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Geoffrey Toone

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Dublin-born actor who was one of the last old-style matinee idols

GEOFFREY Toone, who died on Wednesday aged 94, was one of the last of the old-style matinee idols: tall, strikingly handsome, beautifully spoken, always impeccably dressed. A modest man, in later life he was content to play supporting roles, to which he always brought a strong presence.

Geoffrey Toone was born of English parents in Dublin on November 15, 1910. At Cambridge, Geoffrey spent most of his time in amateur theatre, alongside Michael Redgrave, James Mason and Arthur Marshall. He was spotted by Flora Robson, who advised him to become professional.

He left Cambridge without taking a degree and became a student at the Old Vic in 1931. He got his first speaking part that year as Peter of Pomfret in King John, then played Lesmesle in Tyrone Guthrie's production of Jean-Jacques Bernard's Unquiet Spirit.

After repertory and touring experience, Toone joined Gielgud's company at the New Theatre in 1934, playing Fortinbras in Hamlet and then Tybalt in the famous Romeo and Juliet (1935) in which Gielgud and Olivier alternated the roles of Romeo and Mercutio, and Peggy Ashcroft and Edith Evans played Juliet and the Nurse.

During the war, Toone served with the Royal Artillery. After being invalided out in 1942, he toured as David in Watch on the Rhine, taking on the same part at the Aldwych. In 1944 Toone played Laertes to Robert Helpmann's Hamlet, then Valentine Brown in Quality Street and Lord Windermere in Gielgud's all-star Haymarket production of Lady Windermere's Fan.

He first appeared in New York as Banquo in Michael Redgrave's unsuccessful Macbeth (1948), returning to the Old Vic as Orsino in Twelfth Night (1950). Back in the West End, he played A Stranger extensively bronzed and scantily clad in the longrunning French farce The Little Hut (Lyric 1950).

He then went for four years to Hollywood, where he made many appearances on television and in films, notably The King and I (1956) and Once More with Feeling (1960), both with Yul Brynner. Returning to London, he appeared in Auntie Mame, starring Beatrice Lillie, playing an oil millionaire called Beauregard Jackson Pickett. Other noteworthy parts in the Sixties included OTrigger in The Rivals (1966), with Ralph Richardson and Margaret Rutherford; the smooth, sexual blackmailer Brack in Hedda Gabler (l969); and Major Wimbourne in Conduct Unbecoming(l970).

Throughout the Sixties Toone seemed somewhat typecast as colonels ironically enough, as he had not cared for army life.

In the Eighties he appeared at the Albery as kindly Mr Brownlow in Oliver, a part he made his own in subsequent tours.l9B9 saw a favourite engagement, playing the brother of Nigel Hawthorne's CS Lewis, in Shadowlands.

Among Toone's films were Sword of Honour (1937), his debut; The Man Between; The Luck of the Navy; Captain Lightfoot; The Entertainer, and Terror of the Tongs. His TV work included guest appearances in Jeeves and Wooster, as Lord Bittlesham; Casualty; Only Fools and Horses, and The Avengers.

In his latter years, Geoffrey Toone shared his house in west London with the distinguished character actor Frank Middlemass.

STRIKING PROFILE Geoffrey Toone in Dr Who

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  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Geoffrey Toone | url= | work=Sunday Independent | pages=33 | date=2005-06-12 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=26 May 2024 }}</ref>
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