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Peter Dyneley – Information

Here is some biographical information on Peter Dyneley:

  • Born: 13 April 1921 in Hastings, East Sussex, England
  • Although born in England, Peter spent his early years in Canada
  • Peter possessed dual nationality – British and Canadian
  • Peter was going to go to Magill University but World War II put an end to that. He served in the Royal Canadian Navy during the war on Royal Navy destroyers. After the war, he studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.**
  • Performed in numerous plays and movies with second wife Jane Hylton
  • Actively worked as a guest actor on many television shows
  • Peter died of cancer on 19 August 1977
  • Spoke: Fluent French, German and Spanish in addition to English*
  • Height: 5 feet, 11 inches tall*
  • Peter’s last name is pronounced /DIE-neh-lee/
  • Peter’s actual full name is Peter Dyneley Hessey-White
  • Peter had two children with first wife Christine May, named Richard and Amanda
  • Peter was 56 years of age when he died, the same age as Jeff Tracy when International Rescue started operating
  • Peter’s last film was Black Trash, which was filmed in South Africa and released the year after he died
  • Peter’s wife, Jane, died of a heart attack on 28 February 1979
  • Called “a true professional” by fellow Thunderbirds voice actor Shane Rimmer  (From magazine article “The Man Who Was Jeff Tracy”)
  • Sylvia Anderson called him “a genuine Hemingway character who was rarely reluctant to shoot from the hip when the situation called for it. But underneath that macho, pedal to the floor character and a voice that could split Cheddar Gorge, there dwelt an undeniably gentle and generous spirit.” (From magazine article “The Man Who Was Jeff Tracy”)

*Thanks to Shaqui for these pieces of information.

 **Thanks to Peter’s son, Richard, for this information.

The following interview was printed in the Q4 2014 issue of the NTBS Newsflash:

In This Issue: Richard Hessey-White

 Interviewer: Christine Davis

 A huge part of what was so essential in bringing the Thunderbirds characters to life in the original television series were the voice actors. In 2009 I realized, as I began to research these very talented individuals, that there was little information available on some of them, most notably those who had sadly passed away by the time I began looking.

I must admit that I have always been partial to the voice of Jeff Tracy. From the initial, iconic and memorable “5…4…3…2…1…Thunderbirds Are Go!” which is heard at the beginning of the credits, to Jeff’s every appearance in all the series episodes and original two movies, his was a voice that was, to me, as commanding as it was gentle and loving. My initial searches, therefore, focused on the man who was Jeff Tracy: Peter Dyneley.

Finding movies that Mr. Dyneley had made, other work that he did outside of Thunderbirds, wasn’t a problem. But at first, that was all I really had. And while I went out and purchased all his movies that I could, and took both still photos and sound bites from each of them to preserve him and his work, I still fell short in knowing anything at all about him as a person.

That was when I had a breakthrough. In the (far too numerous) searches I performed on the internet, I happened to find Mr. Dyneley’s name on a genealogy website. It was there that I learned two things about him. His full name at birth was Peter Dyneley Hessey-White. And second, he’d had two children. Subsequent searches on the names of those children led me to more than I ever could have dreamed because I found them both! And in 2010, Mr. Dyneley’s son, Richard Hessey-White, was gracious enough to grant me a telephone interview to talk about his father.

Christine: Thank you so much for granting me this interview, it’s a pleasure to speak with you. We’ve been corresponding a bit and one of the things you shared with me intrigued me. It would seem “Peter Dyneley” was not all there was to your father’s name. If I may, what was his real, full name and why did he not use it?

Richard: First, so everyone knows, the correct pronunciation is DYNE-lee. It took me ten years to work out where the name Dyneley came from. His full name was Peter Dyneley Hessey-White. When he was a young man his agent decided a double-barrelled name was not conducive to the stage and at that time there was an actor making his way with a similar name, so my father used his ‘family’ name, which was Dyneley, as his stage name.

I always wondered where the name Dyneley comes from. I undertook some family history research, but all I knew at the beginning was that, according to my aunt, their father made up this rhyme at Peter’s christening: “Peter Dyneley Peter Dyneley Peter Dyneley Hessey-White.” The research took me in various directions. Peter’s maternal grandfather was James Hessey and his maternal great-grandfather was Robert Dyneley. I only know this because the family tree is up on the

internet on ‘Genes Reunited’ and someone contacted me and was able to prove that she and her husband were vaguely related to me.

