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Comedy actor Victor Spinetti dies at 82

Appeared in three Beatles movies, won Tony

Victor Spinetti, a comic actor who appeared in three Beatles movies and won a Tony on Broadway, has died, his agent said Tuesday. He was 82.

Spinetti died Tuesday morning after suffering from cancer for several years, said Barry Burnett, the actor’s close friend and agent.

Spinetti won a Tony award in 1965 for his Broadway performance in “Oh, What a Lovely War,” but became most well-known for his appearances in the Beatles movies “A Hard Day’s Night,” ”Help,” and “Magical Mystery Tour.”

At a London Beatles Day event in 2010, Spinetti said he was included in the cast of “A Hard Day’s Night” at George Harrison’s insistence.

“He said, ‘you gotta be in all our films otherwise me mum wouldn’t come and see ’em, because she fancies you,'” Spinetti said. “That was why I was in.”

On another occasion, he told how his association with the Beatles disrupted the opening night of “Oh, What a Lovely War.”

I came out on stage and a group of girls at the back screamed, ‘Victor Spinetti, aaaah!'” he said in an interview with absoluteelsewhere.net. “They were shouting things like, ‘he’s touched George!'”

He said he calmed the screamers by promising to answer questions about the Beatles after the show.

Spinetti also co-authored “The John Lennon Play: In His Own Write” with Adrienne Kenney. Based on the writings of John Lennon, it opened in June 1968 in London.

Vittorio Georgio Andrea Spinetti was born to an Italian father and Welsh mother in the mining village of Cwm in south Wales. Regarded as an alien during World War II, he was beaten by two neighbors and lost hearing in one ear.

Spinetti studied at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff before moving to London to develop his acting career.

His more than 30 film roles included the part of Hortensio in “The Taming of the Shrew” and Mog Edwards in “Under Milk Wood,” both films starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. He also played the concierge in “The Return of the Pink Panther.”

Spinetti was co-author of the script and did two voices for “Romeo, Juliet” — Armando Acosta’s 1990 film which featured 108 cats and the actor John Hurt.

The difficulty with the script, Spinetti told The Associated Press in a 1988 interview, was blending such things as cats and cars with Shakespeare’s classic verse.

“Some cats talk about cars so you have to try to get this into the script without the audience jolting out of their seats. Of course, you cannot rewrite something like the balcony scene,” he said.

Barbara Windsor, a star of the “Carry On” films, said Tuesday that she had visited Spinetti at his hospice last week.

“He didn’t look ill. He looked great. He was swearing a lot, like that would get rid of the illness, and we just laughed,” she said.

Funeral arrangements were not immediately announced.

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