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Robert Lang
Born 24 September 1934(1934-09-24)
Died 6 November 2004 (aged 70)
Sutton, Surrey

Robert Lang (24 September 1934 – 6 November 2004) was a versatile English actor who was spotted by Laurence Olivier and earned critical praise in an impressive variety of roles. Before Olivier invited him to join the National Theatre Company (later to become the Royal National Theatre), which he was founding at the Old Vic in the early 1960s, Robert Lang was already earning high praise as an actor. From 1971 until his death he was married to Ann Bell, best known for her portrayal of Marion Jefferson in the BBC war drama Tenko. The two appeared together in Tenko Reunion.


Early life

Lang was born in Bristol, the son of Lily Violet (née Ballard) and Richard Lionel Lang.[1] He was educated at Fairfield Grammar School and St Simon’s Church School.[2] He had intended to become a meteorologist but then trained for the stage at the Bristol Old Vic.


Lang made his London debut in 1957 as Uncle Ernest in Oh! My Papa!. With the legendary ’59 Theatre Company at the Lyric, Hammersmith, he won Kenneth Tynan’s “total admiration” for his performance as Ejnar, a painter, in an important revival of Ibsen’s Brand; his performance as Robespierre in Georg Büchner’s Danton's Death with the same company was also praised.

In 1962, Olivier “stole” Lang (along with other actors) from the newly established Royal Shakespeare Company, where Lang had impressed him with his performances as Theseus in A Midsummer Night's Dream and as the Actor in Maxim Gorki’s The Lower Depths. Playing Pierre Cauchon, the Bishop of Beauvais, in George Bernard Shaw’s Saint Joan at the National Theatre, Lang drew the praise of critic Caryl Brahms for his "quiet grandeur, cogency and gravity".

Lang also showed a finely-judged talent for comic parts. In the deadpan role of diplomat Richard Greatham in celebrated National Theatre revival in 1964 of Noël Coward’s Hay Fever, under the author's own direction, Lang showed his acute feeling for what amuses a theatre audience without appearing to seek to do so.

Lang achieved something of a late-career renaissance in film and television. His small-screen credits include The Forsyte Saga, Our Mutual Friend, Heartbeat, Rumpole of the Bailey, King Lear, and A Dance to the Music of Time. In the cinema he appeared in Four Weddings and a Funeral, Savage Messiah, and The Great Train Robbery. His final movie appearance was as Mr Osbourne in Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont (2005), screened a few months after his death from cancer in November 2004 at the age of 70.


  1. ^ Robert Lang Biography (1934-)
  2. ^ Robert Lang (obituary), 17 November 2004, at, accessed 25 November 2008

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