I spent an hour talking on the phone with Michael Sinelnikoff last night, and can honestly report to you that he is truly a lovely man, very
much like the character of Summerlee he portrays so well. He is very easy to talk to, and his intelligence and depth of knowledge,
particularly of his craft, immediately strike you. All in all, a fascinating life, and extremely interesting man.
Mr. Sinelnikoff has been a citizen of Canada for over forty years. When he filmed The Lost World in Australia, he discovered a beautiful,
wild, wonderful country, whose people are friendly and open, but he loves Canada and the fact that there are four seasons there! He has
never married, and has "no children I'm aware of", which he told me with a laugh! He has no pets right now, but had a Basenji, a hound of
central Africa, for fourteen years. He enjoys using computers, and has had his own since Windows Version 1 was introduced in 1985. He
enjoys science fiction and movies, and shares with Summerlee a love of cooking and classical music. His love of music was nurtured from
his earliest days ~ in fact, his godfather was Jascha Heifetz, who was RCA Victor's Violinist of the Century.
Michael Sinelnikoff was born on August 1, 1928 in London, England. His parents were both Russian, but did not meet until they were both
in England. His father's family was rather poor, and came from St Petersburg, while his mother's family was from Moscow and were wealthy.
When Mr. Sinelnikoff's father invented the mortar-firing rifle, combined with the connections from his mother's side, the family fortune
was made. Mr. Sinelnikoff has no siblings, and remembers life in post-WWI and pre-WWII London as being much fun and good times many.
He played in Kensington Gardens, which figures predominantly in the classic novel Peter Pan, and life was wonderful, until 1939, and the
intrusion of Hitler and World War II.
"I was 11 when WWII broke out, and spent the whole time in England near London, so I went through the Blitz and food shortages,
clothing rationing and all the rest of it, but I never actually had anything land on me, thank heaven, although my mother was trapped
under rubble for a few hours until the fire department freed her. To a young lad who understood only imperfectly the horrors of war, a
lot of it seemed like an adventure, at the time."*
He went to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art for one year, then to the Italia Conti School for two. While at Conti's, among his classmates
was Alan Bates, who is probably best known to most Americans as the young Englishman in Zorba the Greek, with Anthony Quinn, and as
Claudius in the 1990 film version of Hamlet, with Mel Gibson. Mr. Bates was 2 years younger than Sinelnikoff, who consistently scored
higher marks than Bates; however Bates went on to super-star heights, while Sinelnikoff's status remained more humble, which makes it's
own statement about drama schools! Mr. Sinelnikoff feels that his experiences at Conti's, who pushed students into productions as often
as possible and collected an agent's fee, were more fulfilling than those at RADA where you weren't allowed to do any professional work.
Two years of conscription in the Royal Air Force when he was 18 to 20 taught him to live with and better understand a wider variety of
people than he had formerly been exposed to at exclusive schools. After getting out of the service, he was uncertain what direction he
wanted to take in his life, so, like many young people, he went from job to job: he clerked for an insurance company, sold men's clothing,
was a publicity manager for a hypnotist - a job from which he was summarliy fired for giving a dazzling hypnotism demonstration as an
inducement to see the show but which undermined the mediocre talents of the star!
At a point during his youth, his parents had divorced, and his mother remarried. He and his father were having problems getting along, as
Sinelnikoff's father took some of the bitterness he felt about the divorce out on his son, as many divorced parents do. Sinelnikoff was
unsure of his future, so his mother suggested he move to Canada, where she was living with her new husband, Alan Wilmot, who had been
a Colonel in the Canadian Army, and whose grandfather was one of the Fathers of Confederation. Michael moved out to Ottawa, Canada's
capital, in 1952, and his relationship with his father improved; he feels that his father respected his decision to be independent.
After arriving in Canada, he spent six winter months on Wilmot's farm ("Id never experienced such cold before ..."), then "went to town" to
get a job. One of his jobs there was selling luggage and men's clothing in Freiman's Department Store. Years later, the owner would often
point to the counter he worked with pride, and say "That's where Michael Sinelnikoff worked!" He went to university part time, and
worked at the Canadian Broadcasting Company as a bilingual (French/English) announcer. This job was obtained for him by a friend, Robin
McNeil, who was at Carleton University with him and who later went on to achieve fame as one of the anchors of the McNeil/Lehrer News
Hour. He heard of a production assistant job opening at the CBC's new studios in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He applied for and got that
position, and stayed there for seven years, moving up to become a producer. The segments he was assigned to were becoming somewhat
boring ~ news, sports, farming and fish shows, so he moved on, to Toronto.
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