Prolific actor, writer and voice coach Valentine Palmer dies aged 86
- Credit: Valentine Palmer
Actor, writer, producer and voice coach Valentine Palmer, who appeared in shows from Dixon of Dock Green to Dr Who, died on January 10 after a short illness.
Born in Middlesex Hospital on July 24, 1935, Valentine’s parents lived in Crouch End before moving the family out to Thornborough, Buckinghamshire, upon the outbreak of war.
He later returned to the capital to study music and singing at the Guildhall School of Music, before being awarded the King George VI scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.
His son, Luke Palmer, said his father had the knack of being able to “pick up an instrument and just teach himself”, mastering the likes of the trumpet and the piano, but that “his main instrument was his voice”.
A regular on television, Valentine went on to appear in almost 100 shows in total, including The Professionals, The Sweeney, Emmerdale, Crossroads, and The Six Wives of Henry VIII. He appeared in two episodes of Dr Who, Day of the Daleks, with Jon Pertwee as the Doctor.
Luke said that despite often being cast as a baddie, “he was the furthest from a tough guy you could imagine”.
His West End musicals appearances included Rogers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, The King and I, and Oliver, in which he played Bill Sikes.
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Of all his roles, Luke said it’s his father as Bill Sykes that he remembers best, in part due to the addition of new pet following the musical’s conclusion.
Once the show had ended, Valentine adopted the dog playing Bull's-eye, Bill’s similarly vicious hound in the musical. A British Bull Terrier, Valentine took her home, named her Bonnie, and she became part of the family.
“We used to laugh," Luke said. “We’d say that even his dog was an actress!”
While acting and singing were his early loves, latterly Valentine’s curiosity led him to investigating other disciplines, including directing, writing, and business.
After writing, producing and directing a feature film, 1995’s comedy/drama Fanny Hill, he spent some time working in Hollywood as a script editor and, later, as a screenwriting coach in the UK.
He entered the business world working for the company Motivation Video as a head of production in 1990, leading to projects with big clients including IBM and BP, before then setting up The Academy of Communication in 2001, which he ran for 20 years.
Writing “became his passion”, according to Luke. Valentine managed to get a number of big commissions, such as the book for West End musical, Zelda, about the wife of Scott Fitzgerald.
In 2012, he was commissioned to write on a topic with which he became increasingly associated: the Titanic.
He was tasked with writing a biography on his great uncle, Second Officer Charles Herbert Lightoller, the only senior officer to survive the sinking of the Titanic. The book was published the same year, titled Titanic and The Strange Case of Great Uncle Bertie.
Valentine’s interest went beyond his great uncle, as he was a firm believer in a conspiracy theory in which the Olympic, the Titanic’s sister ship, was the one that actually sank, as part of an insurance fraud scam.
He wrote several books on the subject, and lectured on his beliefs relating to the infamous event.
Before he died, Valentine’s final project was as a producer and writer on the documentary The Session Man. Currently still in production, it covers the life and career of the famous rock pianist Nicky Hopkins.
Valentine spent many years living in and around West Hampstead, which is where Luke was born, though latterly moved to Brighton, Gozo and finally Grantham, Lincolnshire.
Luke said that his father was always “the life and soul of the party”, and requested that any donations go to the homeless charities Emmaus or Crisis.
Valentine is survived by five children and six grandchildren.
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