FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER, THE LIFE STORY OF ONE OF THE GREAT TELEVISION AND STYLE ICONS
Peter Wyngarde: the name elicits memories of an actor with worldwide renown and instantly adhesive star quality, who was to hit his professional zenith via his starring roles in the smash hit TV series, Department S, and its equally successful spin-off, Jason King. However, when this imperial phase of his career took a downturn during the mid-1970s, he stoically dusted himself off and returned to the theatre--the scene of so many of his earliest triumphs. There he enjoyed continued success until a late-period revival came with the role of General Klytus in the 1980 blockbuster, Flash Gordon.
Ordinarily, this book would end there. The fact that it doesn't reveals an unusual dichotomy: it splits Wyngarde's life into two, almost equal, parts. From the late 1980s, the author came into his orbit as the long yearned-for, missing piece of the puzzle: namely a strong, dependable sounding board and, increasingly, his soulmate.
To those who have been content to view Wyngarde as a two-dimensional figure on a TV screen, or merely as the subject of media gossip, this book will come as a revelation--and no doubt a startling one, as it will shatter many long-held myths and preconceptions. And yet in spite of her closeness to the subject, the author has refused to place him on a pedestal: her exploration of his life and career is as honest as it is eye-opening. While she does not shy away from Wyngarde's more difficult characteristics and painful life experiences, the thread running through the book is a story of love and devotion that is deeply touching and ultimately heart-wrenching.
"This is an intimate biography that is elegantly crafted, intensively researched, and presented with the utmost honour." Steven Berkoff
The author sent me a review copy of her massive biography for an honest review. I’m really glad to have found so many facts and interesting background on one of the heroes of my youth, starring in Department S as Jason King. Peter Wyngarde was always loud in his clothes, he was so quick-witted and larger than life in that TV series. But what about the person behind this role?
Tina Wyngarde-Hopkins describes in the first part of the book his home, his parents, WW2 days and his relationship to women like Rosameurde and Dorinda. We then switch to London and his work for TV and the theatre. There are many fine testimonials from the press to underline how well perceived his appearances were. You’ll also find many letters written by Peter himself to give an insightful view into his personality and thinking.
Chapter by Chapter Peter is brought back to life by his astute biographer. You’ll also hear about his ‘relationship’ with Alan Bates and his roles in ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ and ‘The Adventures of Ben Gunn’ – two adaptions of classic novels.
Peter was a man with a very long career, so here you get an excellent view of the 20th century from his sphere of influence. The film sets are described in a very detailed way and you will find yourself looking for many a lost DVD gems.
I loved the way the 70s are presented here; so lively, with Peter meeting the Gibb brothers from the Bee Gees in Carnaby Street. You can really see the scene inside your head with Stayin’ Alive playing aloud forming the soundtrack of that age.
Peter was also an international advertising icon. He did ads for German men’s cosmetic company Tabac: ‘Peter Wyngarde smells… Great! For the man of action (I’m glad that I use those products myself on a daily basis since I was a youth).
After so many heights we read about the downfall of our hero due to a ridiculous episode (no spoilers here, but unimaginable why such a career came into decline after such a petty thing). Tina then describes him playing General Klytus in the ‘Flash Gordon’ movie (another unforgettable role).
She tells us many personal anecdotes about her and Peter. The episode with the Doc Martens boots is extremely well done and remains forever saved on my mental hard-disc.
In the second part of this unique biography, we get a very personal insight into the life and further career of the icon. We see his decline of health, depression, dying family and friends, feuds with neighbours… every chapter starts with a letter from Peter to the author.
The chapters in the second part are very moving and show how deep Tina was in love with her Peter and what an admirable relationship they had over so many years; one is by their side when reading the pages of the book. We accompany Tina until’s Peter’s last day on earth and also come to know how the situation was for Tina after his death. In the end, we have a list of books referenced and recommended for further readings, although I can’t imagine you’d find a more detailed book on Peter than in book ‘A Life Amongst Strangers’.
To bring this long review to a conclusion. You get, in my opinion, one of the most detailed biographies on an actor ever written. No detail is left out- even very personal and some sexual points are spoken about. This is a very big picture. It hits you like Peter himself with his incredible performances and stylish accents.
