Leslie Richard French was born on April 23, 1904 in Bromley, Kent, England. French was educated at the London School of Choristers. He made his first appearance as a child actor in a 1914 Christmas show at the Little Theatre and left school the same year to join the touring Ben Greet Company as a stagehand and prompter. An early West End job was as an understudy to Bobby Howes in the musical Mr. Cinders, going onto play the title role when the play went on regional tour. French became primarily a theatre actor, as well as a director, singer and dancer, with a varied career that included the classics, musical revue, pantomime and ballet. He became most associated with the role of Ariel in William Shakespeare's The Tempest, and over the years he essayed many of Shakespeare's spirits and clowns, such as Puck, Feste and Touchstone.
He also made the occasional foray into film and television, appearing in two Luchino Visconti films, “The Leopard” (1963) and “Death in Venice” (1971), as well as many popular British television programs. These include ‘Dixon of Dock Green’, ‘Armchair Theatre’, ‘Z-Cars’, ‘The Avengers’, ‘Jason King and The Singing Detective’. His role as Mr. Woodhouse in a BBC serial of Jane Austen's ‘Emma’ (1960) is considered one of his most memorable screen performances. French was also considered for the role of the First Doctor in the science fiction series ‘Doctor Who’, a part that eventually went to William Hartnell. He finally appeared in the program in its 1988 serial, ‘Silver Nemesis’, playing the Mathematician.
Leslie appeared in only one Euro-western “The Singer Not the Song” (1961) as Padre Gomez.
He died on January 21, 1999 in Ewell, Surrey, England.
Today we remember Leslie French on what would have been his 110th birthday.