michael hordern biog.
Date of Death
Sir Michael Hordern seemed to look old from 1955 onwards! Good thing about looking prematurely old is that you you always look old so you will never change!
Of course I exaggerate. But any film with his name in the credits ensured there was one reassuringly solid supporting performance, though he is unusually creepy in The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965). Maybe it's old-fashioned but Hordern was the type of actor who knew the craft, who actually listened to what his co-star was saying rather than just reading his lines. Sounds simple but few do it. Just watch his face close-up the next time you see him in anything and you will see what I mean.
His voice was from the Gods! It was like salted honey whatever that tastes like. Mellifluous is a better word.
His stand-out role in later life was his masterful portrayal of Prospero in the BBC's The Tempest (1980) (TV).
Old age brings gravitas. If his middle name was 'gravitas' then I could think of no-one else it would be more suitable for.
In fact it was Murray.
In a career of almost 60 years, he specialized in comedy, in which he could be dotty, irascible and explosive. "I try to find comedy in everything I play, even 'King Lear,' " he 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.' "
But they would say, "That's Michael Hordern," instantly spotting him in an ensemble, with his downturned mouth, steadily receding hairline and look of perpetual bedazzlement. He was a master of deadpan comedy. In common with Sir Ralph Richardson, he had an eccentric humour that could brighten even a dim evening.
He was born in Berkhampsted, Hertfordshire, and early in his life was a schoolmaster and salesman. After a brief period as an amateur actor, he made his London debut at 25, as Lodovico in Othello. He served in the Royal Navy during World War II and returned to the stage in 1946 as Torvald Helmer in A Doll's House.
At Stratford-on-Avon, his parts ranged all the way from Mr. Toad in Toad of Toad Hall to Caliban in The Tempest. Eventually he played many major Shakespearean characters, including King Lear both onstage and on television. Before he did his first Lear, he asked John Gielgud for advice. Gielgud's famous response was, "All I can tell you is, get a light Cordelia."
Hordern won acclaim in Chekhov, beginning with the title role in Ivanov in 1950. He also explored the work of contemporary playwrights, appearing notably as the seedy barrister in John Mortimer's play The Dock Brief in 1958, and in works by Harold Pinter, David Mercer, Alan Ayckbourn and Stoppard. Stoppard was a close friend; for many years they shared a membership in a fishing club. Hordern made his Broadway debut in 1959, co-starring with Wally Cox in Marcel Ayme's Moonbirds.
Knighted in 1983, he celebrated the event several months later with his performance as Sir Anthony Absolute in The Rivals at the National Theater. In the Sheridan comedy, he delighted theatergoers as he ate his breakfast eggs while silently and passionately lusting after his son's fiancee, Lydia Languish.
He had an active film career beginning in 1939. After playing Cicero in Cleopatra, he continued his connection with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton by playing Taylor's father in the Franco Zeffirelli film of The Taming of the Shrew. He was the well-meaning Parson Adams in Tony Richardson's version of Joseph Andrews. Among his other films were Somerset Maugham's Trio, The Bed-Sitting Room, Gandhi and, in 1991, Dark Obsession, in which he played an edgy lord.
On television he was in Muriel Spark's Memento Mori with Maggie Smith and played old Mr. Simcox in Mortimer's Paradise Postponed, mad Uncle Theodore in Evelyn Waugh's Scoop and Peter Featherstone in Middlemarch.
His wife, the actress Grace Eveline Mortimer, died in 1986. He died of kidney disease at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford on the 2nd May 1995.
He was survived by a daughter.
Married to Eve Mortimer from 1943 to her death in 1986
Died at the age of 83
Knighted in 1983
Son of John Calvery Hordern, a British Army captain, and the former Margareta Emily Murray
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