemetery
Occupation Actor

Derek Anthony Beckley [1] (7 October 1927 [2] – 19 April 1980) was an English character actor. A graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, Beckley went on to carve out a career on film and television throughout the 1960s and 1970s often playing villainous roles, as well as being a veteran of numerous stage productions.

Contents

Early life

Beckley was born in Southampton, Hampshire, England. He was a child out of wedlock and never met his father. His mother, Beatrice Mitchell, was a stewardess who worked on ocean liners such as the RMS Mauretania and the RMS Aquitania. Due to work commitments, she was often away, and Beckley was brought up mainly by another lady whom he referred to as his aunt. [1]

When he was five years old, Beckley and his mother moved to Portsmouth and when the Second World War broke out he was sent to Winchester, where he attended boarding school at Winton House. It was in Winchester where he first became interested in acting. While his mother wanted him to do "something nice and safe", i.e. working in the civil service, Beckley discovered that acting was what was going to make him happy when he saw a performance of Emlyn Williams' The Corn is Green by the Court Players, the Portsmouth local repertory company in Portsmouth. [1]

Beckley left school at the age of 16 in pursuit of his acting career. He worked as a stage sweeper and tea maker for two or three months, then moved to London. As he could not get work in the theatre, he did odd jobs as a waiter and in an ice cream factory while spending his spare time watching actors like Laurence Olivier, Ralph Richardson and Alec Guinness and the Old Vic productions at the New Theatre. [1]

Shortly before turning 18, he joined the Royal Navy. Beckley spent two years as a seaman aboard the destroyer HMS Scorpion where he found the time to prepare for admission to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA). [1] He joined RADA on an ex-Navy grant and during his two-year training befriended people such as actress Sheila Hancock and playwright Charles Laurence. [3]

Career

After graduating from RADA, Beckley started working for various provincial repertory companies, eventually settling with a company near London (Bromley Repertory [4] ) which opened up opportunities for television work. [1] After guest roles in popular TV series such as Sergeant Cork , The Saint , Z-Cars and the then revolutionary [5] comedy programme Dig This Rhubarb [6] Beckley made his film debut in 1965 as Ned Poins in Orson Welles' Chimes at Midnight .

Beckley appeared in a number of films for director Peter Collinson: The Penthouse (1967); The Long Day's Dying (1968); and most memorably as Camp Freddie in The Italian Job (1969). His only starring role was as the psychotic Kenny Wemys in The Fiend (1972), and he made his last film appearance in 1979 playing another psychopath in When a Stranger Calls . Other films include The Lost Continent (1968), Get Carter (1971), Assault (1971), Sitting Target (1972), Gold (1974), and Revenge of the Pink Panther (1978).

On television, Beckley played the villainous Harrison Chase in the six-part Doctor Who serial The Seeds of Doom . He also guest-starred on shows such as Manhunt , Callan , Jason King , and Special Branch . [7]

He remained active in the theatre, appearing in the West End in Tennessee Williams' Small Craft Warnings with Elaine Stritch and in Snap with Maggie Smith. [1]

Death

Beckley died six months after the premiere of When a Stranger Calls . [8] [9] Just before his death he had been signed for further work in the U.S. He was supposed to co-star with Elizabeth Montgomery in a television movie titled My Fat Friend and appear in a film (American Dreamer). [10] He was also to appear in the NBC miniseries Beulah Land alongside Lesley Ann Warren, Don Johnson and others. [11]

The cause of his death was given as cancer (brain tumour) [12] but appeared "mysterious". [3] According to his friend Sheila Hancock it could have been AIDS, a disease then almost unknown. [3] Beckley died at the Medical Center of the University of California at Los Angeles [13] and is buried at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

Personal life

In an interview in 1979, Beckley stated that there was nothing in his background to explain why he became an actor except for possibly "a desire for some attention, which I really didn't get much as a kid." [1]

While often playing villains and psychopaths on screen his personal self seemed far removed from it. Beckley is described as friendly and funny by people who met him and as someone who could tell a good story. [14] Beckley remarked that he would be surprised if people could find anything psychotic in his behaviour. [1]

For more than 15 years, Beckley was in a relationship with film producer Barry Krost. When Krost opened his own management company, Beckley became his first client. [15] Krost also produced Beckley's last film When a Stranger Calls and was a production associate on The Penthouse. [7]

Although he kept a house in Fulham, London and had three dogs, Beckley spent time living in California during the last year of his life in an apartment in West Hollywood. [1]

Filmography

Film

YearTitleRoleNotes
1964 East Lynne Richard HareTV film
1965 Chimes at Midnight Ned Poins
1967 The Penthouse Tom
1968 The Long Day's Dying Cliff
The Lost Continent Harry Tyler
1969 The Italian Job Camp Freddie
1971 Get Carter Peter the Dutchman
Assault Leslie Sanford
1972 The Fiend Kenny Wemys
Sitting Target Soapy Tucker
1974 Gold Stephen Marais
Diagnosis: Murder Sergeant Greene
1978 Revenge of the Pink Panther Guy Algo
1979 When a Stranger Calls Curt Duncan

Television

YearTitleRoleNotes
1958ITV Television PlayhouseMr. RobertsEpisode: "Miss Em"
BBC Sunday Night Theatre Earl of PembrokeEpisode: "Till Time Shall End"
1963 Suspense HugoEpisode: "Sense of Occasion"
The Saint Barry AldonEpisode: "Marcia"
John KennettEpisode: "The Saint Plays with Fire"
ITV Play of the Week DolokhovEpisode: "War and Peace"
ViEpisode: "The Kidnapping of Mary Smith"
Sergeant Cork Steve GurlingEpisode: "The Case of the Two Drowned Men"
1963-1964Dig This RhubarbSeries regular
1964 Z-Cars Mr. FryEpisode: "Whistle and Come Home"
The Great War Various roles5 episodes
Sergeant Cork Les BartlettEpisode: "The Case of the Wounded Warder"
1965 Knock on Any Door Harry BensonEpisode: "First Offender"
ITV Play of the Week MontgironEpisode: "The Corsican Brothers"
1966 Sergeant Cork Alex DevereEpisode: "The Case of a Lady's Good Name"
ConflictCaius CassiusEpisode: "Julius Caesar"
Young MarlowEpisode: "She Stoops to Conquer"
ITV Sunday Night Drama TeiloEpisode: "Four Triumphant: St David"
1968 ITV Playhouse Roger BakewellEpisode: "Murder: The Dancing Man"
1970 Kate J.K.Episode: "Say It with Flowers"
Parkin's Patch Curry2 episodes
Manhunt Hochler2 episodes
Callan Rene JoinvilleEpisode: "Suddenly-At Home"
1971 Now Take My Wife TomEpisode: "A Python Called Monty"
1972 Jason King GiorgioEpisode: "Toki"
1973 Arthur of the Britons MorgedEpisode: "The Swordsman"
1974 Special Branch Helmut RehfussEpisode: "Catherine the Great"
1975Ten from the TwentiesDick WilkesEpisode: "Two or Three Graces"
1976 Doctor Who Harrison ChaseEpisodes: "The Seeds of Doom"
Little Lord Fauntleroy BraxtonMiniseries
1977The Velvet GloveOtto MayerEpisode: "Happy in War"
The Cost of LovingLeonard DraperEpisode: "The Assailants"

Radio

Stage

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References

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