Ronald Lacey

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Ronald Lacey
Ronald Lacey as Arnold Toht.jpg
Born Ronald William Lacey
(1935-09-28)28 September 1935
Harrow, Middlesex, England
Died 15 May 1991(1991-05-15) (aged 55)
London, England
Cause of death Liver cancer
Residence London
Nationality British
Education Harrow Weald Grammar School
Alma mater London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art
Occupation Actor
Years active 1960–1991
Spouse(s) Mela White (1962–1971)[1]
Joanna Baker (1972–1989)[2]
Children 4, including Rebecca Lacey

Ronald William Lacey (28 September 1935 – 15 May 1991) was an English actor.[3] 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.[3]


Lacey attended Harrow Weald Grammar School. After a brief stint of national service and at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, he began his acting career in 1961 in a TV play, The Secret Agent. His first notable performance was at the Royal Court Theatre in 1962's Chips with Everything. Lacey had unusual 'pug' looks, with beady eyes, an upturned nose, liver lips, an overbite, and an absence of both eyebrows and eyelashes. He also had a distinctive voice and could scream at a very high pitch. This unique combination of features landed him repeatedly in bizarre roles on both stage and screen.

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.[4] 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 1982'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.

Personal life[edit]

Lacey was born in Harrow, Middlesex. He was known for his generosity and warmth to fans, but equally known in the London theatre scene for his smoking and drinking habits.[citation needed] He was often noted among the gossip pages.[citation needed]

Lacey was twice married. Originally wed to actress Mela White in 1962 (she married him under the name Brompton as this was her second marriage), he became the father of two children, the actors Rebecca and Jonathan Lacey in the 1960s. After a turbulent divorce, he remarried in 1972. Joanna Baker, his second wife, gave birth to his third child, Matthew. His daughter Rebecca became a television success on the BBC series Casualty. His son Matthew is the godson of Hammer Films' Barbara Shelley.

Lacey was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer on 25 April 1991. He died on 15 May 1991, aged 55.





  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b "Ronald Lacey". The New York Times.
  4. ^ Kenneth Clark (1969). Civilisation (Television production). London, UK: BBC.

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