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|Sir Michael Hordern|
Michael Hordern in trailer for "The Bed-Sitting Room" (1969)
|Born||Michael Murray Hordern
3 October 1911
Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, England
|Died||2 May 1995
Oxford, Oxfordshire, England
|Cremated, ashes scattered into the English Channel|
|Spouse(s)||Eve Mortimer (1943–1986; her death)
|Awards||Royal Television Society Award
for Best Performance
1981 All's Well That Ends Well
Hordern was born in the Poplars, an 18th-century townhouse in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, the son of Margaret Emily (Murray) and Capt. Edward Joseph Calverly Hordern. He was educated at Brighton College, as was his brother Peter. He acted at school and then as an amateur with the St Pancras People's Theatre. He worked as a school teacher and travelling salesman before entering the profession. In 1937, he made his professional stage debut at the People's Palace, East London, playing a minor role in Othello and, later in the year, joined the repertory company of the Little Theatre in Bristol. There he met the actress Grace Eveline Mortimer; they married in 1943 and remained together until her death in 1986. They had one daughter, Joanna.
World War II
Hordern received a commission into the Royal Navy and went on to serve on HMS Illustrious, taking part in Operation Ironclad in 1942. He also held a post with the rank of Lieutenant-Commander in the office of the First Sea Lord.
His stage work, for the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford and in London, at the Old Vic and in the West End demonstrated his wide range and distinctive, rich voice. In addition to his many Shakespearean roles (Jaques in As You Like It, Cassius in Julius Caesar, Polonius in Hamlet, Malvolio in Twelfth Night), Hordern performed in plays by Strindberg, Chekhov, Ibsen, Pinero, Pinter, Dürrenmatt, Albee, Alan Ayckbourn, David Mercer and Tom Stoppard.
He played King Lear, as directed by Jonathan Miller, at the Nottingham Playhouse in 1970. He reprised the role for Miller on two further occasions, in 1975 and in the BBC Television Shakespeare series in 1982. In 1978 he returned to Stratford to play a wise Prospero in The Tempest. This was also replicated for the BBC Shakespeare series in 1980.
Film, television and radio
He made more than 160 film appearances, usually in character roles, including Passport to Pimlico (1949), Scrooge (1951, as Jacob Marley; he was to play Ebenezer Scrooge himself in a 1977 TV adaptation), The Heart of the Matter (1953), Grand National Night (1953),The Spanish Gardener (1956), Sink the Bismarck! (1960), El Cid (1961), Cleopatra (1963), The V.I.P.s (1963), The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965), Khartoum (1966), A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1966) (the only film in which he sang), The Taming of the Shrew (1967), Where Eagles Dare (1969), Anne of the Thousand Days (1969), England Made Me (1972), Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1972), Juggernaut (1974), The Slipper and the Rose (1976), Shogun (1980), Gandhi (1982). In 1968 he appeared as the central character in Jonathan Miller's television adaptation of M.R. James's ghost story Whistle and I'll Come to You. Some years later he narrated nineteen unabridged supernatural stories by M.R. James, released across four audio cassette collections by Argo Records in the 1980s. In 1986, he appeared in the TV series Paradise Postponed. In 1992 Hordern narrated the two-cassette recording of the John Mortimer story Rumpole on Trial.
Hordern was also in demand for other voice-over work. As the narrator of FilmFair Productions Paddington, and as the voice of Badger in the 1980s TV series The Wind in the Willows, Hordern is familiar to TV audiences everywhere. He also provided the ironic voice-over narration in Stanley Kubrick's film Barry Lyndon, and can be heard playing the part of the rabbits' god Frith in Martin Rosen's 1978 animated adaptation of Richard Adams' Watership Down.
On radio he played Horatio Hornblower in a 46-episode adaptation of C.S. Forester's Hornblower novels produced by Harry Alan Towers (1952–53); Gandalf in the BBC radio adaptation of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings (1981); another great wizard, Merlin, in an adaptation of T.H. White's The Sword in the Stone (1982); and P.G. Wodehouse's famous valet Jeeves in several series in the 1970s.
Later years and death
On television, he played Tartuffe for the BBC in 1971 and Professor Marvin in The History Man in 1980. He also appeared in several classic drama serials, his last performance being in the BBC adaptation of Middlemarch (1994).
In 1956 he had bought a house near Newbury in Berkshire, where he spent his final years close to the River Lambourn on which he had enjoyed fishing (for trout and greyling) for so long, where dramatist Tom Stoppard "shared a rod" with him, as Stoppard once put it.
He died as a result of kidney disease in May 1995, at the age of 83. Shortly before his death, Brighton College named a room in his honour where a bronze portrait bust stands; the National Portrait Gallery in London has another copy.
- Hordern, Michael (1993). "Life at the Poplars". A World Elsewhere: the Autobiography of Sir Michael Hordern. Michael O'Mara. p. 4. ISBN 978-1-85479-188-7.
- Michael had an elder Brother, Peter, who played Rugby for Gloucester in the 1930's, and was capped four times by England.jnNtYC&q=Michael+Murray+Hordern+mortimer&dq=Michael+Murray+Hordern+mortimer&hl=en The International Who's Who, 1989–90 – Google Books. Books.google.ca. Retrieved 11 June 2012.
- Deaths England and Wales 1984–2006
- Michael Hordern at Find a Grave
- Michael Hordern at the Internet Movie Database
- Michael Hordern at the Internet Broadway Database
- Sir Michael Hordern – Daily Telegraph obituary
- Actor's Compendium
- The Adventures of Captain Horatio Hornblower radio series