Vittorio Giorgio Andre Spinetti (2 September 1929 – 18 June 2012) was a Welsh comedy actor, author, poet and raconteur. He appeared in dozens of films and stage plays throughout his 50-year career, including the three 1960s Beatles films A Hard Day’s Night, Help! and Magical Mystery Tour.
Born in Cwm, Ebbw Vale, Wales, Spinetti was educated at Monmouth School and the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff, of which he became a Fellow. After various menial jobs, Spinetti pursued a stage career and was closely associated with Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop. Among the productions were Fings Ain’t Wot They Used T’Be and Oh! What a Lovely War (1963), which transferred to New York City and for which he won a Tony Award. Spinetti’s film career developed simultaneously; his dozens of film appearances would include Zeffirelli’s The Taming of the Shrew, Under Milk Wood, The Return of the Pink Panther and Under the Cherry Moon.
During his later career, Spinetti acted with the Royal Shakespeare Company, in such roles as Lord Foppington in The Relapse and the Archbishop in Richard III, at Stratford-upon-Avon; and, in 1990, he appeared in The Krays. In 2008 he appeared in a one-man show, A Very Private Diary, which toured the UK as A Very Private Diary … Revisited!, recounting his life story. Spinetti was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2011 and died of the disease in June 2012.
Spinetti sprang to international prominence in three Beatles films in the 1960s, A Hard Day’s Night, Help! and Magical Mystery Tour. He also appeared on one of the Beatles’ Christmas recordings. The best explanation for this long-running collaboration and friendship might have been provided by George Harrison, who said, “You’ve got to be in all our films … if you’re not in them me Mum won’t come and see them — because she fancies you.” But Harrison would also say, “You’ve got a lovely karma, Vic.” Paul McCartney described Spinetti as “the man who makes clouds disappear”. Spinetti would later make a small appearance in the promotional video for McCartney’s song “London Town” from the 1978 album of the same name. His July 2010 performance of the song “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da“, at The Festival Theatre, Malvern, would later be made available on “The Beatles Complete on Ukulele” podcast.
Spinetti appeared in more than 31 films, including The Gentle Terror (1961), Sparrows Can’t Sing (1963), The Wild Affair (1963), Becket (1964), Zeffirelli’s The Taming of the Shrew (1967), The Biggest Bundle of Them All (1968), Can Heironymus Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness? (1969), This, That and the Other (1969), Start the Revolution Without Me (1970), Under Milk Wood (1972), Digby, the Biggest Dog in the World (1973), The Great McGonagall (1974), The Little Prince (1974), The Return of the Pink Panther (1975), Voyage of the Damned (1976), Emily (1976), Hardcore (1977), Casanova & Co. (1977), Under the Cherry Moon (1986) and The Krays (1990).
Spinetti’s last on-screen appearance was in the DVD release of the independent film Beatles Stories by US musician Seth Swirsky, issued to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ first recording sessions at Abbey Road.
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