Michael Hordern

Michael Hordern


Also Known As
Michael Murray Hordern, Sir Michael Hordern
Birth Place
Hertfordshire, England, GB
October 03, 1911
May 02, 1995
Cause of Death
Kidney Disease


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 th...

Family & Companions

Eve Mortimer
Actor. Died in 1986.


"A World Elsewhere"
Michael Hordern (1993)


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.


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.



Cast (Feature Film)

Edward the King (1998)
The Fool (1991)
Mr Tatham
Diamond Skulls (1989)
Lord Crewne
The Secret Garden (1987)
Ben Weatherstaff
The Trouble With Spies (1987)
Comrades (1986)
Mr Pitt
Labyrinth (1986)
Voice Of Wiseman
Lady Jane (1986)
Young Sherlock Holmes (1985)
Voice Of Older Watson
Zany Adventures Of Robin Hood (1984)
Yellowbeard (1983)
Ivanhoe (1982)
Cedric The Saxon
Oliver Twist (1982)
George Brownlow
Gandhi (1982)
The Missionary (1981)
The Missionary (1981)
The Wildcats of St. Trinian's (1980)
Sir Charles Hackforth
Gauguin the Savage (1980)
The Medusa Touch (1978)
Watership Down (1978)
Joseph Andrews (1977)
Parson Adams
The Slipper and the Rose (1976)
Royal Flash (1976)
Barry Lyndon (1975)
Mr. Quilp (1975)
Grandfather Trent
Lucky Lady (1975)
Captain Rockwell
Juggernaut (1974)
England Made Me (1973)
F Minty
The Mackintosh Man (1973)
Theatre Of Blood (1973)
George Maxwell
The Possession of Joel Delaney (1972)
Justin [Lorenz]
The Pied Piper (1972)
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1972)
Up Pompeii (1971)
Girl Stroke Boy (1971)
Demons of the Mind (1971)
The Bed Sitting Room (1969)
Capt. Bules Martin
Anne of the Thousand Days (1969)
Thomas Boleyn
Where Eagles Dare (1969)
Vice-Admiral Rolland
I'll Never Forget What's 'Is Name (1968)
The Jokers (1967)
Sir Matthew
How I Won the War (1967)
The Taming of the Shrew (1967)
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1966)
Khartoum (1966)
Lord Granville
Cast a Giant Shadow (1966)
British ambassador
The Spy Who Came In From the Cold (1965)
Genghis Khan (1965)
The Yellow Rolls-Royce (1965)
Macbeth (1963)
The V.I.P.s (1963)
Airport director
Cleopatra (1963)
Dr. Syn - Alias the Scarecrow (1963)
Malaga (1962)
Inspector Farrell
Girls at Sea (1962)
Adm. Reginald Hewitt
El Cid (1961)
Don Diego
Man in the Moon (1961)
Dr. Davidson
Sink the Bismarck! (1960)
Commander in chief , <I>King George V</I>
I Accuse! (1958)
Hell, Heaven or Hoboken (1958)
The Spaniard's Curse (1958)
The Man Who Never Was (1956)
Gen. Coburn
Alexander the Great (1956)
Wicked Wife (1956)
Inspector Ayling
The Spanish Gardener (1956)
Pacific Destiny (1956)
Storm Over the Nile (1956)
General Faversham
The Baby And The Battleship (1956)
The Warriors (1955)
King Edward
The Constant Husband (1955)
The Night My Number Came Up (1955)
The Beachcomber (1955)
You Know What Sailors Are (1954)
Forbidden Cargo (1954)
The Heart of the Matter (1954)
Commissioner Of Police
Street Corner (1953)
Personal Affair (1953)
The Hour of 13 (1952)
Sir Herbert Frensham
The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men (1952)
The Card (1952)
Tom Brown's Schooldays (1951)
Senior master
A Christmas Carol (1951)
Jacob Marley
Flesh and Blood (1951)
The Magic Box (1951)
Trio (1950)
Highly Dangerous (1950)
Train of Events (1949)
("The Actor")
Passport to Pimlico (1949)
The Astonished Heart (1949)
Good Time Girl (1948)
Portait From Life (1948)
Third Time Lucky (1948)
Mine Own Executioner (1947)
Night Beat (1947)
The Years Between (1946)
A Girl in a Million (1946)
School For Secrets (1946)
The Girl in the News (1941)
Assistant prosecuting counsel

