For those brought up in the seventies, Donald Sinden seemed to spend his career harumphing through sitcoms, but there's a depth to his career that most of his contemporaries would kill to have.
Sinden was brought up in Ditchling in Sussex. His father was the local chemist. Sinden was a frail, asthmatic child with no academic aptitude. After school he was apprenticed to a joiner. His asthma kept him out of the armed forces but didn't exempt him from war service. He joined MESA, a more highbrow version of ENSA, and spent his evenings taking shows to servicemen around the South Coast. His apprenticeship was completed in 1944 and he decided to take up acting full time. He got a scholarship to Webber-Douglas and spent his holidays back at MESA, and touring the Far East with ENSA.
Once that was over, he did six month in rep and then went to Stratford for the Memorial Theatre's 1946-47 season. His first West End role was a tiny one in The Heiress at the Haymarket, but the production starring Ralph Richardson and Peggy Ashcroft was a big hit and Sinden stayed with the production for two years. He kept up his theatre work until Rank came calling.
He'd already appeared in a bit part Portrait from Life, but the role he was up for in The Cruel Sea was technically the lead. Star Jack Hawkins made sure that got changed, but Sinden still got a big enough role to make an impact. When film opened, Sinden was a star and tied to Rank for seven years.
His time at Rank was mostly spent in light comedy with the odd foray into stiff-upper-lipped drama. He was occasionally stretched in roles such as that of the villain in Eyewitness, but generally he was typed as a well-spoken leading man in Rank's unambitious lesser-A productions. His contract was terminated at the end of the 50s as part of Rank's withdrawal from production.
His brand of clubbable, plumy-vowelled gent was out of place in 60s cinema, but he soon found a place in theatre and television. Television made use of his light comedy skills in such sitcoms as Two's Company and Never the Twain. He also found a ready audience for these skills in West End farces, but it was his classical work, culminating in a highly-regarded King Lear at the RSC that brought him his knighthood.
Sinden continued to work well into his 80s and died of prostate cancer aged 90.
|1948||Portrait from Life|
|1953||The Cruel Sea|
|1953||A Day to Remember|
|1954||You Know What Sailors Are|
|1954||Doctor in the House|
|1954||Mad About Men|
|1955||Above Us the Waves|
|1955||Josephine and Men|
|1955||An Alligator named Daisy|
|1956||The Black Tent|
|1956||Tiger in the Smoke|
|1957||Doctor at Large|
|1959||The Captain's Table|
|1960||Your Money or Your Wife|
|1960||The Siege of Sydney Street|
|1962||Twice Around the Daffodils|
|1962||Mix Me a Person|
|1968||Decline and Fall|
|1972||Father Dear Father|
|1973||The National Health|
|1973||The Day of the Jackel|
|1974||The Island at the Top of the World|
|1975||That Lucky Touch|
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