My Dad often played or voiced American characters as he was brought up in Canada but sent back to England for his education. Canada’s has more difficult for me to research – I have been trying to track down my grandfather Cyril, Peter’s father, when and how he arrived in Canada. The White part of the family ended up in Montreal. My father’s family came from Liverpool originally, then he turned up in Montreal with an older brother and both joined the Canadian army during the First World War. Robert White, Cyril’s father, was a policeman in Liverpool, and Cyril was the youngest of 11 children. Robert was born in New York around 1849-1852, But he wasn’t an American citizen. His father was Henry Jackson White. He died in New York, leaving Robert and a sister and their mother in the US. They were brought back to Liverpool by tobacco people.

Christine: Did your father travel back to Canada much throughout his life?

Richard: We actually did. His mother lived in Montreal until she died around about 1979-80. He used to travel back. I didn’t take trips with him, but I went to Canada on my own when I was ten and she took me around and introduced me to Canada. My mother’s side also has family in Ottawa.

Christine: What are your earliest memories of your father?

Richard: Brigadoon in 1950 when I was three. He played Angus in that musical at His Majesty’s Theatre in London’s west end

Christine: You have said that Peter was one of the top voice-over actors used in the UK by advertising agencies. Could you talk some more about this type of work he did?

Richard: Almost all commercials are voice-overs across the world. Back in the 60s in the UK, three of the big brand advertisers at the time were all for Cadbury. Back in the 50s the UK only had one TV channel, which was BBC. Somewhere in early 60s they had a 2nd channel called ITV; there were about ten separate companies broadcasting to various regions throughout the UK. The advertisers spent a lot of money creating quality advertising and using actors to voice-over the commercials. Cadbury were one of the early big spenders. There was a program (and still is to this day) called Coronation Street. One of the ads in the first commercial break of Coronation Street was for Cadbury’s Bonneville Chocolate (dark, bitter chocolate). One of the others was Smash, another of Cadbury’s brands, which is instant mashed potatoes. Smash became very famous in the 60s. They have a sort of mechanical voice, finished off by my father saying one or two words on them. There was also the International Wool Secretariat, used to promote wool. My father used to voice those as well.

Christine: What was it like growing up with a man you saw on stage, and then later in movies, TV shows and commercials?

Richard: Normal and natural because that’s how it’s always been. You have no idea it’s different. His celebrity had little impact on my life whatsoever.

Christine: What was Peter’s personality like? For example, was he jolly or rather serious?

Richard: I’m a child and he’s my dad. He was probably more serious than jolly. My mother and father divorced when I was five or six years old. We went and saw our father when he could see us and vice-versa. It was a normal growing up of a child with parents in the theater. Amanda, my full sister, is three years younger than me. She’s retired, exceptionally bright, full of ideas. She’s lovely. She’s full of fun. She has her father’s brains…Peter would do the Times crossword puzzle and pick out the pattern of colors just for fun. He was very bright in that sense.

Christine: You have said that your father had a beautiful bass voice. Could you describe the types of songs he would sing?

Richard: He didn’t sing on stage that I ever saw. He sang would often sing German lieder in bath!  A serious singing of the operatic voice is called ‘lieder.’ [Interviewer’s Note: Richard actually sang to me at this point in the interview – how wonderful that was!] After the war my father studied at Guildhall [The Guildhall School of Music & Drama – Ed.]. He sung with a bass voice.. To become a professional opera singer requires continual training; you need a repertoire and a voice coach – but having a family requires income, and it was easier becoming an actor. He also claimed he had a sibilant ‘s’ like a snake that came through in his singing. Another piece of information few people will remember is that after the War there was a radio station called Radio Luxembourg, it was a commercial station and it broadcast to the UK. Peter used to introduce ‘Bing Sings’ on Radio Luxembourg.

Christine: Did your father ever speak of his experiences on stage, film or television with you? If so, do you recall him talking about his work with other actors, or perhaps a memorable moment he had during the filming of a movie?

Richard: None that I would pass on to you. (Laughs) Like all actors he was a good raconteur because he knew the one thing that is needed to tell a story, timing – he could hold a table of people recounting a story. Recording his voice for Thunderbirds, all I know about Thunderbirds is the actual filming was done in Slough, at a sort of out-of-town industrial estate, but you know all that. I think the sound was recorded at De Lane Lea [Studios].

Christine: Do you recall any anecdotes your father may have shared with you about his experience being the voice of Jeff Tracy in Thunderbirds?

Richard: You all know that Lady Penelope has a car that has the number plate on it, FAB 1, and they used FAB and fab of course short for ‘fabulous.’ Father rather fancied an MGB British sports car at the time, and we have a tradition in our family. All our cars have names. His first car was Epithania, named for the female lead of the play he was in at the time. She was an Austin Somerset convertible. He later did African Patrol which was a TV series, and came back with another different car called Toto, which is the word for ‘child’ in Swahili. Then he had a small British sports car, an MGB, and this was known in the family as FAB 2. I have no idea what happened to it. He had another two MGBs after that, one he called Mortimer G., Esquire. I still have an  MGB called Candy. Because it’s sweet, for a girl, and eye candy when she has her top down.

