Victor Spinetti, actor and star of Beatles films, dies

 
Victor Spinetti as George and Elizabeth Proud as his wife Victor Spinetti appeared in London's West End, with the Royal Shakespeare Company and in more than 30 films, including the first three by the Beatles

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Victor Spinetti, Welsh-born star of stage and screen, has died at the age of 82.

Born to an Italian-Welsh father and Welsh mother in Cwm, Ebbw Vale, he was a regular performer in London's West End as well as with the Royal Shakespeare Company.

He appeared in more than 30 films, including the Beatles' movies and Dylan Thomas's Under Milk Wood, starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.

He had been diagnosed with cancer.

Spinetti's agent, Barry Burnett, said: "He had cancer for a year, but he was very cheerful to the end. I spoke to him on Friday and he was talking about his plans and everything."

News of his death prompted a stream of tributes from fans and members of the entertainment world on Twitter.

Actor Victor Spinetti, who died aged 82, told a BBC documentary about his acting life

Actor Rob Brydon tweeted: "So sad Victor Spinetti has died. The funniest story teller I've ever met and a lovely warm man. Proud to have been his friend. 'Eh, Vic...'"

Britt Ekland, actor and singer, wrote: "Just heard my wonderful friend, co writer and director Victor Spinetti died. Am devastated to have lost a true acting genius."

Welsh actor Sian Phillips told BBC Wales she was shocked and saddened, adding: "He was such a force of joy and vitality. When one saw him across a crowded room, one couldn't wait to get together with him and have a chat and a catch-up."

Barbara Windsor, his co-star in the West End stage play Oh! What a Lovely War which transferred to Broadway and a lifelong friend, had visited Spinetti last Thursday.

"We were very close. He was another of my great friends from that era. He was such a great man," she said.

"We just chatted and chatted and talked about old things. But he said, 'let's not talk about all that, let's talk about the future'.

"What he was trying to say was that everything was happy in his room. I was happy to see him. He didn't look ill. He looked great. He was swearing a lot, like that would get rid of the illness, and we just laughed."

Spinetti had recently appeared on her two-part radio series Clubland, and she wanted to play it for him.

"I got the nurses to wake him up to hear it," said Windsor.

"Some of the nurses didn't know who he was so I wanted them to hear it too.

He was part of my life and I'm going to miss him so much. We'd go out for lunch and have a great gossip together.

"He was such a good actor because he took notice of people and used their characters. He portrayed them wonderfully, whatever he did."

Teaching

Spinetti was born in the living quarters above the chip shop his family owned in Cwm, Ebbw Vale. He attended Monmouth School and initially had ambitions to be a teacher.

But after turning to acting he studied at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Cardiff.

Sir Paul McCartney and Rob Brydon paid tribute to Victor Spinetti in a special programme in 2011

His early stage career saw him make a number of memorable performances with Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop, whose production of Oh, What a Lovely War! transferred to the West End and Broadway.

It was his performance in Oh, What a Lovely War! that prompted the Beatles to ask him to appear in A Hard Day's Night (1964), the first of the group's five films.

It is suggested George Harrison told Spinetti that he had to be in the film because "me mum will only go to see them if you're in them".

Spinetti's collaboration with the Beatles saw him appear in their next two productions, Help! (1965) and the hour-long television film Magical Mystery Tour (1967).

'Great eccentric'

He also worked with John Lennon to turn Lennon's book, In His Own Write, in to a play which he then directed at the National Theatre.

Victor Spinetti Spinetti achieved fame when he was caught up in the Beatlemania of the 1960s and went to have a creative collaboration with John Lennon

Sir Paul McCartney described him as "the man who makes clouds disappear".

His stage career saw him win a Tony award for his Broadway performance in Oh, What a Lovely War!, as well as co-starring with Jack Klugman when The Odd Couple toured London.

His film career included starring in Zeffirelli's The Taming of the Shrew, again alongside Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, and The Return of the Pink Panther as well as The Krays in 1990.

In his television career, he is perhaps best known for voicing the arch villain character Texas Pete in the S4C animated series SuperTed.

Spinetti was also a noted raconteur whose creative output included poetry, an autobiography and his one-man show, A Very Private Diary.

