Stuntman and actor;
Born: December 6, 1921; Died: June 17, 2012.
George Leech, who has died aged 90, was one of the founders of the British Film stunt industry after the war, performing or co-ordinating stunts in scores of movies including the first dozen James Bond films starring Sean Connery and Roger Moore.
In the very first, Dr No in 1962, he was the stunt double for the eponymous villain, played by Joseph Wiseman, attacking Bond on a gantry. He also doubled as Bond, dangling from a Swiss Alpine cable car wheelhouse in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969), when George Lazenby played 007 for the only time. The close-ups were shot in Pinewood Studios, where Leech dislocated a shoulder falling from a cable during filming.
In that same film's ski chase, Leech also played a skier from the SPECTRE villains, eventually strangled by Bond. (That Bond was, in reality, another great stuntman, Vic Armstrong, who would become Leech's son-in-law, marrying Wendy Leech, one of the world's most in-demand stuntwomen.)
It was Leech, not Sean Connery, who drove the Aston Martin DB5 in the action sequences of Goldfinger (1964) and every true Bond aficionado knows that, in the same movie, Leech was the moustachioed man in a bullet-proof overall test-targeted by Bond's gadgets-man Q. In The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), it was Leech who drove Bond's Lotus Esprit when Roger Moore was not in close-up.
Much loved by the stars he doubled for, who nicknamed him Gentleman George, Leech also won small acting roles in Bond and other movies. He was a henchman of bad guy Largo in a famous fist fight on board the ship Disco Volante in the 1965 movie Thunderball and was a villain in For Your Eyes Only (1981).
Leech also performed or choreographed stunts in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, driving the car in several shots, in Kelly's Heroes with Clint Eastwood, The Eagle Has Landed, The Guns of Navarone and other box-office hits.
The son of London dockworker Alfred Leech and his wife Louise, George Daniel Leech was born in Kentish Town, London, and attended the nearby Great College Street school in Camden before studying engineering. A pale and frail child, his father and uncle gave him boxing lessons to build him up and by the time he was in his late teens, having won a series of junior national championships, he was boxing at welterweight.
After joining the Navy in 1943, he fought at welterweight for the Navy team. After the war, his physique brought him to the attention of filmmakers and he was hired as a stand-in for James Mason in the 1947 film Odd Man Out. Standing in as Mason's character Johnny McQueen, he did a dramatic roll down a flight of steps.
Mason insisted Leech be hired for his next film, The Upturned Glass, released later the same year. At the time he was uncredited since, as a stuntman, he was something of a new breed in the British film industry. By the time he finished his James Bond series, in View To A Kill in 1985, there were no less than 85 stuntpersons credited in that single film.
During the post-war years, Leech doubled for David Niven, incongruously cast as Bonnie Prince Charlie in the film of that name (1948). To help pay his bills, he worked as a swimming instructor and a Redcoat at Butlin's holiday camp at Pwllheli, north Wales. One of his first on-screen acting parts was in Port Afrique (1956), a kind of Casablanca-lookalike filmed in Algeria and starring Pier Angeli.
In retirement in Cardiff, Leech kept fit and was jogging and swimming until earlier this year at the age of 90. He was also a decent singer, guitarist, juggler and tap dancer, to the delight of his grandchildren.
George Leech is survived by his wife of 60 years, Liz (née Hopkins), and daughters Susan, a dog trainer, and Wendy, a world-renowned stuntwoman who has also worked on several Bond films.
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