(born 10 August 1932) is an English stage and film actor
noted for his work with Joan Littlewood,
Kubrick. He is the author of two books: The Art of Theatre Workshop
(2006) and The Theatre Royal, A History of the Building (2009).
1 Early years
2 At the Theatre Workshop
Ken Russell connection
4 Other film performances
5 Television performances
6 Other work
7 Selected filmography
8 Selected theatre performances (as an actor)
9 Selected music theatre performances
10 Selected theatre and opera performances as a director
11 Selected television performances
14 External links
Melvin was born in London. The son of Hugh Victor Melvin and Maisie
Winifred Driscoll, Melvin left his north London secondary school at
the age of fourteen unable to master fractions but as head prefect, a
qualification he says he gained by always having clean fingernails and
well combed hair.
He started work as an office boy for a firm of travel agents off
To help channel the energies of the young after the disturbing times
of the war, his parents had helped to found a youth club in Hampstead,
financed by the
Co-operative Society of which they were longstanding
members. A drama section formed with Melvin its most enthusiastic
A short-lived job followed as an import and export clerk in a shipping
office. He inadvertently exported quantities of goods to destinations
that had not ordered them, followed by two unhappy years of National
Service in the
Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force (his father had served in the RAF
during the Second World War).
He was employed as clerk and secretary to the director of the Royal
Air Force sports board at the Air Ministry, then in Kingsway. Knowing
nothing about sport, he considered his clean fingernails, well combed
hair and his father's service had done the trick.
At the Theatre Workshop
He attended evening classes at the nearby City Literary Institute and
studied drama, mime and classical Ballet. During an extended lunch
break from the Ministry, he applied to Joan Littlewood's Theatre
Workshop company at the
Theatre Royal Stratford East
Theatre Royal Stratford East and auditioned on
stage singing and dancing for
Joan Littlewood and Gerry Raffles. On
being asked to create a character he knew from life he impersonated a
rather rotund director of the sports board. Having ascertained that he
had to return that afternoon to work for this character Joan
Littlewood said to Gerry Raffles: "the poor little bugger, we must get
him away from there" - which they did.
In October 1957 he became an assistant stage manager, theatre painter
and general dogsbody to John Bury, the theatre designer, and he went
on stage in his first professional role as the Queen's Messenger in
the then in rehearsal production of Macbeth. From the Scottish Court
to a building site his next performance was as a bricklayer in You
Won't Always Be On Top, soon followed by a peasant in And the Wind
Blew, Bellie in Pirandello's Man Beast and Virtue, Calisto in De
Rojas's Celestina; Young Jodi Maynard in Paul Green's Unto Such Glory
(all 1957) and then came the last play of the 1957-58 season which was
to be the start of an extraordinary year in the history of theatre
workshop and Melvin's career. He was cast as Geoffrey in Shelagh
Delaney's play, A Taste of Honey. After the summer break in 1958, he
played the title role in the seminal production of Brendan Behan's The
Hostage. Both scripts had been transformed in rehearsals by Joan
Littlewood's painstaking and inspired methods of getting to the truth
of the text and building a lively poetic and dangerous theatrical
event. Though both plays were to blow a refreshing wind through the
British theatre, neither play transferred to the West End immediately,
so Melvin stayed on to play Scrooge's nephew in Joan Littlewood's
A Christmas Carol
A Christmas Carol (1958).
In February 1959,
A Taste of Honey
A Taste of Honey opened at the
Wyndham's Theatre and
transferred to the Criterion some six months later. It was the hit of
the season. Melvin went on to play his role of Geoffrey in the film of
A Taste of Honey, directed by Tony Richardson, for which he won the
Prix de Cannes as best actor at the festival in 1962. He was also
nominated for the BAFTA "Most Promising Newcomer" award.
In April 1960, William Saroyan, on a world tour, stopped off in London
where he wrote and directed a play for the workshop in which he cast
Melvin as the leading character called Sam, the Highest Jumper of Them
All. Then the workshop paid their annual visit to the Sarah Bernhardt
Theatre for the Paris World Theatre Season with Ben Johnson's Everyman
in his Humour in which he played Brainworm. Rehearsals then started
for Stephen Lewis's
Sparrers Can't Sing
Sparrers Can't Sing in which Melvin played the
role of Knocker Jugg. The following year he transferred to the role
Georgie Brimsdown for the film adaptation of the play. The film, her
first, was directed by Joan Littlewood.