Cast (Special)

Memento Mori (1992)
Scoop (1990)
Uncle Theodore
Suspicion (1988)
The Tale of Beatrix Potter (1984)
The Tempest (1980)
Romeo and Juliet (1979)
The Easter Chester Mystery Plays (1977)
Cakes and Ale (1976)

Cast (TV Mini-Series)

Ending Up (1993)
The Green Man (1990)
Danny, The Champion of the World (1989)
Paddington Goes to School (1986)
Shogun (1980)

Life Events


First professional stage credit, Lodovico in "Othello"


Served in the Royal Navy aboard carrier 'Illustrious'; discharged as Lieutenant Commander


Feature debut, starred in Carol Reed's "The Girl in the News"


Returned to the London stage in a production of "A Doll's House"


Won acclaim in title role of Chekhov's "Ivanov"


First Broadway production, "Moonbirds"; closed after two days


US TV debut, "The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh", for "Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color" (NBC)


First of five collaborations with director Richard Lester, "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum"


Narrated "Barry Lyndon", the first of many voice credits


First TV miniseries, "Shogun" (NBC)


TV-movie debut, "Gauguin the Savage" (CBS)


Was part of the star-studded cast of Richard Attenborough's "Gandhi"


Knighted by Queen Elizabeth II


Final feature, "The Fool"


Appeared in PBS "Masterpiece Theatre" presentation of Muriel Spark's "Memento Mori"


Last performance in "Middlemarch" ("Masterpieece Theatre", PBS)

Photo Collections

The Spanish Gardener - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for Rank Films' The Spanish Gardener (1956), starring Dirk Bogarde. One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.


Movie Clip

Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, A -- (Movie Clip) Comedy Tonight! Director Richard Lester with the opening tune, as catchy as any in composer Stephen Sondheim's catalog, delivered with the credits by star Zero Mostel as slave "Pseudolus," who gets caught by his owners (Michael Hordern, Patricia Jessel), in A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, 1966.
Christmas Carol, A (1951) -- (Movie Clip) Jacob Marley Scrooge (Alastair Sim) arriving home Christmas evening, spooky business beginning, Michael Hordern as his dead partner Jacob Marley, in the celebrated 1951 version of Dickens' A Christmas Carol, directed by Brian Desmond-Hurst.
Bed Sitting Room, The (1969) -- (Movie Clip) The Nuclear Misunderstanding From director Richard Lester's post-apocalytic comedy, Frank Thornton (as "The BBC") updates Capt. Martin (Michael Hordern) on pre-war events (Bill Wallis as "The Prime Minister," Ralph Richardson as "Lord Fortnum") in The Bed Sitting Room, 1969.
Theatre Of Blood (1973) -- (Movie Clip) They're A Stubborn Lot Critic and civic housing do-gooder Maxwell (Michael Hordern) failed to notice that the cop greeting him was star Vincent Price thus, he's caught unawares when the squatters he's come to remove demonstrate zombie qualities, the first bit of Shakespearean evil, in Theatre Of Blood, 1973.
Taming Of The Shrew, The (1967) -- (Movie Clip) A Husband For The Elder Bianca (Natasha Pyne) pursued home by Lucentio (Michael York), her father (Michael Hordern) fending off suitors and the first appearance of her sister Katherina (Elizabeth Taylor), in Franco Zeffirelli's first film, set in Shakespeare's mythical Padua, The Taming Of The Shrew, 1967.
Warriors, the (1955) -- (Movie Clip) To England And St. George After an English victory in France, 1359, King Edward III (Michael Hordern, age 44) informs his son Edward, Prince of Wales (Errol Flynn, age 46, his first scene), that he’ll be taking over, in The Warriors, 1955, in Cinemascope and Technicolor from Allied Artists and producer Walter Mirisch.
Cleopatra (1963) -- (Movie Clip) There Is No Throne In Rome Talk of Caesar outside the senate, in the first scene in the city of Rome, Cassius (John Hoyt) and Brutus (Kenneth Haigh) tangle, Casca (Carroll O’Connor) and Cicero (Michael Hordern) joining, drawing the attention of Antony (Richard Burton), who later queries Octavian (Roddy McDowall), in Cleopatra, 1963.
Where Eagles Dare (1969) -- (Movie Clip) The Castle Of The Eagles Starting with Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood airborne over the Bavarian Alps, flashing back to Col. Turner (Patrick Wymark), overseen by Rolland (Michael Hordern), briefing the Allied spy team, their mission from Alistair Maclean’s original screenplay, Brian G. Hutton directing, Where Eagles Dare, 1969.
Where Eagles Dare (1969) -- (Movie Clip) Broadsword Calling Danny Boy Brit Smith (Richard Burton) briefs American Shaffer (Clint Eastwood) about the Nazi-held Alpine castle, and the background of their superior Turner (Patrick Wymark), whom he radios, along with Admiral Rolland (Michael Hordern), with news of a probable mole, in the hit spy thriller Where Eagles Dare, 1969.
Watership Down (1978) -- (Movie Clip) The Great Frith Made The World Not from the novel, the entire origin myth, which is derived from the original writings of author Richard Adams, Michael Hordern narrating, opening writer, director and producer Martin Rosen’s animated 1978 adaptation of Watership Down.
Taming Of The Shrew, The (1967) -- (Movie Clip) Fear Boys With Bugs Pretending confidence before his pals, Petruchio (Richard Burton) arrives to meet Katherina (Elizabeth Taylor), busy terrorizing her sister Bianca (Natasha Pyne), in Franco Zeffirelli's adaptation of Shakespeare's The Taming Of The Shrew, 1967.
Trio (1950) -- (Movie Clip) Somerset Maugham The author introducing the first story, from his home in the south of France, producer Sydney Box's follow up to Quartet, 1949, Trio, 1950, beginning with "The Verger," featuring James Hayter, Kathleen Harrison and Michael Hordern, directed by Ken Annakin.


