Alec McCowen, a West End and Broadway star who had global success with a one-man show about the life of Jesus, died Feb. 6 at his home in London. He was 91.
Talent agency Conway van Gelder Grant confirmed his death. No cause was provided.
Mr. McCowen performed in London and New York through the 1950s before joining the Old Vic Company — alongside Judi Dench and Maggie Smith — and then the Royal Shakespeare Company.
He was a notable Mercutio in Franco Zeffirelli’s “Romeo and Juliet” at the Old Vic in 1960, and a witty Fool alongside Paul Scofield’s king in director Peter Brook’s “King Lear” at the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1962.
In 1969, he received the first of three Tony Award nominations, as a failed priest who fantasizes he is the pope in “Hadrian VII.”
He also played the psychiatrist who treats a teen accused of mutilating horses in Peter Shaffer’s “Equus” (1977); in 1973, he was Henry Higgins opposite Diana Rigg’s Eliza Doolittle in “Pygmalion.”
A few years later, he memorized a large chunk of the New Testament and turned it into an acclaimed one-man performance of “St. Mark’s Gospel.” He performed it around the world, including at the White House for President Jimmy Carter. It also ran on Broadway in 1978 and garnered his last Tony nomination. (His other was in Christopher Hampton’s “The Philanthropist,” in 1971.)
Other major roles included an elderly missionary who returns from Africa to unsettle his Irish family in Brian Friel’s “Dancing at Lughnasa” in 1990; a hostage in Lebanon in Frank McGuinness’s “Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me” in 1992: and Prospero in a Sam Mendes-directed “Tempest” for the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1993.
Though best known as a stage actor, Mr. McCowen appeared in more than two dozen films. His debut was the 1953 British drama “The Cruel Sea,” which starred Jack Hawkins as a skipper coming unraveled by wartime stress.
In Alfred Hitchcock’s “Frenzy” (1972), Mr. McCowen had one of his best on-screen parts, playing a detective tracking down a serial killer of women while also dealing with his long-suffering domestic life. Film critic Michael Billington was delighted by how Mr. McCowen’s “features crumple into dismay at his wife’s reckless experiments with haute cuisine.”
Mr. McCowen played a stuffy bank manager liberated by time spent with an eccentric aunt (played by Smith) in “Travels With My Aunt” (1972), based on the Graham Greene novel, and was gadget-master Q in the James Bond film “Never Say Never Again” (1983) opposite Sean Connery.
Alexander Duncan McCowen was born in Tunbridge Wells, south of London, on May 26, 1925. He trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and performed for troops with the Entertainment National Service Association at the end of World War II.
His partner, actor Geoffrey Burridge, died in 1987. Survivors include a sister.
“I don’t think I have a very memorable face,” Mr. McCowen once told The Washington Post, reflecting on how his features helped him carve out a diverse career. “I think I share that with one or two other very good actors, like Alec Guinness and Tim Curry. I feel it’s a great pleasure to have a face like that.”
Adam Bernstein contributed to this report.