4 November 1895
Clapham, London, England, UK
|Died||22 April 1953
Kensington, London, England, UK
|Occupation||Actor, screenwriter, film director|
|Years active||1930 – 1952|
Reginald Purdell (4 November 1895 – 22 April 1953) born in Clapham, London, was an English actor and screenwriter who appeared in over 40 films between 1930 and 1951. During the same period he also contributed to the screenplays of 15 feature films, and had a brief foray into directing with two films in 1937.
As a young man Purdell served in the British Army with the South Wales Borderers regiment for the duration of World War I. On returning to civilian life after the war, he decided to try his luck as an actor and gained experience on the stage through the 1920s. His move into films in 1930 coincided with the advent of the talkie era in British cinema.
Purdell's first screen appearance was in the 1930 comedy The Middle Watch, in a role he would later reprise in a 1940 remake. He next travelled to Germany to feature in historical drama Congress Dances, an ambitious and lavishly budgeted project by the UFA film company, involving the simultaneous filming of three versions of the same story in German, English and French in an attempt to prove that a European company could challenge the dominance of American studios in the new era of sound by delivering a continent-wide hit.
Purdell soon began to accumulate screen credits in a wide variety of films ranging from cheaply made quota quickies to more sophisticated productions. He showed a knack for playing comedy, and his 1930s films fell mainly into this genre, with occasional ventures into straight drama and thrillers. Purdell's screenwriting career began in 1932 and he was most productive in this field during the late 1930s, with only occasional ventures later in his career. He tried his hand at film directing in 1937 with two comedies Don't Get Me Wrong, a Max Miller vehicle co-directed with Arthur B. Woods, and Patricia Gets Her Man. Both films were reasonably well-received, but Purdell appears to have decided that directing was not for him, as there would be no more ventures in this area.
In the 1940s Purdell's acting career diversified, with fewer throwaway comedies and more appearances in high-quality dramatic vehicles. His credits included war dramas We Dive at Dawn and Two Thousand Women, Gainsborough melodrama Love Story, notorious box-office flop musical London Town, and the classic Brighton Rock. Purdell's last screen appearance was in 1951 and he died on 22 April 1953, aged 57.
- "Reginald Purdell, British Actor, Dead" New York Times, 23 April 1953. (Subscription required to read online)