A BBC documentary on his life and work saw contributions from Barbara Windsor and Rob Brydon praising a "great Welsh eccentric".

Spinetti died at a hospice in Monmouth on Monday morning, his agent said.

 

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  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 85.

    As a London Taxi driver I had the pleasure of picking Mr. Spinetti up a while back now. He engaged me in conversation immediately and I found him so warm, witty and downright interesting that I didn't want our journey to end. Us cabbies tend to rate the celebrities that we pick up and I have to say that in 23 years he was by far the best.
    He must have been an absolute pleasure to have as a friend

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 84.

    No-one's mentioned Superted - that was my first childhood memory of Mr Spinetti. A great Welshman, diolch yn fawr a nos dda.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 83.

    I met Victor as a Young boy he was in Dick Whitington with Jim Davis a really nice man after the show very warm and friendly considering his character in the pantomime Rest in Peace Victor

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 82.

    81.Paul
    Alzheimers hey? FunnyWelsh man who will always be remembered in a Hard Day's Night (Hope your're not SIR Paul.....) Thanks Victor....

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 81.

    Who ?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 80.

    Please don't even refer to any comments made in bad taste and intended to offend. I am not familiar with the work of Mr Spinetti but enjoy reading peoples remembrances and what his work meant to them - simply complain about the comment to the mods who are bang on the money and will speedily respond.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 79.

    Why do people like beebalert feel the need to post ridiculous barbed comments on the board when someone who looks to have been loved by many has just passed away.I never knew Mr Spinetti so won't spout any fawning platitudes, however he was by the sound of it a joy to have around, and he never forgot his Welsh roots which was part of his charm. Nos Da Victor.

  • Comment number 78.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 77.

    I had the pleasure of meeting Victor at one of the many Beatles fests I attend annually and he was a lovely man. So warm and funny and always willing to lend a hand when he could. He came to my rescue when I needed help moving boxes of books for the author I was assisting and joked he should open each one and autograph it. Wish now I had let him do at least one for me. I will miss you Victor.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 76.

    Victors stories will always remain in the hearts of everyone who was aquatinted with him. A sad loss for all especially on his sister Gianina who,s Birthday it is. Love to her

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 75.

    A shame the Beatles never let him get that ring in order to rule the world. It might have been a nicer place to live.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 74.

    one of the funniest and warmest raconteurs ever (with a perfect accent to boot) a talented actor who light up the stage and movies yet another icon gone

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 73.

    What a smashing chap Victor was, he had a Welsh (Gaelic) way of telling stories and an Italian way to deliver them. I was captivated every time he came on TV etc. just to hear him tell stories. God bless Victor.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 72.

    Dave Miles,
    My Dear Dear friend Vic, can't believe youve gone. Thank you for the many years of frienship a memory i shall hold forever dear is when you called me at Christmas, to say how thrilled you were to recieve the drawing of Richard and Elizabeth i did just for you.
    Will miss our chats and the Laughter!!!
    God Bless You, till we meet..........Dave

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 71.

    My abiding memory is his narrative on Stan Tracey's jazz suite to 'Under Milk Wood', and the 2005 BBC radio broadcast of that piece's 40th anniversary.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 70.

    Oh dear, another great bites the dust.
    Ironically, I was only watching him the other day in a documentary about Tommy Cooper.....
    Well, there are now two great Welshmen with each other again - having a laugh, I hope.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 69.

    A very witty man. Loved the story of how he once interviewed John Lennon at his apartment overlooking Central Park. He described it as a very cold day - and sensing his discomfort, Lennon asked if he would like like to "go somewhere warmer".
    45 minutes later, they were being whisked in a limo to JFK airport - from where they flew to Africa!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 68.

    Saw him and Klugman in the odd couple, what a superb actor!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 67.

    I also had the pleasure of being one of Fagins Boys at the Liverpool Empire.
    R.I.P Victor

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 66.

    Saw him on stage in 1970's then about fifteen years ago while working as a theatre manager in the West end Victor came to see the show and general talk about the play and weather etc soon switched effortlessly to his memories of working with the Beatles which as a Beatles fan was more then I could have expected. He was a true entertainer and one of the nicest people I ever met in my job.

 

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