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Michael Gough obituary

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Michael Gough first made his cinematic mark as Nicholai to Vivien Leigh's Anna Karenina (1948), Michael Corland opposite Alec Guinness in The Man in the White Suit, and Martin Raynor in Michael Anderson's thriller Night Was Our Friend (both in 1951).

Gough had made it known he was slightly miffed that many high-profile thespians were taking up the minor roles in Olivier's Richard III (1955), leaving little room for actors like himself. He received a late-night phone call, replete with expletives, from an apparently outraged Olivier, accusing him of "stirring the shit". Olivier was in reality pulling his leg, having taken Gough's feelings on board, and offered him the choice of which of the Duke of Clarence's murderers to play. Gough immediately opted for "whichever one has the most lines".

He excelled in character roles on the big screen for more than five decades, drawing on his classical and theatrical resources for leading directors: for Ken Russell, he appeared in Women in Love (1969); for Derek Jarman, Caravaggio (1986); and for Martin Scorsese, The Age of Innocence (1993). His feline features and ability to lend gravitas to the otherworldly often took him into the realms of the fantastical. He worked for Hammer Films and Amicus in a number of genre productions that retain a cult following, notably Dracula (1958), The Phantom of the Opera (1962), Dr Terror's House of Horrors (1965) and Horror Hospital (1973). Many of these films were good, some not, but Gough was never less than committed, and always eerily memorable. It was these roles that gave him a serious cachet among a generation of film buffs who became movie makers, such as David Zucker, who cast him in the comedy spoof Top Secret! (1984); Wes Craven, in The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988); and Tim Burton, in Batman (1989).

Gough's character, Alfred Pennyworth, is the loyal butler and confidant to Bruce Wayne and his superhero alter ego, played in that film and its first sequel, Batman Returns (1992), by Michael Keaton. While Wayne was portrayed by Val Kilmer in Batman Forever (1995) and George Clooney in Batman and Robin (1997), Gough remained a constant, providing charm and quintessential Britishness to ground the various offbeat situations. Gough continued to work with Burton, in Sleepy Hollow (1999) and, as a voice artist, in The Corpse Bride (2005).

He was memorable on television as prime minister Sir Anthony Eden in Ian Curteis's Suez 1956 (1979), in the cameo role of Dr Grant in Brideshead Revisited (1981), in a splendid turn as Mikhel in Smiley's People (1982), and, most strikingly, as a dishevelled, bewhiskered, flatulent writer in Dennis Potter's Blackeyes (1989).

In Doctor Who, he played the Celestial Toymaker, who, despite appearing only once, opposite William Hartnell in 1965, became one of the programme's most iconic villains. A bored eternal, dressed as a Chinese mandarin, he lured unwitting space travellers to his domain to play apparently innocent parlour games with lethal consequences. The character proved memorable enough for Gough to be asked to reprise it in 1986, which he was happy to do, until Michael Grade decided to rest the show. In the interim, Gough had also played a devious old friend of the Doctor - by now, Peter Davison - in the 1983 story Arc of Infinity.

Michael Gough, actor, born 23 November 1916; died 17 March 2011

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  • APA 6th ed.: Hadoke, Toby (2011-03-18). Michael Gough obituary. The Guardian p. 38.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Hadoke, Toby. "Michael Gough obituary." The Guardian [add city] 2011-03-18, 38. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Hadoke, Toby. "Michael Gough obituary." The Guardian, edition, sec., 2011-03-18
  • Turabian: Hadoke, Toby. "Michael Gough obituary." The Guardian, 2011-03-18, section, 38 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Michael Gough obituary | url= | work=The Guardian | pages=38 | date=2011-03-18 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=18 April 2024 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Michael Gough obituary | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=18 April 2024}}</ref>