After a break of nearly two years the company came together to create
Oh, What a Lovely War! After its initial run at Stratford
it went to the Paris Festival and won it. The company returned to the
Wyndham's Theatre where the play won the Evening Standard Best Musical
Award. Between the end of its London run and the opening at the
Broadhurst Theatre in New York, the company visited the Edinburgh
Festival with Shakespeare's Henry IV parts 1 and 2, in which Melvin
metamorphosed as Gadshill, Shallow, Vernon and the Earl of March.
The production of
Oh, What a Lovely War! in New York in 1964 was his
Joan Littlewood and the
Theatre Workshop Company.
The production attracted the interest of filmmakers, including Ken
Russell and Lewis Gilbert. Melvin became a member of what has often
been called the
Ken Russell Repertory Company, appearing in many of
Russell's most celebrated films, including The Devils and The Boy
Lewis Gilbert cast Melvin in
H.M.S. Defiant (1962), alongside
Dirk Bogarde, and in Alfie, where he played Michael Caine's work
friend, stealing petrol and taking photographs to sell to tourists.
Ken Russell connection
Ken Russell film Melvin appeared in was Diary of a Nobody,
filmed at the
Ealing Studios on a specially built 'silent film' set.
Alongside Melvin, who played the errant son, Lupin, were other actors
from John Littlewood's Theatre Workshop, including
Bryan Pringle and
Brian Murphy, who also became Russell regulars. Lupin's girlfriend in
the film is played by Vivian Pickles, whose performance at the Royal
Court Theatre in John Osborne's Plays for
England had attracted
Melvin was seen in a cameo in the final scenes of Ken Russell's film
of Isadora Duncan (1966), which starred
Vivian Pickles as the great
Melvin's most famous role is Father Mignon in Ken Russell's The Devils
(1971). Mignon is the catalyst to the true-life horrors documented in
the film. His appointment to the convent of Loudon, whose leading
members were expecting Father Grandier (played by Oliver Reed), causes
the nun's demonic condemnation of Grandier to spiral out of control.
After the film, Melvin directed two works by The Devils composer,
Peter Maxwell Davies: the theatre piece Miss Donnithorne's Maggot and
the opera The Martyrdom of St Magnus. Further work with Davies
followed. He was the speaker in a production of Davies's Missa super
l'homme armé and he played the Virgin in the premiere production of
Davies's Notre Dame des Fleurs.
In Russell's The Boy Friend (1971), Melvin and another Theatre
Workshop regular, Brian Murphy, are among the company players trying
to catch the eye of a Hollywood producer who watches their provincial
performance of Sandy Wilson's The Boy Friend. In the film, Melvin has
a spectacular solo dance number in a caped French officer's outfit.
He again had a cameo as
Hector Berlioz in Ken Russell's Lisztomania,
as a test-run to a film about Berlioz which Russell was preparing.
He appeared in Russell's film about the poet, Samuel Coleridge, The
Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1978).
Returning with the French theme, Melvin played an enthusiastic French
lawyer in Prisoner of Honour (1991), Ken Russell's all-star film about
the French Dreyfus Affair.
Melvin remained a lifelong friend of Ken Russell, and was often seen
with Russell at festival screening of Russell's films. At the Barbican
screening of the director's cut of The Devils, 1 May 2011, Melvin and
Ken Russell arrived together, with Melvin pushing Ken Russell's
Other film performances
He had an important role as Reverend Samuel Runt in Stanley Kubrick's
Barry Lyndon (1975). In the video project "Stanley and Us", Melvin
talks about Kubrick's "57 takes (plus 20)".
He appeared in the swinging sixties comedy
Smashing Time (1967), which
Bruce Lacey and his robots.
Ken Russell had made a film
about Lacey called The Preservation Man (1962).
Melvin talks to actress
Georgina Hale at the Young Vic Theatre 31
He co starred with Russell regular
Oliver Reed in Richard Fleischer's
film of The Prince and the Pauper Crossed Swords (1977) and in Alberto
Lattuada's four part television film Christopher Columbus (1985).
