Peter Ustinov (1921 - 2004)

Peter Ustinov
1921 - 2004
updated August 28, 2020
Peter Ustinov, father to 4 children, was born on April 16, 1921 in London, England United Kingdom. He married Isolde Denham in 1940 and they later divorced on February 3, 1950. They gave birth to Tamara Ustinov. He married Suzanne Cloutier on February 14, 1954 and they later divorced in 1971. They gave birth to Andrea Ustinov, Igor Ustinov, and Pavla Ustinov. Peter died on March 28, 2004 in Genolier, VD Switzerland at 82 years of age. We know that Peter Ustinov had been residing in New York, New York County, New York 10154.

Peter Ustinov
Date of Birth 16 April 1921, London, England, UK
Date of Death 28 March 2004, Genolier, Vaud, Switzerland (heart failure)
Birth Name Peter Alexander Freiherr von Ustinov
Height 5' 11½" (1.82 m)
Peter Ustinov was a two-time Academy Award-winning film actor, a director, writer, journalist and raconteur. He wrote and directed many acclaimed stage plays and led numerous international theatrical productions.

In 1939 he made his London stage debut in a revue sketch, then had regular performances with Aylesbury Repertory Company. In 1940 he made his film debut in Hullo, Fame! (1940).
In the 1980s Ustinov recreated brilliantly Poirot in several subsequent television movies and theatrical films, such as Evil Under the Sun (1982) and Appointment with Death (1988), while his cinema work in the 1990s also includes his superb performance as Professor Gus Nikolais in George Miller's excellent dramatic film Lorenzo's Oil (1992), a character partially inspired by Hugo Wolfgang Moser, a research scientist who had been director of the Neurogenetics Research Center at the Kennedy Krieger Institute and Professor of Neurology and Pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University.

