29 April 1926
East End of London, England
|Occupation||Actor, director, painter|
Fenton was born Leonard Feinstein in the East End of London, where he was raised, the son of Jewish parents with ancestral roots in Eastern Europe (Riga and Lithuania). He attended Raine Foundation Grammar School from 1937 to 1944. Fenton originally trained to be a civil engineer at King's College London and during World War II he was conscripted as an army engineer. He worked in this profession for five years after leaving the army, but eventually decided on a career change. He took up acting and won a scholarship to attend the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art in London.
His career in acting spans over fifty years and he continues to act occasionally on television and on stage. One of his earliest acting breaks came when he was offered a role by Orson Welles in his play Chimes At Midnight. Subsequent notable acting credits include: Studio Four (1962); Colditz (1974); Secret Army (1977); Z-Cars (1978); Play for Today (1981); Auf Wiedersehen, Pet (1983), and Shine on Harvey Moon (1982), where he played the Austrian Jew, Erich Gottlieb. In the theatre, Fenton played the role of Willie to Billie Whitelaw’s Winnie in Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days at the Royal Court Theatre in 1979, directed by Beckett himself.
Fenton is best known for playing Dr. Harold Legg, one of the original characters from the BBC soap opera, EastEnders. The character appeared from the show's inception in 1985 until 1997, returning for brief stints in 2000, 2004, 2007 and 2018 until 2019 when his character was killed off. The character was originally one of the main focal points of the programme, but after 1989 he became less central. After the character's retirement in 1997, Fenton's appearances in EastEnders were fewer and further between. He made a single appearance in 2004 at the funeral of Mark Fowler, and in June 2007 to counsel Dot Branning regarding her concerns about Romanian 'foundling' baby, Tomas.
Fenton's subsequent television credits have included Rumpole of the Bailey; So You Think You've Got Troubles (1991); Love Hurts (1993) and The Bill (1985; 2001; 2005), among others. In the West End he has played in two productions by Lindsay Anderson, Anton Chekhov's The Seagull and Ben Travers' last play, The Bed Before Yesterday. He has performed numerous radio plays, including The Hobbit as the Elvenking, and The Lord of the Rings as Daddy Twofoot, both for BBC Radio 4. Amongst Fenton's other broadcasting work has been the BBC webcast of the Doctor Who story Death Comes to Time. On 17 February 2006 he made a personal appearance on the Channel 4 entertainment show, The Friday Night Project. His film credits have included roles in Up the Creek (1958), The Devil-Ship Pirates (1964), Robin Hood Junior (1975), Give My Regards to Broad Street (1984), Morons from Outer Space (1985), and the British horror movie The Zombie Diaries (2006).
In December 2004, at the age of 78, Fenton made his directorial debut with After Chekhov, written by four contemporary writers Alan Drury, Martin Jago, Andrew Neil and Olwen Wymark in the 100th anniversary year of Chekhov's death. The piece, produced by Little London Theatre Company was performed in the Soho Theatre Studio. In 2012 and again in 2013, Fenton appeared in a production of Cross Purpose, directed by Stephen Whitson at the King's Head Theatre, London.
On 25 July 2018, it was confirmed that Fenton would reprise his role as Dr. Harold Legg in EastEnders in late 2018. This stint lasted until 15 February 2019, when the character died after a long battle with pancreatic cancer.
Fenton and his first wife, cellist Madeline Thorner, have four children. Aside from acting he is also a professional painter and has held several exhibitions. Before the 2010 UK general election, Fenton came out in support for the Labour Party, after appearing in their election broadcast.
- Up the Creek (1958) as Policeman
- Breakout (1959) as Prison Officer (uncredited)
- Third Man on the Mountain (1959) (uncredited)
- The Devil-Ship Pirates (1964) as Pirate
- The Virtuoso (TV Movie - 1975) as Hazard
- Robin Hood Junior (1975) as Messenger
- Give My Regards to Broad Street (1984) as Company Accountant
- Morons from Outer Space (1985) as Commissionaire
- The Zombie Diaries (2006) as Bill
- Underground (2007) as Terry Page
- "Leonard Fenton ", Something Jewish. URL last accessed on 25 September 2006
- "The Old Raineians' Association Archived 16 June 2008 at the Wayback Machine", DavidSpencer.com. URL last accessed on 4 July 2007
- Lynch, Tony (1986). EastEnders Special. BBC books. ISBN 978-0-86227-384-2.
- "Leonard Fenton". IMDb. Retrieved 31 August 2018.
- Phillips, Katie (16 December 2004). "After Chekhov review at Soho Theatre Studio London". The Stage. Retrieved 26 July 2018.
- "Lea, Simon. "Cross Purpose". The Camus Society, 2012". Archived from the original on 7 October 2013. Retrieved 27 September 2016.
- "IndieLondon: Cross Purpose returns to the King's Head Theatre - Your London Reviews". www.indielondon.co.uk.
- "Cross Purpose, by Albert Camus (translation by Stuart Gilbert) at King's Head Theatre - 115 Upper Street Islington London N1 1QN - London UK - more on OffWestEnd.com - Listings and showtimes for over 80 Off West End theatres in London UK". www.offwestend.com.
- BBC, BBC (25 July 2018). "EastEnders: Original character Doctor Legg to return - BBC News". BBC News. BBC. Retrieved 25 July 2018.
- Kingsley, Hilary (1990). The EastEnders Handbook. BBC books. ISBN 9780563362920.
- "EastEnders: Jewish actor Leonard Fenton to return as Dr Legg". Retrieved 31 August 2018.