The English character actor
A character actor is one who predominantly plays unusual or eccentric characters. The Oxford English Dictionary defines a character actor as "an actor who specializes in character parts", defining character part in turn as "an acting role displaying pronounced or unusual characteristics or...
was born on 19 January 1915 and died on 21 November 1993. He was the great-great-grandson of the poet William Wordsworth
William Wordsworth was a major English Romantic poet who, with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, helped to launch the Romantic Age in English literature with the 1798 joint publication Lyrical Ballads....
As a young man he followed in the footsteps of his clergyman father, reading Divinity at Cambridge University. But he quickly found acting more to his taste and, after performing at the Cambridge Footlights, he decided to study drama at the Embassy School of Acting in London.
This proved an excellent choice. He quickly developed a talent for character acting which sustained him and his family through a long and richly varied career. In classical theatre he worked with John Gielgud
Sir Arthur John Gielgud, OM, CH was an English actor, director, and producer. A descendant of the renowned Terry acting family, he achieved early international acclaim for his youthful, emotionally expressive Hamlet which broke box office records on Broadway in 1937...
, Donald Wolfit
Sir Donald Wolfit, KBE was a well-known English actor-manager.-Biography:Wolfit, who was "Woolfitt" at birth was born at New Balderton, near Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire and attended the Magnus Grammar School and made his stage début in 1920...
, Anthony Quale and Richard Burton
Richard Burton, CBE was a Welsh actor. He was nominated seven times for an Academy Award, six of which were for Best Actor in a Leading Role , and was a recipient of BAFTA, Golden Globe and Tony Awards for Best Actor. Although never trained as an actor, Burton was, at one time, the highest-paid...
. After successful Shakespearian seasons at the Old Vic and Stratford-upon-Avon, he starred in the musical Lock Up Your Daughters
which launched the Mermaid Theatre
The Mermaid Theatre was a theatre at Puddle Dock, in Blackfriars, in the City of London and the first built there since the time of Shakespeare...
in London. He also found success as Captain Hook in several Christmas productions of Peter Pan
. Later he would tour Australia as Fagin in the musical Oliver
which he also produced.
His film career included a standout performance as the monstrous astronaut in The Quatermass Xperiment
a highly regarded cult movie which launched Hammer Horror Films. Later he played a scene as a sinister taxidermist with Jimmy Stewart (whom he described as 'a perfect gentleman') in Alfred Hitchcock's second version of The Man Who Knew Too Much
The Man Who Knew Too Much is a suspense film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, starring James Stewart and Doris Day. The film is a remake in widescreen VistaVision and Technicolor of Hitchcock's 1934 film of the same name....
. He also played leading parts in British TV dramas such as Hunting Tower
and The Tripods
In the final decades of his life he developed The Bliss of Solitude
a one-man tribute to his great ancestor with which he toured England, Scotland and the United States. He also founded the Wordsworth Summer School - a week of poetry, lectures and walks in his beloved English Lake District.