|Born||Lionel Charles Jeffries
10 June 1926
Forest Hill, London, England
|Died||19 February 2010 (aged 83)
Poole, Dorset, England
|Occupation||Actor, film director, screenwriter|
|Spouse(s)||Eileen Mary Walsh
Jeffries attended the Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, Wimborne Minster, Dorset. In 1945, he received a commission in the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry. After his World War II service, for which he was awarded the Burma Star, he trained at RADA. He entered repertory at the David Garrick Theatre, Lichfield for two years and appeared in early British television plays.
He built a successful career in British films mainly in comic character roles and as he was prematurely bald he often played characters older than himself, such as the role of father to Caractacus Potts (played by Dick Van Dyke) in the film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968), although Jeffries was actually six months younger than Van Dyke, who was born on 13 December 1925. His acting career reached a peak in the 1960s with leading roles in other films like Two-Way Stretch (1960), The Trials of Oscar Wilde (1960), First Men in the Moon (1964) and Camelot (1967).
In the 1970s Jeffries turned to writing and directing children's films, including the celebrated 1970 version of The Railway Children and The Amazing Mr Blunden. He was a member of the British Catholic Stage Guild.
Jeffries had a dislike of television and its production values and shunned the medium for many years. Since the 1980s, however, he did appear on television, including Inspector Morse. He retired from acting in 2001.
Following a long illness, Jeffries died in a nursing home in Poole, Dorset, on 19 February 2010 at the age of 83. He was married to Eileen Mary Walsh from 1951 until his death. Their son and two daughters survive him.