Ronald William Lacey (28 September 1935 – 15 May 1991) was an English-born actor of Welsh descent. He made numerous television and film appearances over a 30-year period and is perhaps best remembered for his roles as Harris in Porridge, Gestapo agent Major Arnold Ernst Toht in Raiders of the Lost Ark and the Bishop of Bath and Wells in Blackadder II.
Ronald William Lacey
28 September 1935
|Died||15 May 1991 (aged 55)|
|Education||Harrow Weald Grammar School|
|Alma mater||London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art|
|Spouse(s)||Mela White (1962–1969)|
Joanna Baker (1973–1989)
|Children||3, including Rebecca Lacey|
Lacey was born and grew up in Harrow, Middlesex. He received his formal education at Harrow Weald Grammar School. After a brief stint of national service in the British Armed Forces, he enrolled at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art to train as an actor.
He began his acting career in 1959 in a television play, The Secret Agent. His first notable performance was at the Royal Court Theatre in 1962's Chips with Everything. Lacey had an unusual 'pug' look, with beady eyes, an upturned nose, liver lips, an overbite, receding chin and no brows. He had a distinctive voice as well, and could scream at a very high pitch. This unique combination of features landed him repeatedly in bizarre roles on both stage and screen, often as seedy, creepy villains. Together with his Welsh background, it helped qualify him for the role of Dylan Thomas, which he played on BBC2 in what critic Clive James described as a "bravura performance".
Lacey performed on British television throughout the 1960s and 1970s, with roles spanning from a part in Kenneth Clark's Civilisation television series, as the gravedigger, in a re-enactment of the gravedigger scene from Hamlet, with Ian Richardson as Hamlet and Patrick Stewart as Horatio, to a guest shot as the "Strange Young Man" in The Avengers episode "The Joker", and as Harris in the sitcom Porridge, with the latter finally landing him in the role for which his unusual physical characteristics could be repeatedly used to full advantage. Disappointed with his acting career by the late 1970s, he began to consider starting a talent agency. Spielberg then cast him as the Nazi agent Arnold Toht in Raiders of the Lost Ark. He followed this with a series of various villain roles for the next five to six years: Sahara with Brooke Shields, and 1985's Red Sonja with Arnold Schwarzenegger, in addition to 1982's Firefox with Clint Eastwood, in which he played a Russian scientist helping the West behind the Iron Curtain.
He then made two movies for Ice International Films: Assassinator starring alongside John Ryan and George Murcell, and Into the Darkness, starring with Donald Pleasence, John Ryan, and Brett Paul.
Lacey played a number of villainous roles and was known for his trademark smile, which would turn into a gleaming malicious leer. He also had a rather large mole on his left cheek, which he chose not to have removed, as well as a highly distinctive voice. In 1983's Trenchcoat, he used the mole as a beauty mark in his role as Princess Aida, a mysterious and sleazy drag queen on the island of Malta. His other drag role was in Invitation to the Wedding from 1985, in which he played a husband/wife couple.
Lacey was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer on 25 April 1991. He died less than one month later, on 15 May 1991, at the age of 55.
Lacey was known for his generosity and warmth to fans who occasionally recognized him from his film roles, but he was equally known in the London theatre scene for his excessive drinking habits, and he was a heavy cigarette smoker. He was often noted among the local gossip tabloid pages.
He married twice, first to the actress Mela White in 1962 (she married him under the name Brompton as this was her second marriage), he became the father with her of two children, the actors Rebecca Lacey and Jonathan Lacey. After a turbulent divorce, he married Joanna Baker in 1972, the marriage producing a son.