Gandhi (1982) -- (Original Trailer) Eight Academy Awards® including Best Picture went to Gandhi (1982), the true story of the man who freed India from colonial rule through non-violent protest.
Khartoum - (Original Trailer) Charlton Heston stars as the British general Gordon sent to stop The Mahdi (Laurence Olivier) from taking Khartoum (1966).
Genghis Khan - (Original Trailer) The Asian conqueror (Omar Sharif) and his mentor (Stephen Boyd) vie for the same woman in Genghis Khan (1965).
Anne of the Thousand Days - (Original Trailer) Anne Boleyn (Genevieve Bujold) fights to keep Henry VIII's love and her head in the midst of palace intrigue in Anne of the Thousand Days (1969).
Mackintosh Man, The - (Original Trailer) A British agent goes undercover as a jewel thief to nab a Communist spy in John Huston's The Mackintosh Man (1973) starring Paul Newman.
Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, A -- (Original Trailer) A madcap musical set in ancient Rome starring Zero Mostel, Phil Silvers, Michael Crawford and silent era comic Buster Keaton in a cameo appearance.
V.I.P.s, The - (Original Trailer) Wealthy passengers fogged in at London's Heathrow Airport experience a series of personal trials in The V.I.P.s (1963) starring Elizabeth Taylor & Richard Burton.
Where Eagles Dare - (Original Trailer) An Allied team sets out to free an American officer held by the Nazis in a mountaintop castle in Where Eagles Dare (1969) starring Richard Burton & Clint Eastwood.
Spy Who Came In From the Cold, The - (Original Trailer) A British agent infiltrates the enemy by allowing himself to be disgraced at home in The Spy Who Came in From the Cold (1965) starring Richard Burton and Claire Bloom.
Yellow Rolls-Royce, The - (Original Trailer) A classic car changes the lives of three sets of owners in The Yellow Rolls-Royce (1964) starring Rex Harrison, Shirley MacLaine and Ingrid Bergman.
Cast A Giant Shadow - (Original Trailer) Kirk Douglas stars in the true story of U.S. officer Mickey Marcus who joined the Israeli fight against the Arabs in Cast a Giant Shadow (1966).


Edward Joseph Calverly Hordern
Captain in the British army.
Margereta Emily Hordern
Joanna Hordern
Survived him.


Eve Mortimer
Actor. Died in 1986.


"A World Elsewhere"
Michael Hordern (1993)


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.'"