The Info List - Donald Pleasence

Donald Henry Pleasence, OBE (/ˈplɛzəns/;[1] 5 October 1919 – 2 February 1995)[2] was an English actor. His most notable film roles include psychiatrist Dr. Sam Loomis in Halloween and most of its sequels, the villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld in the James Bond film You Only Live Twice, RAF Flight Lieutenant Colin Blythe in The Great Escape, SEN 5241 in THX 1138, and the President of the United States in Escape from New York.

Early life

Pleasence was born in Worksop, Nottinghamshire, England, the son of Alice (née Armitage) and Thomas Stanley Pleasence, a railway stationmaster.[3] He was brought up as a strict Methodist in the small village of Grimoldby, Lincolnshire.[4] He received his formal education at Crosby Junior School, Scunthorpe[5] and Ecclesfield Grammar School, in Sheffield, South Yorkshire. After working as the Clerk-in-Charge at Swinton railway station in South Yorkshire,[6] he decided that he wanted to be a professional actor, taking up a placement with the Jersey Repertory Company in 1939.[4]

Second World War

In December 1939 Pleasence initially refused conscription into the British Armed Forces, registering as a conscientious objector, but changed his stance in autumn 1940, after the attacks upon London by the Luftwaffe, and volunteered with the Royal Air Force.[7] He served as aircraft wireless-operator with No. 166 Squadron in Bomber Command, with which he flew almost sixty raids against the Axis over occupied Europe. On 31 August 1944 Lancaster NE112, in which he was a crew member, was shot down during an attack upon Agenville,[8][9] and he was captured and imprisoned in the German prisoner-of-war camp Stalag Luft I, where he produced and acted in plays. He was discharged from the R.A.F. in 1946.

Acting career

Returning to acting post-war Pleasence resumed working in repertory theatre companies in Birmingham and Bristol.[10] In the 1950s Pleasence's stage work included performing as Willie Mossop in a 1952 production of Hobson's Choice at the Arts Theatre and as Dauphin in Jean Anouilh's The Lark (1956).[10] In 1960 Pleasence won acclaim as the tramp in Harold Pinter's The Caretaker at the Arts Theatre, a part he would again play in a 1990 revival.[10] Other stage work in the 1960s included Anouilh's Poor Bitos (1967) and Robert Shaw's The Man in the Glass Booth (1967), for which he won the London Variety Award for Stage Actor of the Year in 1968.[10] Pleasence's later stage work included performing in a double bill of Pinter plays, The Basement and Tea Party, at the Duchess Theatre in 1970.[10]


Pleasence made his television debut in I Want to Be a Doctor in 1946.[10] In 1954 he received critical acclaim as Syme in a BBC adaptation of George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.[10] The adaptation was by Nigel Kneale and also starred Peter Cushing, another British actor who would go on to find fame in many horror film roles.

Pleasence played Prince John in several episodes of the ITV series The Adventures of Robin Hood (1956–1958). He appeared twice with Patrick McGoohan in the British spy series, Danger Man, in episodes "Position of Trust" (1960) and "Find and Return" (1961). Pleasence's first appearance in America was in an episode of The Twilight Zone, playing an aging teacher at a boys' school in the episode "The Changing of the Guard" (1962). In 1963, he appeared in an episode of The Outer Limits entitled "The Man With the Power". He also guest starred in The Fugitive in 1966 in an episode titled "With Strings Attached."

In 1973 Pleasence played a sympathetic murderer in an episode of Columbo entitled "Any Old Port in a Storm". He also portrayed a murderer captured by Mrs. Columbo in "Murder is a Parlour Game" (1979). In 1978, he played a scout, Sam Purchas in an adaptation of James A. Michener's Centennial. Pleasence starred as the Reverend Septimus Harding in the BBC's 1982 TV series The Barchester Chronicles. In this series his daughter Angela Pleasence played his onscreen daughter Susan.

He hosted the 1981 Halloween episode of Saturday Night Live with music guest Fear.

In 1986, Pleasence joined Ronald Lacey and Polly Jo Pleasence for the television thriller Into the Darkness.