"I am an international citizen conceived in Russia, born in England, working in Hollywood, living in Switzerland, and touring the World" said Peter Ustinov.
Spouse (3)
Helene du Lau d'Allemans (17 June 1972 - 28 March 2004) (his death)
Suzanne Cloutier (14 February 1954 - 1971) (divorced) (3 children)
Isolde Denham (1940 - 3 February 1950) (divorced) (1 child)
Trivia (35)
His mother was artist Nadia Benois, the niece of Alexandre Benois. Both were designers for the Mariinsky Opera and Ballet in St. Petersburg, Russia. Both also worked for the "Russian Seasons" and "Ballets Russes" productions by impresario Sergei Diaghilev.
He was knighted in the 1990 Queen's Birthday Honours List for his services to drama.
He was awarded the CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in the 1975 Queen's Birthday Honours List for his services to drama.
The New London Theatre in Drury Lane WC2 first opened on 2nd January 1973 with Peter Ustinov's play "The Unknown Soldier and His Wife"
Was the Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF from 1968 until his death in 2004.
During WWII Pvt. Peter Ustinov was batman to Lt. Col. David Niven.
His father was a German subject who came to Soviet Russia on personal business where he met his future wife. Shortly after they were married they decided to leave Russia and settle in Britain. As Ustinov has said, "It is for that very reason that I am addressing you today in English."
First marriage to Isolde Denham, daughter of Reginald Denham and Moyna MacGill. Their daughter is Tamara Ustinov. Isolde was half-sister of Angela Lansbury.
In January 1963, the Mirisch Company sued him for damages after he pulled out of The Pink Panther (1963), which was in production in Rome with his replacement, Peter Sellers.
Peter and Suzanne had 3 children: two daughters, Pavla Ustinov and Andrea Ustinov, and a son Igor Ustinov.
Chancellor of the University of Durham from 1992 until his death in 2004.
Has a song written about him: "The Night I Saved Peter Ustinov" - written and recorded by Lauren Christy.
Was fluent in French, German, English, Italian, Russian and Spanish, and could pass in Turkish and Greek among others.
He was known to proudly say "I have Russian, German, Spanish, Italian, French and Ethiopian blood in my veins."
Funeral service held at Geneva's historic Cathedral of St Pierre. He was later buried in the village of Bursins, where he had lived in a Chateau since 1971. (April 2004)
According to Peter Wright, in his book "Spycatcher," Ustinov's father Klop Ustinov had been active in MI5 (British Security Service, Counterespionage) as an agent runner during the Second World War. He also had the distinction of having held commissions in the Russian, German and British armies (presumably at different times).
He was a Humanist Laureate, a member of the International Academy of Humanism.
In 1958, received two Tony Award nominations for "Romanoff and Juliet": as Best Actor (Dramatic) and as Best Play Author.
In 1964, he accepted the Oscar for "Best Actress in a Supporting Role" on behalf of Margaret Rutherford, who wasn't present at the awards ceremony
Member of the jury at the Cannes Film Festival in 1966
Winning a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Lentulus Batiatus in Spartacus (1960), Ustinov stands as the only actor to win an Oscar for a Stanley Kubrick film. In fact, Peter Sellers is the only other actor to receive so much as a nomination.
Both his father and uncle were officers in the German army and fought Britain in WWI.
Made a comedy record in the late 1950s, "Mock Mozart" and "Phoney Folk Lore". He had been performing these as party pieces. Overdubbing allowed Ustinov to sing multiple parts. His producer was George Martin, future producer of The Beatles. (Martin later described Ustinov as "Britain's answer to Orson Welles.")
Member of the jury at the Venice Film Festival in 1986.
On 31 October 1984 he was waiting in the garden of Prime Minister of India Mrs. Indira Gandhi to interview her for an Irish television documentary when she was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards (Beant Singh, who was killed while trying to escape after his arrest, and Satwant Singh, sentenced to hang in 1988) as she was approaching Ustinov and his film crew.
His father was of one quarter Polish Jewish, one half Russian, one eighth African Ethiopian, and one eighth German, descent, while his mother was of one half Russian, one quarter Italian, one eighth French, and one eighth German, ancestry. Peter was a member of the royal family of Russia and the royal family of Ethiopia. Peter's paternal grandfather, Plato Grigorivich von Ustinov, was Russian. Peter's paternal grandmother, Magdalena Hall, was born in Magdala, Ethiopia (Magdalena's father, Moritz Hall, born in Krakow, was of Polish Jewish descent, while Magdalena's mother was born in Ethiopia, to a German father, Christoph Eduard Zander, from Kothen, and to a black Ethiopian mother, Woizero Essete Work Meqado de Choa, making Peter of 1/16th Ethiopian descent). Peter's maternal grandfather, Leontij Ludovic Benois, was born in Saint Petersburg, Russia, to a prominent artistic family, and was of one quarter French, one quarter German, and one half Italian, ancestry. Peter's maternal grandmother, Maria Alexandrovna Sapjhnkoff, was Russian.
He played five different English / British kings: leonine versions of Prince John (the future King John) and his elder brother Richard the Lionheart in Robin Hood (1973), the future King George IV in Beau Brummell (1954), his great-nephew King Edward VII in Strumpet City: Episode #1.1 (1980) and George IV's younger brother and eventual successor King William IV in Victoria & Albert (2001).
Anonymously dubbed several Italian actors on the soundtrack of Beat the Devil (1953).
Auditioned for the role of Detective Fix in the movie Around the World in 80 Days but was rejected. Would later get the part in television remake more than 30 years later.
Directed one Oscar nominated performance: Terence Stamp in Billy Budd (1962).
Rector of the University of Dundee in Scotland from 1968 to 1974.
Along with Hugh Burden, he is one of two actors to appear in both One of Our Aircraft Is Missing (1942) and One of Our Dinosaurs Is Missing (1975).
He directed his then mother-in-law Moyna MacGill in Private Angelo (1949).
His mother Nadia Benois was the costume designer on two films that he directed: Vice Versa (1948) and Private Angelo (1949).
The actor spoke several languages, Russian and Spanish among them, in the latter his vocabulary used to give him an appearance of comic character, very close, speaker and peculiar, much appreciated and similar to the character of that language.

Peter Ustinov Biography

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Peter Ustinov
Most commonly known name
First name
Middle name
Last name(s)
Peter Ustinov
Nickname(s) or aliases
New York, New York County, New York 10154
Last known residence
Peter Ustinov was born on in London, Greater London County, England United Kingdom
Peter Ustinov died on in Genolier, Nyon District County, VD Switzerland
Peter Ustinov was born on in London, Greater London County, England United Kingdom
Peter Ustinov died on in Genolier, Nyon District County, VD Switzerland
There is no cause of death listed for Peter.
Cause of death
Do you know the final resting place - gravesite in a cemetery or location of cremation - of Peter Ustinov?
Burial / Funeral

Ethnicity & Lineage

He was born Peter Alexander Freiherr von Ustinov on April 16, 1921, in Swiss Cottage, London, England, the son of Nadezhda Leontievna (Benois) and Iona von Ustinov. His father was of one quarter Polish Jewish, one half Russian, one eighth African Ethiopian, and one eighth German, descent, while his mother was of one half Russian, one quarter Italian, one eighth French, and one eighth German, ancestry. Ustinov had ancestral connections to Russian nobility, as well as to the Ethiopian Royal Family. His father, also known as

Nationality & Locations Lived



Unknown. Was Peter a religious man?


