The veteran actor, Sir Donald Sinden, has died at his home following a long illness, his son has confirmed. He was 90.
The star of stage and screen made his name as a Shakespearean actor in the 1940s and went on to appear in more than 70 film and TV productions.
He had been battling prostate cancer, which was first diagnosed several years ago.
His death, a few weeks before his 91st birthday, at his home in Romney Marsh, Kent, has been described as a “huge loss” by his family, who asked for their privacy to be respected.
His son, the actor and film director Marc Sinden, said in a statement: “My father has finished dying. He suffered for a few years from prostate cancer which slowly spread.”
In 1979, he was appointed a CBE and a knighthood followed in 1997 for his services to drama.
After training at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, he made his film debut in 1953 with 'The Cruel Sea' and later went on to to perform with the Royal Shakespeare Company in leading roles such as King Lear and Malvolio in 'Twelfth Night'.
Although renowned and respected for his theatre work, he was perhaps best known for his TV work, particularly in the sitcom 'Never the Twain' and the BBC crime drama 'Judge John Deed'.
Marc Sinden said: “He bravely continued presenting our Sky Arts documentary series 'Great West End Theatres' in spite of a minor stroke, until it became just too difficult for him and at his insistence his illness was kept from all but the closest friends.
“It had been an ambition of his to get as many of his wonderful theatrical memories and anecdotes down on film to share with people, in and outside of our profession, who may have never heard his extraordinary tales of a hugely long career.
“He worked out that he only had a total of five weeks unemployment between 1942 and 2008, which was probably a record in itself.”
His son added that plans for a memorial service were under way.
“We hope that you will respect our feelings at this miserable time and grant us the privacy we would like. The venue and date for a memorial service will be announced later,” he said.
“Even though his death was expected, it is still a huge loss to his family and we, his brother, his son, his four grandchildren and great-grandchild will all miss his humour and knowledge and we would all like to share our appreciation for the Pilgrims Hospice and the carers that looked after him and us with such dignity, consideration and care until the end.”