Donald Pleasence in the trailer for the 1966 film Eye of the Devil.

Pleasence made his big-screen debut with The Beachcomber (1954). Some notable early roles include Parsons in 1984 (1956), his second Orwell film, and minor roles opposite Alec Guinness in Barnacle Bill (1957) and Dirk Bogarde in The Wind Cannot Read (1958). In Tony Richardson's film of Look Back in Anger (1959) he plays a vindictive market inspector opposite Richard Burton. In the same year, Pleasence starred in the horror films Circus of Horrors directed by Sidney Hayers, playing the role of Vanet, the owner of a circus, and The Flesh and the Fiends as the real-life murderer William Hare, alongside Peter Cushing, George Rose and Billie Whitelaw. [11]

Endowed with a shiny bald head, a penetrating stare, and an intense voice, usually quiet but capable of a piercing scream, he specialised in portraying insane, fanatical, or evil characters, including the title role in Dr Crippen (1962), the double agent Dr. Michaels in the (1966) sci-fi hit Fantastic Voyage, the white trader who sells guns to the Cheyenne Indians in the revisionist western Soldier Blue (1970), the mad Doctor in the Bud SpencerTerence Hill film Watch Out, We're Mad (1974), Nazi leader Heinrich Himmler in The Eagle Has Landed (1976), and the Bond arch-villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld in You Only Live Twice (1967), the first film in which the villain's face is clearly seen. His interpretation of the character has become predominant in popular culture considering the popularity of the comic villain, Dr. Evil in the successful Austin Powers film series, which primarily parodies it. In the crime drama Hell is a City (1960), shot in Manchester, he starred opposite Stanley Baker, whilst he was memorably cast in the horror comedy What a Carve Up! (1961) as the “horrible-looking zombie” solicitor opposite Shirley Eaton, Sid James, Kenneth Connor and Dennis Price.

He appeared as the POW forger Colin Blythe in the 1963 film The Great Escape, who discovers that he is slowly going blind, but nonetheless participates in the mass break-out, only to be shot down by German soldiers because he is unable to see them. In The Night of the Generals (1967), he played another uncharacteristically sympathetic role, this time as an old-school German general involved in a plot to kill Adolf Hitler. In 1971, he returned to the realm of the deranged, delivering a tour de force performance in the role of an alcoholic Australian doctor in Ted Kotcheff's nightmarish outback drama Wake in Fright.

Pleasence played Lucifer in the religious epic The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965). His character taking on many dark, shadowy human disguises throughout the film was unprecedented in breathing life into the Luke 4:13 phrase "... he left Him until an opportune time ..." He was one of many stars who were given cameos throughout the film.

He also acted in Roman Polanski's Cul-de-sac (1966), in which he portrayed the love-sodden husband of a much younger French wife (Françoise Dorléac). In 1968, he ventured successfully into American cowboy territory, playing a sadistic self-styled preacher who goes after stoic Charlton Heston in the Western Will Penny.

Donald Pleasence in Halloween.

In his later years he portrayed Lucas Deranian in Walt Disney's Escape to Witch Mountain (1975), the Russian seeking to start a war between the United States and the Soviet Union in Telefon (1977), Dr. Loomis in Halloween (1978), Dr. Kobras in The Pumaman (1980) and the held-hostage President of the USA in Escape from New York (1981). The distinctive, rather sinister accent which Pleasence employed in this and other films may be credited to the elocution lessons he had as a child. He reprised his Dr. Loomis role in Halloween II (1981), Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988), Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989) and Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995).

Pleasence admired Sir Laurence Olivier,[12] with whom he worked on-stage in the 1950s, and later on the 1979 film version of Dracula. Two years earlier, Pleasence did an amusingly broad impersonation of Olivier in the guise of a horror-film actor called "Valentine De'ath" in the film The Uncanny. According to the film critic Kim Newman on a DVD commentary for Halloween II, the reason for Pleasence’s lengthy filmography was that he never turned down any role that was offered.

