Smooth British supporting actor Ronald Leigh-Hunt was one of the most familiar faces in postwar British cinema. He made more than 50 films, many of them B-movie thrillers in which he was usually cast as a doctor or a policeman. On television he was best known for his roles as King Arthur in The Adventures of Lancelot (1956) and as Colonel Buchan in the long-running children’s series Freewheelers (1968).
Later in his career he went on to appear in big-budget international films such as Les Mans (1971) with Steve McQueen, The Message (1976) with Anthony Quinn and Irene Papas and The Omen (1976) with Gregory Peck.
Born in London on October 5, 1916, Leigh-Hunt began acting in repertory around Britain before making his film debut, auspiciously as a doctor, in the thriller Blackout (1950) opposite Dinah Sheridan.
Rarely out of work throughout the fifties and sixties, he played supporting roles in a string of films as well as television series such as The Saint, Dixon of Dock Green, The Avengers and Z Cars.
His big break came when he was cast as King Arthur in ITV’s The Adventures of Sir Lancelot (1956/7), opposite William Russell’s Lancelot, and he also caught the public eye with cameos in box office hits such as The League of Gentlemen (1959), Oscar Wilde (1960) and Khartoum (1966) in which he played Lord Northbrook.
Freewheelers was produced by Southern Televison and ran for 104 episodes from 1968. A James Bond-type adventure series for older children, it featured a trio of teenagers used by Leigh-Hunt’s laconic Colonel Buchan to defeat some evil villain, often the neo-Nazi Von Geld, played Geoffrey Toone. “It was one of my favourite roles,” said Leigh-Hunt. “I was in every episode.”
Leigh-Hunt frequently returned to the stage, both in the West End and in the regions, and in 1966 he played the showman Florenz Ziegfeld opposite Barbra Streisand’s Fanny Brice in the West End production of the musical Funny Girl. Although the production won several awards, the show was confined to 112 performances after the star informed the producers that she was pregnant.
His most recent television work had included playing General Pagel in the American mini-series Ike (1979), opposite Robert Duvall, and Frankenstein (1992), with John Mills.
Elegantly dressed both on screen and off, Leigh-Hunt was known in theatrical circles for his glorious voice and impeccable manners. An honorary member of London’s Green Room Club, he was a familiar sight in his later years at the club with his shock of white hair, walking cane and glass of red wine in hand. A boon companion, he was popular with old and young actors alike.
“I’ve been terribly lucky,” he said recently. “I’ve worked with some very great actors in my life and I’ve hardly ever been out of work for 50 years. You can’t really ask for more.”
His cousin is the actress Barbara Leigh-Hunt, wife of the actor Richard Pasco.
He died on September 12, aged 88.
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