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Obituary: Anthony Valentine

Anthony Valentine. Photo: Sasha Gusov Anthony Valentine. Photo: Sasha Gusov

Anthony Valentine all but cornered the market in debonair but dangerous villains on television for a large part of the 1960s and 1970s. But long before he became a household name in Callan, Colditz and Raffles, Valentine was a familiar face on the small screen and in film, having made his debut, aged 10, in the 1949 crime drama No Way Back.

Born in Blackburn, Lancashire, and raised in London, Valentine’s early interest in performing saw him winning medals for tap dancing while still at school, and later appearing in amateur productions.

He made his professional stage debut in 1949, with early television fame following in a run of popular children’s shows including Emil and the Detectives (1952), The Children of the New Forest (1955) and as Harry Wharton in Billy Bunter of Greyfriars School (1955-57).

He found his way into the West End for the first time in 1955 alongside Barbara Kelly and Bernard Braden in the domestic comedy Anniversary Waltz at the Lyric Theatre, returning in 1959 for the Australian drama The Shifting Heart at the Duke of York’s Theatre. The previous year he was seen in the premieres of Ann Jellicoe’s The Sport of My Mad Mother and Arnold Wesker’s Chicken Soup With Barley at the Royal Court Theatre.

In 1962, he shared the stage with Trevor Howard in John Mortimer’s Two Stars for Comfort at the Garrick Theatre, London, and spent a season at Leatherhead Rep in 1965 before joining Kenneth Williams in The Platinum Cat at the Wyndham’s Theatre, London, the same year.

Later theatre credits in London included No Sex Please, We’re British (Strand Theatre, 1971), Sleuth (St Martin’s Theatre, 1972), Otto to Tommy Steele’s Hans Andersen (London Palladium, 1977), Art (Wyndham’s Theatre, 1999) and Cardinal Monticelso in The White Devil (Lyric, Hammersmith, 2000).

At the turn of the century, he enjoyed a long relationship with the Mill at Sonning, where he made his debut as a writer and director with The Waiting Game in 1998. He went on to direct regularly at the Reading venue, including Separate Tables (2005), The Odd Couple (2009) and California Suite (2012).

Valentine’s television profile had been boosted in 1967 as the sadistic upper-class killer Toby Meres in Callan, but it was the sinisterly suave Nazi Major Mohn in wartime drama Colditz (1974) that made him a star and led to even larger success as the Edwardian gentleman and jewel thief Raffles (1975-77).

A regular guest artist with more than 120 screen credits, he enjoyed belated success with Robin of Sherwood (1984-86), The Knock (1994-96) and Coronation Street (2009-10).

Anthony Valentine was born on August 17, 1939 and was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2012. He died on December 2, aged 76. He is survived by his wife, the actor Susan Skipper.

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