Spoken records and voiceovers

During the early 1960s, Pleasence recorded several children's-story records on the Atlas Record label. These were marketed as the Talespinners series in the UK. They were also released in the United States as Tale Spinners For Children by United Artists. The stories included Don Quixote and the Brave Little Tailor.

Pleasence provided the voice-over for the British public information film, The Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water in 1973. The film, intended to warn children of the dangers of playing near water, attained notoriety for allegedly giving children nightmares.


Pleasence was the author of the 1977 children's book Scouse the Mouse (London: New English Library), which was animated by Canadian animator/film director Gerald Potterton (a friend of the actor, who directed him in the 1973 Canadian film The Rainbow Boys, retitled The Rainbow Gang for VHS release in the United States) and also adapted into a children's recording (Polydor Records, 1977) with Ringo Starr voicing the book's title character, Scouse the Mouse.

In his book British Film Character Actors (1982), Terence Pettigrew described him as 'a potent combination of eyes and voice. The eyes are mournful but they can also be sinister or seedy or just plain nutty. He has the kind of piercing stare which lifts enamel off saucepans.'


Pleasence was nominated four times for the Tony Award for best performance by a leading actor in a Broadway play: in 1962 for Harold Pinter's The Caretaker, in 1965 for Jean Anouilh's Poor Bitos, in 1969 for Robert Shaw's The Man in the Glass Booth, and in 1972 for Simon Gray's Wise Child.

Pleasence was appointed an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for his services to the acting profession by Queen Elizabeth II in 1994.

Personal life

Pleasence married four times and had five daughters from his first three marriages. He had Angela and Jean with Miriam Raymond (m. 1941–1958); Lucy and Polly with Josephine Martin Crombie (m. 1959–1970); and Miranda with Meira Shore (m. 1970–1988). His last marriage was to Linda Kentwood (m. 1988–1995; his death)


On 2 February 1995, Pleasence died at the age of 75 in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France, from complications of heart failure following heart valve replacement surgery.[13] His body was cremated.


Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, Halloween H20: 20 Years Later and Halloween Resurrection were all dedicated to the memory of Pleasence.

Dr. Evil, the character played by Mike Myers in the Austin Powers comedy films (1997–2002), and Dr. Claw from Inspector Gadget are parodies of Pleasence's performance as Blofeld in You Only Live Twice.



