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Michael Hordern

Michael Hordern

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Also Known As: Michael Murray Hordern, Sir Michael Hordern Died: May 2, 1995
Born: October 3, 1911 Cause of Death: kidney disease
Birth Place: Hertfordshire, England, GB Profession: actor, voice actor, salesman, teacher

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

A distinguished, long-faced character player, often of rumpled establishment figures, Sir Michael Hordern, in the English tradition, worked with equal ease both on stage and before the cameras. He played King Lear (onstage and on TV), Prospero in "The Tempest" (for both mediums) and Macbeth (he was Banquo on film and TV), and he created the central role of the flustered philosopher in the original London production of Tom Stoppard's "Jumpers" (1972). However, he became a star for his supporting turns, portraying an assortment of parsons and vicars, headmasters and barristers in a career that spanned practically 100 films and almost as many TV appearances. Knighted in 1983, he delighted audiences that same year in "The Rivals" at the National Theatre, eating his eggs while silently and passionately lusting after his son's fiancee. The son of a British army captain, Hordern debuted on the London stage as Lodovico in "Othello" (1937). After serving in the Royal Navy during World War II, he returned to the stage as Torvald Helmer in Ibsen's "A Doll's House" (1946). Hordern acted in nearly twenty Shakespeare productions and won acclaim for his interpretation of Chekhov, first in the title role of...

A distinguished, long-faced character player, often of rumpled establishment figures, Sir Michael Hordern, in the English tradition, worked with equal ease both on stage and before the cameras. He played King Lear (onstage and on TV), Prospero in "The Tempest" (for both mediums) and Macbeth (he was Banquo on film and TV), and he created the central role of the flustered philosopher in the original London production of Tom Stoppard's "Jumpers" (1972). However, he became a star for his supporting turns, portraying an assortment of parsons and vicars, headmasters and barristers in a career that spanned practically 100 films and almost as many TV appearances. Knighted in 1983, he delighted audiences that same year in "The Rivals" at the National Theatre, eating his eggs while silently and passionately lusting after his son's fiancee.

The son of a British army captain, Hordern debuted on the London stage as Lodovico in "Othello" (1937). After serving in the Royal Navy during World War II, he returned to the stage as Torvald Helmer in Ibsen's "A Doll's House" (1946). Hordern acted in nearly twenty Shakespeare productions and won acclaim for his interpretation of Chekhov, first in the title role of "Ivanov" (1950) and later as Gayev in "The Cherry Orchard" (1973). He also explored the works of contemporary playwrights like John Mortimer ("The Dock Brief", "What Shall We Tell Caroline" 1958) and Edward Albee ("A Delicate Balance" 1969) and was a close friend and fishing partner of Stoppard (for whom he also appeared in "Enter a Free Man" 1968).

Hordern's active film career began in 1939 when he starred in Carol Reed's "The Girl in the News". He turned in a memorably "chain-rattling" performance as Jacob Marley, whose agonized screams in "A Christmas Carol" (1951) rightfully disconcerted star Alastair Sim. After playing Cicero in "Cleopatra" (1963), he continued his association with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton by portraying Taylor's father in Franco Zeffirelli's "The Taming of the Shrew" (1967). His lecherous Senex in "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" (1966) marked the first of five collaborations with director Richard Lester (which included "How I Won the War" 1967; "The Bed Sitting Room" 1969; "Juggernaut" 1974; and "Royal Flash" 1975). He was the well-meaning Parson Adams in Tony Richardson's "Joseph Andrews" (1977) and also appeared in "Trio" (1950), adapted from stories by Somerset Maugham, Anthony Mann's "El Cid" (1961) and Richard Attenborough's "Gandhi" (1982), among his many credits.

It was on television that Hordern became most recognizable to American audiences. He debuted on US TV in "The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh" ("Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color", NBC, 1964), and he attracted considerable attention for his work on PBS's "Masterpiece Theatre", starring as Willie Ashden in "Cakes and Ale" (1976) and Reverend Simeon Simcox in "Paradise Postponed" (1986) in addition to acting in four other productions, including his final performance in "Middlemarch" (1994).

Late in his career, his voice was in as much demand as his visage, and he provided narration for a host of film and TV projects, beginning with Stanley Kubrick's "Barry Lyndon" (1975). He served as narrator for "Watership Down" (1978) and was the voice of "Paddington Bear"(1981) in the popular syndicated children's TV series. In keeping with the times, he even appeared in a music video with Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees in 1984.

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Edward the King (1998)
2.
 Fool, The (1990) Mr Tatham
3.
 Diamond Skulls (1989) Lord Crewne
4.
 Trouble With Spies, The (1987) Jason Lock
5.
 Secret Garden, The (1987) Ben Weatherstaff
6.
 Labyrinth (1986) Voice Of Wiseman
7.
 Comrades (1986) Mr Pitt
8.
 Lady Jane (1986) Dr Feckenham
9.
 Young Sherlock Holmes (1985) Voice Of Older Watson
10.
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1937:
First professional stage credit, Lodovico in "Othello"
1939:
Feature debut, starred in Carol Reed's "The Girl in the News"
1939:
Served in the Royal Navy aboard carrier 'Illustrious'; discharged as Lieutenant Commander
1946:
Returned to the London stage in a production of "A Doll's House"
:
Appeared in numerous British TV productions
1950:
Won acclaim in title role of Chekhov's "Ivanov"
1959:
First Broadway production, "Moonbirds"; closed after two days
1964:
US TV debut, "The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh", for "Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color" (NBC)
1966:
First of five collaborations with director Richard Lester, "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum"
1975:
Narrated "Barry Lyndon", the first of many voice credits
1980:
TV-movie debut, "Gauguin the Savage" (CBS)
1980:
First TV miniseries, "Shogun" (NBC)
1982:
Was part of the star-studded cast of Richard Attenborough's "Gandhi"
1983:
Knighted by Queen Elizabeth II
1991:
Final feature, "The Fool"
1992:
Appeared in PBS "Masterpiece Theatre" presentation of Muriel Spark's "Memento Mori"
1994:
Last performance in "Middlemarch" ("Masterpieece Theatre", PBS)
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Brighton College: -

Notes

Made Commander of the British Empire in 1972

He received honorary degrees (D. Litt.) from Exeter University (1985) and Warwick University (1987) and was made an honorary fellow of Queen Mary College, London University.

When Hordern asked John Gielgud's advice on playing King Lear, he received the famous reply: "All I can tell you is, get a light Cordelia."

"I try to find comedy in everything I play, even 'King Lear,' Hordern once said, adding with humility: "I suppose I'm a jack of all trades, with the well-known corollary, master of none. The advantage is that I've never been typed. People never say, 'That's a Michael Hordern part.'"

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Eve Mortimer. Actor. Died in 1986.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Edward Joseph Calverly Hordern. Captain in the British army.
mother:
Margereta Emily Hordern.
daughter:
Joanna Hordern. Survived him.

Bibliography close complete biography

"A World Elsewhere"

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