ALAN MacNaughtan was one of those actors who played important roles both on stage and television with such style and grace yet never became a household name. This was despite several appearances in now-famous productions at the National Theatre when Laurence Olivier ran the company in the Seventies, and also in some well-remembered television series.
MacNaughtan, a quiet, studious man, preferred to shun the limelight and preferred, away from work, to walk the hills, play tennis and sail.
At Glasgow Academy he showed sufficient promise as an actor to try for (and be awarded) a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. In 1940 he graduated with the prestigious Bancroft Gold Medal.
He made his professional debut with the Old Vic Company that year as the King of France in King Lear. After the war, MacNaughtan appeared at several repertory theatres before playing the lead in the smash hit of the year Dial M for Murder in London in 1952.
Many roles followed, both in London and Broadway (he wasparticularly notable as the bishop in the original production of Hadrian the Seventh in 1969) before he joined Olivier’s company at the Old Vic.
In Peter Shaffer’s historic Equus, (1973) MacNaughtan memorably played the father of the horse-fixated boy. The following year he was in John Dexter’s stunning production of Moliere’s The Misanthrope, which starred Alex McCowen and Diana Rigg. That toured Britain and had a successful run on Broadway.
The Financial Times, commenting on MacNaughtan’s performance, said it combined "an exact blend of staidness and humanity". Dressed in a very grand silk dinner suit, MacNaughtan cut an imposing figure.
Also in 1974 MacNaughtan played the central role in a new play (Grand Manoeuvres) concerning the Dreyfus case. As Dreyfus he made a memorable impression, capturing the distraught officer’s sad plight. Other appearances at the National included The Cherry Orchard, Richard II and Measure for Measure.
MacNaughtan was a regular in the original Dr Finlay’s Casebook (with Andrew Cruickshank and Bill Simpson, and he was also seen in Maigret, Paul Temple, and The Expert. He co-starred with Kenneth More in the BBC’s drama about the French Resistance The White Rabbit (1967) and in other series, such as My Son, My Son (1979), To Serve Them All Our Days (1986), A Very British Coup (1988)and Life in Nazi Germany (1997).
His film appearances included roles in Victim (with Dirk Bogarde) and Family Life directed by Ken Loach.
Three years ago MacNaughtan was diagnosed as suffering from cancer, which he calmly faced with his usual courage and fortitude. He was unmarried.