Film, TV and stage legend Donald Sinden dies aged 90

Sinden, a leading British actor since the 1940s, who was last person alive to have known Oscar Wilde’s lover Lord Alfred Douglas, has passed away after a long illness

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The stage, film and television actor Sir Donald Sinden has died at his home, aged 90.

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Sinden, whose plummy and growly voice was familiar to millions, made his name in theatre as a Shakespearean actor but also starred in more than 70 film and TV productions from the late 1940s onwards. One of his most recent TV appearances was a six-year stint as the appeal court judge Sir Joseph Channing in the BBC1 drama Judge John Deed between 2001 and 2007.

Sinden had developed prostate cancer several years ago and his death at his home in Kent came a few weeks before his 91st birthday.

His son, the actor and film director Marc Sinden, said in a statement: “My father has finished dying. He suffered for a few years from prostate cancer which slowly spread.”

Sinden made his film debut in 1953 with The Cruel Sea, later going on to perform with the Royal Shakespeare Company in leading roles such as King Lear and Malvolio in Twelfth Night.

He was awarded a CBE in 1979 and was granted a knighthood in 1997 for services to drama.

His son added: “He bravely continued presenting our Sky Arts documentary series Great West End Theatres in spite of a minor stroke, until it became just too difficult for him and at his insistence his illness was kept from all but the closest friends. 

“It had been an ambition of his to get as many of his wonderful theatrical memories and anecdotes down on film to share with people, in and outside of our profession, who may have never heard his extraordinary tales of a hugely long career.

“Not many knew, for instance, that he was the last person living to have known Oscar Wilde’s lover Lord Alfred Douglas (Bosie) and was one of only two people to attend his funeral.

“He worked out that he only had a total of five weeks unemployment between 1942 and 2008, which was probably a record in itself.”

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Dame Penelope Keith, who worked with Sinden at the Royal Shakespeare Company in the 1960s, was among many paying tribute, telling Radio 4’s Today programme that a “light has gone out now that Donald has died”.