Peter Medak cast Melvin in five films: A Day in the Death of Joe Egg
(1972), starring Alan Bates;
Ghost in the Noonday Sun (1973, starring
Peter Sellers); The Krays (1990);
Let Him Have It
Let Him Have It (1991); and as Dr.
Chilip in David Copperfield (2000).
He has featured in two films by Christine Edzard, Little Dorrit
(1988), and As You Like It (1992).
In 2004 he appeared as Monsieur Reyer, the musical director and
conductor of the Opera Populaire, in Joel Schumacher's film adaptation
of the musical The Phantom of the Opera.
He appeared in the very first episode of the cult television series
The Avengers in 1960.
He played the Dauphin in Shaw's St. Joan, directed in 1966 by Waris
Hussein. He played Bertold in a television production of Pirandello's
Henry IV directed by Michael Hayes; Don Pietro in Peter Drummond's
film of The Little World of Don Camillo; and The Hermit in Mai
Zetterling's production of William Tell. He also appeared as the
Barber in Rex Harrison's Don Quixote in the 1973 television film
directed by Alvin Rakoff.
He starred in The Tyrant King, the six-part children's television
series directed in 1968 by Mike Hodges. In 1973 he played a crucial
role in the last two episodes of The Flaxton Boys, where he plays the
upper-class twit character Gerald Meder.
In 1994, Melvin supplied the voice of the villain Lucius on the
British children's animated TV series
Oscar's Orchestra for the BBC
In 1998 he appeared in a Christmas
Special episode of the BBC's
Jonathan Creek called "The Black Canary".
In 2007 he appeared as the sinister
Bilis Manger in the Doctor Who
In July 2011 Melvin played the Professor in a short comedy/drama
called The Grey Mile, a story about two ex master criminals who are
now confined to a care home.
Melvin was a founder member of the Actors' Centre and was its chairman
for four years during which time he started a centre in
Joan Littlewood and the Theatre Workshop.
As a theatre director, he has worked across all genres including
opera, recital, drama and comedy. He directed the first productions of
three of Graeme Garden's perennially popular pantomimes.
In 1991, thirty four years after first making the tea and sweeping the
stage at the Theatre Royal, he was invited to become a member of the
board of the theatre, a position he held until 2011. It is partly in
this role that he is becoming widely known as a learned and popular
theatre and film historian — he can be seen and heard, for example,
on the BFI DVD release of the
Bill Douglas Trilogy.
In 1992 he became the Theatre Royal's voluntary archivist and in 2009
he was appointed a member of the
Theatre Workshop Trust. He led the
successful campaign to erect a statue of
Joan Littlewood in Theatre
Square at Stratford.
On 18 July 2013, he was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Arts
De Montfort University
De Montfort University and in July 2015 he was awarded an honorary
degree by the University of Essex.
Several commercial available audio recordings have been made featuring
Murray Melvin. These include four plays on LPs produced by Caedmon
Two Gentlemen of Verona
Two Gentlemen of Verona (1965); A Midsummer's Night Dream;
Bernard Shaw's St. Joan (1966); The Poetry of Kipling). His
Oh, What a Lovely War
Oh, What a Lovely War is available on Decca Records
In 2007, he narrated Tales of the Supernatural Volume 3 by M. R. James
for Fantom Films. This was followed in 2009 by M.R. James - A Ghost
Story for Christmas, and in 2011 and 2012 by two recordings of Wilkie
Collins: Supernatural Stories, Volumes 2 & 3 and The Dark Shadows
Legend :The Happier Dead.