“Peter Wyngarde: A Life Amongst Strangers” is a phenomenal book, and is most certainly the most detailed and intimate biography I’ve ever read. You can almost see Peter nonchalantly walking out of the pages!”
“Peter Wyngarde – A Life Amongst Strangers” is both a meticulously researched showbiz biography and the story of the extraordinary thirty-year relationship between Peter and the book’s author, Tina Wyngarde-Hopkins. What is so compelling about the book is that as well as documenting the course of Peter Wyngarde’s remarkable career, Tina takes the reader behind the stage curtain and allows us to see fully and in three dimensions the man loved by so many for the wonderful characters he created.
To people who have viewed Peter Wyngarde only as a figure on a screen, or as a name in a bit of showbiz gossip, this book will be nothing less than a revelation – and no doubt a startling one as it will certainly shatter many widely-held preconceptions and myths. But clearly we all need to be reminded that the public figures who are the subject of both adoration and malicious gossip are real people with real lives and real feelings: this, Tina achieves in the most compelling way.
Tina conjures for us the story of a man of great talent and personal charisma, who by the force of his gifts and determination, rises out of a difficult childhood to reach the summit of his profession. As a work examining the history of British theatre and television from the 50s onwards, and Peter’s journey through it, it is filled with colourful and fascinating detail. One of the most heartbreaking aspects of Peter’s story, however, is to fully grasp how, in the latter part of his career, this giant of the stage and screen – as eager as ever to work – finds his talents so sadly underused, due to forces both external and internal. Tina’s exploration of Peter’s life and career is as honest as it is eye-opening, and while she does not shy away from Peter’s more difficult characteristics and painful life experiences, the thread running through this book is a story of love and devotion that is deeply touching and ultimately heart-wrenching. Readers will certainly understand the author’s incorporation of “Wyngarde” into her name by the end of the book.
It is an intimate memoir in many ways – at times, painfully so. Tina conveys the ups and downs of a sometimes tempestuous relationship with uncommon frankness and openness.
Readers may be shocked by the candour of some of the disclosures in this book, but what emerges from the author’s account of Peter’s life is a portrait of Peter Wyngarde as a man as complex and filled with contradictions as any of us. And could we expect any less from the actor who brought the iconic Jason King – the ultimate maverick and non-conformist – to life so vividly? Indeed, Tina’s great achievement with this biography is in evoking for the reader the reality that behind the screen icon there was a real person, striving and struggling with the human frailties we all share – and as deserving of our empathy and our understanding as we ourselves would hope to be, if similarly judged in the public spotlight. I have rarely read a biography that gives such a complete sense of its subject, both as an artist and as a real human being.
This is the most detailed and insightful biography you will ever read. It is informative, enlightening, moving and lively- giving an absorbing account of the life of a talented and cultured man. It is well written and well researched and an excellent read.
Peter Wyngarde A Life Amongst Strangers By Tina Wyngarde-Hopkins, documents the long life of the quintessentially English actor who, for the Baby Boomers' generation - those born between 1946 and 1964 - was synonymous with the late Sixties/early Seventies cool and style. Peter Wyngarde would have made an ideal James Bond, as he was just as menacing (and considerably more nuanced) than Sean Connery - and frankly more talented than Roger Moore, whose archness he could have finessed; hence one could imagine him portraying Bond with more interest - and intellect - than any of the contemporaneous 007s. The author brings a unique perspective to the icon's day-to-day world for the final third of his life, showing an insight that only someone with the 'inside track' could garner. The author recalls the frailties of the book's subject without being melodramatic or self-pitying and for the most part, the restraint is admirable. This makes the end chapters heartbreaking, as the author takes the reader through Peter Wyngarde's final illnesses, with the couple's home life scrutinised in raw detail. Yet the recollection of his domestic needs during his final illness is all-too-familiar as it never fails to engage with its themes of challenge, vulnerability and the struggles of the human condition common to us all. This is highly recommended on its terms and a must-read for fans of Peter Wyngarde and for its study of that uniquely 'English gentleman' paradigm that was so prevalent during the third quarter of the 20th century, making it a great character study in its own right; not least that of its courageous and insightful author.
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