Obituary: Larry Dalzell, theatrical agent

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Glasgow-born theatrical agent who represented many stars of stage and screen

Larry Dalzell, theatrical agent.

Born: 16 January, 1933, in Glasgow.

Died: 26 June, 2011, in Brighton, aged 78.

LARRY Dalzell was one of the most distinguished theatre agents in London. He guided with a shrewd cunning the careers of such stars as Dame Gwen Ffrangcon-Davis, Ralph Fiennes, Ciaran Hinds, Alec McCowan, Sir Michael Gambon, Dame Eileen Atkins, Jason Robards, Natasha Richardson, Edith Macarthur and many more.

He began his acting career as a child with the Glasgow Citizens Theatre before progressing to Edinburgh's Gateway Theatre and several seasons touring Scotland with the Wilson Barrett Company. While still at Jordanhill College, Dalzell appeared with the Citizens in one of its productions that has become part of the theatre's history. In 1949 he played Fleance opposite the young Stanley Baxter as Lennox in a prestigious production of Macbeth.

Duncan Macrae, in the title role, broke a leg during rehearsals but when he rejoined the company Dalzell and Baxter had to help him to the stage every night - his leg in a plaster. "Stanley and I supported Duncan with him mumbling - very loudly - 'I can't get into this ****** King with a plaster.'"

Dalzell then worked with the Wilson Barrett Company with such future stars as Edith Macarthur, Walter Carr, Geoffrey Palmer and Elizabeth Sellars in many of the standard repertoire and the premier of Johnnie Jouk the Gibbet by TM Watson in 1956. A memorable tour was throughout the Borders with Tom Fleming playing Robert Burns and Dalzell in several cameo roles.

Edith Macarthur joined Wilson Barrett in 1949 - the same year as Dalzell. She recalled: "We were then both assistant stage managers - doing all the donkey work. The first time I met Larry he was 16 and had his head buried in a costume hamper at the Theatre Royal, Aberdeen.

"We have remained firm friends ever since. We slowly got minor roles and it was grand experience. Larry was a delight - an excellent actor and always good company on tour."

At that time Dalzell lived in a basement flat in Edinburgh's Ann Street and after a short period as an actor in London he was offered a post with the Denis van Thal agency in 1962.

Four years later he set up his own company, Larry Dalzell Associates, and quickly gained a reputation for his integrity and ability to represent clients to their best advantage. In 1998 Dalzell set up Dalzell and Beresford Ltd with Simon Beresford.

Throughout his career Dalzell was keen to concentrate his management skills on a hand-picked list of clients. He deliberately restricted the list so that he could deal with each actor individually. He read all the scripts that came in with job offers and assiduously attended screenings, previews and first nights so that he had first-hand knowledge of their talents, although he maintained a circumspect attitude to first nights and seldom attended parties.He was more keen to consider how the production had gone and then discuss it in the cold light of day. He was always keen to find new clients and attended student productions at the drama colleges and maintained a close relationship with theatre managers, especially the Royal Lyceum and the Glasgow Citzens .

He often sent young actors - such as Ciaran Hinds and Tim Woodward - to the Citzens from drama colleges to gain invaluable stage experience. He took Ralph Fiennes, in whom he recognised a huge talent, on his books straight from drama school. Rather than suggest Fiennes go to a national company Dalzell found him a job with Theatr Clwyd in Wales for six months.

Edith Macarthur recalls: "Larry was very approachable. He would often come to see me in plays in Scotland. He was at the Pitlochry Festival for a lovely production of On Golden Pond I did with Jimmy Logan and a few years later at Dundee Repertory for Long Day's Journey Into Night with a young actor playing one of my sons called David Tennant.

"Larry was also passionate about Italy and everything Italian, especially Venice. He took me there and it is one of my fondest memories."

Dalzell, who never married, was, indeed a lover of Venice. On a personal note I spent some time with him in the city and was treated to several trips off the normal tourist map. But my abiding memory is going down the Grand Canal one Christmas Eve on a vaparetto and I mentioned that my mother had always recited The Next Stop's Kirkcaldy at Christmas. ("Whit wey does the engine say 'Toot-toot'?"). Larry delivered the entire poem in broad Scots. The incongruity of the situation was enchanting.