Year Title Role Notes
1954 The Beachcomber Tromp
1954 Orders Are Orders Corporal Martin Credited as Donald Plesance
1955 Value for Money Limpy
1956 1984 R. Parsons
1956 The Black Tent Ali
1957 The Man in the Sky Crabtree (titled Decision Against Time in the U.S.)
1957 Manuela Evans
1957 Barnacle Bill Cashier (titled All at Sea in the U.S.)
1958 A Tale of Two Cities John Barsad
1958 Heart of a Child Spiel
1958 The Wind Cannot Read Doctor
1958 The Man Inside Organ-grinder
1958 The Two-Headed Spy General Hardt
1959 Look Back in Anger Hurst
1959 Killers of Kilimanjaro Captain
1960 The Shakedown Jessel Brown
1960 The Flesh and the Fiends William Hare
1959 The Battle of the Sexes Irwin Hoffman
1960 Circus of Horrors Vanet
1960 Hell Is a City Gus Hawkins
1960 Sons and Lovers Pappleworth
1960 The Big Day Victor Partridge
1960 Suspect Parsons, alias Bill Brown
1960 The Hands of Orlac Graham Coates
1961 No Love for Johnnie Roger Renfrew
1961 The Wind of Change 'Pop' Marley
1961 A Story of David Nabal
1961 Spare the Rod Mr. Jenkins
1961 What a Carve Up! Everett Sloane
1962 The Inspector Sergeant Wolters
1963 The Caretaker Mac Davies / Bernard Jenkins
1963 The Great Escape RAF Flt. Lt. Colin Blythe, "The Forger"
1963 Dr. Crippen Dr. Crippen
1965 The Greatest Story Ever Told The Dark Hermit, Satan
1965 The Hallelujah Trail Oracle Jones
1966 Cul-de-sac George
1966 Eye of the Devil Pere Dominic
1966 Fantastic Voyage Dr. Michaels
1967 The Night of the Generals General Kahlenberge
1967 You Only Live Twice Ernst Stavro Blofeld
1967 Matchless Gregori Andreanu
1968 Will Penny Preacher Quint
1968 The Other People Clive
1968 Creature of Comfort James Thorne
1969 Arthur? Arthur! Arthur Brownjohn
1969 The Madwoman of Chaillot The Prospector
1970 Soldier Blue Isaac Q. Cumber
1971 THX 1138 SEN 5241
1971 Wake in Fright Doc Tydon
1971 Kidnapped Ebenezer Balfour
1972 Death Line Inspector Calhoun
1972 The Jerusalem File Major Samuels
1972 The Pied Piper The Baron
1972 Henry VIII and His Six Wives Thomas Cromwell
1972 Innocent Bystanders Loomis
1972 Wedding in White Jim Dougall
1973 The Rainbow Boys Ralph Logan
1973 Malachi's Cove Malachi
1973 Tales That Witness Madness Professor Tremayne
1973 Lonely Water The Spirit (voice) Short film
1974 From Beyond the Grave Jim Underwood (Segment: "An Act of Kindness")
1974 Watch Out, We're Mad The Doctor
1974 The Black Windmill Cedric Harper
1974 House of the Damned Martin Zayas Original title: La loba y la Paloma
1974 The Mutations Professor Nolter
1974 Barry McKenzie Holds His Own Count Plasma
1975 Escape to Witch Mountain Lucas Deranian
1975 I Don't Want to Be Born Dr. Finch
1975 Journey into Fear Kuvelti
1975 Hearts of the West A.J. Neitz Alternative title: Hollywood Cowboy
1976 Trial by Combat Sir Giles Marley Alternative title: Dirty Knights' Work
1976 Land of the Minotaur Father Roche Alternative title: The Devil's Men
1976 Goldenrod John Tyler Jones
1976 The Passover Plot Pontius Pilate
1976 The Last Tycoon Boxley
1976 The Eagle Has Landed Himmler
1977 The Uncanny Valentine De'ath Segment: "Hollywood 1936"
1977 Oh, God! Dr. Harmon
1977 Telefon Nikolai Dalchimsky
1978 Blood Relatives James Doniac
1978 Tomorrow Never Comes Dr. Todd
1978 Night Creature Axel MacGregor Alternative title: Out of the Darkness
1978 Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band B.D. Hoffler/B.D. Brockhurst
1978 Power Play Blair
1978 L'Ordre et la sécurité du monde Rothko Alternative title: Last In, First Out
1978 Halloween Dr. Loomis
1979 L'Homme en colère Albert Rumpelmayer
1979 Good Luck, Miss Wyckoff Dr. Steiner
1979 Dracula Dr. Jack Seward
1979 Jaguar Lives! General Villanova
1980 Halloween: Extended Edition Dr. Loomis Appeared in additional footage (filmed during the production of Halloween II) not included in the original film but featured in the NBC television broadcast.
1980 The Pumaman Dr. Kobras
1980 The Monster Club Pickering
1981 Escape from New York Mr. President
1981 Halloween II Dr. Loomis
1981 Race for the Yankee Zephyr Gilbert "Gibbie" Carson
1982 Alone in the Dark Dr. Leo Bain
1983 To Kill a Stranger Col. Kostik
1983 Warrior of the Lost World Prossor
1983 The Devonsville Terror Dr. Warley
1984 Frankenstein's Great Aunt Tillie Baron Victor Frankenstein
1984 Where Is Parsifal? Mackintosh
1984 The Ambassador Eretz
1984 A Breed Apart J.P. Whittier
1985 Phenomena John McGregor
1985 Treasure of the Amazon Klaus von Blantz
1985 Nothing Underneath Inspector Danesi
1986 Operation Nam Father Lenoir Alternative title: Cobra Mission
1987 Warrior Queen Clodius
1987 Specters Professor Lasky
1987 Double Target Senator Blaster
1987 Ground Zero Prosper Gaffney
1987 Django 2 Gunn
1987 Prince of Darkness Priest
1987 To Kill a Stranger Col. Kostik
1987 Animali metropolitani Prof. Livingstone
1988 Phantom of Death Inspector Datti
1988 Der Commander (de) Henry Carlson
1988 Last Platoon Colonel B. Abrams
1988 Vampire in Venice Don Alvise
1988 Hanna's War Captain Thomas Rosza
1988 Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers Dr. Loomis
1989 The House of Usher Walter Usher
1989 Ten Little Indians Judge Lawrence Wargrave
1989 Paganini Horror Mr. Pickett
1989 River of Death Heinrich Spaatz
1989 Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers Dr. Loomis
1989 Casablanca Express Colonel Bats
1990 Buried Alive Dr. Schaeffer
1990 American risciò Reverend Mortom
1991 L'avvoltoio può attendere Aaron Shalik
1991 Miliardi Ripa
1991 Shadows and Fog Doctor
1992 Dien Bien Phu Howard Simpson
1993 The Thief and the Cobbler Phido the Vulture Voice
1993 The Big Freeze Soup slurper
1993 The Hour of the Pig Pincheon
1995 Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers Dr. Loomis The film was dedicated to his memory.
1995 Safe Haven The Sailor
1996 Fatal Frames Prof. Robertson (final film role)


