WORLD-OBITS-L ArchivesArchiver > WORLD-OBITS > 2007-06 > 1182939957
From: "Peter McCrae" <>
Subject: [WORLD-OBITS] MACNAUGHTAN: Alan MacNaughtan aug,2002
Date: Wed, 27 Jun 2007 11:25:57 +0100
Last Updated: 9:55pm BST 30/08/2002
Alan MacNaughtan, who died on Thursday aged 82, was one of the best
exponents of benign authority and disdainful assurance on the post-war
Tall, poised, polished and dryly humorous, he brought style and elegance to
all his roles in a career spanning more than half a century in plays, films
and on the television. Whether speaking for the Church or the Aristocracy,
Scotland Yard or Shakespeare, MacNaughtan commanded attention; as bishops or
judges, peers or mayors, captains or kings in Shakespeare, Shaw, Chekhov or
Strindberg he had an innate dignity and quietly masterful way with the
A supremely eloquent player, he could range from King Lear to snappy,
American, snarling farce: never with more obvious and pungent insight than
in a revival of The Front Page, by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, in the
1970s during a busy and rewarding spell with the National Theatre in its Old
Vic heyday. As Walter Burns, the prowling, growling unscrupulous editor of a
1930s Chicago daily, the actor roared and raged with supremely disciplined
Other performances that brought MacNaughtan considerable acclaim with the
National Theatre Company included a cool, silken-suited Philinte in Tony
Harrison's updated version of Moliere's The Misanthrope, mixing, as a critic
put it, "staidness and humanity in subtle proportions"; a silvery, sinister,
insinuating Duke in Jonathan Miller's "mobile" production of Measure for
Measure; and, while few others gained much critical credit in a revival of
Macbeth with Denis Quilley in the title role, MacNaughtan's Duncan was
satisfyingly "grand and wise".
Where MacNaughtan remained a master in an age which had begun to neglect the
spoken word was in his gift for expressing its power with easeful authority.
He made audiences hang upon his next sentence. It was a talent which paid
off, particularly in the plays of Shaw.
As The Daily Telegraph observed of MacNaughtan's Lord Summerhays in the
1962-63 revival of Misalliance (Oxford Playhouse, Royal Court and
Criterion), "he paces his lines to languorous perfection".
MacNaughtan's 1979 King Lear - "a gentle cross between Father Christmas and
a Czarist serf" - made the old man's exasperation at the reduction in the
number of his followers "most touching"; and when "this tempest in my mind"
was allowed for once to blow without sounds of thunder or of rain, "the old
man's tragedy was movingly illuminated".
He also tackled, with characteristic dignity, another greatly challenging
role in Strindberg's Dance of Death (Watermill, Newbury, 1970), penetrating
the roots of evil to a point where the dread of death - "or at any rate the
something after death" - was "never absent" from his acting.
Alan MacNaughtan was born on March 4 1920 at Bearsden, on the outskirts of
Glasgow, and educated at Glasgow Academy, before studying for the stage at
the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, where he won the Bancroft Gold Medal in
1940. He made his first appearance on the stage that year at the Old Vic as
the King of France to John Gielgud's King Lear.
After war service, MacNaughtan then spent two years with the Birmingham
Repertory Company (1946-48), where he appeared as Bob Acres in a
modern-dress revival of Sheridan's The Rivals, which transferred to the West
End (St James's, 1948). He also acted in repertory at the Dolphin, Brighton
(1948-49), and with the Sheffield Repertory Company (1949-50), before
returning to London in Pinero's Preserving Mr Panmure (Arts and Aldwych).
He appeared as Scythrop Glowry, "a sensitive spirit" who fell in love with
two ladies, only to lose both, in Anthony Sharp's stage version of Thomas
Love Peacock's novel mocking the 19th-century romantic movement, Nightmare
Abbey (Westminster, 1952). Other successes in the 1950s included a quietly
authoritative, if unwittingly cruel, Trigorin in Chekhov's The Seagull
(Arts), Burwin-Fosselton in The Diary of a Nobody (Arts and Duchess),
Anouilh's Dinner With The Family (Oxford Playhouse and New, now Albery) and
the same author's The Fighting Cock on Broadway.
During the same decade he appeared in such West End whodunnit and detective
plays as Dial M for Murder (1952), Blind Man's Buff (1953), We Must Kill
Toni (1954), The House By The Lake (1956), and The Hidden River (1959).
After a Broadway run and American tour of Giraudox's Duel of Angels, in
which he played Mr Justice Blanchard, MacNaughtan returned to London in
Wycherley's The Gentleman Dancing Master (Pembroke, Croydon) and in a Shaw
double bill, The Showing Up of Blanco Posnet and Androcles and the Lion
>From rep seasons, including the West End transfer of a revival of
Misalliance, he joined a British Council tour of South America and Europe,
playing in The Merchant of Venice and A Midsummer Night's Dream.
After appearing as Subtle in The Alchemist (Oxford Playhouse) and as Proteus
in a tour of Shaw's The Apple Cart (1965) he returned to the West End as the
Reverend Harold Banner in John Bowen's After The Rain (Duchess), in which he
also appeared on Broadway.
MacNaughtan went on to play the Bishop of Caerleon in Peter Luke's Hadrian
the Seventh (Mermaid, 1968) and, after taking the title role in Kenneth
Cameron's Papp (Hampstead, 1969), was back in the West End in Girlfriend
(Apollo) and Noel Coward's Tonight at Eight (Hampstead and Fortune, 1971).
>From a tour with the Cambridge Theatre Company as Vershinin in Chekhov's
Three Sisters and Telfar in Trelawney of the Wells he went, in 1972, to the
Apart from Walter Burns in The Front Page, Duncan in Macbeth and Philinte in
The Misanthrope, his roles included John of Gaunt in Richard II, Oliver
Surface in The School for Scandal, Archie in Jumpers, Frank Strang (one of
the parents) in Equus, Gaev in Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard, Dreyfus in
Charles Wood's Grand Manoeuvres and Manzini Dunn in Shaw's Heartbreak House.
In the 1980s his West End credits included Artist Descending A Staircase
(Duke of York's) and, for the Royal Shakespeare Company, Richard II and
Ibsen's The Pretenders.
Other London stage work included, at the Lyric, Hammersmith, Britannicus,
The Winslow Boy, and Mumbo Jumbo; at the National Theatre, Edward Bond's The
Sea and Don Diego in Corneille's Le Cid (1994); and at the Almeida,
Islington, All For Love.
A private figure with a sardonic manner, MacNaughtan was most at home on
stage, but made numerous supporting television appearances, including parts
in The Duchess Of Duke Street; The Sandbaggers; To Serve Them All My Days;
How Many Miles to Babylon; Strangers and Brothers; Shadowlands; The Russian
Soldier; The Insurance Man; Mr and Mrs Edgehill; Game, Set and Match and A
Very British Coup.
His films included Victim; Children of the Damned; Family Life and Last Days
|[WORLD-OBITS] MACNAUGHTAN: Alan MacNaughtan aug,2002 by "Peter McCrae" <>|