Another chameleon-like actor of the British stage, Colin Blakely was difficult to categorize as he was versatile enough to play any role. The first time I noticed his talents was in the made for TV production of “Little Lord Fauntleroy” starring Alec Guinness and Rick Schroder. He played an American, a New Yorker, with a quite unusual accent but was good enough to pull it off. Of medium but stocky build, he had a square face with a strong, prominent jaw, dark brown wavy hair and often wore a thick, dark mustache. He had a flat but rich voice which he used to good effect. He was equally adept at playing good guys and villains and could get lost in a role; so much so in fact that often you’d look at him in a role and ask “is that Colin Blakely?”
He was born Colin George Blakely in Bangor, Northern Ireland on September 23, 1930. Not much is known of his early years in County Down, Northern Ireland, but as a young man he was a management trainee and he played rugby and football for Northern Ireland. His acting career began in amateur repertoire theatre in Britain.
His first professional acting job was with the Group Theatre in Belfast and he also joined theatre groups in Wales before moving on to London.
Before long he was a prominent stage actor and worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Old Vic and the Royal Court among other prestigious companies. His film debut came in: “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning” (1960) as Loudmouth.
His other film credits included: “The Hellions” (1961) as Matthew Billings; “The Password Is Courage” (1962) as First German Goon; “This Sporting Life” (1963) with Richard Harris, as Maurice Braithwaite; “The Long Ships” (1963) with Richard Widmark, as Rhykka, a role as a Moor which show his versatility; “Never Put It in Writing” (1964) as Oscar; “The Informers” (1965) as Charlie Ruskin; “A Man for All Seasons” (1966) with Paul Scofield, as Matthew, another good role; “The Spy with a Cold Nose” (1966) as Russian Premier; “The Day the Fish Came Out” (1967) as The Pilot; “The Decline and Fall of a Birdwatcher” (1968) as Solomon Philbrick; “Charlie Bubbles” (1968) with Walter Matthau, as Smokey Pickles; “Alfred the Great” (1968) as Asher; “The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes” (1970) as Dr. Watson, good casting; “Young Winston” (1972) as Butcher; “Something to Hide” (1972) as Blagdon; “Murder on the Orient Express” (1974) as Dick Hardman; “Galileo” (1975) as Priuli; “The Pink Panther Strikes Again” (1976) as Alec Drummond; “Equus” (1977) as Frank Strang; “The Big Sleep” (1978) with Robert Mitchum, as Harry Jones; “Nijinsky” (1980) as Vassili; “The Dogs of War” (1980) as North; “Evil Under the Sun” (1982) as Sir Horace Blatt and “Don Camillo” (1983) as Peppone, his final theatrical film. On TV he starred in such TV movies and mini-series as: “St. Joan” (1968); “Son of Man” (1969); “Love Among the Ruins” (1975); “The Conquerors” (1975); “Little Lord Fauntleroy” (1980) a TV movie which I consider the best ever made; “Antony & Cleopatra” (1981); “The Biederbecke Affair” (1984) a mini-series; “Paradise Postponed” (1986) a mini-series and “The Birthday Party” (1986) his last appearance. He also starred as a regular in the TV series: “The Challengers” (1972) and “The Hanged Man” (1975) as Lew Burnett.
He was married to British actress Margaret Whiting and they had three sons. He died of leukemia on May 7, 1987 in London, England at age 56.