Alan Bates, Respected Actor Who Played Osborne, Pinter and Butley, Dead at 69

Obituaries   Alan Bates, Respected Actor Who Played Osborne, Pinter and Butley, Dead at 69
Alan Bates, the British actor who won the 2002 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play for Fortune's Fool, died Dec. 27 at a London hospital after a battle with cancer, according to the London Daily Mail and other papers.
Alan Bates
Alan Bates

Mr. Bates, who was knighted in the 2003 New Year Year Honours, was 69 years old and leaves behind memorable stage and screen performances, including work in the movies "Georgy Girl," "Women in Love," "Zorba the Greek" and (snagging an Oscar nomination) "The Fixer." In middle-age, he became a kind of object of desire for fortysomething women, playing a love interest in "An Unmarried Woman."

In Fortune's Fool, he brought an obscure Turgenev character to life in a play about an amiable parasite living on a Russian estate. Beaten, nervous and ultimately banished from the orcharded lands, his Kuzovkin, a paternal and sympathetic character, was played with breathless subtlety, a sharp contrast to the flamboyant neighboring land owner who poked and prodded him (Frank Langella won the Tony for Best Supporting Actor as his foil, making the pair the toast of serious-minded theatregoing public that season; the play lasted five months).

An Act One monologue in Fortune's Fool, in which his character got drunker and drunker on wine he could not refuse, was hailed as the showpiece of the Arthur Penn-directed staging. He originated the role in a staging in England prior to Broadway. The Turgenev work was adapted by Mike Poulton.

In London and on Broadway he created the role of the sad, middle-aged academic Butley in the play by Simon Gray (recently revived in Boston with Nathan Lane, in a production featuring Mr. Bates' son, Benedick.) Mr. Bates won the Evening Standard and Tony Award for his performance, and appeared in the film.

Mr. Bates starred as Cliff in the landmark John Osborne play, Look Back in Anger, and appeared in Harold Pinter's The Caretaker in 1964 (and also appeared in the film). Off-Broadway, he appeared in The Unexpected Man, with Eileen Atkins. His screen debut was in 1960's "The Entertainer," based on the John Osborne play, playing one of Laurence Olivier's sons. He also appeared in the films "Whistle Down the Wind," "Sum of All Fears" and "The Statement," and the cult film "King of Hearts."

His surviving son, Benedick, was also featured in Fortune's Fool. According to the Daily Mail, after his teen-aged son Tristan's death from an asthma attack, Mr. Bates and Benedick, Tristan's twin, established the Tristan Bates Theatre at the Actors' Centre in Covent Garden.

Mr. Bates was born in Allestree, Derby. His father was an insurance broker. The actor received the CBE in 1995.

In an interview with London’s Evening Standard in 2000, the actor spoke about the desire to keep working and living after both his son and wife had died – “You cope, because you don’t want it to stop.”. In that same interview, he summed up his philosophy by quoting a woman he knew years previously. Walking along, the woman suddenly said, “Isn’t it lovely walking along this side of the street. Most people seem to think it’s better on the other side. But it isn’t.”

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