Mark initially had supporting roles in several British television series, including The Human Jungle and Danger Man.
In 1964, at the age of six, Lester was cast in Robert Dhery's film Allez France! (English title The Counterfeit Constable) with Diana Dors (who appeared in the 1948 film version of Oliver Twist). He played a small part as the second schoolboy in Fahrenheit 451.
In 1967, at the age of eight, Mark was cast in the title role in the film version of Lionel Bart's musical Oliver!. The multiple Academy Award-winning adaptation of Charles Dickens' novel co-starred Jack Wild, Ron Moody, Shani Wallis and Oliver Reed, and was directed by Sir Carol Reed. Since Lester could not sing, all of his singing in the movie was dubbed by Kathe Green, daughter of the film's music arranger Johnny Green. Lester was good friends with Wild throughout the making of the film and their friendship continued after production with Lester describing Wild as a "long lost brother". When Wild was nominated for an Academy Award for the film, they were flown together to the USA for the ceremony.
These two child actors later reunited for Melody (1971), which depicted British schoolchildren in love. Tracy Hyde played the role of Melody in the film, which used music from the Bee Gees and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.
In 1969, Lester received critical acclaim for his portrayal of a dysfunctional and withdrawn only child in Run Wild, Run Free, starring opposite John Mills, and then as a disturbed child in the first regular episode of Then Came Bronson. Lester's acting roles peaked as he starred in Eyewitness (1970), with Susan George, Night Hair Child with Britt Ekland, Whoever Slew Auntie Roo?, with Shelley Winters, Melody and a film version of Black Beauty (all 1971). After this period, his acting roles in the UK would begin to wane as he found good roles harder to come by. He extended his range with roles in a series of films in Italy including Redneck (1972) with Telly Savalas and the Western Scalawag (1973) with Kirk Douglas. The final film of his Italian-based career was in the costume drama La Prima volta sull'erba (English title The First Time on the Grass, 1974), which was nominated for the Golden Bear prize at the 25th Berlin International Film Festival. Lester wrapped up his British film career with the lead role in the all-star film Crossed Swords aka The Prince and Pauper (1977), starring Raquel Welch, Charlton Heston, Rex Harrison, George C. Scott, and Oliver Reed, who had played Bill Sikes in Oliver!.
Lester reprised his acting career in 2011 as King Harold II in 1066 currently in pre-production
Shani Wallis (born 14 April 1933) is an English actress and singer.
Wallis was born in Tottenham, London. Making her first stage appearance at the age of four, she later studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) on a scholarship. Wallis went on to play many leading roles in the West End, but she is best known for the role of Nancy in Carol Reed's 1968 film production of Lionel Bart's musical Oliver! which co-starred Ron Moody, Harry Secombe, Oliver Reed, Jack Wild and Mark Lester. Wallis has appeared with Liberace, Jack Benny, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis.
Wallis is a naturalized citizen of the United States, where she has lived for some time. She married her agent/manager Bernie Rich on Friday 13 September 1968. Asked, "Why on that day?" she replied, "Everything good has happened to me on Friday 13th and Shani means 'lucky jewel'. The couple have one child, Rebecca, and two granddaughters. She is also the sister of jazz drummer Leon Roy.
Wallis is a patron of the theatre charity The Music Hall Guild of Great Britain and America.