Monday, November 30, 2015

Born Today: November 30: Charles Hawtrey


Born George Frederick Joffre Hartree in Middlesex, England, he took his name from an earlier actor who really was born Charles Hawtrey in 1858, who was knighted, a major stage actor, and had a his own very brief career in silent film before dying in 1923.  Hartree was even said to encourage the belief that he was Hawtrey's son, when, in fact, he was the son of a London auto mechanic. .  Nonetheless this Charles Hawtrey went on to have a very long and truly comedic career.  He did attend a prestigious acting school; with members of his family said to have been in the entertainment business. His actual career began as child boy soprano; he went on to make several early pressed vinyl records before moving on to radio.  He actually made his film debut as a child during the silent era before making his professional stage debut; with his film debut coming in a very minor uncredited role in 1922, while his stage debut came in 1925.  In all he was in only two silent films, the second of which was in 1923.  He went on to appear on over 70 films, including Alfred Hitchcock's Sabotage.  He even went on to direct, mostly stage productions, but he also has two directorial film credits--one of which he served as his cinematographer.  By the early 1970's he had largely stopped acting in film; he made one television short in 1979 and an appearance on a television series 1987, just a year before his death.  He is most famous for his appearances in the Carry-On film franchise, which began in the 1950's.  He died a lonely death.  His homosexuality had alienated him from his family and his eccentric personality didn't earn him any lasting relationships, either romantically or friendly.  He was said to be close with Carry On actress Joan Sims at some point.  Despite a misleading biography on Internet Movie Database about his death; the truth is he had been suffering from a debilitating condition for a while in his life, which was evidently misdiagnosed as arthritis.  On the 24th of October 1988 in collapsed in Deal, England--where he had lived since the late 1960's--a and busted a femur bone in his leg and transported to a hospital in Dover.  There he was told that he actually had peripheral vascular disease; the main cause of which a lifetime of cigarette smoking.  He was told that both of his legs would need to be amputated to save his life; an operation that he refused.  He died 3 days later in a nursing home near Deal early on 24 October.  He was cremated and his ashes were scattered, with no family or friends in attendance.  This makes me personally very sad and want to remember this remarkably funny man on this day, not least because we share the same birthday.

Very small early photo of him as a boy soprano.

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