Tom Courtenay (1937-) b. Hull, Humberside, England.
Born in Hull, Yorkshire, England. Tom Courtenay came from a working class background, and at senior school was encouraged to take up acting. He went on to University College London to read English and later trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. He made his professional debut in the 1960 production of Chekhov’s The Seagull at the Old Vic. From there, he went into the West End stage version of Billy Liar. Courtenay rose to prominence with a starring role as the angry, young protagonist in Tony Richardson‘s acclaimed The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962). He appeared the following year in another influential film; John Schlesinger’s adaptation of Billy Liar (1963), giving arguably his finest screen performance as the whimsical dreamer Billy Fisher. Ensuing films included King and Country (1964), King Rat (1965), and the role of Pasha in David Lean’s Doctor Zhivago (1965), that earned him an Oscar nomination for supporting actor.
In 1971, his promising film career came to a standstill and Courtenay concentrated on the stage. He returned to the screen after an absence of over ten years to appear in The Dresser (1983), both he and co-star Albert Finney earned Oscar nominations for their portrayals of an aging legendary actor and his unquestioning valet. On the small screen, he gave a refined performance in the made-for-TV drama A Rather English Marriage (1998), once again opposite Albert Finney. Since then Courtenay’s screen performances have been sporadic, he notably appeared in Peter Medak‘s true-life story of Derek Bentley, Let Him Have It (1991), and playing an undertaker in Last Orders (2001), an adaptation of Graham Swift’s Booker-winning novel. In 2000, Courtenay was awarded a knighthood for his long-running contribution to both stage and screen.