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Old Favourite Dinsdale Landen Dies, Aged 71

By • West End
Dinsdale Landen, the veteran stage and screen actor, has died, aged 71, after a battle with mouth cancer, on 29 December.

Born on 4 September 1932 in Kent, he began his acting career in 1948 when he was just 16, and continued working for the next fifty years – his last stage appearance was in Chichester Festival Theatre’s revival of David Hare’s Racing Demon in 1998.

In a career that stretched from Shakespeare and Shaw to new plays by Alan Ayckbourn (Taking Sides), James Saunders (Bodies),Christopher Hampton (The Philanthropist), Tom Stoppard (On the Razzle) and others, he was nominated for an Olivier Award for Best Actor for his 1975 appearance in Michael Frayn’s Alphabetical Order. His West End career had begun many years earlier, when in 1957 he debuted there in Rodney Ackland’s 1957 play A Dead Secret (at the Piccadilly Theatre).

He was fond of telling the story of his earlier apprenticeship in rep for the legendary actor-manager Donald Wolfit, when he had a small role in Othello. Landen didn’t know the play well, but Wolfit simply instructed him, “Just follow me about”. He took the instruction too literally – and was loudly rebuked by Wolfit, in the loudest stage whisper imaginable, "Not in Desdemona’s bedroom, you c***!"

He would later have greater success in leading Shakespearean roles himself in plays like Twelfth Night, where he played Sir Toby Belch for director Peter Hall at the Playhouse Theatre in 1991.

-by Mark Shenton


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