January 2, 2017


Peter Ustinov (1921-2004) b. London, England.

Peter Ustinov

Born in London to White Russian parents, writer, director, and playwright, Peter Ustinov was educated at Gibbs’s Preparatory School and Westminster School, and graduated to the London Theatre Studio. He first appeared on stage in 1938. He made his screen début in a short film, Hullo Fame (1940), and the 22-year-old Ustinov appeared in his first feature film as a Dutch priest in Powell and Pressburger’s One of Our Aircraft is Missing (1942). In the Will Hay comedy The Goose Steps Out (1942), he played a German youth again taught by Hay that a V-sign to Hitler is the supreme form of salute.

After military service during WWII, Ustinov penned his first screenplay, The True Glory (1945). The successful light-hearted thriller School for Secrets (1946) was the first of several films written and directed by Ustinov, quickly followed by a film version of F. Anstey’s Vice-Versa (1948). He garnered international acclaim for his gloating Nero in Quo Vadis? (1951), which admirably combined suspense and lurid humour. It started his most successful period as a screen actor, appearing in such films as the French Resistance biopic Odette (1950), Beau Brummell (1954) and We’re No Angels (1954).

Subsequently, Ustinov won two Best Supporting Actor Academy Awards for his portrayal of slave-trader Lentulus Batiatus in Spartacus (1960) and as the duped con man in Topkapi (1964). He went on to appear in more of his own plays in such films as Romanoff and Juliet (1961), a laudable version of Herman Melville’s Billy Budd (1962) and Lady L (1966). Beginning with Death on the Nile (1978), he has played Agatha Christie’s Belgium sleuth Hercule Poirot, a role he again essayed in Evil Under the Sun (1982) and Appointment with Death (1988). In latter years he established a considerable reputation as a raconteur and was an ambassador for charity Unicef. Ustinov was appointed CBE in 1975, and knighted in 1990.

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