Actor and singer Michael Mellinger, best known for his West End and film appearances, most notably Goldfinger, and as a member of fifties group The Harmonics, has died, aged 74.
Mellinger was born in Kochel, Germany, on May 30, 1929. He came from a theatrical background, both his parents were actors. When Mellinger was born his mother gave up acting to become a Jungian analyst.
When the Nazis came to power, he was forced, being a Jew, to leave Germany. He was sent to England, where he attended boarding school and later the North London Polytechnic to qualify as a radio engineer. He made his skills available to his adopted country by joining the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers.
During the war he served in Burma and Ceylon with Radio SEAC, doubling as a disc jockey. However, before joining REME, Winston Churchill issued his order: “Collar the lot”. Ironically, Mellinger, together with many German Jewish refugees who had fled Hitler, was classified as an enemy alien. He was taken to a detention camp at Kempton Park before being put on The Dunera for internment in Australia.
Throughout the long journey he was held, with 2,000 other men, in the bowels of the ship, which narrowly escaped a German U-boat torpedo. Mellinger’s ability to cope with the horror of the journey exemplified his calmness, strength, warmth and humour.
During his internment Mellinger practised, as best he could, his passion for the theatre and developed his talent as a musician. Upon his release he joined the British Army.
After the war he trained at the Central School of Speech and Drama. Undeterred by Michel St Denis telling him that he had come to the profession rather late, Mellinger pursued a full and successful career for more than 50 years. Acting was his life. His good looks and Mediterranean appearance led to a variety of parts, many playing the ‘foreigner’ or villain, sometimes a villainous foreigner, as in Goldfinger (1964).
He worked in theatre, film, television and radio and was a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company and Berliner Ensemble. He appeared in numerous West End productions including Once a Catholic, The Mad Woman of Chaillot, Ace of Clubs and put his singing talent to work in South Pacific.
In the fifties he was a member of the harmony singing group, The Harmonics, who were frequently heard on the radio. As an actor he toured all over the world, including New York for the RSC with Sherlock Holmes. His many film and television credits included David Hare’s Licking Hitler for TV and for the cinema, Goldfinger and Carry On… Up the Khyber (1968).
Mellinger, who died on March 17, was a modest and very talented man who led his life with simplicity. Devoted to his children and grandchildren, Mellinger is survived by his brother, Lucas, his three daughters, Andie, Leonie and Katrin, and three sons, Corin, Paul and Joel.