The British classical actor/producer/director Douglas Seale enjoyed a 65-year transatlantic career that included stage, films and television. Born in 1913 the son of Robert Henry Seale and his wife Margaret Law Seale, he was educated at Rutlish, a boys’ comprehensive school in West Wimbledon. He displayed an early penchant and skill for art but leaned toward the theatre after receiving encouragement by a teacher who saw his performance in a school play. He studied for the stage at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and took his first professional curtain bow at London’s Embassy Theatre in a production of “The Drums Begin” in 1934. He then appeared in repertory until the outbreak of WWII. He served with the British Army in 1940 and was commissioned in the Royal Signals.
Following demobilization in 1946, Seale joined the Shakespeare Memorial Theater Company for two seasons at Stratford-on-Avon. He extended his noble talents to include stage producing, which included “Caesar and Cleopatra” at the Birmingham Repertory Theater; Shakespeare’s “King John” at Stratford-on-Avon and Stratford, Ontario; “Henry V” in Stratford, Connecticut, and “King Lear” at the Old Vic. As a noted director, he helmed such plays as “King Lear” for the Marin Shakespeare Festival in San Francisco; “A Doll’s House” and “Look Back in Anger” in Cleveland, and “The Winslow Boy” in New York.
In later years Seale focused again on performing. He made his Broadway acting debut at age 60 with “Emperor Henry IV” in 1973, followed by “Frankenstein,” “The Dresser,” and “The Madwoman of Chaillot.” Among his other roles included Oliver Seaton in “A Family and a Fortune” and Reverend Shannon in “The Night of the Iguana. He is (arguably) best remembered for his 1983 Broadway performance as Selsdon Mowbray, the inebriated thespian who consistently misses his cues in the deft stage-within-a-stage comedy “Noises Off.” His hilarious performance earned him a Tony Award nomination for “featured actor” in a play. Denholm Elliott played the role in the 1992 film. An occasional on-camera performer blessed with booming, mellifluous tones, Seale was had a featured role in the film Amadeus (1984) and provided the voice of the Sultan in Disney’s animated feature Aladdin (1992). In addition, he offered “old man” appearances in such popular film fluff as Ernest Saves Christmas (1988) (as Santa Claus), Ghostbusters II (1989), Almost an Angel (1990), Mr. Destiny (1990), For Love or Money (1993), and, his last, Palookaville (1995). Over the years he occasionally played spry gents on such TV shows as “Cheers” and “The Golden Girls.” One of his final stage roles was as aging vaudevillian Billy Rice in the 1996 revival of John Osborne’s play “The Entertainer.”
Seale was divorced from Elaine Wodson and Joan Geary, his third wife was stage actress and three-time Tony Award nominee Louise Troy, who died of breast cancer in 1994. A Manhattanite at the time of his death, he died at St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York City at age 85 and was survived by two sons, Jonathan and Timothy.
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