The Criminal (1960) - Antlers
Suspect (1960) - Teddy Boy
A Taste of Honey
A Taste of Honey (1961) - Geoffrey Ingham
Petticoat Pirates (1961) - Kenneth
Solo for Sparrow
Solo for Sparrow (1962) - Larkin
H.M.S. Defiant (1962) - Wagstaffe
Sparrows Can't Sing
Sparrows Can't Sing (1963) - Georgie
The Ceremony (1963) - First Gendaime
Alfie (1966) - Nat
Kaleidoscope (1966) - Aimes
Smashing Time (1967) - 1st Exquisite
The Fixer (1968) - Priest
Start the Revolution Without Me
Start the Revolution Without Me (1970) - Blind Man
The Devils (1971) - Mignon
The Boy Friend (1971) - Alphonse
A Day in the Death of Joe Egg (1972) - Doctor
Gawain and the Green Knight (1973) - Seneschal
Ghost in the Noonday Sun (1973) - Hamidos
Ghost Story (1974) - Mc Fayden
Lisztomania (1975) - Hector Berlioz
Barry Lyndon (1975) - Rev. Samuel Runt
Shout at the Devil (1976) - Lt. Phipps
The Bawdy Adventures of Tom Jones (1976) - Blifil
The Ballad of Salomon Pavey (1977)
Gulliver's Travels (1977) - (voice)
Joseph Andrews (1977) - Beau Didapper
The Prince and the Pauper (1977) - Prince's Dresser
Stories from a Flying Trunk (1979) - Hans Christian Andersen
Nutcracker (1982) - Leopold
Sacred Hearts (1985) - Father Power
Christopher Columbus (1985) - Father Linares
Comrades (1986) - Clerk
Funny Boy (1987) - Arthur
Little Dorrit (1988) - Dancing Master
Testimony (1988) - The Film Editor
Slipstream (1989) - Man on Stairs
The Krays (1990) - Newsagent
The Fool (1990) - Jeremy Ruttle
Let Him Have It
Let Him Have It (1991) - Secondary School Teacher
Prisoner of Honour (1991) - Bertillon
As You Like It (1992) - Sir Oliver Martext
Princess Caraboo (1994) - Lord Motley
England (1995) - Anthony Ashley Cooper, Earl of
Alice in Wonderland (1999) - Chief Executioner
The Emperor's New Clothes (2001) - Antommarchi
The Phantom of the Opera (2004) - Reyer
The Grey Mile (2012) - Professor Worth
The Lost City of Z (2016) - Lord James Bernard
Selected theatre performances (as an actor)
Queen's Messenger in Shakespeare's
Calisto in De Roja's Celestina (1958).
Jodie in Paul Green's Unto Such Glory (1958).
Scrooge's Nephew in Dickens'
A Christmas Carol
A Christmas Carol (1958).
Geoffrey in Shelagh Delaney's
A Taste of Honey
A Taste of Honey (1958).
Leslie in Brendan Behan's The Hostage (1958).
Sam in William Soroyan's Sam, The Highest Jumper of Them All.
Brainworm in Ben Johnson's Everyman in His Humour (1960).
Gadshill, Shallow, Earl of March & Vernon in Henry IV (Pts 1 &
Knocker in Stephen Lewis's
Sparrers Can't Sing
Sparrers Can't Sing (1960).
Theatre Workshop's Company musical
Oh, What a Lovely War
Oh, What a Lovely War (1963).
Waterhouse and Hall's revue
England Our England, (1963). With music by
Adolphus in Bernard Shaw's Trifles and Tomfooleries (1967), Mermaid
The Boy in Arthur Kopit's Oh Dad. Poor Dad (1965), Piccadilly Theatre,
Bouzin in Feydeau's Cat Among the Pigeons (adapted by John Mortimer),
(1969), Prince of Wales Theatre, London.
Dufausset in Feydeau's The Pig in a Poke.
Gilbert in Willis Hall's Kidnapped at Christmas, (1975).
Dorset in Rosemary Anne Sisson's The Dark Horse (1978), The Comedy
Arthur Deakin in Ridley's The Ghost Train.
The Dauphin in Bernard Shaw's Saint Joan
Charlie Boy in Blair's Mulligan's Last Case.
Etienne in Feydeau's French Dressing
The Spirits of Christmas in Musgrave's Opera A Christmas Carol.
Ko-Ko in Gilbert & Sullivan's The Mikado.
Fiddler in Henry Living's Don't Touch Him He Might Resent It.
Backbite in Sheridan's A School For Scandal.
Ephraim Smooth in O'Keefe's Wild Oats.
Jacopone in Peter Barnes's Sunsets and Glories, 1990.
Anton Zagorestky in Griboyedov/Anthony Burgess' Chatsky (or The
Importance of Being Stupid), 1993.
Konrad in Ludwig Holberg/Kenneth McLeish's
Jeppe of the Hill (1994).
