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I met the famous child actor Mark Lester when he came to the Birmingham NEC for the Memorabilia event in March 2010.
I had a chat to him about acting, and he signed a photo from Oliver! for me which Ron Moody had also signed.
Mark Lester was born Mark Letzer in Oxford in 1958 of Jewish descent. His father, Michael Letzer, and his mother Rita Keene, were both actors. Mark was educated at Halliford School in Shepperton, and also attended the Corona Academy stage school in Hammersmith.
Mark Lester made his film debut at the age of six as Gerald in the French comedy Allez France! (1964). Also known as The Counterfeit Constable, it also featured the comedy actors Bernard Cribbins and Arthur Mullard.
Mark Lester as Gerald in Allez France!
Child actor Mark Lester
After several small TV parts and an uncredited role in Fahrenheit 451 (1966), Lester was cast as the stuttering Jiminee Hook, youngest of seve
seven children who bury their mother in the back garden, in the thriller Our Mother's House (1967) starring Dirk Bogarde, and filmed in the Crystal Palace area of London. It was the critical acclaim he
Mark Lester in Fahrenheit 451
Mark Lester & Parnum Wallace in
Our Mother's House
in Our Mother's House
(below) Mark Lester & Dirk Bogarde
received for this role that landed him the part that was to overshadow everything else!
John & James Woolf, the producers of the film version of Lionel Bart's musical Oliver! (1968) went to great lengths to find the right child actor for the lead role of Oliver. They auditioned more than 250 child actors the title role and finally chose Mark Lester based of his success in Our Mothe
Mark Lester as Oliver Twist in the film version of Oliver!
They also chose Carol Reed to direct the film as he was famous for drawing brilliant performances from actors, especially his child actors. Although Mark Lester could act, he couldn'
couldn't sing, so all of his songs in Oliver! were dubbed by Kathe Green, daughter of the film's music arranger Johnny Green.
This multiple Academy Award-winning adaptation of Charles Dickens’ novel co-starred Ron Moody, Shani Wallis, Oliver Reed & Jack Wild, with whom Lester became a close friend.
Mark Lester & Jack Wild in Oliver!
Mark Lester as Oliver
The following year, Mark Lester starrred as a 10 year old mute boy who roams the Yorkshire moors and befriends a white pony in Run Wild, Run Free (1969). The film starred John Mills and a very young
In the thriller Eyewitness (1970) Mark Lester plays Ziggy, a boy who witnesses an assassination and then claims the assassins are hun
hunting him. With the help of his grandfather (Lionel Jeffries) and his older sister Pippa (Susan George), he has to escape many attempts on his life.
Mark Lester, Fiona Fullerton & John Mills
in Run Wild, Run Free
Mark Lester as Ziggy in Eyewitness
In Melody (1971), a film about some British schoolchildren in love, Mark Lester teamed up with his friend from Oliver! Jack Wild. Wild played 11-year-old Ornshaw although he was 17 at the time that t
Mark Lester & Tracy Hyde in Melody
Mark Lester, James Cossins & Tracy Hyde
the film was made. It also starred Tracy Hyde as Melody, and is fondly remembered by many who saw it as children. It features music from the Bee Gees and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.
Jack Wild & Mark Lester in Melody
Mark Lester as Daniel in Melody
1971 proved to be a busy year for Mark Lester. After Melody, there followed the horror thriller Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? with Shelley Winters as the demented widow Mrs Forrest, who lures children to her mansion where she keeps the mummified remains of her daughter!
Mark Lester, Rosalie Crutchley & Chloe
(above) Mark Lester & Pamela Franklin
Ron Moody & Mark Lester in Oliver!
Franks in Whoever Slew Auntie Roo
Whoever Slew Auntie Roo
Known for so long as a young child actor, the adolescent Mark Lester increasingly found roles harder to come by. He based his career in Italy and whilst he was there ap
Then came the lead role of Joe Evans in a version of Anna Sewell's Black Beaut
Beauty which was filmed mostly in Ireland. Mark Lester apparently only worked for three weeks on this film, despite having the lead role.
Mark Lester as Joe in Black Beauty
With Kirk Douglas in Scalawag
In the sleazy, psychological horror film Diabolica Malicia (1972), which is also known by two other titles - Night Child and What the Peeper Saw, Mark Lester plays 12 year old Marcus, a strange and lonely boy who tortures ani
animals, becomes the centre of attention from his glamorous new stepmother Elise (Britt Ekla
Ekland). Marcus, who may have murdered his mother, has been expelled from school and begins to exert evil influences over his new stepmother. Both Ekland and Lester reveal all in this sexually explicit film which the British Board of Film Censors was forced to withdraw from public showing because of its content.
Mark Lester & Britt Ekland in Diabolica Malicia
appeared as Lennox Duncan in the crime drama Redneck (1972) with Telly Savalas, and Jamie in the western Scalawag (1973) with Kirk Douglas (who also directed). Lester also had a part in the costume drama La Prima volta sull’erba (Love Under the Elms) (1974).
Crossed Swords (1977) was Lester's last film. It is about the Crown Prince of England and a p
poor boy who exchange identities. Mark Lester plays both
Opening credit for Crossed Swords
both roles, and is reunited with Oliver Reed who had played Bill Sikes in Oliver! Raquel Welch, Rex Harrison, Ernest Borgnine, and George C. Scott were oth
other famous names from the cast, but nevertheless the film was very poorly received, and Lester gave up acting.
Mark Lester & Felicity Dean in
In his late twenties, Mark Lester became an osteopathic physician, after studying at the British School of Osteopathy. In 1993, he opened an acupuncture clinic in Cheltenham, and the same year married his first wif
Mark Lester with his daughter Harriet
wife Jane, with whom he had four children - Lucy, Harriet, Olivia & Felix. The marriage lasted twelve years, after which Lester married his second wife Lisa, a psychiatric nurse.
Mark Lester with his signed photo
of his friend Michael Jackson
For many years, Mark Lester was a close friend of the American rock singer Michael Jackson, and they were godfathers to each other's children. In August 2009, Lester was interviewed by the News of the World newspaper in which he claimed that he could be the biological father of the late singer's daughter, Paris Jackson. Since Jackson's death in June 2009, there have been claims that Lester (who Jackson nicknamed 'Applehead') is now attempting to cash in on the singer's fortune, by claiming he is the father of Jackson's children. This Daily Mirror article (click here)gives a flavour of the controversy as seen from Jane Lester's perspective.
Mark Lester now lives with his 2nd wife and his four children in Cheltenham. Mark still runs
Mark Lester signing my photo at
the Birmingham NEC
Ron Moody & Mark Lester have both signed my photograph from Oliver! to me
He is a black belt in karate.
his Carlton Clinic which he set up in Carlton Street, Cheltenham, in 1993.
Mark Lester & Shelly Winters in