Peter Wyngarde was a French-born English actor best acknowledged for creating and playing the character of Jason King, a successful writer and detective, in two British television series of the 1960s and early 1970s:' Department S' (1969–1970) and 'Jason King' (1971–1972). Born Cyril Goldbert in Marseille, France, the son of an a a French mother and English father .
His father worked in the British Diplomatic Service, consequently his childhood was spent in a numerous different countries. In 1941, although his parents were away in India, he went to live with a Swiss household in Shanghai. The Japanese Armed forces took over Shanghai's International Settlement on the 8th December 1941, and as a British national his father was incarcerated in the Lunghua concentration camp on 10 April 1943. Conditions in the camp were at times harsh. According to J.G. Ballard's autobiography Miracles of Life, "Cyril Goldbert, the future Peter Wyngarde" was a fellow internee at Lunghua Camp and "He was four years older than me...". Ballard was born in November 1930 but according to Lunghwa Camp archives, compiled in 1943, Goldbert was really born in 1928. His younger siblings, Adolphe Henry and Marion Simeone, were under Swiss protection and consequently immune from internment. As a young man he began acting, and from the mid-1950s had innumerable roles in feature films, single television plays and television series. In the late 1960s, he was a steady guest star on countless popular UK series of the day, many of which had espionage and adventure plots, including 'The Avengers', 'The Saint', 'The Baron', 'Sherlock Holmes', 'The Champions', 'The Troubleshooters', 'Love Story', 'I Spy' and The 'Man In Room 17'. He also played the Number Two in The Prisoner ("Checkmate", 1967).
Wyngarde's movie work was narrow but had influence. In 1961, he made the most of his brief scenes as the leering Peter Quint in Jack Clayton's 'The Innocents' with Deborah Kerr and Pamela Franklin. The next year he starred in the occult adventure movie 'Night of the Eagle'.
The Big break came for Wyngarde in 1969 when he was cast in the ITC television series 'Department S', (produced by Monty Berman) in the role of the charismatic Jason King, a sardonic, well-spoken, over sexed mystery author who also works for an undercover Interpol investigative unit. With his long hair and a loud moustache, and dressed in an array of late '60s/Swinging London-style cravats, ruffled shirts, crumpled velvet outfits, kaftans, etc., Wyngarde was the original peacock. The character's eccentric mannerisms, together with his look, soon made Wyngarde the main star of the show, casting a shadow on his two co-stars, Joel Fabiani and Rosemary Nicols; indeed, many fans felt that Wyngarde's character dressed more flashily than Nicols' character.
Now a days, Jason King's manner of dress, together with his ferocious sex drive and even with the sporadic use of such retro terms as "groovy" makes him the very obvious role model for the 'Austin Powers' chracter, made famous by Mike Myers.
In the series that spun out of 'Department S', simply called' Jason King', he worked solo but manoeuvred from bed-to-bed with a succession of women in seemingly every story, keeping up a pace that any self-respecting James Bond would have had a tough time keeping up with.
In 1970, Peter recorded an album for RCA Victor called Peter Wyngarde, and a single, "La Ronde De L'Amour/The Way I Cry Over You" was released. The album was reissued on CD by the British RPM Records label as 'When Sex Leers Its Inquisitive Head'. Curiously,it was not a collection of lounge standards but instead an unusual collection of spoken word/musical arrangements.
In 1983, he performed in the thriller 'Underground' opposite Raymond Burr (Ironside) at the Royal Alexandra Theatre, Toronto and at the Prince of Wales Theatre, London. During the 1980s and 1990s he made a number of television appearances, comprising the Doctor Who serial 'Planet of Fire' (1984), Hammer House of Mystery & Suspense (1984), 'The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes' (1994) and the 'Movie Tank Malling' (1989).
In recent years he has been a regular invitee to Memorabilia, a cult, science fiction and memorabilia fair held at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham
The last time he appeared on TV was in 2003,as a guest of the late Simon Dee in the Channel Four one-off revival of his chat show 'Dee Time' in.
In 2007, Wyngarde participated in recording extras for a re-release of 'The Prisoner' on DVD, including a mock interview section titled "The Pink Prisoner", this material was released in the Prisoner DVD set issued in the UK in 2007 and in North America on both DVD and Blu-ray in October 2009.
On a personal note, Peter Wyngarde remains a total hero of mine, and I thank him for his contribution to the golden age of television.
Peter passed away peacefully on Monday 15th January 2018 at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital,
after a short illness.
His legacy will live on for many more generations to enjoy.