Father Domingo in Schiller's Don Carlos.
Ratty in Willis Hall's Musical version of The Wind In The Willows.
Hopkins in Patrick Prior's The Lodger.
Oliver Nashwick in Rodney Ackland's After October (1997), Chichester
The Priest in Schiller's
The Robbers (1998), King's Theatre,
Coupler in John Vanburgh's
The Relapse (1998) at Glasgow's Citizens
Theatre and Lyceum Edinburgh.
Don Perlimpin in Lorca's The Love of Don Perlimplín and Belisa in the
Burrus in Racine's Brittanicus at Glasgow Citizens Theatre.
Cool in Boucicault's London Assurance.
Tireseas and Chorus in Seamus Heaney's The Burial at Thebes
Selected music theatre performances
The Narrator, Walton's Facade.
The Narrator, The Poetry And Songs of Leo Aylen
The Narrator, Geoffrey King's King Arthur's Dream
The Devil, Stravinsky's The Soldiers Tale.
The Narrator, Stravinsky's The Soldiers Tale.
The Performer, Maxwell Davies's Missa super l'homme armé.
The Virgin, Maxwell Davies's Notre Dame Des Fleur.
Da Ponte Rennison & Melvins Roses and Laurels.
Selected theatre and opera performances as a director
Miss Donnithorne's Magot (1976), written by Maxwell Davies.
The Martydom of St. Magnus (1977) by Maxwell Davies
The Raft of the Medusa (1977), oratorio by Hans Henze
The Mime of Nick, Mick and the Maggies (1978) by John Buller
Cinderella (1979) by Dudley Sutton
Aladdin (1980) by Dudley Sutton
Quack Quack (Le Médecin malgré lui, 1980) at Chipping Norton Theatre
by Dudley Sutton
The Sleeping Beauty (1984) by
Graeme Garden at the New Shaw Theatre,
Don't Touch Him, He Might Resent It (The Government Inspector, 1982)
by Henry Livings
Jack The Giant Killer (1985) by Graeme Garden
Puss in Boots (1986) by Graeme Garden.
Recital 1 (sung by Mary Thomas) by Luciano Berio
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1987), adapted by Matthew Waterhouse
(Chipping Norton and UK Tour)
Sinbad The Sailor (1987) by Jeff Clarke
Brotherly Love (1988) by David and Clive Swift
Sweet Liberty by Jeff Clarke
Selected television performances
Salesman in Small Fish Are Sweet (1959) Dir. Alan Clarke
Lupin in The
Diary of a Nobody
Diary of a Nobody (1964) Dir. Ken Russell
The Dauphin in St. Joan (Shaw) Dir. Waris Hussein
Angel Pavement (J.B. Priestley ) Dir. Paddy Russell
The Teddy Boy in Paradise Street Series Dir. Shaun Sutton
The Reporter in Isadora Duncan (1966) Dir. Ken Russell
Bertold in Henry IV (Pirandello, 1967) Dir. Michael Hayes
The Memorandum (Václav Havel, 1967) Dir. James Firman
The Wheels of Chance
The Wheels of Chance (H. G. Wells) Dir. Christopher
Burstell, from a treatment by Ken Russell
Robert Lovell in The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner Dir. Ken Russell
Nathaniel Giles in The Ballad Of Salomon Pavey (Taylor, 1977) Dir.
Don Pietro in The Little World Of Dom Camillo Dir. Peter Drummond
The Devil in
The Soldier's Tale (Stravinsky) Dir. Peter Adam
Spirits of Christmas in
A Christmas Carol
A Christmas Carol (Thea Musgrave) Dir. Michael
Jack Spratt in
Bulman Dir. Charlie Nairn
The Hermit in William Tell (1992) Dir. Mai Zetterling
Ignatius in T. Bag And The Sunstones Of Montezuma (episode, "One
Million Years B.C.") Dir. Glyn Edwards
The Clerk in
Doomsday Gun (HBO, 1994) Dir. Robert Young
Roger Parry in Cone Zones (episode, "One For The Money", 1985) Dir.
