Leslie French

Last updated 09 January 2020

Leslie French (1904-1999)
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Leslie Richard French

Born: Saturday 23rd April 1904
Died: Thursday 21st January 1999 (age: 94)

Leslie French was a British actor of stage and screen.

French was considered for the role of the First Doctor. He finally appeared in the programme in its 1988 serial, Silver Nemesis, playing the Mathematician.

French was born in Bromley, Kent and was educated at the London School of Choristers. 

He made his first appearance as a child actor in a 1914 Christmas show at the Little Theatre.

In 1930 he joined the Old Vic, where he played Poins in Henry IV, Part I, Eros in Antony and Cleopatra, the Fool in King Lear and the role with which he became most associated with, Ariel in The Tempest. French was the first male actor to essay the role of Ariel for many years and did so in nothing more than a small loincloth, helping to make this version something of a talking point at the time. French and Gielgud were also the inspiration for Eric Gill's carving of Prospero and Ariel above the entrance to the then new Broadcasting House in Portland Place.

In 1955 he helped to establish the open air Maynardville Theatre in Cape Town, South Africa which had multi-racial casts performing to multi-racial audiences. In 1963 he was awarded the key to the city for his work with the theatre.

As well as the classics, French also appeared in musical revue, pantomime and ballet

He also made the occasional foray into film and television, appearing in two Luchino Visconti films, The Leopard (1963) and Death in Venice (1971), as well as many popular British television programmes. These include Dixon of Dock Green, Armchair Theatre, Z-Cars, The Avengers, Jason King and The Singing Detective.