The Dam Busters star who shied from Hollywood greatness: Gay actor John Fraser who refused to live a lie dies aged 89 after escaping Glasgow poverty to appear in films with Alec Guinness and Peter Sellers
- The actor shot to fame playing Flight Lieutenant J V ‘Hoppy’ Hopgood in the 1955 war film The Dam Busters
- Acted alongside Alec Guinness in Tunes Of Glory in 1960 and Peter Sellers in The Waltz of the Toreadors
- Being a young gay actor at a time when homosexuality was illegal, the heartthrob shied away from Hollywood
- In his retirement Fraser had lived in Tuscany for many years with his partner, Rod, an artist, who survives him
The Dam Busters star John Fraser who escaped poverty on a Glasgow council estate to appear in films alongside Peter Sellers had died aged 89.
The actor – who was once described as the ‘most handsome man in Britain’ – shot to fame playing Flight Lieutenant J V ‘Hoppy’ Hopgood in the 1955 epic British war film about the raid of German dams using the ‘bouncing bomb’.
He then went on to appear in more than 20 films with stars such as Alec Guinness in Tunes Of Glory in 1960 and Peter Sellers in The Waltz of the Toreadors in 1962.
Fraser made The Dam Busters in his early twenties and became something of a screen heart-throb while also starring in films such as Touch and Go with Jack Hawkins in 1955.
The Dam Busters star John Fraser who escaped poverty on a Glasgow council estate to appear in films alongside Peter Sellers had died aged 89. He is pictured second left in the 1955 film alongside Derek Farr, George Baker, Richard Todd, Bill Kerr, John Forrest and Ronald Wilson
The actor – who was once described as the ‘most handsome man in Britain’ – is pictured in the Waltz Of The Toreadors in 1962 where he starred alongside Peter Sellers
Then finding himself on the cusp of international fame he ‘got cold feet about Hollywood’ and didn’t accept some film offers due to a lack of desire to publicise himself.
Being a young gay actor at a time when homosexuality was illegal, he was already determined to keep a low profile.
While filming The Wind Cannot Read in 1958 in India, Fraser was taunted over his sexuality by the Welsh actor Ronald Lewis, who challenged him to a fight and broke his jaw.
And during a trip to Los Angeles in 1957 to promote The Good Companions, an American producer had promised to make him a star but Fraser realised he could not cope with the anxiety of living a lie.
Fraser appeared in more than 20 films during his career including alongside stars such as Alec Guinness (left) in Tunes Of Glory in 1960
Fraser made The Dam Busters in his early twenties and became something of a screen heart-throb while also starring in films such as Touch and Go with Jack Hawkins in 1955 (he is pictured in 1964)
Fraser is pictured in an episode of Danger Man: Don’t Nail Him Yet in 1964 where he played the character of Rawson alongside Patrick McGoohan
Fraser was born on March 18 1931 in Glasgow and was brought up on Mosspark council estate with two older sisters and an alcoholic father.
He was sexually abused at the age of 11 by a teenage soldier in the baths at Pollokshields and after being evacuated to Kirkcudbright at the outbreak of WW2 he was so homesick that his mother brought him home.
Fraser attended Glasgow High School for Boys and while he was there decided he didn’t want to go to university and instead auditioned as a child actor for Children’s Hour on BBC Radio.
He then went on to work with the Park Theatre Company in Glasgow as an assistant stage manager before making his acting debut in 1947 as a page in Oscar Wilde’s Salome.
Fraser is pictured in the Waltz Of The Toreadors in 1962 where he starred alongside Peter Sellers (left) as Lt. Robert Finch (right)
Alongside his acting Fraser bought a chicken farm in Surrey but after losing all his savings left and bought a flat in Hampstead Heath along with a pet bush baby (pictured) and a young stage hand he had met while playing in A Winter’s Tale with the Old Vic
He completed his National Service as a Royal Corps of Signals lieutenant with the British Army of the Rhine and then returned to the same theatre where he operated the gramophone sound effects.
In 1951 he appeared in a BBC Television adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped, and received rave reviews with The Sunday Times describing him as ‘potential star material’. He then made his first film, Valley Of Song, followed by The Good Beginning – both in 1953.
The London producer Jimmy Woolf then took a liking to Fraser and sent him lavish gifts over a two-year period while deciding whether to cast him as the main part in the 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia.
He didn’t get the part but was quickly picked up to appear as Lord Alfred Douglas in The Trials of Oscar Wilde in 1960 alongside Peter Finch as Wilde. He was nominated for Best Actor at the Baftas for his role but didn’t win.
In the same year he hit the big screen in Tunes Of Glory playing a Scots piper alongside Alec Guinness and John Mills.
Fraser is pictured in the 1966 film Doctor In Clover alongside Fenella Fielding where he played Dr Miles Grimsdyke
In 1962 he shot The Waltz of the Toreadors with Peter Sellers at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire.
Fraser now had dozens of films to his name and a blue Aston Martin and decided to move to an Elizabethan farmhouse in Buckinghamshire with his long-term partner who he simply identified as ‘George’.
However he enjoyed a colourful love life and had a six-week fling with the Soviet ballet star Rudolf Nureyev during this relationship.
In 1971 Fraser starre in The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes – Madame Sara where he played the part of Dixon Druce (pictured)
In addition, while touring Australia for the film Sleuth Fraser identified the body of alcoholic British actor Patrick Wymark before going to bed with his mistress – an encounter he described as ‘the only time in my life I have achieved intercourse with a woman without experiencing paralysing anxiety’.
He also once visited a brothel on the advice of his friend Stephen Ward, the West End osteopath known for his alleged involvement in the Profumo Affair. He also once consulted a psychiatrist in the hope of changing his sexual orientation.
Alongside his acting Fraser bought a chicken farm in Surrey but after losing all his savings he left and bought a flat in Hampstead Heath where he lived with a pet bush baby and a young stage hand he had met while playing in A Winter’s Tale with the Old Vic.
In retirement, before returning to London, Fraser had lived in Tuscany for many years with his partner, Rod, an artist, who survives him (Fraser is pictured in 1986)
Fraser also enjoyed a brief career as a pop singer as well as his acting, appearing on television on Six-Five Special and Cool For Cats, and in concert at the Albert Hall supporting Cliff Richard and Tommy Steele.
In 1970 his long-term partner George left him and so Fraser bought two houses next to each other in Notting Hill. He lived in one and rented the other to his former lover.
Fraser toured West Africa performing Shakespeare with the British Council, and over the next 16 years his London Shakespeare Group of eight actors performed in plays in more than 60 countries.
The project was the subject of Fraser’s book The Bard in the Bush which was published in 1978. He published his memoir Close Up in 2004.
In retirement, before returning to London, Fraser had lived in Tuscany for many years with his partner, Rod, an artist, who survives him.