Peter Wyngarde, the International Man of Mystery?
Peter Wyngarde is not a household name. No, he falls squarely in the category of “that guy.” He was one of those actors that viewers would exclaim “Oh, it’s that guy!” when he popped up on screen. However, Wyngarde led a life worthy of any spy he portrayed or inspired. Unfortunately, the British actor passed away on January 15th, 2018. He was, theoretically, 90 years old.
Wyngarde was supposedly born as Cyril Louis Goldbert in Marseille, France on August 23rd, 1933. However, this information has been heavily disputed. His father was a British business man and traveled for work. In 1941, Wyngarde was left in the care of a Swiss family in Shanghai. During this period, the Japanese invaded Shanghai and placed European citizens in internment camps. While in Lung Hua, JG Ballard met the young Peter Wyngarde. In his memoir, Ballard insisted Wyngarde was four years his senior. Ballard was born in 1930, making Wyngarde’s birth year 1926.
Furthermore, much evidence points to Singapore being his birth city. Also, the actor insisted his birth name was Peter Wyngarde. However, when he was arrested on indecency charges in 1975, court documents listed Cyril Louis Goldbert as his legal name.
Wyngarde’s Acting Career
Wyngarde’s career began on stage in 1946. During his stage career, he appeared in Hamlet with Sir Alec Guinness, and Duel of the Angels alongside Vivian Leigh. As television took the world by storm, he made the transition to the small screen. It was there he made his biggest splash. Wyngarde took character parts in countless television films and series spanning four decades. Most notably, he appeared as Timanov in Doctor Who: Planet of Fire. The 1984 adventure followed Peter Davison’s Doctor in a showdown against The Master.
In 1969, Wyngarde secured his only leading man role. He portrayed Jason King in the short-lived Department S. The show ran for one season and followed an elite sub-organization within Interpol. King was a mystery writer who solved cases by imagining he was Mark Caine, the main character of his novels. The series didn’t last long, but the character of King returned in a spin-off titled Jason King. The character directly inspired Mike Meyers’s Austin Powers.
However, gross indecency charges befell the actor in 1975. Britain’s laws banned homosexual activity, and he was caught in a public bathroom with another man. Effectively, this ended his career. Yes, he popped up in Flash Gordon as Klytus, and the Doctor Who series debuted in 1984. However, he stopped taking regular work in the mid-1990s.
Although he was the victim of discriminatory laws, Peter Wyngarde leaves an enigmatic legacy. He indirectly inspired the generation following him. Also, his work spans many cult genres and interests. Although he is no longer here, he is man, myth, and legend.