Young Peter was brought up in a multi-lingual family--he was fluent in Russian, French, Italian and German, and also was a native English speaker. He attended Westminster College in 1934-37, took the drama and acting class under Michel St. Denis at the London Theatre Studio, 1937-39, and made his stage debut in 1938 in a theatre in Surrey.


Ustinov had a stellar film career as actor, director and writer, appearing in more than 100 film and television productions. He was awarded two Oscars for Best Supporting Actor--one for his role in Spartacus (1960) and one for his role in Topkapi (1964)--and received two more Oscar nominations as an actor and writer. His career slowed down a bit in the 1970s, but he made a comeback as Hercule Poirot in Death on the Nile (1978) by director John Guillermin.

Personal Life & Organizations

Outside of his acting and writing professions, Ustinov served as a Goodwill ambassador for UNICEF and president of WFM, a global citizens movement. He was knighted Sir Peter Ustinov in 1990.

Military Service

From 1942-46 Ustinov served as a private soldier with the British Army's Royal Sussex Regiment. He was batman for David Niven and the two became lifelong friends. Ustinov spent most of his service working with the Army Cinema Unit, where he was involved in making recruitment films, wrote plays and appeared in three films as an actor. At that time he wrote and directed The Way Ahead (1944) (aka "The Immortal Battalion").

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Peter Ustinov Family Tree

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Peter Ustinov & Isolde Denham

1940 - February 3, 1950
Cause of Separation: Divorce
Peter Ustinov


Oct 30, 1927 - 1987


Jul 25, 1945 - Unknown
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Peter Ustinov & Suzanne Cloutier

February 14, 1954 - 1971
Cause of Separation: Divorce
Peter Ustinov


Jul 10, 1923 - Dec 2, 2003


1958 - Unknown
Apr 30, 1956 - Unknown
1954 - Unknown


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Amanda S. Stevenson
10.5k+ favorites
Personal Quotes (22)
A diplomat these days is nothing but a head waiter who's allowed to sit down occasionally
...the great thing about history is that it is adaptable.
Comedy is simply a funny way of being serious.
Two members of my profession who are not urgently needed by my profession, Mr. Ronald Reagan and Mr. George Murphy, entered politics, and they've done extremely well. Since there has been no reciprocal tendency in the other direction, it suggests to me that our job is still more difficult than their new one.
[on critics] They search for ages for the wrong word, which, to give them credit, they eventually find.
The habit of religion is oppressive, an easy way out of thought.
I believe that the Jews have made a contribution to the human condition out of all proportion to their numbers: I believe them to be an immense people. Not only have they supplied the world with two leaders of the stature of Jesus Christ and Karl Marx, but they have even indulged in the luxury of following neither one nor the other.
Beliefs are what divide people. Doubt unites them.
Mervyn LeRoy, the director of Quo Vadis (1951), gave me this gem of advice on how to play the Emperor Nero: "The way I see Nero, this is the kinda guy who plays with himself nights".
I was irrevocably betrothed to laughter, the sound of which has always seemed to me to be the most civilized music in the world.
[regarding his portrayal of supersleuth Hercule Poirot] When Rosalind Hicks, Agatha Christie's daughter, first saw me, she said, "That's not Poirot". I said, "It is now, my dear".
People are annoyed with the Chinese for not respecting more human rights. But with a population that size it's very difficult to have the same attitude to human rights.
[about the collapse of the Soviet Union] I suppose you can't blame [Mikhail Gorbachev, but it is his fault for making America the only superpower.
[on the American and British invasion of Afghanistan in 2001] You can't fight terrorism without becoming a terrorist yourself.
[on Palestinian suicide bombers] They require the kind of courage that none of us would have. It's a kind of courage that's very hard to understand. And it's our duty to try to understand it because it is the courage of desperation. And what is the difference between somebody who goes into a coffee house with the intention of killing as many people as possible - and does so - and somebody who's in an aeroplane at the height of five miles, unobtainable by any anti-aircraft gun, and lets their bombs drop as scientifically as possible, in order to kill as few people as possible? I guarantee that the one who tries to kill as few people as possible will kill many more than the one who goes into a snack bar and blows himself or herself up. But in this campaign, I wonder how many of the people who have been killed were terrorists? I think very, very few. To my mind, it's a big lie.
[on Russian-American relations] There was a great campaign to make life difficult for Vladimir Putin when he came in. Nobody ever mentions that George Bush was head of the CIA. What's the difference between the CIA and the KGB? Except that probably the KGB are more thorough, intelligent and more respectful of foreign traditions.
[on the invasion of Iraq in 2003] Terrorism is the war of the poor, and war is the terrorism of the rich.
World government is not only possible, it is inevitable; and when it comes, it will appeal to patriotism in its truest, in its only sense, the patriotism of men who love their national heritages so deeply that they wish to preserve them in safety for the common good.
Rita Hayworth wanted to be the next Mrs. David Niven. Rita was a great deal of fun and extremely beautiful - all that glorious red hair. David loved her, but not enough to want her for his wife. I don't know if he loved Hjördis [his wife Hjördis Genberg], but when she became Mrs. David Niven it made him safe from all the others who wanted to be his wife.
Life is unfair but remember it is unfair in your favor.
[Responding, when he was asked if he thought there was too much sex in movies and on television]: No. My feeling is that we're going to discover and exploit some entirely new and unsuspected erogenous zone. The one I'm thinking of is the ear. Think of it. It's ideal. It's circular, there's a cavity in it, and it's surrounded by hair. I can imagine them hiding ears in the movies and TV, and people saying, 'For a second there, you could get a flashing look at her left lobe.'
[on playing The Old Man in Logan's Run (1976)] Slightly depressing, because I turned up in Hollywood and I said to Mr Westmore, one of the famous family of make-up men, "It's terrible! I've got to play a man of a hundred years, it means I'll have to be at the studio 5 o'clock every morning to be made up!". He said, "No no, I think ten minutes will be enough."
Aug 06, 2017 · Reply
Amanda S. Stevenson
10.5k+ favorites
Every time I met him, from a teenager to a middle-aged writer, he always took the time to have a real conversation and to make me laugh!
Aug 06, 2017 · Reply

