Sir Peter (Alexander) Ustinov



  • (1921 - 2004) British actor, playwright, director,and raconteur, noted for performing in his own successful comedies.He came from a famous Russian theatrical family, one ancestor havingbeen the architect of Moscow's Bolshoi Theatre. Ustinov trained at theLondon Theatre Studio where his final report was unpromising:
    He has a long way to go. He is still lamentably stiff. Heseems to have great difficulty in walking, or running, or jumping.His mind wanders during gymnastics. His voice is unresonant and monotonous.
    Ustinov made his professional debut at the Players' Theatre,London, in 1939, appearing in his own sketches. His first producedplay was Fishing for Shadows, a translation of Jean Sarment'sLe Pêcheur d'ombres, which was staged at the ThresholdTheatre in 1940. After serving in World War II, during which fiveof his plays were produced, he returned to the stage as Petrovichin an adaptation of Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment (1946).He then went to Hollywood to begin a successful career in films.

    As a playwright, Ustinov wrote strong leading rolesto suit his own comic abilities, which included a gift for mimicry.His successes included The Love of Four Colonels (1951)and Romanoff and Juliet (1956), a comedy of diplomatic life.While the latter was running, he was challenged to a tennis matchby a Mr Romanov, minister-counsellor at the London Soviet Embassy,who was amused by the use of his name. During the match, Ustinov strainedhis back and had to leave the play, remaining strapped to a boardfor eight weeks.

    At the 1968 Chichester Festival, he performed in his playThe Unknown Soldier and His Wife and at the 1979 Stratford(Ontario) Festival as Lear. His later works included Beethoven'sTenth in 1987 at the Vaudeville Theatre and his acclaimed one-manshow, An Evening with Peter Ustinov, in 1990 at the Haymarket.