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Charles Gray
Born Donald Marshall Gray
29 August 1928(1928-08-29)
Bournemouth, Hampshire, England
Died 7 March 2000 (aged 71)
London, England
Other name(s) Marshall

Charles Gray (29 August 1928 - 7 March 2000) was an English actor whose well-known roles include playing the arch-villain Blofeld in the James Bond film Diamonds Are Forever, Sherlock Holmes' brother Mycroft Holmes in the Granada television series, and as the narrator of the cult classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show in 1975.

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Early life

Gray was born Donald Marshall Gray in Bournemouth, Hampshire, the son of Maude Elizabeth (née Marshall) and Donald Gray, who was a surveyor.[1] Gray attended Bournemouth School alongside Benny Hill, whose school had been evacuated to the same buildings, during the Second World War. Some of his friends remember that his bedroom walls were plastered with pictures of film stars.

Stage career

He began his stage experience at the theatre club next to Bournemouth's Palace Court Hotel, where he was a last-minute cast replacement in The Beaux' Stratagem. Gray surprised everyone, including himself, with the quality of his performance.

When Gray moved away from Bournemouth in the late 1950s, his parents remained at the family home until their deaths. On becoming a professional actor he had to change his name, as there was already an actor named Donald Gray. He chose Charles Gray partly because Charles was the name of his maternal grandfather, partly because he had a close friend named Charles, and partly because he thought it sounded nice. For his first appearance on Broadway, in the 1961 musical Kean, he went under the name "Oliver Gray."

Film and television

Through the 1960s, Gray established himself as a successful character actor and made many appearances on British television. Work in this period included Danger Man with Patrick MacGoohan and Maigret. Gray also appeared opposite Laurence Olivier in the film version of The Entertainer (1960) as a reporter.

1967 was his breakthrough year when he starred with Peter O'Toole and Omar Sharif in the WWII murder-mystery movie The Night of the Generals. He co-starred with another future Blofeld actor, Donald Pleasance, both actors playing anti-Nazi conspirators.

The following year he played an English agent, Henderson, in the 1967 Bond film You Only Live Twice. Four years later he appeared as Ernst Stavro Blofeld in the James Bond movie Diamonds Are Forever, both films starring Sean Connery as Bond. These make Gray one of a small number of actors to have played a villain and a Bond ally in the film series (another being Joe Don Baker).

Gray's most prolific work as an actor was between 1968 and 1979 when he appeared in more than forty major film and television productions. In this period he is perhaps best known for portraying The Criminologist (the narrator) in The Rocky Horror Picture Show and a similar character, Judge Oliver Wright, in its 1981 sequel Shock Treatment. Fans of the film have given him the nickname "No Neck" because of the high-collared shirts he wore. In 1983, he starred alongside Coral Browne and Alan Bates in the award winning TV film An Englishman Abroad.

Other well-known film work includes The Devil Rides Out, Mosquito Squadron, Cromwell and The Beast Must Die.

Later work

Gray portrayed Mycroft Holmes in both the 1976 film The Seven-Per-Cent Solution and opposite Jeremy Brett's Sherlock in four episodes of the 1984 Granada Television series The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. In two episodes of the final Brett series, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, he had leading roles as Mycroft, the first because Watson actor Edward Hardwicke was busy on another film project and the second due to Brett's illness.

Other television appearances include Dennis Potter's Blackeyes, The New Statesman, Thriller, Upstairs, Downstairs, Bergerac, plus a range of Shakespearean roles.

He regularly dubbed for Jack Hawkins after Hawkins' larynx was removed to combat throat cancer, as the two men had similar (and highly distinctive) voices. An example of this is in the film Theatre of Blood.

Death

Gray died of cancer on Tuesday 7 March 2000. He was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium where his ashes remain.

References

External links

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