Balding, deceptively bland-looking British actor Donald Pleasence was first seen on the London stage in a 1939 production of Wuthering Heights. He then served in the RAF, spending the last years of World War II in a German POW camp. Resuming his career after the war, Pleasence eventually came to New York in the company of Laurence Olivier in 1950, appearing in Caesar and Cleopatra. And although he began appearing in films in 1954, Pleasence's British fame during the '50s was the result of his television work, notably a recurring role as Prince John in The Adventures of Robin Hood from 1955-1958. He also co-starred in TV productions of The Millionairess, Man in a Moon, and Call Me Daddy. Voted British television actor of the year in 1958, Pleasence produced and hosted the 1960 series Armchair Mystery Theatre, before creating the stage role for which he was best remembered: Davies, the menacing tramp in Harold Pinter's The Caretaker. The actor revived the character throughout his career, appearing as Davies for the last time in 1991.
Pleasence was fortunate enough to be associated with the success of The Great Escape in 1963, which led to a wealth of American film offers. Four years later, the actor portrayed arch criminal Ernst Blofeld in the James Bond film You Only Live Twice -- the first time that the scarred face of the secretive character was seen onscreen in the Bond series. Firmly established as a villain, Pleasence gradually eased into horror films such as Halloween (1978), The Devonsville Terror (1979), and Buried Alive (1990); commenting on this phase of his career, Pleasence once mused "I only appear in odd films." One of his few "mainstream" appearances during this period was virtually invisible. Pleasence is seen and prominently billed as a rabbi in Carl Reiner's Oh, God! (1977), but the role was deemed dispensable and all the actor's lines were cut.
Pleasence continued to work steadily in the 1980s and early '90s -- making 17 pictures alone in 1987-1989 -- before undergoing heart surgery in 1994; he died from complications two months later. Married four times, the actor was the father of six daughters, among them actress Angela Pleasence.