Year Title Role Notes
1952 The Dybbuk Second batlon Television film
1952–1959 Sunday Night Theatre Various roles 6 episodes
1954 Montserrat Juan Alvarez Television film
1954 The Face of Love Alex Television film
1955 The Grove Family Monsieur Paul Episode: "Parlez-Vous Français?"
1956 The Adventures of Robin Hood Prince John 4 episodes
1956–1959 ITV Playhouse Various roles 6 episodes
1957 Assignment Foreign Legion Commandant Episode: "The Coward"
1957–1967 Armchair Theatre Various roles 8 episodes
1958 I Spy Mr. Frute Television film
1958 Granite A Nameless Man Television film
1959 The Killing Stones Jakob Kleiber Episode: "The Carefulness of Kleiber"
1959 The Scarf Detective Inspector Harry Yates 6 episodes
1959 The Adventures of William Tell The Spider Episode: "The Spider"
1959 The Traitor Grantley Caypor Television film
1960 The Four Just Men Paul Koster Episode: "The Survivor"
1960 Interpol Calling Karl Haussman Episode: "The Absent Assassin"
1960 Rendezvous Potter Episode: "The Dodo"
1960, 1961 Danger Man Nikolides / Captain Aldrich 2 episodes
1960–1965 Armchair Mystery Theatre Host / Ambrose Acted in episode: "Ambrose"
1961 Alcoa Presents: One Step Beyond Harvey Laurence Episode: "The Confession"
1961 Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color Captain Pinski Episode: "The Horsemasters"
1962 The Twilight Zone Professor Ellis Fowler Episode: "The Changing of the Guard"
1963 The Outer Limits Professor Harold Finley Episode: "The Man with the Power"
1964 Espionage Escalon Episode: "The Liberators"
1965 The Defenders Dr. Byron Saul Episode: "Fires of the Mind"
1966 The Fugitive Max Pfeiffer Episode: "With Strings Attached"
1966 The Wednesday Play The Head Waiter Episode: "The Head Waiter" (teleplay)
1967 The Diary of Anne Frank Mr. Dusseli Television film
1967, 1968 Thirty-Minute Theatre J.G. / Richard Pratt 2 episodes
1971 The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes Carnacki Episode: "The Horse of the Invisible"
1971–1983 Play for Today Samuel Johnson / Gerry Muddiman / Tom 3 episodes
1972 Hawaii Five-O Hans Vogler Episode: "The Ninety-Second War: Part II"
1972 The Man Outside Victor Cobb Episode: "A Glass of Snake Wine"
1972 Police Surgeon Jerry Hahn Episode: "Lady X"
1973 Columbo Adrian Carsini Episode: "Any Old Port in a Storm"
1973 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Fred Smudge Television film
1973 Orson Welles' Great Mysteries Cawser Episode: "Captain Rogers"
1974 Occupations Christo Kabak Television film
1975 The Count of Monte Cristo Baron Danglars Television film
1975 Shades of Greene Puckler Episode: "The Root of All Evil"
1976 Peep Show Max Episode: "Death"
1976 Laurence Olivier Presents Nat Jeffcote Episode: "Hindle Wakes"
1977 Jesus of Nazareth Melchior Miniseries
1977 The Dark Secret of Harvest Home Narrator Miniseries
1978 The Defection of Simas Kudirka Captain Vladimir Popov Television film
1978 The Bastard Solomon Sholto Miniseries
1978-79 Centennial Sam Purchas Miniseries
1979 Mrs. Columbo Ian A. Morly Episode: "Murder Is a Parlor Game"
1979 All Quiet on the Western Front Kantorek Television film
1979 Gold of the Amazon Women Clarence Blasko Television film
1979 The French Atlantic Affair Max Dechambre Miiniseries
1979 Better Late Than Never Colonel Riddle Television film
1980 The Ghost Sonata The Old Man Television film
1980 Blade on the Feather Professor Jason Cavendish Television film
1981 Dick Turpin Ignatius Slake 2 episodes
1981 Saturday Night Live Host Episode: "Donald Pleasence/Fear"
1982 Witness for the Prosecution Mr. Myers Television film
1982 The Barchester Chronicles Reverend Septimus Harding 7 episodes
1984 Master of the Game Salomon Van der Merwe Miniseries
1984 Arch of Triumph Haake Television film
1985 Black Arrow Sir Oliver Oates Television film
1987 Scoop Lord Copper Television film
1987 Basements Mr. Kidd Television film; segment: "The Room"
1988 The Ray Bradbury Theater George Hill Episode: "Punishment Without Crime"
1988 The Great Escape II: The Untold Story Dr. Absalon Television film
1989 Agatha Christie's Miss Marple: A Caribbean Mystery Jason Rafiel Television film
1992 Lovejoy Karel Redl Episode: "The Prague Sun"
1993 Screen Two Victor Harty Episode: "Femme Fatale"
1995 Signs and Wonders Cornelius Van Damm Miniseries


