Sir Alan Bates

Definition

Theater

  • (1934 - 2003) British actor, who was particularly associated with the plays of Simon Gray and other contemporary British dramatists. Bateswas born in Derbyshire, the son of an insurance broker. After studies at RADA,he made his professional debut in 1955 and joined George Devine's EnglishStage Company later that year. In May 1956 Bates came to sudden prominenceplaying the part of Cliff to Kenneth Haigh's Jimmy in John Osborne's LookBack in Anger. Further success followed in O'Neill's Long Day'sJourney Into Night (1958) and Pinter's The Caretaker (1960),in which he played the part of Mick.

    In 1960 Bates made his film debut in Tony Richardson's Osborne adaptation The Entertainer. Although he went on to star in some of the decade's most memorable British films, his screen career lost momentum in the 1970s and 1980s - largely, it seems, because of his fussiness about parts. During this period he continued to appear in a wide range of stage plays, including works by Storey, Chekhov, and Strindberg. His Shakespearean roles included Richard III (1967), Hamlet (1970), Petruchio (1973), Benedick (1989), and Antony (1998). Bates began his long association with the works of Simon Gray in 1972, when he appeared as the title character - a sardonic egotist - in Butley. His performance earned him a Tony Award when the play transferred to Broadway a year later. Bates went on to appear in Gray's Otherwise Engaged (1975), Stage Struck (1979), Melon (1987), andLife Support (1997), in which he gave a mesmerizing performance as atravel writer at the bedside of his dying wife.

    In the early 1990s Bates suffered a crushing double blow when the death of his teenage son from an asthma attack was followed within two years by that of his wife, the actress Victoria Ward. His last decade produced particularly memorable performances in Ibsen's The Master Builder (1995) and the Turgenev adaptation Fortune's Fool (2002), which earned him a second Tony Award.

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