R.I.P. Michael Gough (1916-2011)

by Oliver Lyttelton
March 17, 2011 6:35 AM
3 Comments
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Very sad news today with the announcement that Michael Gough, the actor perhaps best known for playing Alfred, Bruce Wayne's loyal butler in the two Tim Burton and two Joel Schumacher Batman movies, has passed away at the age of 94. He's survived by his wife, Henrietta.

The actor was born in Kuala Lumpur in 1916, he then returned to England for his childhood, becoming an actor in 1936. Ten years of stage work followed, before making his screen debut in the melodrama "Blanche Fury." Consistent film and TV work followed, including one of the murderer in Laurence Olivier's adaptation of "Richard III," and the classic Powell & Pressburger WWII drama "Ill Met By Moonlight."

He became something of a staple of classic British horror, appearing as Arthur Holmwood in Hammer's seminal "Dracula," opposite Christopher Lee as the Count, as Lord Ambrose in the same studio's version of "The Phantom of the Opera," and in other genre pictures like "Dr. Terror's House of Horror" and "Horrors of the Black Museum."

Gough continued to work solidly, in theatre (winning a Tony for "Bedroom Farce" in 1979), in high-class pictures like Ken Russell's "Women in Love," Joseph Losey's "The Go-Between" and "Out of Africa" and on TV, racking up memorable appearances on "Doctor Who" and "The Avengers." One of our personal favorite roles was as the captured father in the Zucker Brothers' permanently unsung comedy "Top Secret!"

But it was probably his horror work was ensured his late, worldwide fame. Through Tim Burton -- a notable fan of British horror -- he was cast as Alfred in 1989's "Batman," and the actor would go on to reprise the role in "Batman Returns," "Batman Forever" and "Batman & Robin," remaining reliably excellent even as the films around him dipped in quality. As successfully as Michael Caine reinvented the role in Christopher Nolan's films, Gough perhaps remains the iconic representation of Alfred.

The films gave Gough a new lease of life with filmmakers -- he cropped up in Martin Scorsese's "The Age of Innocence," and gave a wonderful performance as Feers in 1999's "The Cherry Orchard," opposite Alan Bates and Charlotte Rampling. His last on-screen performance was again with Burton, nodding to his horror background with a lovely cameo in "Sleepy Hollow," and, although he was ill for the last few years of his life, worked again with Burton twice more, lending his voice to both "Corpse Bride" and last year's "Alice in Wonderland."

On a personal note, this writer knew Gough many years ago; the actor was a friend of my grandparents, and was always happy to answer as many "Batman"-related questions as a child obsessed with film could come up with. He was a deeply kind person, a true gentleman, and we're glad that such an impressive body of work is left behind to remember him by. [Metro]

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More: Classic Actors, Obituaries, Michael Gough

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3 Comments

  • Cory Everett | March 17, 2011 7:56 AMReply

    Yeah I loved him growing up too, amazing you got to meet him and ask about his Alfred stories.

  • evilnik | March 17, 2011 7:14 AMReply

    its very sad.
    R.I.P

  • Drew Taylor | March 17, 2011 7:12 AMReply

    This is a moment when our antiquated refusal to use the proper noun "I" really hurts the piece. Still: amazing memories of an amazing man!

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