SOUTH AFRICAN CLASSIC FILM STAR LEONARD SACHS by Deborah Painter  

September 26 will mark the birthday of Leonard Sachs.The future television, stage and film actor Leonard Meyer Sachs was born that day in 1909 in the small town of Roodepoort, Gauteng.  He received his education in South Africa and moved to Great Britain in 1929 to work in theatre and then films.  Leonard’s first film role was in The Secret of Stanboul(Richard Wainwright Productions, 1936) in which he played the Turkish trader “Arif”.

 

Leonard became involved in music hall. He founded The Players Theatre in Villiers Street, Charing Cross, London.  The Players Theatre was the only one in London not to close during World War II.  The Players Theatre had to take up temporary quarters during that time, once in a basement and then a motion picture theatre, to avoid closing.  Audiences, Leonard Sachs learned, wanted to have the distraction of a good evening of live musical entertainment night after night even during The Blitz! Sachs left management of the Theatre in the hands of others while he served in the Army from 1941 to 1944.  In 1947 Leonard married the actress Eleanor Summerfield.   In the early 1950s, acting as the Chairman of the Leeds City Varieties, Sachs hosted the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) television series The Good Old Days, a very successful and long running series running for thirty years from 1953 to 1983. Leonard’s long and thin face meant he played mainly serious characters in cinema and on television.  Equally good at playing the villain or the hero, Leonard’s Sherriff of Nottingham attempted to foil Robin Hood and his merry men in The Men of Sherwood Forest (Hammer Films, 1954).Leonard starred as John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church, in the critically acclaimed John Wesley (G. H. W. Productions, Limited, 1954).In After the Ball (Romulus Films, 1957), a saga of the romances and intrigues of the music hall business, Leonard was Richard Warner.  His costar in After the Ball was Lawrence Harvey, already a name actor in the 1950s.

 

Leonard Sachs as Paul Dupont holds three spies at gunpoint in Malaga, also known as Fire over Africa. Credits: Frankovich Productions

In Odongo (Warwick Films/Columbia Pictures, 1956), Sachs was a game warden who endeavored to make sure animal traders Rhonda Fleming and MacDonald Carey did not exceed their limit of African wildlife captures.   Both Leonard and his wife Eleanor had roles in the film.  Sachs was very busy in cinema production during this period, portraying a Moroccan based smuggler in Malaga, also known as Fire over Africa (Frankovich Productions, 1954), captured by spies Trevor Howard and Maureen O’Hara.  We see Leonard Sachs in 1950s British-produced science fiction dramas, such as The Gamma People in which he was a telegraph clerk, as well as his role as part of a scientific team brainstorming ways to destroy the enormous radioactive prehistoric reptile known as Behemoth the Sea Monster (Artistes Alliance, Ltd/Diamond Pictures Corporation).

 

Later, Sachs was Group Captain Pritchard inThunderball (Eon Productions/United Artists, 1965), a James Bond thriller

Leonard Sachs was Group Captain Pritchard commanding a unit of scuba divers fighting SPECTRE in Thunderball. CREDITS: United Artists

set underwater off the Bahamas.  The film won an Academy Award for its multiple scuba diver battle sequence.Sachs never seemed to slow down for many years; he was quite active in BBC and in Incorporated Television Company (ITC) television series in addition to The Good Old Days, appearing in Ivanhoe, Danger Man, The Firm of Girdlestone,Ghost Squad, O. S. S., Coronation Street and dozens of others.  Leonard Sachs had two roles in the immensely popular science fiction series Doctor Who as Admiral Gaspard de Coligny in the early (1966) multipart episode The Sea Beggar and as Lord President Borusa in the 1983 multipart episode Arc of Infinity.

 

 

In the middle 1980s Sachs decided to retire, though he was coaxed out of retirement to be in the 1985 Royal Variety Performance television variety show in a tribute to The Good Old Days.Sachs died in London on June 15, 1990 at the age of 80. Sachs was survived by his wife, his two sons, Toby Sachs and the actor Robin Sachs.