Ralph Bates

Ralph Bates (12 February 1940 – 27 March 1991) was an English film and television actor, known for his role in the British sitcom Dear John and the hugely successful TV drama Poldark.[1]

Ralph Bates
Photo by Edward Wing, 1970s
Born(1940-02-12)12 February 1940
Bristol, England
Died27 March 1991(1991-03-27) (aged 51)
London, England
EducationTrinity College, Dublin (BA)
Yale University (MFA)
Years active1967–1991
Spouse(s)Joanna Van Gyseghem (1964–1973)
Virginia Wetherell (1973–1991)


Bates was born in Bristol, England.[2] His parents were both psychiatrists, his mother was French[3] and he was the great-great-grandson of French scientist Louis Pasteur.[4] He held dual-nationality and was bilingual,[3] and was educated at Trinity College Dublin.[4] He read French there, before winning a scholarship to Yale Drama School. The course completed, Bates returned to Ireland to make his stage debut in Shaw's You Never Can Tell at The Gate Theatre, Dublin, in 1963. A career in repertory theatre soon followed and the young actor gained experience in productions ranging from Hedda Gabler to raucous comedies.

Later, Bates carved a niche in the world of horror films and played important roles or the lead in several Hammer Horror productions, such as Taste the Blood of Dracula, The Horror of Frankenstein, Lust for a Vampire, and Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde, in which he played a doctor who mistakenly transforms himself into a beautiful siren.[5][6]

He portrayed Caligula in the series The Caesars and alongside Cyd Hayman in a passionate French tale of murder and mystery - Crime of Passion series.[7] After playing Thomas Culpeper in an episode of The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1970), he went on to star in the BBC drama series, Moonbase 3 (1973) and the long-running Poldark, in which he played villainous George Warleggan.[8] The series ran for 29 episodes, starting in 1975.[9] He also played communist Paul Vercors in the final season of the drama series Secret Army.[10] Because of his French ancestry and dark looks, he was often chosen to play a Frenchman on television, as for instance in a second series episode of ITV comedy drama Turtle's Progress.[11] Bates also appeared in the television movie Minder on the Orient Express, again as a Frenchman.[12]

It looked, for some time, as if he might remain typecast in sinister roles, but he was offered a part in a comedy series by the writer John Sullivan, which saw Bates cast in a more sympathetic role as the newly divorced member of a singles group. Dear John (1986–87), ran for two series, and gave him chance to display a talent for comic roles.[13] Around the same time he appeared in the ITV Yorkshire Television sitcom Farrington of the F.O. (1986) with Angela Thorne and Joan Sims.


Bates became ill and was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and died in London at age 51 from the disease.

The Ralph Bates Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund is a registered charity, number 1007819.[14]


Bates was divorced from the actress Joanna Van Gyseghem,[15] and survived by his second wife, the actress Virginia Wetherell (married 1973-1991). The couple had one daughter, actress Daisy Bates (b. 1974), and a son William Bates (b. 1977), an actor and musician.


Year Title Role Notes
1970Taste the Blood of DraculaLord Courtley
1970The Horror of FrankensteinVictor Frankenstein
1971Lust for a VampireGiles BartonAlternate titles: Love for a Vampire, To Love a Vampire
1971Dr. Jekyll and Sister HydeDr. Henry Jekyll
1972Fear in the NightRobert Heller
1974PersecutionDavid MastersAlternate titles: Sheba, The Terror of Sheba, The Graveyard
1975I Don't Want to Be BornGino CarlesiAlternate titles: The Devil Within Her, The Monster
1985Minder on the Orient ExpressFrancois LeBlancTV movie
1986Letters to an Unknown LoverBernardTV movie
1990King of the WindLeDuc(final film role)


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