on the radio show Three Thirds of the Nation, 3 June 1942
Cedric Webster Hardwicke
19 February 1893
|Died||6 August 1964 (aged 71)|
New York City, U.S.
|Years active||1913-1964 (his death)|
(m. 1928; div. 1948)
(m. 1950; div. 1961)
|Children||2, including Edward Hardwicke|
Sir Cedric Webster Hardwicke (19 February 1893 - 6 August 1964) was an English stage and film actor whose career spanned nearly 50 years. His theatre work included notable performances in productions of the plays of Shakespeare and Shaw, and his film work included leading roles in a number of adapted literary classics.
Hardwicke was born in Lye, West Midlands to Edwin Webster Hardwicke and his wife, Jessie (née Masterson). He attended Bridgnorth Grammar School in Shropshire. He intended to train as a doctor but failed to pass the necessary examinations. He turned to the theatre and trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA).
Hardwicke enlisted at the outbreak of the First World War. He served from 1914 to 1921 as an officer in the Judge Advocate's branch of the British Army in France. He was one of the last members of the British Expeditionary Force to leave France.
Hardwicke made his first appearance on stage at the Lyceum Theatre, London in 1912 during the run of Frederick Melville's melodrama The Monk and the Woman, when he took over the part of Brother John. During this year, he was at Her Majesty's Theatre understudying, and subsequently appeared at the Garrick Theatre in Charles Klein's play Find the Woman, and Trust the People. In 1913, he joined Benson's Company and toured in the provinces, South Africa, and Rhodesia. During 1914 he toured with Miss Darragh (Letitia Marion Dallas, d. 1917) in Laurence Irving's play The Unwritten Law, and he appeared at the Old Vic in 1914 as Malcolm in Macbeth, Tranio in The Taming of the Shrew, the gravedigger in Hamlet, and other roles.
After his service in the British Army in WWI, he resumed his acting career. In January 1922 he joined the Birmingham Repertory Company, playing a range of parts from the drooping young lover Faulkland in The Rivals to the roistering Sir Toby Belch in Twelfth Night.
He played many classical roles on stage, appearing at London's top theatres, making his name on the stage performing works by George Bernard Shaw, who said that Hardwicke was his fifth favourite actor after the four Marx Brothers. As one of the leading Shavian actors of his generation, Hardwicke starred in Caesar and Cleopatra, Pygmalion, The Apple Cart, Candida, Too True to Be Good, and Don Juan in Hell, making such an impression that at the age of 41 he became the youngest actor to be knighted (this occurred in the 1934 New Year's Honours; Laurence Olivier subsequently took the record in 1947 when he was knighted at the age of 40). Other stage successes included The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse, Antigone and A Majority of One, winning a Tony Award nomination for his performance as a Japanese diplomat.
In December 1935, Hardwicke was elected Rede Lecturer to Cambridge University for 1936, he took as his subject "The Drama Tomorrow". In the late 1930s, he moved to the U.S., initially for film work. In the early 1940s, he continued his stage career on tours and in New York.
In 1944, Hardwicke returned to Britain, again touring, and reappeared on the London stage, at the Westminster Theatre, on 29 March 1945, as Richard Varwell in a revival of Eden and Adelaide Phillpotts' comedy Yellow Sands, and subsequently toured in this on the continent. He returned to America late in 1945 and appeared with Ethel Barrymore in December in a revival of Shaw's Pygmalion, and continued on the New York stage the following year. In 1946, he starred opposite Katharine Cornell as King Creon in her production of Jean Anouilh's adaptation of the Greek tragedy Antigone.
In 1948, he joined the Old Vic Company at the New Theatre to play Sir Toby Belch, Doctor Faustus, and Gaev in The Cherry Orchard, but according to critic and biographer W.A. Darlington, "it was about this time that he confessed to a friend that he was finding the competition in London too hot for him", and he moved permanently to the U.S. In 1951-52, he appeared on Broadway in Shaw's Don Juan in Hell with Agnes Moorehead, Charles Boyer and Charles Laughton.
Hardwicke's first appearance in a British film was in 1931, and from the late 1930s, he was in great demand in Hollywood. He played David Livingstone opposite Spencer Tracy's Henry Morton Stanley in Stanley and Livingstone in 1939, and also played the evil Jean Frollo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame the same year. In 1940, he played Mr Jones in a screen version of Joseph Conrad's novel Victory. He starred as the unfortunate Ludwig von Frankenstein in The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942), alongside Lon Chaney Jr. and Bela Lugosi.
Hardwicke played in films such as Les Misérables (1935), King Solomon's Mines (1937), The Keys of the Kingdom (1944), The Winslow Boy (1948), Alfred Hitchcock's Rope (1948), and Olivier's Richard III (1955). He was featured as King Arthur in the comedy/musical A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1949), singing Busy Doing Nothing in a trio with Bing Crosby and William Bendix, and as the Pharaoh Sethi in Cecil B. DeMille's 1956 film The Ten Commandments.
He appeared in a 1956 episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents titled Wet Saturday in which he portrayed Mr. Princey, an aristocratic gentleman who tries to cover up a murder to avoid public scandal. On 6 March 1958, he guest-starred on the TV series The Ford Show, starring Tennessee Ernie Ford. During the 1961-62 television season, Hardwicke starred as Professor Crayton in Gertrude Berg's sitcom Mrs. G. Goes to College, which ran for 26 weeks on CBS. The story line had Berg attending college as a 62-year-old widowed freshman studying under Hardwicke, with whom she previously had acted. Earlier, Hardwicke guest-starred on the Howard Duff and Ida Lupino sitcom Mr. Adams and Eve. He starred in The Twilight Zone episode Uncle Simon that first aired 15 November 1963. His final acting role was in The Outer Limits in the episode "The Forms of Things Unknown".
In 1945, Hardwicke played Sherlock Holmes in a BBC Radio dramatisation of The Speckled Band, opposite Finlay Currie as Dr. Watson. Years later, Hardwicke's son Edward played Watson in the acclaimed Granada series.
In 1928, he married the English actress Helena Pickard. They divorced in 1948; their son was actor Edward Hardwicke. His second marriage, which produced a son, Michael, and likewise ended in divorce, was to Mary Scott (1921-2009), from 1950 to 1961.
A lifelong heavy smoker, he suffered from emphysema and died 6 August 1964 at the age of 71 in New York from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Hardwicke's body was flown back to England; after a memorial service he was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium in north London, where his ashes were scattered.
Hardwicke left two volumes of memoirs: Let's Pretend: Recollections and Reflections of a Lucky Actor, 1932 and A Victorian in Orbit: as told to James Brough, 1962. He is commemorated by a sculpture by Tim Tolkien at Lye, commissioned by the Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council. The memorial takes the form of a giant filmstrip, the illuminated cut metal panels illustrating scenes from some of Hardwicke's better-known roles, which include The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Things to Come, and The Ghost of Frankenstein. Unveiled in November 2005, it is located at Lye Cross where he lived as a child. Thorns School and Community College in neighbouring Quarry Bank has renamed its drama theatre in his honour as the Hardwicke Theatre.