Brian Bedford, the British stage veteran whose masterly performances and interpretations of classical roles captivated Canadian and American audiences for decades, died Wednesday in Santa Barbara. The 80-year-old had battled cancer for two-and-a-half years, according to a Stratford rep, who also told the Canadian Press that doctors had been “astounded by his will to live.”
Born in Yorkshire, Bedford shared Royal Academy classrooms with the likes of Peter O’Toole and Albert Finney, before embarking on an acting career that would span nearly 60 years and take him to theaters overseas. In southwestern Ontario, Bedford acted and directed for 29 seasons at Canada’s famous Stratford fest, where he would develop his proclivity for the classics and perform the works of Shakespeare, Chekhov, and Molière, among others. Stateside he took turns in 18 Broadway productions, winning a Best Actor Tony in 1971 for Molière’s The School for Wives and nabbing nominations six other times. In 1997, he was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame. Bedford enjoyed a lengthy onscreen career, too, notably voicing Disney’s animated Robin Hood (1973), and appearing on such TV programs as Coronet Blue, Cheers, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Frasier, and Black Jesus. He’s survived by his longtime partner and husband, actor Tim MacDonald.