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Peter Coke

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Actor and playwright Peter Coke was known for his portrayal of detective Paul Temple in the long-running BBC Radio series. He played Temple from 1954-68 and won further fame in 2003 when the series was repeated on BBC7.

He wrote numerous commercial plays, notably Breath of Spring (1958), which had a long run in the West End and on Broadway, and became a favourite with amateurs for many years. Other plays included Fools Paradise, The Isle of Umbrellas and Midsummer Mink.

Peter John Coke was born in Southsea on April 3, 1913, the son of a naval commander. He was educated at Stowe and then trained for the stage at RADA. After graduating, he appeared in the West End in Dodie Smith’s Bonnet Over the Windmill.

At the same time, he began appearing in small roles in British films, such as Missing, Believed Married (1937) and The Return of Carol Deane (1938), and when war broke out, he served in the Royal Artillery in the Italian campaign. He also appeared in several plays with ENSA.

After being demobbed, he returned to the West End stage. He was Lord Pym in William Douglas Home’s The Chiltern Hundreds (1947) and he also had roles in And So to Wed (1947) and Lytton Strachey’s A Son of Heaven (1949).

In the fifties he was a member of Donald Wolfit’s company (which also included Leo McKern, Lee Montague, Kenneth Griffith and Richard Pascoe) and appeared in Tamburlaine the Great and The Clandestine Marriage. In 1952 he toured in the Old Vic production of King Lear and he was at the Old Vic later that year playing Alcibiades in Timon of Athens.

He appeared frequently on television in character roles in the late fifties and early sixties, and among his later films were Carry On Admiral and Up the Creek.

Coke had a lifelong interest in antiques – he once owned an antiques shop on the King’s Road – and he was also a highly successul shell sculptor. Much of his work is displayed in a gallery in Sheringham.

He died on July 30, aged 95. His partner, Fred Webb, died in 2003. He is survived by a nephew.

Patrick Newley

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