Christine: What can you tell us about your father’s marriage to actress Jane Hylton?

Richard: Dad served in the Royal Canadian Navy in world war 11. He loved the sea, he loved ships. After my parents broke up, which I don’t know too much about, Dad was engaged to do The Manster. A movie I’ve never seen. In it with him was Jane Hylton and when the filming was finished he decided they would come back to Britain the long way, which was to come back by tramp steamer – today they call them container ships. I think it was the White Star or Blue Funnel Line and Father said, I’d like to book a double cabin for myself and Ms. Hylton to get back to the UK. He was told they weren’t allowed a double cabin since they weren’t married. So my father and Jane decided they’d get married and then get divorced when they got back (to England). The Manster was filmed in Japan, of course, and the story goes that my father and Jane went along to the (British) consulate and got married. As the first bottle of champagne was being cracked, the translator that had been there to help them came rushing into the room, yelling, “Ha, marriage no good!” My father was asking, what the heck’s going on here? Well, the Japanese write in the wrong direction, so Peter and Jane had signed in the wrong place! They got it sorted, got married and they never got divorced. It was a very, very happy marriage.

Christine: Anything else related to Thunderbirds that you might wish to share?

Richard: I have two children of my own. The two of them and I were on holiday eight or nine years ago to Ibiza in the Spanish Balearics (even back then my dad had already been gone a long time). So I am now at this hotel, I have fought my way to a sunbed and I’ve got my drink, I’ve got my book, my children have found various playmates and decided to leave me alone and I’m thinking right, I’m here on holiday. The hotel has one of these people trying to get you into the pool and do exercises. I’m lying there and I’m thinking, ugh, and all of a sudden I hear “Five…four…three…two…one!” – they use it every day. I look up to the heavens and think, “Dad, come on, leave me alone.”

Christine: What else would you like Peter Dyneley’s fans to know about him?

Richard: A story recounted by my father: He was seconded to the Royal Navy for much of the war, he was the Mediterranean. His ship was lying Gibraltar and he was officer of the day (OOD), getting people ashore for leave, etc. Well, somebody had escaped from Germany, made their way through France to Spain and out to Gibraltar. They saw the ship offshore and swam to it, and it was Peter’s job to interrogate.

A few years after the war he had a call from his agent saying a film was going to be made in France, go down to Shepperton Studios, they’re doing the casting. He went to Waterloo Station and caught the train. He was sitting in the carriage and a fellow with red hair was sitting opposite him. There was also a good-looking younger man also in the carriage. The fellow with red hair said, “Don’t I know you?” Eventually they realized this was the fellow his father had interrogated on the ship! Then the very good-looking young man entered the conversation with, “Oh, I was with the same unit but didn’t see action.” And this very good-looking man was allegedly (Sir) Roger Moore who later went on to play James Bond.

They arrived at Shepperton Studios and there were all these actors and because they’re called alphabetically, Dyneley went first. There was a semicircle of desks with the producer in the middle and behind them was a small fellow in a flat hat, a tall and wiry fellow. “Hello, Mr. Dinley, we’re doing a big casting for a film we’re doing in France.” The guy mispronounced his name, by the way, and then asked, “Can you ride a horse?”

“The name’s Dyneley and I can ride a horse.”

“Ok Mr Dinley If you get to a river, can you make the horse go across?”

“Yes, if it’ll swim, and by the way, the name is Dyneley.”

“We’ll let you know.”

“And for future reference, the name is Dyneley.”

He told the others what was going on so they all got invited to make the film (which never actually got made). An American producer who was involved with it apparently had a place just off Hyde Park, where you can ride horses there in central London. So the three men got some horses and went round and knocked on the guy’s door just to prove they could ride..

Christine: Any last thoughts you’d like to share about your dad?

Richard: My father was very bright and intelligent, and died far too young.

Richard Hessey-White is now retired and travels England on his boat called Persistence with his dog, Tess. He has two sons (one of whom is named Peter), one daughter and one granddaughter.

Richard Hessey-White

Thank you very much to Richard for granting me this interview originally back in 2010, and for some additional information he’s helped with recently. It was an honor to speak with him (and hear him sing!), and I think I can speak for all Thunderbirds and Peter Dyneley fans when I say we really appreciate him sharing his father with us!

You can also find this interview archived on Peter Dyneley’s voice actor page on TICipedia, where there are many facts about Peter, as well as still photos, sound clips and videos from his various non-Thunderbirds endeavors.

If you have video clips, sound bites or still photos of actor Peter Dyneley that you would like to share on TICipedia, please email contact@ticipedia.info!