Derek Bond

Derek Bond
Derek Bond

Derek Bond was born in 1920 in Glasgow.  He made his film debut in “The Captive Heart” in 1946.   Other movies include “Nicholas Nickleby”, “The Loves of Joanna Godden”, “Uncle Silas” and in 1971, “When Eight Bells Toll”.   He died in 2006.

Gavin Gaughan’s “Guardian” obituary:

The actor and trade unionist Derek Bond, who has died aged 87, enjoyed a brief period of stardom at Ealing Studios in the 1940s, projecting an urbane, gentlemanly image on to the screen. Forty years later, however, his deeply conservative views brought about his downfall as president of the actors’ union Equity, and showed him to have misjudged the mood of public opinion.

Although always seeming very English, Bond was born in Glasgow and educated at Haberdashers’ Aske’s school, then based in Hampstead, north London. Originally “convinced that I was going to be an ace newspaper man”, he followed his mother into amateur dramatics and bluffed his way into an understudying job in touring rep. In 1939, he volunteered for the Grenadier Guards, obtaining a commission. In his war memoirs, Steady, Old Man! Don’t You Know There’s a War On (1990), he recalled being wounded in the thigh while serving in north Africa in 1942. He was awarded the military cross, though he had to endure a PoW camp in Bavaria during the last months of the war, having been captured in Florence.

His Ealing phase began, fittingly, with the PoW drama The Captive Heart (1946). Nicholas Nickleby (1947) gave him the title role, though it was generally agreed that the film was inferior to David Lean’s Great Expectations, which, released the previous year, overshadowed all other Dickens’ adaptations. The film critic George Perry, for example, wrote that Bond “gave a bland but not unlikeable performance that at least provided some continuity through what amounted to a succession of cameos”.

His best role was probably as the doomed Captain Oates in Scott of the Antarctic (1948). In the words of another film writer, David Quinlan, Bond’s “upper-class image could not sustain his stardom beyond the early 50s”, and relegated him to drawing-room plays, B-movies and television.

His small screen debut had been as a robot in the amateur dramatics staple R.U.R. (1938). By the 60s, he was presenting film programmes for the BBC, and attempting to interview Tommy Cooper in Cooperama (1966). He was a regular in an unsuccessful soap, 199 Park Lane (1965), while guest roles included a testy Austrian emperor in William Tell, The Invisible Man, Dad’s Army and Crown Court. He wrote, but did not appear in, an Armchair Theatre segment, Unscheduled Stop (1968), which producer Leonard White felt was “just too theatrical at a time when television drama was aiming for close-up reality”.

Bond was among the first reputable actors to appear in sexploitation films, such as Saturday Night Out (1963) and Secrets of a Windmill Girl (1966, starring the young Pauline Collins). This notwithstanding, he was in the Cliff Richard musical Wonderful Life (1964), as a late replacement for a bibulous Dennis Price. Appropriately enough, Bond worked in the spy genre, being well cast as Edward Woodward’s unsympathetic superior in Callan (1969). Ironically, both Bond and his political opposite Corin Redgrave supported Anthony Hopkins in When Eight Bells Toll (1971). Though his episode of The Saint (1967) was set in Paris, he remained thoroughly British.

Believing that his union had become dominated by the far left, in 1984 Bond successfully stood for election as president of Equity, representing Act For Equity, whose members tended to the right. While claiming to “abhor” apartheid, he believed that British actors were losing out on work by refusing to appear in South Africa, despite the cultural boycott and the United Nations blacklist of those who did go. Perhaps his views were influenced by the “very pro-British” South Africans he had met during the war. Whatever his motivation, in July 1984 he survived a motion calling on him to resign on the eve of a scheduled stage appearance in South Africa. The move was backed by Kenneth Williams, who recorded in his diary, “I spoke against Bond and said he should go as an individual not as president of Equity.”

On his return to Britain, Bond was condemned by former Equity president Hugh Manning, and there were protests outside the London theatre where he was playing. Following a referendum, a union ban on appearing in South Africa was imposed in 1986. Bond promptly resigned as president and was replaced by Nigel Davenport.

He was married three times, and is survived by his third wife Annie, a son, a daughter and a stepson.

· Derek William Douglas Bond, actor and trade unionist, born January 26 1919; died October 15 2006

The above “Guardian” obituary can also be accessed online here.

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