Guest Actor Biography
Page 64 of 127

   

Ronald Lacey

Strange young man, The Joker
Humbert Green, Legacy of Death
Hong Kong Harry, The Midas Touch

by Pete Stampede

Ronald Lacey's character's name in "The Joker," Strange Young Man, aptly sums up most of the parts he played. He was once memorably described by leading theatre critic Michael Billington as "looking like a cherub versed in the works of the Marquis de Sade." His entry into TV was in The Younger Generation (Granada, 1962), built around a repertory company of actors, all under 30 at the time; John Thaw and future film director Bill Douglas were other members of the company, and Michael Caine had a guest role in Lacey's starring segment—regrettably, not a single episode of this series still exists. Lacey soon found a niche in TV plays, notably John Hopkins' ambitious, anti-racist Fable (1965), and Boa Constrictor (1967), a typically bitchy work from Simon Gray. He later turned in a bravura performance as Dylan Thomas in Dylan (BBC, 1978). Lacey was the village idiot in Roman Polanski's The Fearless Vampire Killers (UK: Dance of the Vampires, 1967) (he looked a bit like Polanski, come to think of it), and for the rest of his film career, including a Hollywood spell in the 80's, was predominantly cast in the fantasy genre, suiting his talent for playing the weird and obsessed—The Final Programme (1973, for Avengers director Robert Fuest), The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension (1984), Flesh and Blood, and Red Sonja (both 1985).

But his most notable role, overall, was as a Gestapo man with a fondness for wire coat hangers in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). He returned the favour with an unbilled cameo in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989). Other TV guest appearances include a beatnik who witnesses the murder of Hopkirk in the premiere episode of Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), "My Late, Lamented Friend and Partner" (1969), an assistant to Dennis Price in several episodes of Jason King (1971-72), a nasty little jailbird called Harris in Porridge (again, a recurring role), and a memorably revolting turn as the baby-eating Bishop of Bath and Wells in Blackadder II, "Head" (1985). In a classic episode of The Sweeney, "Thou Shalt Not Kill!" (1975), he was one of a pair of tooled-up blaggers—er, that's "armed robbers" in Sweeney-ese—who cause a siege at a bank. I'm afraid I also remember an episode of Hart to Hart in which he and the lovable Bernard "Dr. Bombay" Fox had to pretend to be French. It came as a shock, in 1991, to hear of Lacey's death (from liver failure). He was the type of actor who, having been around for so long, you expect to go on for ever. His daughter Rebecca Lacey, an attractive blonde who looks nothing like him, has lately been successful in the medical soap, Casualty.

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Page last modified: 5 May 2017.

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