Victor Spinetti (born 2 September 1933) is a Welsh comic actor.
Spinetti was born in Cwm, Wales of Welsh and Italian heritage from a grandfather who was said to have walked from Italy to Wales to work as a coal miner. His parents, Giuseppe and Lily (née Watson), owned the chip shop in Cwm, over which premises the family lived and where Spinetti was born. He was educated at Monmouth School and the Cardiff College of Music and Drama, of which he is now a Fellow. Early on he was a waiter and a factory worker.
Spinetti sprang to international prominence in three Beatles' films in the 1960s, A Hard Day's Night, Help! and Magical Mystery Tour. He also appeared on one of The Beatles' Christmas recordings. The best explanation for this long-running collaboration and friendship might have been provided by George Harrison, who said, "You've got to be in all our films ... if you're not in them me Mum won't come and see them—because she fancies you." But Harrison would also say, "You've got a lovely karma, Vic." Sir Paul McCartney described Spinetti as "the man who makes clouds disappear". Spinetti would later make a small appearance in the promotional video for Paul's song, 'London Town', off the 1978 album of the same name. Spinetti has appeared in more than 31 films, including Zeffirelli's The Taming of the Shrew, Under Milk Wood with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, Becket, Voyage of the Damned, The Return of the Pink Panther, Under the Cherry Moon, The Popular Hanna-Barbera One called The Further Adventures of SuperTed - Leave It to Space Beavers (VHS, 1990) in the US and The Krays.
Spinetti's work in Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop produced many memorable performances including Fings Ain't Wot They Used T'Be (1959, by Frank Norman, with music by Lionel Bart), and Oh! What a Lovely War (1963), which transferred to New York City and for which he won a Tony Award for his main role as an obnoxious Drill Sergeant. He has appeared in the West End in The Odd Couple (as Felix); Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in the West End; as Albert Einstein in a critically lauded performance in 2005 in a new play, Albert's Boy at the Finborough Theatre in 2005 and in his own one-man show, A Very Private Diary.
One of Spinetti's most challenging theatre roles was as the principal male character in Jane Arden's radical feminist play Vagina Rex and the Gas Oven, which played to packed houses for six weeks at the Arts Lab on Drury Lane in 1969. In 1980 he directed The Biograph Girl, a musical about the silent film era, at the Phoenix Theatre. He has also appeared on Broadway in The Hostage and The Philanthropist. He has also acted with the Royal Shakespeare Company, in such roles as Lord Foppington in The Relapse and the Archbishop in Richard III.
Spinetti co-authored In His Own Write, the play with John Lennon which he also directed at the National Theatre, premiering on 18 June 1968, at the Old Vic. Spinetti and Lennon appeared together in June 1968 on BBC2's Release. During the interview, Spinetti said of the play,
"it's not really John’s childhood, it's all of ours really, isn’t it John?" John Lennon, assuming a camp voice answered "It is, we're all one Victor, we're all one aren't we. I mean 'what's going on?'" Spinetti said the play "is about the growing up of any of us; the things that helped us to be more aware."
He also directed Jesus Christ Superstar and Hair, including productions staged in Europe. His many television appearances on British TV, include Take My Wife in which he played a London-based booking agent and schemer who was forever promising his comedian client that fame was just around the corner, and the sitcom An Actor's Life For Me. In September 2008 Spinetti reprised his one-man show, A Very Private Diary, touring the UK, as A Very Private Diary ... Revisted!, telling his life story.
Between 1969 and 1970 Spinetti appeared on Thames Television, alongside Sid James, as one half of Two In Clover over two series. A sitcom about two office workers who jack it all in to become farmers, he starred in all but one of the 13 episodes. His absence in episode #3 of the second series was covered by fellow Welsh actor Richard Davies, playing Spinetti's character's brother.
In the 1970s Spinetti appeared in a series of television advertisements for McVities' (now United Biscuits) Jaffa Cakes, as "The Mad Jaffa Cake Eater", a Mexican bandit style character who surreptitiously stole and ate other people's Jaffa Cakes, prompting the catchphrase "There's Orangey!" He hosted Victor's Party for Granada. More recently he voiced arch villain Texas Pete in the popular S4C animated TV series SuperTed and has narrated several Fireman Sam audiobooks. Spinetti also starred in Boobs in the Wood' with Jim Davidson, filmed for DVD in 1999.
From 1999 to 2002 Victor played Max, the 'man of a thousand faces', in the popular Childrens TV programme Harry and the Wrinklies, which also starred Nick Robinson (Goodnight Mister Tom) in the title role.
Spinetti's poetry, notably Watchers Along the Mall (1963), and prose, have appeared in various publications. His memoir, Victor Spinetti Up Front...: His Strictly Confidential Autobiography, published in September 2006, is filled with anecdotes. In conversation with BBC Radio 2's Michael Ball, on his show broadcast on 7 September 2008, Spinetti revealed that Princess Margaret had been instrumental in securing the necessary censor permission for the first run of Oh! What A Lovely War.
His younger brother, Henry, is a noted drummer.