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Dinsdale Landen

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Dinsdale Landen was one of those actors whose presence on stage or screen always demanded the audience’s attention. In a career that spanned five decades, his range was remarkable and included farce, light comedy, Chekhov, Tom Stoppard, Shakespeare, Michael Frayn, the complexities of David Hare’s Racing Demon and much else. His sure, subtle touch, especially when photographed close up, ensured that he appeared regularly on television, notably in the mini-series The Glittering Prizes (1976) and The Buccaneers (1995).

Over the years he accomplished an immense body of work, yet throughout it all his screen debut as the adult Pip in the 1959 television adaptation of Great Expectations still burns brightest.

Landen was born in Margate, Kent, on September 4, 1932 and attended King’s School in Rochester and Hove County Grammar School before working in rep at Worthing and Swansea. In 1957 he made his West End debut as Archie Gooch in the thriller A Dead Secret at the Piccadilly Theatre and continued to make an impression in plays such as Auntie Mame at the Adelphi and A Touch of the Sun at the Saville in 1958 and My Friend Judas at the Arts in the following year.

He spent the 1960 season at Stratford’s Memorial Theatre and was an outstanding Biondello in Peggy Ashcroft and Peter O’Toole’s The Taming of the Shrew. On his return to London he played several leading parts at the Open Air Theatre, Regent’s Park – a favourite venue of his – and in the late sixties also toured with Prospect Productions in Twelfth Night and Arms and the Man.

During the seventies and eighties Landen was at the peak of his powers, giving acclaimed performances as the lecherous Oxford don in The Philanthropist at the Royal Court and May Fair in 1970, as well triumphing as the adventurer Dazzle in the RSC production of London Assurance with Donald Sinden and Judi Dench at the Aldwych in 1972. Another of his career highlights came with Michael Frayn’s Alphabetical Order at the Hampstead and May Fair in 1975, when his wonderful portrayal of the amusingly ineffectual library assistant earned him an Olivier nomination.

Thereafter, he worked consistently in the West End, London fringe and at the National in a host of high-class, contrasting productions such as Plunder (Lyttelton, 1976), Bodies (Ambassadors, 1980), Taking Steps (Lyric, 1980), On the Razzle (National, 1981), Thark (1989, Lyric, Hammersmith). He also memorably took over as Truscott in Loot at the Lyric after Leonard Rossiter’s sudden death in 1984.

His final performance on stage was as the disillusioned priest in a 1998 revival of Racing Demon at the Chichester Festival, which he also took to Toronto.

On television Landen will be particularly remembered for his Cockney title role in the Mickey Dunne series (1967), as well as Fight Against Slavery (1975), Fathers and Families and Devenish in 1977, Pig in the Middle (1980) and What the Butler Saw (1987). He also made several feature films including Mosquito Squadron (1968), Morons From Outer Space (1985), Every Home Should Have One (1970) and The Steal (1994).

His final appearance television appearance was in a 1997 adaptation of Catherine Cookson’s The Wingless Bird.

After suffering from cancer for some time, Landen died at his home in Fakenham, Norfolk, on December 29, aged 71. He is survived by his wife of more than 40 years, the actress Jennifer Daniel.

John Martland

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