Born in London, England, on 2nd February 1933, Tony Jay later became a naturalised American citizen. In his youth, he attended Pinner County Grammar School, and undertook his National Service with the Royal Air Force, returning to civilian life in 1953. His career began on the stage - indeed he was a founder member and player of the Royal Shakespeare Company - and in radio drama, and he went on to branch out into other media with some considerable success.

He emigrated to South Africa in 1955 and quickly became involved in acting, writing and directing for Springbok Radio on a multitude of radio drama productions. Although he would return to England on several occasions (including the time in 1972 when he left The Avengers to return home), he remained involved in South African radio work until 1980.

Over the years, Tony built up an impressive body of film and television work. Silver screen engagements included work with some of America's most respected directors. In 1975, Jay worked with the comedian and film maker Woody Allen, playing Vladimir Maximovitch in Allen's wonderful send-up of Russian Literature, Love and Death. Five years later, Jay contributed the voice of the Supreme Being to Terry Gilliam's wild historical fantasy Time Bandits (1980). At the start of the next decade, a small screen appearance in Twin Peaks saw him working for another Hollywood maverick, David Lynch. Other film appearances include My Way (1974), Little Dorritt (1988), Twins with Danny DeVito and Arnold Schwarzenegger, and My Stepmother is an Alien with Kim Basinger.

Jay's work in television is equally wide-ranging. British work includes an appearance in the highly regarded BBC Shakespeare production of Timon of Athens (1981) and episodes of The Professionals and The Sweeney. Tony also made an appearance as an arms dealer, Bagatu, in How To Get Rid Of It, an episode of the well-remembered London Weekend Television comedy Whoops Apocalypse (1982). In the United States, Tony made many memorable television appearances, his turn as the thoroughly evil Paracelsus in CBS' Beauty and the Beast was, for many, the highpoint of the long-running fantasy series. The Nineties update of the Superman franchise, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, saw Tony pitted against the eponymous stars as an assistant to Lex Luthor, Nigel St John. Other appearances of note are as Rabbi Fishman in Picket Fences, and characters in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Eerie Indiana

Arguably Tony Jay's greatest asset as an actor was his deep, mellifluous voice, which he used throughout his career to great effect in a variety of high profile animated feature films and television cartoons. He provided voices for Lickboot in Warner Brothers' Tom and Jerry: The Movie (1992), Monsieur D'Arque in Disney's Beauty and the Beast (1992) and the villainous Frollo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996), also from Disney. In television cartoons, Tony's distinctive voice was featured notably as Megabyte in ReBoot, Chairface Chippendale in The Tick, and on Spiderman, Gargoyles, Rugrats and The Animaniacs. Tony was also engaged as voice artiste in several multimedia productions, such as video games. His work in this field includes Activision's Blood Omen: The Legacy of Kain (1996) - for which he provided the voices of William the Just and Maritanius - and Interplay's Fallout (1997).

Jay's extensive stage career also won him much acclaim. He appeared in the RSC's production of Dickens' Nicholas Nickleby, initially in London and ending up on Broadway. Tony was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for his part in the New York show. He played in Arthur Miller's modern tragedy A View from the Bridge opposite Topol, and as Shylock in Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice. Other theatre credits include Great Expectations, The Deep Blue Sea and The Unknown Soldier and his Wife with Peter Ustinov.

Tony Jay spent the last twenty years of his life in Los Angeles, where he continued to act in film, television and on the stage, remaining a much sought after commercial voice artiste. Sadly, in April 2006, he was admitted to the Cedar Sinai Hospital for micro-surgery to remove a non-cancerous growth in his lungs. While recovering, Tony's health deteriorated suddenly, and he became critically ill. Despite a spirited fight, which saw his breathing improve and his mobility regained, Tony Jay passed away at the hospital on Sunday 13th August 2006. He was survived by his wife Marta and his son Adam, who has followed his father into the acting profession.

by Alan Hayes

 

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