Birthday: February 17, 1934
Died At Age: 69
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Also Known As: Sir Alan Arthur Bates, CBE, Alan Arthur Bates
Born Country: England
Born in: Allestree
Famous as: Actor
Height: 5'11" (180 cm), 5'11" Males
Spouse/Ex-: Victoria Ward
father: Harold Arthur Bates
mother: Florence Mary Wheatcroft
siblings: John Bates, Martin Bates
children: Benedick Bates, Tristan Bates
Died on: December 27, 2003
place of death: Westminster
education: Royal Academy of Dramatic Art
Sir Alan Arthur Bates was an English actor considered amongst the most versatile and finest performers of his generation. Known for his rugged good looks and intense performances, he could portray characters in a children’s movie with the same élan as he could play a dashing romantic leading man. Having begun his career on the stage, he was skilled at playing both classical and contemporary roles. The son of amateur musicians, he was encouraged from an early age to pursue a career in music. When he realized his interest in acting as a young boy, his parents were supportive and motivated him to pursue his passion. The talented youngster won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London and eventually made his stage debut in ‘You and Your Wife.’ More stage roles followed and he accomplished himself as a successful actor. He ventured into television as well and before long he appeared in a series of television plays. Buoyed by his success so far, he ventured into Hollywood and rose to prominence in the 1960s as a versatile character actor. While the good looking actor was quite popular playing romantic leads opposite women, he also never shied from portraying characters with an aspect of homosexuality or bisexuality.
Childhood & Early Life
Alan Arthur Bates was born on 17 February 1934 in Allestree, Derbyshire, United Kingdom, as one of the three sons of Florence Mary and Harold Arthur Bates. His father, an insurance broker was also an amateur cellist while his homemaker mother loved to play the piano.
He was encouraged by his parents to pursue music as a young boy. However, the young Bates had decided by the time he was 11 that he wanted to be an actor.
He attended the Herbert Strutt Grammar School and earned a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London where he was trained under Albert Finney and Peter O'Toole.
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He began his acting career with the Midland Theatre Company and made his stage debut in 1955. His role as Cliff in ‘Look Back in Anger’ in 1956 got him noticed for his acting skills. The role, which he played on several occasions over the next two years, paved the way for a career in television.
He reprised the role of Cliff for a television play and also appeared on several other plays for television in the late 1950s. His successful television career motivated him to try his fortune in Hollywood.
In 1960, he appeared in his first film role in ‘The Entertainer’ opposite Laurence Olivier. Over the next few years he emerged as a popular actor with roles in several major films like ‘Whistle Down the Wind’ (1961), ‘A Kind of Loving’ (1962), ‘Zorba the Greek’ (1964), ‘King of Hearts’ (1966), and ‘Georgy Girl’ (1966).
Open to taking up unconventional roles, he played the character of Rupert Birkin, a man with homosexual tendencies, in ‘Women in Love’ (1969). The film which explored the relationships between two sisters and two men in a mining town in post First World War England was a huge critical hit.
In the 1970s he gained much international acclaim for his roles in movies like ‘An Unmarried Woman’ (1978) and ‘The Rose’ (1979). He was also active on television during the 1970s and played the role of the ultimately-disgraced lead, Michael Henchard, in the miniseries ‘The Mayor of Casterbridge’ (1978).
While he remained active in films and television throughout the 1980s and 1990s, some of his most notable roles happened later in his career. In 2001, he was a part of the ensemble cast in the mystery film ‘Gosford Park’ which went on to become a critical as well as commercial hit.
His role as Yakov Bok, a Jew living in the Russian Empire, in the film ‘The Fixer’ was a much appreciated one. His poignant portrayal of a man who is unjustly imprisoned based on prejudice earned him a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role.
In ‘Zorba the Greek’, he portrayed Basil, a half-English, half-Greek writer raised in Britain, in another one of his memorable roles. The film, which also had Anthony Quinn in a major role, was a smash hit.
Awards & Achievements
In 1971, he won the Evening Standard Best Actor Award for the play ‘Butley.’ In 1972, he won the Tony Award for Best Actor for the same play.
He was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1996, and was knighted in 2003.
He was given the Drama Desk and Lucille Lortel Award for ‘Unexpected Man’ in 2000.
His performance in ‘Fortune's Fool’ earned him the Tony Award for Best Actor in 2002.
Personal Life & Legacy
Alan Bates married actress Victoria Ward in 1970. The couple had twin sons, Benedick and Tristan. Their marriage was a troubled one from the beginning though the couple did not divorce.
Bates had numerous relationships with men, including those with actors Nickolas Grace and Peter Wyngarde. However, he always denied that he was gay and went to great lengths to keep his personal life private.
He also had a relationship with Welsh actress Angharad Rees and was close friends with actress Joanna Pettet.
His son Tristan died of an apparent drug overdose as a 19 year old in 1990. The incident shattered Bates and he never recovered fully from this loss. Along with his family, he set up the Tristan Bates Theatre, at the Actors' Centre in Covent Garden, in memory of his son.
He was diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer in January 2003. He also suffered from numerous other health problems over the next few months and died on 27 December 2003. He was 69.