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Christopher Gable, 58; International Ballet Star and Film Actor

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Christopher Gable, an internationally successful ballet star who also acted in such popular films as “The Boy Friend” and “The Rainbow,” has died at the age of 58.

Gable, who danced with Britain’s Royal Ballet and acted with its Royal Shakespeare Company, died Oct. 23 of cancer at his home in Leeds, England.

The London-born dancer had most recently worked as artistic director of the Northern Ballet Theater in Leeds. He also performed there as star of “A Simple Man” about the painter L.S. Lowry, choreographed by his Royal Ballet colleague Gillian Lynne.

Gable became known internationally in his partnership with Lynn Seymour in the Royal Ballet. They earned success in 1960 with “The Invitation” and followed that with “The Two Pigeons” in 1961.

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Kenneth MacMillan choreographed the lead roles for them in his “Romeo and Juliet” in 1965. But Royal Ballet management decided to give the roles to the far more famous Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn, who performed them in Los Angeles. Gable and Seymour became the second team.

Former Times critic Martin Bernheimer applauded the superstars Nureyev and Fonteyn but rated Gable and Seymour “even better.”

Because of arthritis, Gable moved from dancing to acting in the late 1960s.

Successful on stage, he also developed a film career, working frequently for director Ken Russell. Gable had key roles in Russell’s adaptations of the D.H. Lawrence novels “Women in Love” in 1969 and “The Rainbow” in 1989, and also in “The Boy Friend” and “The Music Lovers,” both in 1971, and “The Lair of the White Worm” in 1988.

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For “The Boy Friend,” starring the model Twiggy, Gable played the role of Tony and choreographed, as well as danced, the Busby Berkeley numbers reprising movie musicals.

Among Gable’s other movies were “The Slipper and the Rose” in 1976 and “Jungle Assault” in 1989.

In 1982, Gable founded the Central School of Ballet in London. He was made a Commander of the British Empire, CBE, two years ago.

He is survived by his wife, dancer Carole Needham, and two children.


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