Canadian-born actor Tom Busby, one of the last surviving members of the iconic 1960s movie The Dirty Dozen, has died aged 66, at his home in the east end of Glasgow.

While his professional life, with people of a certain age, will be indelibly linked with Robert Aldritch's 1967 war movie featuring Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, John Cassavetes, Charles Bronson, Donald Sutherland, Telly Savalas, Robert Ryan and others, the reality is that his own life was worthy of a film in its own right.

At the height of his powers as a thespian, he swept into peoples' lives rather like a tornado ... leaving behind, it has to be said, a fair amount of chaos in his wake.

In his later years, a heart attack at home in Glasgow - a city he loved - slowed him down a bit. But before that he lived his passions, artistic and otherwise, with a will.

Along the way, he met just about everyone in the Who's Who of British showbiz in the 1950s and 60s, plus a slew of A-list Hollywood stars.

He was a friend of Diana Dors, Za Za Gabor, and Spike Milligan and - in another incarnation as a rock concert stills photographer - had more than a nodding acquaintance with David Bowie, Marc Bolan, and many of the leading groups of the 70s.

A highly talented actor, his promise never quite blossomed into the career he should have had. Arthur Miller, after watching him in Death of a Salesman as a rep actor in Canada, said it was the finest Communist portrayal he had seen of his play.

Born in Toronto, he was the son of an Ulster Scot, Thomas McAlpine Busby, a wallpaper designer, and Molly Rogers, who was of Welsh extraction. Her family had emigrated to Canada from the Rhonnda Valley during the depression years of the 1920s.

At the age of six, his father died from a thrombosis. A small, but formidable man, although crippled by polio, he had been the stabilising force within the family. With his death a comfortable, middle-class lifestyle disintegrated almost overnight.

At the age of 12, Tom and formal schooling parted company. He was pretty much a street kid, until he auditioned for the Howdy Doody Show, CBC's showcase children's programme, which was a spin-off of the most popular children's show in the United States.

Tom found himself opening shopping malls and making public appearances along with the show's star, a ventriloquist's dummy, which he cordially detested, and upon whose person he would have committed grievous bodily harm had the opportunity arisen.

From the travails of Howdy Doody, Tom's acting career proper began at the age of 14 when he joined Summer Stock, a famous travelling repertory theatre that toured Canada and the USA.

Staging a different show every night, it was the best training a precocious young talent could have had - he performed everything from Shakespeare to the plays of the day.

In that hothouse environment, where lines had to be learned fast, and where emergencies and call-offs meant doubling up on roles as required, he learned his craft. At the height of his powers, before whisky and cigarettes roughened the vocal chords, the timbre of his voice and his brooding good looks kept him in regular employment, both in rep and as a jobbing actor for television. Television producers recognised natural talent when they saw it.

It nearly didn't happen for him, however. At the age of 17, he almost died in a car crash in which he was hurled 30ft. through the windscreen into a field. He lay for half a day, gravely injured, in the field before he was found.

That experience resulted in him never learning to drive. Indeed, he had a genuine blind spot regarding cars.

If he was dropped off at his bank in Great Western Road for one of his regular jousts with his bank manager, he would come out and try to get into the cars of complete strangers - make, colour, registration numbers simply didn't register with him. It happened not once, but dozens of times.

In 1956, while his Canadian acting colleague Donald Sutherland went to Hollywood, Tom turned down the chance - to avoid the draft. In America he would have been eligible for call-up. The

Korean War had ended a brief three years earlier, and the Cold War was at its height.

Instead, he came to London, in tow with his first wife Pauline, and director and producer Syd Furie, of Canadian Rediffusion, who was launching TV's Armchair Theatre in the UK. Then shot absolutely live, Furie shrewdly realised that he would have a more saleable product to North America if he had rep players with recognisably North American accents. Tom Busby fitted the bill admirably.

In 1962, Tom landed a role in The War Lover, starring Steve McQueen (whom he disliked and called ''a cold fish''). The antipathy arose out of McQueen refusing to take part in a scene with a young British actor because he said his American accent was rubbish. It was the young man's first screen role. Incensed at his treatment, Tom, who was always generous of his time to those who wanted to learn their craft, took the young ingenue aside and gave him a crash course in subtle changes that altered his performance, and the scene was shot.

In The Victors (1963), Tom was in the company of a galaxy of household names, including George Hamilton, George Peppard, Eli Wallach, Melina Mercouri, Romy Schneider, Jeanne Moreau, Peter Fonda, Elke Sommer and Albert Finney.

Then came The Dirty Dozen in 1967. In the early 1970s, Tom came to Glasgow, which was to be his home for the remainder of his days. His last film performance was as a Roman Catholic Monsignor in writer/director Charles Gormley's Heavenly Pursuits, starring Scot, Tom Conti.

As ever, there was a Tom Busby incident to raise a smile. At George Square, where the City Chambers were doubling as the Vatican, Tom nipped out to a pub during a film break, still clad in his priestly grab. A couple of Celtic supporters mistook him for the real McCoy and

decided on a wind-up. ''Have you got a light, Father?'' asked one. ''Sure,'' said Tom. From his cassock pocket, he pulled out a half bottle of brandy to get at his lighter. The collective thud of jaws dropping could be heard around the bar. But then Tom Busby, the actor, and everything else he did, was the real McCoy. With his passing, suddenly Glasgow's a less interesting place.

Tom Busby, actor; born November 7, 1936, died September 20, 2003.