Peter Ustinov Obituary

This obit of Peter Ustinov is maintained by Peter's followers. Contribute to her obituary and include details such as cemetery, burial, newspaper obituary and grave or marker inscription if available.

From 1971 to his death in 2004, Ustinov lived in a château in the village of Bursins, Vaud, Switzerland, He died of heart failure on March 28, 2004, in a clinic in Genolier, Vaud, Switzerland. His funeral service was held at Geneva's historic cathedral of St. Pierre, and he was laid to rest in the village cemetery of Bursins, Switzerland. He was survived by three daughters, Tamara, Pavla, and Andrea, and son, Igor Ustinov.

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1921 - 2004 World Events

Refresh this page to see various historical events that occurred during Peter's lifetime

In 1921, in the year that Peter Ustinov was born, the silent film The Sheik, directed by George Melford and starring Rudolph Valentino and Agnes Ayres (also featuring Adolphe Menjou) debuted on October 21st. Critics weren't enthusiastic but the public loved it - in the first few weeks 125,000 people had seen the movie - and it eventually exceeded $1 million in ticket sales. And Rudolph Valentino, an Italian American, became the heartthrob of a female generation.

In 1945, he was 24 years old when on August 15th, Imperial Japan announced its surrender. On September 2nd, a formal agreement of surrender was signed. Japan and nine other states signed the Japanese Instrument of Surrender in Tokyo Bay, calling for the return of all Allied prisoners of war and subordinating the authority of the emperor and the Japanese government to the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers. VJ (Victory in Japan) Day was celebrated in the United States on August 14th and 15th. World War II was over.

In 1974, Peter was 53 years old when on July 30th, the House Judiciary Committee adopted three articles of impeachment against President Nixon. He was charged with obstruction of justice, failure to uphold laws, and the refusal to produce material subpoenaed by the committee. In order to avoid impeachment, Richard M. Nixon announced that he would resign on August 8th, the first President to do so.

In 1984, he was 63 years old when on January 1, "Baby Bells" were created. AT&T had been the provider of telephone service (and equipment) in the United States. The company kept Western Electric, Bell Labs, and AT&T Long Distance. Seven new regional companies (the Baby Bells) covered local telephone service and were separately owned. AT&T lost 70% of its book value due to this move.

In 1994, when he was 73 years old, on May 6th, the Channel Tunnel or "Chunnel" was officially opened. The Chunnel is a railway tunnel beneath the English Channel that connects Great Britain to mainland France. Original plans for such a tunnel were developed in 1802 and approved by Napoleon Bonaparte but the British rejected the plan fearing that Napoleon would use the railway to invade.

Other Biographies

Other Ustinovs

Oct 21, 1903 - Jan 26, 1990
Dec 30, 1940 - Mar 25, 2008
Jul 25, 1945 - Unknown
1958 - Unknown
Apr 30, 1956 - Unknown
1954 - Unknown

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