Michael Bates (4 December 1920 – 11 January 1978) was an Anglo-Indian actor born in Jhansi, United Provinces, British India.
The son of Harry Stuart Bates, CSI (1893–1985, son of Albert Bates, of Congleton, Cheshire), an Anglo-Indian civil servant, by his wife Sarah Clarke (1896-1982, daughter of William Hammond Walker of Congleton, Cheshire), Bates was educated at Uppingham School and St Catharine’s College, Cambridge.
In 1954, he married Margaret M. J. Chisholm. They had three children: Rupert, also an actor; Camilla; and Jolyon.
He served as a Major with the Brigade of Gurkhas in Burma before his discharge at the end of World War II. Bates was a lifelong supporter of the Conservative Party. In 1953, while an ensemble member with the Stratford Festival in Stratford Ontario Canada, he appeared in Richard III and All’s Well That Ends Well.
In 1956 he appeared in Hotel Paradiso, which starred Alec Guinness, at the Winter Garden Theatre in London. On radio, he played a variety of characters in the BBC’s long-running comedy series The Navy Lark, including Able Seaman Ginger, Lt. Bates, Rear Admiral Ironbridge, the Padre, and Captain Ignatius Aloysius Atchison.
Bates appeared in many UK television series including Last of the Summer Wine from 1973 to 1975 as Cyril Blamire and It Ain’t Half Hot Mum from 1974 to 1977 as Rangi Ram, as well as many others.
Despite being born in India and learning Hindi before he spoke English, his role as Rangi Ram caused some controversy, that Bates was performing in blackface. “All Michael Bates […] wore was a light tan”, protested Jimmy Perry in a 2013 interview with the journalist Neil Clark, an admirer of the series.
Bates’s film roles include Bedazzled (1967) as the flirtatious police inspector, Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush (1967) as Mr. McGregor, Battle of Britain (1969) as Warrant Officer Warwick, Oh! What a Lovely War (1969) as a Lance-corporal, Patton (1970) as Field Marshal Sir Bernard Law Montgomery (to whom he bore a striking resemblance), Frenzy (1972) by Alfred Hitchcock, and the Stanley Kubrick film A Clockwork Orange (1971).
On stage, he played Shakespearean roles at Stratford and at the Old Vic and made a big impression as Inspector Truscott in the West End production of Loot by Joe Orton in 1966.
Bates died of cancer at his home in Cambridge, aged 57. Both of his parents survived him.