  1. ^ "Pleasence", Collins English Dictionary
  2. ^ "England and Wales Births 1837–1983". Freebmd.org.uk. 2010-09-10. Retrieved 2010-10-06. 
  3. ^ Ross, Helen; Ross, Lillian (1962). The Player: A Profile of an Art. Simon and Schuster. p. 256. ISBN. 
  4. ^ a b "Full text of "The Player A Profile Of An Art"". Archive.org. Retrieved 2010-10-06. 
  5. ^ Star Pupils Revealed at Scunthorpe Telegraph Archived 1 November 2015 at the Wayback Machine.. Retrieved 9 July 2016
  6. ^ Obituary for Pleasence, 'The Independent', 2 February 1995.
  7. ^ Obituary for D. Pleasence, 'The Independent', 3 February 1995.
  8. ^ Record for Lancaster NE112 on lostaircraft.com
  9. ^ Chorley, W.R. (1997), Royal Air Force Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War, Volume 5: 1944; p 407. Midland Counties Publications, UK. ISBN 0-904597-91-1.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g "Obituaries: Donald Pleasence". The Independent. 3 February 1995. Retrieved 14 February 2012. 
  11. ^ "Circus of Horrors". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 9 November 2015. 
  12. ^ "Donald Pleasence'S Biography". Pleasence.com. Retrieved 2010-10-06. 
  13. ^ Mel Gussow (3 February 1995). "Donald Pleasence, Virtuoso Actor, Dies at 75". New York Times. Retrieved 2015-03-06. Donald Pleasence, the intense, virtuosic actor who was acclaimed in London and on Broadway for his performance in the title role of Harold Pinter's play "The Caretaker," died yesterday at his home in St. Paul de Vence in the south of France. He was 75 and also had a home in London. ... 

External links