Peter Wyngarde. The actor who effectively created 1970s pop culture with the character of Jason King, the suave thriller writer-turned-action hero who, at the height of his powers, made millions of women go weak at the knees. Mention his name now, however, and you may be met with some initially blank looks or indeed a murmuring inquiry along the lines of ‘wasn’t there some controversy or other?’
Now, almost two years after his passing at the grand age of ninety, his close companion for over thirty years, Tina Wyngarde-Hopkins, has written the definitive biography – Peter Wyngarde: A Life Amongst Strangers – which attempts to bring Wyngarde back to his rightful place in the popular culture and consciousness, but also dispel a good deal of the myths and untruths that had surrounded him for so long.
I can’t quite recall when I first came across Peter Wyngarde. It was in the 1990s when I was on the cusp of adolescence, an introduction that came from one of the many nostalgia fests for the ’60s and ’70s that dominated our TV schedules at that time; perhaps it was the BBC’s One Day in the Sixties, which saw a day’s schedule given over completely to entertainment from that swinging decade, including an episode of Department S, the ITC serial that first introduced Wyngarde’s most famous creation, Jason King. Or maybe it was one of Frank Muir’s ascensions to TV Heaven, cherry-picking some of the best television of the ’60s and ’70s for Channel 4. What I do know is that, wherever and whenever I first saw Wyngarde, I was instantly struck by a remarkable screen presence, a dapper, foppish look and a voice like velvet.
I came across The Hellfire Club: The Peter Wyngarde Appreciation Society, not long after. As a fan of Doctor Who, I regularly subscribed to Doctor Who Magazine throughout the 1990s and there, in the classifieds beyond the letters page, I spotted a familiar address in my home town of St Helens that announced itself as the fan club for the star, run by Tina Bate (aka Ms Wyngarde-Hopkins, the author of this book). I think that I was struck by the notion that someone else in my relatively small, northern industrial town appreciated the ‘cult TV’ of yesteryear and, although I never joined the society, its presence nonetheless made me feel less alone. In many ways, this insight into the existence of a world of like minds out there, one that could even by on your doorstep, has made me the ‘geek’ that I am….
Please read the rest of this review over at The Geek Show