January 20, 2018


Beloved actor Peter Wyngarde passed away this week. Wyngarde began his career with a number of stage performances between the late 1940s and mid-1950s, most notably appearing in productions with Alec Guinness and Vivien Leigh. He had an uncredited role in the 1949 Hammer film about a special agent, Dick Barton Strikes Back, and appeared with Deborah Kerr in the 1961 gothic horror film, The Innocents. 1962 offered a memorable role in Burn Witch Burn (Night of the Eagle), and genre fans may remember his role as Klytus in Flash Gordon (1980). But it was on the small screen Wyngarde truly made his mark on the culture. He appeared in a number of early ITC and BBC productions, notably A Tale of Two Cities (1957), The Adventures of Ben Gunn (1958), BBC Sunday Night Theatre, and Armchair Theatre. As the spy boom picked up momentum, Wyngarde brought his sharp mind and flair to many of the popular series of the day, including The Baron, The Saint, I Spy, and The Champions. In 1966 he portrayed John Cartney, the ruthless leader of a modern-day Hellfire Club, in The Avengers ("A Touch of Brimstone")- infamous for his scenes of club debauchery and a climax where he whipped Mrs. Peel (dressed as "Queen of Sin"). He followed up in the 1967 episode "Epic", where he played a number of roles in a string of wonderful (and witty) scenes based on classic cliffhangers and movie tropes. In 1967 he was chosen by Patrick McGoohan to play Number 2 in The Prisoner episode "Checkmate". When I interviewed Wyngarde in 2016 in preparations for my upcoming Spy Vibe book, he said "I genuinely believe that The Prisoner is the greatest television show ever made. Patrick had a great vision - like Mozart could see all the notes in his head, Patrick was the same with every individual character and scene. He was a visionary." Despite Wyngarde's brilliant mind and electric energy, stardom seemed to pass him by. But all that changed when he was cast as Jason King in the ITC series Department S in 1969. Wyngarde's character, part of a trio charged with investigating baffling crimes and intrigue, was written as an adventure novelist-turned-sleuth who used his vast powers of imagination, discerning tastes, and creativity to help lead his team to success. The series ran for two seasons, and then Wyngarde carried on as the star of his own show, Jason King, from 1971-1972. The flamboyance of the character's design was truly a product of the era and it has been said that Mike Myers had him in mind as one of the inspirations for Austin Powers. Wyngarde brought a wonderful sense of style and humor to the role of Jason King. And the importance of style was highlighted in one of my favorite scenes, where the baddies pressured King into divulging information by brutally torturing- his clothes! I asked him about Jason King in our 2016 interview: "With Jason King, I had more of an opportunity to stamp my own personality on to him quite a lot. I got to name the character and I wore a lot of my own clothes. The actual J.K. “look” came about accidently. I was appearing in a play called ‘The Duel’ in London’s West End at the time I was signed to play Jason, in which I was cast in the role of a character called Nickolay von Koren. I’d grown my hair and a 19th century-style moustache, which has since been mistakenly referred to as ‘Viva Zapata’ or Mexican, which is completely wrong. The turn-back cuffs came about when we were filming in Venice, and I lost a cufflink in a canal. Not knowing what to do, I just turned them back and it started a fashion in the UK. Of course, Jason King reflected the attitudes of the time. He was very chauvinistic and women, in general, were treated like sex objects. It simply wouldn’t happen now." His four years as Jason King would prove to be the height of his superstardom, and fans from around the world have loved him ever since. He made many appearances at conventions and gatherings, and was thankfully able to speak at the 50th celebration of The Prisoner in Portmeirion on September 29th, 2017. He died peacefully in London on January 15th. He was 90 years old. Spy Vibe sends deepest condolences to his friends and colleagues.

Selected Spy Vibe Posts: Batman 66 ExhibitPrisoner Fifty EventIan Fleming Publications 2017-2018Interview: Ed Hulse PulpAvengers Audio DramaInterview: Callan At 50Interview: Playboys, Spies, Private EyesTWA ReturnsSpy Vibe Radio 8Interview: Ryan HeshkaMid-Century Modern SchulzAgent WerewolfMata Hair ExhibitJohnny Sokko 50thInterview: Trina RobbinsEddie IzzardThe Prisoner Capt Scarlet 50thHugh Hefner R.I.P.Jack Good R.I.P.Interview: Shaken Not StirredCallan 50thSpy Vibe Radio 7The Prisoner 50th EventSpy-Fi EventKaho Aso 007Two MillionBo DiddleyCarnaby PopLe Carre EventsBilly Bragg SkiffleElvis 68Jack Kirby The PrisonerCasino Royale ConcertReview: The Prisoner Vol 2Interview: The Prisoner Essential GuideMaud Russell MottisfontSpy Vibe Radio 4Batman GallantsAdam West R.I.P.Village TriangleRoger Moore R.I.P.Spy Vibe Radio 3Sgt Pepper 50thSatanik Kriminal OST60s OverdriveMake Love in LondonSpy Vibe Radio 2Spy Vibe Radio 1James Bond StripsPropaganda MabuseInterview: Police SurgeonXTC Avengers1966 Pep SpiesBatman Book InterviewExclusive Fleming InterviewAvengers Comic StripsRobert Vaughn RIPUNCLE FashionsThunderbirds Are Pop!, Interview: Spy Film GuideLost Avengers FoundThe Callan FileMission Impossible 50thGreen Hornet 50thStar Trek 50thPortmeirion Photography 1Filming the PrisonerGaiman McGinnins ProjectIan Fleming GraveRevolver at 50Karen Romanko InterviewMod Tales 2Umbrella Man: Patrick MacneeNew Beatles FilmThe Curious CameraEsterel Fashion 1966Exclusive Ian Ogilvy Interview007 Tribute CoversThe Phantom Avon novels returnIan Fleming FestivalArgoman DesignSylvia Anderson R.I.P.Ken Adam R.I.P.George Martin R.I.P.The New Avengers ComicsThe Phantom at 80007 MangaAvengerworld BookDiana Rigg Auto ShowThe Prisoner Audio Drama Review.

1 comment:

  1. I definitely prefer him without the 'tache, but he's so much more iconic with it.

    He's one of the inspirations for Kim Newman's 'The Man From The Diogenes Club' too.