Peter Cotes Papers

Scope and Content

Personal papers and other items relating to his career in film and television production. Includes press articles and reviews, photographs, documents and business correspondence about his own work as a producer and about the film-maker and critic Paul Rotha, as well as personal correspondence including from the journalist and television critic Peter Black, 1950s-1990s.

Administrative / Biographical History

Peter Cotes (1912-1998), actor, producer and director, was born on 19 March 1912 in Maidenhead, Berkshire as Sidney Arthur Rembrandt Boulting (the pseudonym was taken from a house in which he had lived as a child). The eldest son of parents who had managed a theatre company in South Africa, he was the elder brother of the twin brother film directors and producers John Boulting (1913-1985) and Roy Boulting (1913-2001).

He was educated at the Itali Conti stage school, and started his career as an actor on stage and on screen during the 1930s, first appearing on film in Pal O' Mine (1936). He joined the Queen's Westminster Rifles on the outbreak of the Second World War, but was invalided out and returned to the theatre.

After the War, he turned to directing and became well-known as a leading figure in independent London theatre clubs during the 1940s. He was an advocate of a group approach to theatre, and was very much opposed to the domination of acting stars, to management interference and censorship. He took over the New Lindsey (a small club theatre) in London in 1946. Soon after, he became a household name following the hit production Pick-Up Girl in 1946. This play was denied a licence by censors but received the go-ahead after Mary, the Queen Mother, came to see it. It subsequently transferred to the West End.

In 1948, he moved to Manchester with his wife Joan Miller, and founded the Peter Cotes Players at the Library Theatre. He returned to London in 1950, where he re-opened the Boltons Theatre in South Kensington. He was also the first director of Agatha Christie's long-running West End play The Mousetrap, which was first staged in 1952 starring Richard Attenborough. He also turned increasingly to television and film production during this period, directing feature films and television dramas, including The young and the guilty (1958) and The right person (1955). He was the author of several books, including biographies of Charlie Chaplin and Sir John Barbirolli, and his own autobiography Thinking Aloud.

He was first married to Myfanwy Jones, but they were later divorced. He then married the Canadian-born actress Joan Miller (1910-1998). He died on Nov 10 1998.


Since deposit, this collection has been dispersed throughout the general collections of the Bill Douglas Centre.

Access Information

Usual BDC and EUL arrangements apply.


Biographical information has partly been taken from the Peter Cotes' Archive collection-level description hosted by the Backstage project and from Cotes' obituary in The Times.

Other Finding Aids

Catalogue records are available via the Bill Douglas Centre online catalogue EVE:

Archivist's Note

Description compiled by Charlotte Berry, Archivist, 31 May 2005, and encoded into EAD 6 June 2005.

Conditions Governing Use

Usual BDC and EUL restrictions apply.

Custodial History

Donated to the BDC in 1999 by the Peter Cotes' Estate.

Related Material

The Peter Cotes Archive is held at the Theatre Museum, London.


It is not known whether this collection has formed the basis for publication.