Obituary: Tristram Jellinek

Tristram Jellinek, actor and antique dealer: born London 28 August 1933; died London 4 November 1995.

Tristram Jellinek combined the dual careers of actor and antique dealer with aplomb and in both professions he made his own distinctive mark. As a character actor who gave many a sharply etched cameo, he was a familiar face in feature films and on television. As an antique dealer, he achieved a reputation for having a keen eye for a bargain, backed by a very personal taste. To both careers he brought an attitude of fine critical discernment combined with fastidious application.

When Jellinek returned to acting just over 10 years ago, he struck a useful vein in the portrayal of a certain brand of English upper-class acerbity, a characteristic which won him a lucrative contract when in 1985 he was chosen to play a disdainful duke in a long-running American television commercial advertising Schweppes Tonic Water, purveyed as a prime necessity in the pursuit of an aristocratic life style. He also appeared in movies such as Greystoke, Another Country, Revolution, White Mischief, M. Butterfly and A Handful of Dust, giving to each of his directors an immediate, finely judged character without fret or fuss. His television appearances included such plays as Selling Hitler and The Old Devils and popular series such as Widows and One Foot in the Grave.

It was, however, for the Glasgow Citizens Theatre, that most daring of British repertory companies, that he did his best work. As Pawnie in Philip Prowse's arrestingly febrile production of Noel Coward's The Vortex (which transferred to the Garrick Theatre, in London, in 1990), he brought to the role of the elderly tabbycat boulevardier a feline relish which did not mask a touching sense of inner desolation. As Karenin (in Anna Karenina, 1987) he was again ideally cast as Tolstoy's painfully decent but passionless cuckold. In 1990 he appeared with Glenda Jackson as the Chaplain in Mother Courage, in 1991 as a boilingly choleric Anthony Absolute in The Rivals and in 1993 as the desperately beleaguered Dr Rance in Joe Orton's What the Butler Saw.

Jellinek was born in London in 1933, to a father of Czech origin and an English mother, but he was brought up mainly in the Home Counties. After school in Dorset, Sussex and Hampshire and two years' national service with the RAF regiment at Boscombe Down, he won a scholarship to RADA to train as an actor. His first jobs were in repertory in Harrogate and Eastbourne and he later appeared in a variety of plays at Richmond, Leatherhead and Hornchurch, playing everything from a Japanese denizen of The Teahouse of the August Moon to Simple Simon in Mother Goose.

In 1959 he appeared in the West End with Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne in The Visit directed by Peter Brook and in 1964 he was in a production of Oblomov at the Lyric Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, with Spike Milligan and Joan Greenwood. But in spite of such frequent stage employment and steady work in films and television (he appeared in 13 episodes of Harpers W1) his ardour for acting was taking second place to his early obsession with antiques.

Beginning with a stall in the Portobello Road in the late Sixties, he became an expert in pottery and graduated to a shop in Peel Street, Kensington. Later he was in partnership in the Brompton Road and finally in the mid- Eighties he opened a charming shop, Lindsay Antiques, in Church Street, Kensington (named after his partner Lindsay Shand, who died earlier this year), which became a Mecca for connoisseurs and leading London decorators and reflected Jellinek's flair for finding sometimes unlikely articles and, by dint of his sense of display and presentation, making them covetable wares.

His innate flair was much in evidence both in his successive houses in Notting Hill Gate, filled with fine and unusual furniture and decorated with panache, and also in his country retreats in the Cotswolds, first in a late-18th-century Gothic manor-house and later a pretty cottage in the grounds.

Although as an actor Jellinek specialised in defining a kind of English froideur, in real life he was a warm companion who relished gossip and employed an enjoyable vein of waspish humour. In appearance he could have modelled for an austere Roman bust, a look which suited his sometimes imperious manner. Asked on stage by a nervous young actor what he should do next, he furiously whispered: "Not much - and probably just as badly."

It was fitting that his last performances, as the Inquisitor in Schiller's Don Carlos, were given at the Glasgow Citizens, in an environment that he had always found adventurous and congenial and where his intelligence and professional exactitude were properly valued. Typical of the insouciance and fortitude with which he faced his long illness was the fact that he missed only two performances and been playing on stage until six weeks before his death.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

HR Business Partner (Maternity Cover 12 Months)

£30000 - £34000 Per Annum 25 days holiday, Private healthcare: Clearwater Peop...

Project Manager (Procurement & Human Resources)

Unpaid: Cancer Research UK: If you’re a professional in project management, lo...

Geography Teacher

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: We require a teacher of Geogr...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star