Lord Shaftesbury in England, My England. Dir. Tony Palmer
Oscar's Orchestra (animation) Dir. Tony Collingwood
The Architect in The Village. (Jim Cartwright) Dir. Sara Sugarman
Delamere in Bugs Dir. Matthew Evans
Jonathan Creek Dir. Sandy Johnson
Caravaggio in Star Hunter Series Dir. Dan d'Or
Da Ponte in The Genius Of Mozart Dir. Andy King-Dobbs
King of the Knight in Tom's Christmas Tree (2006) Dir. Robert Worley
Librarian in The Village (Hezibah) Dir. Robert Sigl
Bilis Manger in
Torchwood (2006) Dir. Ashley Way
^ "Murray Melvin". British Film Institute. Retrieved 13 March
^ "The Devils (18) + Introduction by director Ken Russell". Barbican.
1 May 2011. Retrieved 24 July 2014.
^ The Stanley and Us Project (7 August 2011). "Murray Melvin. 57
takes!?". YouTube. Retrieved 24 July 2014.
^ "Sleeping Beauty". Denis King Music. 2014. Retrieved 24 July
^ "Honorary Graduate Murray Melvin". 17 July 2015. Retrieved 29 July
The Art of the Theatre Workshop, compiled and introduced by Murray
The Theatre Royal. A History of the Building,
Murray Melvin (2009)
The Authorised Biography of Ken Russell, Vol 1. Becoming Ken Russell,
Paul Sutton (2012).
Honorary Doctorate of Arts. De Montford University 18th. July 2013
University of Essex
University of Essex 17th. July 2015 Honorary
Fellowship. Rose Bruford College 16th. September 2016
Murray Melvin on IMDb
Cannes Film Festival Best Actor Award
Ray Milland (1946)
Edward G. Robinson
Edward G. Robinson (1949)
Michael Redgrave (1951)
Marlon Brando (1952)
Charles Vanel (1953)
Spencer Tracy/cast of Bolshaya Semya (1955)
John Kitzmiller (1957)
Paul Newman (1958)
Bradford Dillman/Dean Stockwell/
Orson Welles (1959)
Anthony Perkins (1961)
Dean Stockwell/Jason Robards/Ralph Richardson/
Murray Melvin (1962)
Richard Harris (1963)
Saro Urzì (1964)
Terence Stamp (1965)
Per Oscarsson (1966)
Oded Kotler (1967)
Jean-Louis Trintignant (1969)
Marcello Mastroianni (1970)
Riccardo Cucciolla (1971)
Jean Yanne (1972)
Giancarlo Giannini (1973)
Jack Nicholson (1974)
Vittorio Gassman (1975)
José Luis Gómez
José Luis Gómez (1976)
Fernando Rey (1977)
Jon Voight (1978)
Jack Lemmon (1979)
Michel Piccoli (1980)
Ugo Tognazzi (1981)
Jack Lemmon (1982)
Gian Maria Volontè
Gian Maria Volontè (1983)
Francisco Rabal (1984)
William Hurt (1985)
Bob Hoskins (1986)
Marcello Mastroianni (1987)
Forest Whitaker (1988)
James Spader (1989)
Gérard Depardieu (1990)
John Turturro (1991)
Tim Robbins (1992)
David Thewlis (1993)
Ge You (1994)
Jonathan Pryce (1995)
Daniel Auteuil (1996)
Sean Penn (1997)
Peter Mullan (1998)
Emmanuel Schotte (1999)
Tony Leung Chiu-wai
Tony Leung Chiu-wai (2000)
Benoît Magimel (2001)
Olivier Gourmet (2002)
Muzaffer Ozdemir/Emin Toprak (2003)
Yūya Yagira (2004)
Tommy Lee Jones
Tommy Lee Jones (2005)
Jamel Debbouze/Samy Naceri/Roschdy Zem/Sami Bouajila/Bernard Blancan
Konstantin Lavronenko (2007)
Benicio del Toro
Benicio del Toro (2008)
Christoph Waltz (2009)
Elio Germano (2010)
Jean Dujardin (2011)
Mads Mikkelsen (2012)
Bruce Dern (2013)
Timothy Spall (2014)
Vincent Lindon (2015)
Shahab Hosseini (2016)
Joaquin Phoenix (2017)
ISNI: 0000 0000 8350 8360
BNF: cb142059629 (data)