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Meyer Dolinsky
Faith Domergue
David Duchovny
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Maurice Evans
 
EVANS, MAURICE
(1901–1989). British/American actor.

SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY, AND HORROR FILM CREDITS
Acted in:  Scrooge  (Henry Edwards 1935); "Hamlet" (and produced) (1953), "Macbeth" (and produced) (1954), "Alice in Wonderland" (narrator) (and produced), "The Devil's Disciple" (1955), "The Good Fairy" (narrator) (and produced), "Man and Superman" (1956),  "The Tempest," "Macbeth" (1960), episodes of Hallmark Hall of Fame; "Just One Happy Family" (1964), "My Grandson the Warlock" (1965), "Witches and Warlocks Are My Favorite Things" (1966), "Daddy Does His Thing," "Samantha's Good News," "And Something Makes Four," "Naming Samantha's New Baby," "Daddy Comes to Visit," "Darrin the Warlock" (1969),  "Paris, Witches Style," "A Plague on Samantha and Maurice," "Adam, Warlock or Washout" (1971), episodes of Betwitched; ; Enter Hamlet (animated short) (Fred Mogubgub 1965); "The Bridge of Lions Affair" (two-part episode) (1966), episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E.; "The Puzzles Are Coming," "The Duo Is Slumming" (1966), episodes of Batman; "Basil of the Bulge," "Algie B for Brave" (1967), "The Four O'Clock Army" (two-part episode) (1968), episodes of Tarzan; Planet of the Apes (Franklin J. Schaffner 1968); Rosemary's Baby (Roman POLANSKI 1968); The Body Stealers (Gerry Levy 1969); Beneath the Planet of the Apes (Ted Post 1970); The Brotherhood of the Bell (tv movie) (George Wendkos 1970);  Terror in the Wax Museum (tv movie) (Georg Fenady 1973);  The Six Million Dollar Man: Solid Gold Kidnapping (tv movie) (Russ Mayberry 1973);  The Canterville Ghost (tv movie) (Robin Miller 1974);  "The Beachcomber/The Last Whodunit" (1978), episode of Fantasy Island; "Coven of Darkness" (1989), episode of Friday the 13th: The Series; "Path of Lies" (1990), episode of War of the Worlds.
 
In other entries of this encyclopedia, I have discussed how the possession of a British accent can be powerfully attractive to American filmmakers in search of actors—so much so that even some American-born performers like Vincent PRICE will endeavor to speak in this manner. However, if an actor is especially interested in achieving guaranteed lifetime employment in the realm of science fiction film, an additional attribute is enormously helpful—experience as a Shakespearian actor.  In a genre that to this day suffers from an inferiority complex and feelings of receiving insufficient respect, the opportunity to associate oneself with the most prestigious form of drama is absolutely irresistible. And, while contemporary audiences may think of Patrick STEWART or Sir Ian MCKELLEN as the primary beneficiaries of this phenomenon, the pioneer in making the transition from Macbeth to monstrosities is Maurice Evans.

Evans was not enormously successful in his youth, although in the early days of talking pictures, he was able, like almost any reasonably articulate British actor, to find parts on motion pictures, including a small role in a forgotten adaptation of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol.  But he was wise enough to realize that a man with a British accent might do better in the Colonies, so he crossed the Atlantic and soon established himself as a leading Shakespearian actor. He so enjoyed his new surroundings that he became an American citizen in 1941 and worked for the Army Entertainment Section during World War II. After the war, some additional triumphs on the Broadway stage led naturally, in the 1950s, to a series of jobs for the irregular series Hallmark Hall of Fame as performer, host, and/or producer of some televised Shakespeare plays and adaptations of fairy tales. Up until the 1960s, then, his aura of dignity was completely uncompromised.

Soon, however, whether due to boredom, greed, or a genuine interest in new challenges, Evan began slumming in a big way.  He first distinguished himself, if that is the proper word, with several appearances in the inane comedy series Bewitched as the grumpy warlock father—named "Maurice" in his honor—of suburban witch Samantha. When the refusal of Frank Gorshwin to continue playing the Riddler left the producers of Batman with an unusable script, they eagerly recruited Evans to portray a transparently similar villain named the Puzzler and reworked the script to make the character a compulsive dispenser of Shakespearian quotations. When the character didn't catch on, he sought occasional employment in another disreputable venue, the television series Tarzan.

Still, while all of this work was competent enough, Evans's greatest year came in 1968, with conspicuous appearances in two major films. He was appropriately sensitive in the background as Rosemary's friend in Roman POLANSKI's Rosemary's Mary, but he commanded more attention in Planet of the Apes. As the script marginalized the actor who would later be the series' mainstay, Roddy MCDOWALL, the film was driven entirely by the conflict between a scenery-chewing Charlton HESTON and Evans's implacably villainous Dr. Zaius. Since he also contrived to give a nuanced performance, suggesting at times that his fierce determination to suppress all knowledge of humanity's true past is motivated by a sincere desire to preserve his ape civilization, Evans stands with McDowall and Tim Roth as the three greatest actors who excelled while buried under layers of ape makeup. He was equally good in the sequel Beneath the Planet of the Apes, though somewhat upstaged by a new crew of bomb-worshipping mutant villains, and he is the only reason why anyone would ever want to watch that wretched film.

Evans continued to work sporadically in the 1970s and 1980s, including an obligatory visit to the risible rest home for has-been actors, Fantasy Island, until failing health drove him back to England to die in 1989. As the Puzzler would have summed up his career, he long endured the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, and proved himself a serviceable villain in tales told by idiots.

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