Victor Spinetti

Black and white image of Victor Spinetti

Actor, writer, director and raconteur Victor Spinetti was perhaps best known for his roles in The Beatles films A Hard Day's Night, Help! and Magical Mystery Tour.

Victor Spinetti was born in Monmouthshire on 2 September 1933 to an Italian father and Welsh mother. He was educated at Monmouth School and trained at the Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff.

He starred in many West End stage productions to great acclaim in the late 1950s and 1960s, including Fings Ain't Wot They Used T'Be, Make Me an Offer, Expresso Bongo and The Odd Couple.

He first starred in Oh, What a Lovely War! in 1963 before it transferred to Broadway a year later. He won the 1965 Tony award for best featured actor for a musical for his role as the Drill Sergeant and also won the Theatre World Award for his performance in the production.

His international profile increased as he starred in three Beatles films in the 1960s, the first of which was A Hard Day's Night in 1964. This was followed by Help! in 1965 and Magical Mystery Tour in 1967.

Spinetti also co-wrote the play In His Own Write with John Lennon and directed it at the Old Vic in 1968.

In 1967 he starred as Hortensio in Franco Zeffirelli's The Taming of the Shrew, alongside Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, and in 1970 performed with fellow Welsh actor Hugh Griffith in comedy Start The Revolution Without Me.

In 1972 he starred in the adaptation of Dylan Thomas' Under Milk Wood, again with Burton and Taylor, and also Peter O'Toole and Siân Phillips.

Comic appearances include series Two in Clover (1969) with Sid James and film The Great McGonagall (1974) with Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers. He also made a brief appearance in The Return of the Pink Panther in 1975, again with Sellers.

In the early 1980s he voiced the character of Texas Pete in popular BBC Wales children's programme Super Ted.

Later film roles included Under The Cherry Moon (1986) with Prince and The Krays in 1990. Spinetti also increased his amount of television work in the late 1990s and recent roles have included brief appearances in New Tricks and Welsh comedy High Hopes.

In 2008 he announced he was to reprise his one-man show, A Very Private Diary, for a UK-wide tour. The show, which originally appeared at Edinburgh's Fringe Festival in the late 1980s, told his life story and memories from his long and varied career.

Victor Spinetti was diagnosed with prostate cancer in February 2011, after collapsing on stage in London on Valentine's Day. He was later moved to Velindre Cancer Centre in Cardiff, but died on 19 June 2012.

Selected stage and film roles

  • 1963: Oh, What a Lovely War!
  • 1964: A Hard Day's Night
  • 1965: Help!
  • 1967: Magical Mystery Tour
  • 1972: Under Milk Wood
  • 1975: The Return of the Pink Panther

Selected reading

  • Victor Spinetti Up Front: His Strictly Confidential Autobiography (2006)

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