The son of a lawyer, grandson of a bank manager, William was the first in his family to break away into an insecure profession such as acting. He went to Moravian School, the same school at which Diana Rigg was a student, although he did not realise this until he appeared in a Television play with her just before she hit fame in 'The Avengers'.
When he was thirteen, William went on to Giggleswick School in the Pennines where he remained until he was sixteen. It was during these years that he began his drama training in holiday time with the Otley Little Theatre Group and made his debut as the Emperor of China, his first ever stage appearance. One play presented by the group was 'Wuthering Heights', which won an award at a Bronte Festival. William played Heathcliffe. His hair was much lighter at the time, so he had to darken it with shoe polish, much to the infuriation of the girl playing opposite him. She complained bitterly that the polish ruined her party dress.
Esme Church, who was running the Princess Theatre in Bradford, was impressed by his performance and offered him free tuition. He accepted and went along to her twice a week to receive lessons which paved the way towards him becoming an actor. At the age of sixteen, he was an office boy with a local estate agent. The job lasted eight months before he could stand it no longer. He was offered a job as an assistant stage manager at a nearby theatre, run by Harry Hanson.
He remained with Hanson for eighteen months. Six months later he went on stage for the first time as a waiter, then in scores of other roles. He reached juvenile lead status and by then it was time for his national service. He went into the Army as a gunner in the Royal Artillery, was promoted to Bombardier and served in Malta and Cyprus. He appeared in Army shows and formed a group which travelled around to various Army camps.
Posted back to England to await release, he decided to study at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. He studied for two years when in his fifth term he was auditioned for the Garfield Western Fellowship training course at Waco University, Dallas. The late Charles Laughton was one the the judges, and later went out of his way to visit Dallas to see how William was getting along after he had been accepted as a post graduate student. During his eight months in Dallas, he played in 'Hamlet', 'The Importance Of Being Earnest' and others, and was seen by Warner Brothers executives who took him to Hollywood. Nothing much happened however, playing small roles in an episode of 'Wagon Train' and also did an unsuccessful pilot.
After two months of hanging around doing practically nothing, he turned down the offer of a seven year contract and returned to London in 1959 with scarcely a penny left. He was lucky to get a job almost immediately, doing a summer season at the Theatre Royal in Bath. He remained there for three months as a leading man. ATV casting director Monty Lyon saw him which led to his TV debut in 'Probation Officer'. While in London he appeared in 'Saint Joan' at the Richmond Theatre and in Salisbury in 'Death Of A Salesman', 'Henry IV' and 'Arsenic And Old Lace'.
Back in London in the autumn of 1960 he did a spate of TV work, parts in 'Deadline Midnight', 'Harpers West One', 'Afternoon Of A Nymph' and was appearing as Dennis Price's A.D.C. in 'Colonel Trumper's Private War'. An equity dispute in the television industry disrupted his television career and he went back to repertory at Cheltenham playing the King in 'A Man For All Seasons' and Julius Caesar in 'Anthony And Cleopatra', and had his first experience of directing a play with 'Present Laughter'. For a year he alternated between TV roles in London and work in Cheltenham, where he starred in 'Billy Liar', 'Ross' and 'The Caretaker' during one spell of six weeks. He went to Coventry to direct 'The Amorous Prawn' and then 'Sergeant Cork' came along and he spent three years living in the past as a Victorian policeman.
During breaks between 'Sergeant Cork' episodes he played in two Edgar Wallace films, appeared with Honor Blackman in 'The Avengers', with Diana Rigg in 'Women, Beware Women', and other television shows. When 'Sergeant Cork' came to an end in 1966, he returned to Cheltenham for 'Luther' and 'The Poker Session'. He went on a well deserved vacation in Italy for three months and then returned to England to tour seven weeks in 'Doctor In Love' and to appear in an episode of 'The Saint'.
Just after completing his tour, he was asked to test for 'The Champions' and while waiting for the series to go into production appeared as a crook in 'Softly, Softly' and rejoined his old Sergeant Cork boss John Barrie in the oddly-titled 'In A Punt Under A Haystack On The River Mersey'.
(I am indebted to Mark at 'Nemesis' http://www.hadleyburg.demon.co.uk/nms/chp.htm for the above information).
William Gaunt has been married to actress Carolyn Lyster since 7th September, 1974 and has one daughter Matilda (Tilly), and a son, Albert (Albie).
He is 6'1" tall
(From - 'The Boxtree A-Z Of TV Stars,
Boxtree Limited, 1992. p.92)
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