Sir Donald Sinden, the theatre and film actor, has died at his home aged 90, his son has said.
Sir Donald made his name on stage as a Shakespearean actor and also had more than 70 credits for film and TV productions since the late 1940s. His best known roles on TV included 1970s odd couple sitcom Two’s Company, long-running 1980s comedy series Never the Twain and legal drama Judge John Deed.
He had been battling prostate cancer over several years and his death, just weeks before his 91st birthday, at his home in Romney Marsh, Kent, has been described as a ‘huge loss’ by his family.
His son, actor and film director Marc Sinden, said in a statement: “My father has finished dying. He suffered for a few years from prostate cancer which slowly spread.
“Even though his death was expected, it is still a huge loss to his family and we, his brother, his son, his four grandchildren and great-grandchild will all miss his humour and knowledge and we would all like to share our appreciation for the Pilgrims Hospice and the carers that looked after him and us with such dignity, consideration and care until the end.”
Sir Donald trained at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Arts in London and made his film debut in 1953 with The Cruel Sea, later going on to perform with the Royal Shakespeare Company in leading roles such as King Lear and Malvolio in Twelfth Night.
He was awarded a CBE in 1979 and was granted a knighthood in 1997 for his services to drama.
Mr Sinden, who has his own production company, added: “He bravely continued presenting our Sky Arts documentary series Great West End Theatres in spite of a minor stroke, until it became just too difficult for him and at his insistence his illness was kept from all but the closest friends.
“It had been an ambition of his to get as many of his wonderful theatrical memories and anecdotes down on film to share with people, in and outside of our profession, who may have never heard his extraordinary tales of a hugely long career.
“Not many knew, for instance, that he was the last person living to have known Oscar Wilde’s lover Lord Alfred Douglas (Bosie) and was one of only two people to attend his funeral.
“The breadth of his friendships, his love of serendipity and his hugely varied and very successful career as a Rank Organisation movie star, West End and television star and award-laden Shakespearean actor was probably unique in our business.
“He worked out that he only had a total of five weeks unemployment between 1942 and 2008, which was probably a record in itself. Another record he held from 1949 until 2013 was at the Haymarket Theatre in his beloved West End of London, where he gave more consecutive performances in one play than any other actor since it was built in 1820.
Mr Sinden said plans for a memorial service were under way.
“We hope that you will respect our feelings at this miserable time and grant us the privacy we would like. The venue and date for a memorial service will be announced later,” he said.