Peter Vaughan

Peter Vaughan (born Peter Ewart Ohm; 4 April 1923 – 6 December 2016) was an English character actor, known for many supporting roles in British film and television productions.[1] He also worked extensively on the stage.

Peter Vaughan
Peter Ewart Ohm

(1923-04-04)4 April 1923
Wem, Shropshire, England
Died6 December 2016(2016-12-06) (aged 93)
EducationUttoxeter Grammar School
Years active1931–2016

He was best known for his role as Grouty in the sitcom Porridge (despite appearing in only three episodes and the 1979 film) and also had a recurring role alongside Robert Lindsay in Citizen Smith, written by John Sullivan. He also had parts as Tom Franklin in Chancer (1990–1991), playing the father of Anthony Hopkins's character in The Remains of the Day, and as Maester Aemon in HBO's Game of Thrones (2011–2015), his final role.

Early life

He was born Peter Ewart Ohm[2] on 4 April 1923,[3] in Wem, Shropshire,[4] the son of a bank clerk, Max Ohm, who was an Austrian immigrant,[5] and Eva Wright, a nurse.[6] The family later moved to Wellington in the same county, where he began schooling; he later said it was while reciting a poem at infant school in Wellington that he experienced the applause and admiration coming from a good performance.[7] He was brought up from the age of seven in Staffordshire[8] where he attended Uttoxeter Grammar School.[6]

After leaving school he joined Wolverhampton Repertory theatre and gained experience in other repertory theatres before army service in the Second World War. He was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Royal Corps of Signals on 9 June 1943,[9] and served in Normandy, Belgium and the Far East.[3][10] At the end of the war he was in Singapore and present during the liberation of Changi Prison.[6]


In film he made his debut in 1959 in an uncredited role as a police officer in The 39 Steps.[6] He continued for several years to play small parts, including more cameos as policemen in Village of the Damned and The Victors before gaining his first starring role, in a minor picture called Smokescreen (1964), where he played an insurance assessor investigating a businessman’s disappearance in one of the last, and best, of the old-style British B-movies.[6] In 1967 he received second billing opposite Frank Sinatra in the film The Naked Runner. However, his performance was not well received by critics who accused him of overacting in his role as a British agent.[11] He played Mr. Freeman in Karel Reisz's 1980 The French Lieutenant's Woman, alongside Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons.[12]

Possibly his highest-profile film performance was as the father of Anthony Hopkins's character in The Remains of the Day (1993).[13] He was also cast in Terry Gilliam's The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, but had not shot any material before that project was abandoned. He had previously appeared for Gilliam in Time Bandits and Brazil. He also appeared as a menacing character in Straw Dogs (1971), and with Bill Murray in a film of W. Somerset Maugham's novel The Razor's Edge in 1984. In 1996 he appeared as Giles Corey in The Crucible, and in 1997 he appeared alongside Robert Carlyle and Ray Winstone in Face. In 1998 he appeared as Bishop Myriel in Les Misérables alongside Liam Neeson. His most unusual role may have been as SS Obergruppenführer Arthur Nebe in the 1994 film of Robert Harris's novel Fatherland.


He became known for his performances on television, including supporting roles in Porridge (as "Genial" Harry Grout) and Citizen Smith as Charles Johnson, (although his role in the latter series was taken over by Tony Steedman). Vaughan's role in Porridge brought him a great deal of public recognition, despite the fact that his character appeared in only three episodes and the 1979 film of the series.[14] In 1975 he appeared as Tony Kirby in an episode of the hard hitting police drama The Sweeney entitled Stay Lucky, Eh?

In 1969 he appeared in Randall and Hopkirk in the episode "Never Trust a Ghost". The same year he starred in the thirteen-part LWT TV series The Gold Robbers. In December 1972 he appeared as Mr Paxton in the BBC television adaptation of the M.R. James ghost story A Warning to the Curious,[6] shown as part of their annual series A Ghost Story for Christmas.[15]

Vaughan starred as Billy Fox in the Thames Television series Fox (1980).[6] The saga was written by Trevor Preston, directed by Jim Goddard, and produced by Verity Lambert. As other Fox family members it also starred Elizabeth Spriggs, Ray Winstone, Larry Lamb and Bernard Hill. Historical roles Vaughan played include those of Russian foreign minister Alexander Izvolsky in the serial Fall of Eagles (1974), British politician Thomas Inskip in the mini-series Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years (1981), the title role in A Last Visitor for Mr. Hugh Peter (1981), and German Nazi figures Kurt Zeitzler in the miniseries War and Remembrance (1988) and Hermann Göring in the docu-drama Countdown to War (1989). He also appeared in many literary adaptations, such as Bleak House (BBC, 1985), in which he played the sinister lawyer Mr Tulkinghorn, and Our Mutual Friend (BBC Two, 1998). Other television work includes the espionage thriller Codename: Kyril (1988), in a lead role as the head of the KGB.

