Alan Bates was born the son of an insurance broker and a housewife in Allestree, Derbyshire, England. Alan Arthur Bates started out at grammar school and earned a scholarship to the London Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.
Following two years in the Royal Air Force, Bates made his stage debut in 1955 with the Midland Theatre Company at Coventry. His West End debut was in 1956 in the English Stage Company’s first production though his true breakthrough was with a starring role in Tony Richardson's premiere staging of John Osborne's Look Back in Anger.
His film debut was playing one of Laurence Olivier's sons in Tony Richardson's The Entertainer (1960). Following this he appeared as a fugitive in Bryan Forbes' Whistle Down the Wind (1961), and a working-class dreamer in John Schlesinger's A Kind of Loving (1962).
During the remainder of the 1960’s Bates performed in some of the decade’s most important films, including Zorba the Greek (1964), alongside Anthony Quinn, Georgy Girl (1966), Far From the Madding Crowd (1967), the Academy Award nominated The Fixer (1968), and an infamous wrestling session with Oliver Reed in Women in Love (1969) part of which was filmed at Elvaston Castle in Derby.
Bates began the subsequent decade on a very positive note, cast alongside Julie Christie as illicit lovers in Joseph Losey's The Go-Between (1971). Later work was less inspiring and appealing film roles dried up, but Bates continued to illustrate a love of acting rather than any desire for commercial success.
In 1995, Bates was awarded the CBE, and knighted in 2003. He appeared in Robert Altman’s Gosford Park (2002), and was once again worked regularly – a hectic schedule that helped him overcome the death of his son and wife during the 1990’s. He died in 2003 at the age of 69.
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