- The Boys (1962) as Billy Herne
- Doctor in Distress (1963) as Café Customer (uncredited)
- Of Human Bondage (1964) as "Matty" Mathews
- The Comedy Man (1964) as First Assistant Director (uncredited)
- Catch Us If You Can (1965) as Yeano (beatnik)
- The White Bus (1967)
- The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967) as Village Idiot
- How I Won the War (1967) as Spool
- Take a Girl Like You (1969) as Graham
- Otley (1969) as Curtis
- Tintin and the Temple of the Sun (1970) as Thompson (English version, voice, uncredited)
- Say Hello to Yesterday (1971) as Car Park Attendant (uncredited)
- Macbeth (1971) as Macbeths man – killed Banquo (uncredited)
- Crucible of Terror (1971) as Michael Clare
- Disciple of Death (1972) as Parson
- Gawain and the Green Knight (1973) as Oswald
- The Final Programme (1973) as Shades
- Mister Quilp (1975) as Harris
- The Likely Lads (1976) as Ernie
- Charleston (1977) as Frankie
- Zulu Dawn (1979) as Norris Newman
- Nijinsky (1980) as Léon Bakst
- Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) as Major Arnold Ernst Toht
- Firefox (1982) as Dr. Maxim Ilyich Semelovsky
- Invitation to the Wedding (1983) as Clara / Charles Eatwell
- Trenchcoat (1983) as Princess Aida
- Yellowbeard (1983) as Man with Parrot
- Sahara (1983) as Beg
- Making the Grade (1984) as Nicky
- Sword of the Valiant (1984) as Oswald
- The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984) as President Widmark
- The Bengal Lancers! (1984)
- Tangiers (1985) as Wedderburn
- Flesh + Blood (1985) as Cardinal
- Red Sonja (1985) as Ikol
- Minder on the Orient Express (1985) as Harry Ridler
- Aces Go Places 4 (1986) as Leader of the Villains
- Sky Bandits (1986) as Fritz
- Lone Runner (1986) as Misha
- Into the Darkness (1986) as Stewart Andrew Golding
- Jailbird Rock (1988) as Warden Bauman
- Manifesto (1988) as Conductor
- Dawn of an Evil Millennium (1988)
- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) as Heinrich Himmler (uncredited)
- Valmont (1989) as José
- Stalingrad (1989) as Winston Churchill
- The Assassinator (1992) as Stewart
- Landslide (1992) as Fred Donner
- Angely smerti (1993) (final film role)
- A Chance of Thunder (1961) as Johnny Travers
- The Likely Lads (1964) as Ernie
- Day Out for Lucy (1965)
- Barnaby Spoot and the Exploding Whoopee Cushion (1965) as Justin Fribble
- Fable (1965) as Len
- Gideon's Way (1965) as Jerry Blake
- Who's a Good Boy Then? (1966) as Billy Oates
- Boa Constrictor (1967) as Frankie Three
- Great Expectations (1967) as Orlick
- The Avengers (1967), as "Strange Young Man" in the episode "The Joker"
- The Avengers (1968), as "Humbert" (parody of Peter Lorre) in the episode "Legacy of Death"
- Theatre 625 – "Mille miglia" (1968), "The Burning Bush" (1967), "Firebrand" (1967), "The Nutter" (1965)
- Game, Set and Match (1968)
- Civilisation – Episode 6: Protest and Communication – Grave Digger in scene from Shakespeare's Hamlet.
- It Wasn't Me (1969) as George
- Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) (1969)
- Target Generation (1969) as Joe Manx
- These Men Are Dangerous (1969)
- The Adventures of Don Quick (1970) as Sergeant Sam Czopanser
- The Vessel of Wrath (1970) as Controleur
- Catweazle (1970) as Tearful Ted
- Jason King (1971–1972) as Ryland
- Last of the Summer Wine (1973) as Walter
- The Adventures of Don Quixote (1973) as Monk
- Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? (1973) as Ernie
- The Fight Against Slavery (1975) as Charles James Fox
- The Sweeney Thou Shalt Not Kill! (1975) as Barry Monk
- The Next Victim (1976) as Bartlett
- Our Mutual Friend (1976) as Mr. Venus
- The New Avengers (1976) as Hong Kong Harry
- A Story to Frighten the Children (1976) as Lang
- The Duchess of Duke Street Episode nine October 1976 Art dealer Mr Shephard
- Porridge (1977) as Harris
- All Creatures Great and Small "The Last Furlong" (1978) as Stewie Brannon
- Dylan (1978 TV play) as Dylan Thomas
- The Mayor of Casterbridge (1978) (mini series) as Jopp
- Blakes 7 (1 episode, "Killer" 1979) as Tynus
- Tropic (1979) (series) as Geoffrey Turvey
- Tiny Revolutions (1981)
- P.O.S.H (1982) as Mr. Vicarage
- The Hound of the Baskervilles (1983) as Inspector Lestrade
- The Rothko Conspiracy (1983)
- Magnum, P.I. (1984) as Archer Hayes
- Connie (1985) as Crawder
- Minder on the Orient Express (1985) as Harry Ridler
- Blackadder II (1985) as The Bishop of Bath and Wells
- The Sign of Four (1987) as Thaddeus Sholto/Bartholomew Sholto
- The Great Escape II: The Untold Story (1988) as Winston Churchill
- The Nightmare Years (1989) as Emil Luger
- Face to Face (1990) as Dr. Brinkman
- The Strauss Dynasty (1991) as Bauer
- "FreeBMD Entry Info".
- "FreeBMD District Info".
- "Ronald Lacey". The New York Times.
- Clive James (6 April 2017). Clive James On Television. Pan Macmillan. p. 236. ISBN 978-1-5098-3243-9.
- Kenneth Clark (1969). Civilisation (Television production). London, UK: BBC.
- Lynda Bellingham (28 October 2014). Lost and Found: My Story. Ebury Publishing. p. 256. ISBN 978-1-4464-0795-0.