In 1986 he appeared in the promotional video for Kate Bush's "Experiment IV" single. In 1991 he played John Turner in an episode of the Granada Television's The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes titled 'The Boscombe Valley Mystery', with a convincing Australian accent.

Vaughan later attained particular acclaim for his supporting role as the eventual Alzheimer's sufferer Felix Hutchinson across thirty years of his life in Our Friends in the North (BBC Two, 1996), a role which gained him a Best Actor nomination at the 1997 British Academy Television Awards.[16]. He played the clockmaker George Graham in Longitude, the TV drama adaptation of Dava Sobel's eponymous non-fiction novel about the quest for a means to determine longitude at sea.

In 2007 he starred in the television serial Mobile and as Uncle Alfie in the film Death at a Funeral.[17] In 2011 Vaughan starred as Michael Dodd in the BBC courtroom drama Silk.[18] His final role between 2011 and 2015 was Maester Aemon in the HBO series Game of Thrones.[19][20]


Vaughan was heard as Superintendent Kirk in the BBC dramatisation of Dorothy L. Sayers' Peter Wimsey novel Busman's Honeymoon, and as Denethor in the 1981 BBC Radio production of The Lord of the Rings.[6]


Vaughan's first breakout role was in 1964 as Ed in Joe Orton's work Entertaining Mr Sloane performed at Wyndham's Theatre.[6]

Personal life and death

The first of Vaughan's two marriages was to Billie Whitelaw, whom he married in 1952 and divorced in 1966.[3][6] His second wife was actress Lillias Walker, with whom he lived in the village of Mannings Heath, in West Sussex until his death, having previously lived in Crawley.[21] His stepdaughter Victoria Burton (actress and producer) is married to Gregor Fisher.[22]

Vaughan was partially blind in his old age. He died peacefully on 6 December 2016 at the age of 93 from natural causes.[23][24]


Vaughan appeared in the following films and television series:[1]


  1. "Peter Vaughan". British Film Institute. Retrieved 7 December 2016.
  2. "FindMyPast record of birth". Retrieved 6 December 2016.
  3. "'Game of Thrones' Actor Peter Vaughan Dies At Age 93". Yahoo! News. Sunnyvale, California: Yahoo!. 6 December 2016. Retrieved 6 December 2016.
  4. "Peter Vaughan Biography (1923–)". Retrieved 6 December 2016.
  5. Peter Vaughan obituary The Guardian, December 6, 2016. Retrieved December 7, 2016.
  6. "Obituary: Peter Vaughan". BBC News. 6 December 2016. Retrieved 6 December 2016.
  7. "Thrones star, 93, launches memoirs. County-born actor tells how performing bug bit him at school". Shropshire Star. 4 July 2016. p. 16.Report by Mat Growcott.
  8. "Peter Vaughan: Acting Clever", Shropshire Magazine, November 2007 Archived 26 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine. Accessed 22 December 2014
  9. "No. 36080". The London Gazette (Supplement). 2 July 1943. p. 3050.
  10. "Obituary: Peter Vaughan". 6 December 2016. Retrieved 6 December 2016 via
  11. Vaiety Staff (31 December 1966). "Review: 'The Naked Runner'". Variety. Los Angeles: Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved 30 June 2013.
  12. Vincent Canby (18 September 1981). "'THE FRENCH LIEUTENANT'S WOMAN'". NYTimes.
  13. "'There are unfortunately a lot of us old guys around'". The Spectator. United Kingdom: Press Holdings. 31 October 2007. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  14. "Game of Thrones star Peter Vaughan is still best known for being Porridge's Grouty – Sunday Post". 22 June 2016. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  15. Angelini, Sergio, A Warning to the Curious at the BFI's Screenonline. Retrieved 2010-7-7.
  16. MacDonald, Marianne (16 March 1966). "A hard act to follow". The Independent. London: Independent News & Media (1997–2010). Retrieved 6 December 2016.
  17. Berardinelli, James. "Death at a Funeral | Reelviews Movie Reviews". Reelviews Movie Reviews. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  18. "PBS Masterpiece Review: Silk Episode One". Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  19. "Shropshire's Game of Thrones star Peter Vaughan still game « Shropshire Star". Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  20. "Game of Thrones? 'It's a hard act to follow' ..." Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  21. Page, Sarah (10 April 2017). "Legendary actor to be immortalised at Sussex pub". West Sussex County Times. Retrieved 15 February 2019.
  22. "Stepdaughter". IMDb. IMDb. Retrieved 6 December 2016.
  23. "Peter Vaughan: Thrones and Porridge star dies at 93". 6 December 2016. Retrieved 6 December 2016 via
  24. "Peter Vaughan, star of Game of Thrones and Porridge, dies aged 93". The Daily Telegraph. London: Telegraph Media Group. 6 December 2016. Retrieved 6 December 2016.
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