Thane Bettany

Thane William Howard Hardcastle Christopher Bettany (28 May 1929 – 7 November 2015) was an English actor and former dancer. He was the father of film actor Paul Bettany.

Thane Bettany
Born(1929-05-28)28 May 1929
Died7 November 2015 (aged 86)[1]
OccupationActor, dancer, drama teacher
Years active1953–1985
  • Anne Kettle
  • Andy Clark
Children3, including Paul

Early years

Thane Bettany was born in Sarawak, an independent state on the island of Borneo, which was then a British protectorate governed by the White Rajahs. Thane's elder brother was Peter Bettany. His godmother was the American memoirist Agnes Newton Keith, author of Three Came Home.

The Bettanys knew the Rhys-Jones family, also from Sarawak. In 1965, when both had been widowed, Howard John Bettany, Thane's father, married Margaret Rhys-Jones.[2] The same year, Thane Bettany stood godfather to his new stepbrother's daughter, Sophie Rhys-Jones, later Countess of Wessex.[3]

Dancing career

Bettany had become enamoured with ballet after seeing a performance as a child. Once he left school he took the money given to him by his father to go to engineering school to study ballet. After National Service, when he served in the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm as a mechanic, he entered Sadler's Wells Ballet School (which later became the Royal Ballet School). He began dancing in musical theatre, but after an accident on stage when he broke his back he had to give up professional dance. Acting was an obvious career move, but he had a bad stammer. He went to study mime in Paris with Charles Antonetti, who helped him overcome the problem. Bettany returned to England and joined the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre Company, which would later become the Royal Shakespeare Company. He played Osric to Sir Michael Redgrave's Hamlet. In The Tempest, he was the understudy for the role of Ferdinand; he then took over the part when the play transferred to Drury Lane with Sir John Gielgud.[4]

Personal life

After a few years with the New Zealand Players, he returned home and taught at Corona Stage School, where he met Anne Kettle, whom he would later marry. He moved on to Norway as the Artistic Director of the English Theatre Company there, inviting Kettle over as his stage manager. Back in England they renewed their friendship at the Lincoln Theatre Royale. They married and settled in North London, and although stage work continued to be his focus, when his children were born he looked for other work to be closer to home. He continued to act, mainly in television; during this period he was cast in one of his most famous roles, as Tarak on Doctor Who.[4]

The couple had three children: daughter Sarah, elder son Paul and younger son Matthew. Sarah and Paul initially attended school in North London. When Sarah, Paul and Matthew were 11, 9 and 2 years old, respectively, their father obtained employment as a drama teacher at the Hertfordshire all-girls boarding school, Queenswood School; the family lived on campus.[5]

Matthew Bettany died after a fall at Queenswood when he was eight. Soon after, Paul Bettany left home to live on his own in London. Thane and Anne Bettany divorced in 1993 after 25 years of marriage. Thane Bettany lived in Fife, Scotland with his partner, Andy, continuing to work regularly as an actor, including performing with Dundee Rep until his death circa November 2015.[4][6]


Year Film Role Notes
1957Fire Down Below
1979North Sea HijackHeyerdahl
1980The TalismanTheodoricTV series
Doctor Who: State of DecayTarakTV episode
1985MaelstromMr. TovanTV miniseries


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