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Obituary: Clinton Greyn – ‘striking actor who enjoyed a long career on stage and screen’

Clinton Greyn

Tall, strikingly masculine, with piercing blue eyes and a powerful voice inherited from his paternal grandfather, a Welsh Congregational preacher, Clinton Greyn had a long career on stage and screen.

Born Clinton Stuart Thomas in Swansea to a railway clerk father, family legend has it that the then unknown Harry Secombe sang in the church choir at his christening. Greyn spent most of his childhood in Crewe, where his parents were enthusiastic amateur actors.

Having attended the British Drama League summer school, he went on to train at RADA, where Sian Phillips was prominent among his peers. There he adopted Greyn as his stage name and on graduating spent time in the rep companies in Ipswich and Chesterfield before joining the Belgrade Coventry in 1958.

In his first season, he appeared in William Inge’s Broadway success Picnic and as Dunois to Phillips’ Saint Joan. The following year, he shared the stage with Alan Howard in TS Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral.

Greyn was a memorable pig wrangler in Nicholas Stuart Gray’s The Princess and the Swineherd at Theatre Royal Stratford East (1959) before he made his West End debut opposite Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne in Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s The Visit, directed by Peter Brook – the first production at the newly opened Royalty Theatre in 1960. His Captain Absolute in Sheridan’s The Rivals at the Pembroke Theatre, Croydon, in 1961 was admired by Laurence Olivier, who was impressed by Greyn’s dexterous acting in the round.

Returning to Coventry in 1963, he proved a striking Storyteller in Brecht’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle, the second professional production by director Trevor Nunn.
With the Welsh Theatre Company – an association he especially treasured, given his roots – Greyn toured in Bill Naughton’s All in Good Time in 1964.

By then, his screen profile was on the rise with films including Woman Times Seven with Shirley MacLaine, and Peter Yates’ crime caper Robbery in 1967, alongside Peter O’Toole in the 1969 musical remake of Goodbye, Mr Chips and opposite Richard Burton in war drama Raid on Rommel (1971). The previous year, he had been invited to audition as James Bond when George Lazenby’s tenure in the role ended after one film.

Greyn made an early impact on television in Compact (1962-63), a serial set in the offices of a women’s magazine, created by Hazel Adair and Peter Ling, who later devised Crossroads and the rural family drama The Newcomers (1966). In 1968, he took the lead in Ted Willis’ Virgin of the Secret Service as the eponymous captain locking antlers with enemies of the British Empire.

Later small-screen appearances included the thriller Scotch on the Rocks (1973), two stints on Doctor Who, Shine on Harvey Moon (1985) and Howards’ Way (1987).

Greyn was an active member of Equity, serving on its governing body on three occasions and was prominent in many committees.

During the early 1970s, he co-founded the Save London’s Theatres Campaign, the pressure group that was instrumental in bringing the Theatres Trust into being. He served as its vice-chair and casework officer.

Greyn developed a passion for architecture and was knowledgeable about conservation and planning issues, working for organisations including Urban Design Group and as director of the Twentieth Century Society. He was a founding member of the Architecture Foundation and preservation body Docomomo UK. With Russell Jones, he co-designed and built his own flat and two others in Bayswater, London.

Clinton Greyn was born on September 29, 1933 and died on March 19, aged 85. He is survived by his first wife and their son, four grandchildren, and by his second wife.

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