No piece about Peter Wyngarde would be complete without making references to Jason King and the actor’s fall from grace after his 1974 arrest for a public decency offence, so - there you go, my obligation is complete. Before he grew a Zapata moustache and became a short-term seventies superstar, however, Wyngarde gave a number of fine performances in some notable films, particularly in the under-rated ‘Night Of The Eagle’, the closest thing this country ever got to a Mario Bava film. Wyngarde also managed to terrify without saying a word in ‘The Innocents’, as the unquiet ghost of the evil, corrupting gamekeeper Peter Quint: his appearance behind Deborah Kerr in the hide and seek sequence is one of the most frightening and genuinely horrific things I have ever seen in thirty years of watching horror films.
Wyngarde would have no doubt enjoyed a longer and more illustrious film career if it had not been for the advent of the kitchen sink drama, which demanded, for a time at least, that British film stars be regional, proletarian, angry, and able to pass as a factory worker or borstal boy. The impeccable Wyngarde could never convince anyone that he cycled to work, so he stuck with TV (he had already played a bewildering range of small-screen roles, including Sidney Carton and Long John Silver), making notable appearances in ‘The Avengers’ (including the never to be forgotten S&M fest ‘Touch of Brimstone’ episode) and ‘The Prisoner’ (as the only Number Two that wore eyeliner) before landing a supporting role in ‘Department S’ that quickly became a star turn and a massively successful spin-off series.
Only an intermittent presence on our screens since the mid-70’s, Wyngarde maintains a dignified silence as to whether he sought to withdraw from the limelight, or had the limelight taken from him, but, either way, it seems a terrible shame that this fine actor and unique screen presence didn’t take (or get) more opportunities to entertain us over the last 35 years.
‘The Way I Cry Over You’ is an uncontroversial track from the great man’s controversial (& quickly withdrawn) 1970 LP ‘When Sex Leers It’s Inquisitive Head’, released as he approached the height of his fame. Wyngarde’s delivery is perfectly judged: fruity but never hammy, and, ultimately, rather moving…but then I am famously soft of the heart and head in these matters.