Richard Johnson (actor)

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Richard Johnson
Richard Johnson (actor).jpg
Richard Johnson ca. 2008
Born (1927-07-30) 30 July 1927 (age 86)
Upminster, Essex, England, U.K.
Years active 1950-present
Spouse(s) Sheila Sweet (2 children)
Kim Novak (1965–1966)
Mary Louise Norlund (1 child)
Lynne Gurney (2004-present)

Richard Johnson (born 30 July 1927) is an English actor, writer and producer, who starred in several British films of the 1960s and has also had a distinguished stage career. He most recently appeared in The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.

Life and career[edit]

Richard Johnson was born in Upminster, Essex, the son of Frances Louisa Olive (née Tweed) and Keith Holcombe Johnson.[1] By his first marriage, to Sheila Sweet, he has two children, tabletop games designer Jervis Johnson (b. 1959)[verification needed] and actress Sorel Johnson (aka photographer, Sukey Parnell[2]). Johnson's most famous wife (his second) was American actress Kim Novak, with whom he appeared in the 1965 film The Amorous Adventures of Moll Flanders; they had no children. He also has another daughter, Jennifer Johnson, by his third wife, Mary Louise Norlund, and a fourth child, Nicholas Johnson, by Francoise Pascal. Johnson is currently married to Lynne Gurney; the couple have been together since 1989, and married on the beach in Goa, India, 2004 following this with a discreet legal wedding at Kings Road, Chelsea. Richard is the founder of It's a Green Green World.[3] His blog and teaching website is The Shakespeare Masterclass.[4]

Johnson went to Felsted School, then trained at RADA and made his first professional appearances on stage with John Gielgud's company. During the Second World War he served in the Royal Navy, and made his film debut in 1959, when he appeared in a major co-star role in the MGM film Never So Few, starring Frank Sinatra and Gina Lollobrigida. Subsequently he was contracted by MGM to appear in 1 film per year over 6 years. His biggest successes as a film actor came with The Haunting (1963), opposite Charlton Heston and Laurence Olivier in Khartoum (1966), the spy film Danger Route (1967), and as Bulldog Drummond (reimagined as a 007-type hero) in Deadlier Than the Male (1967) and its sequel Some Girls Do (1969). Johnson was director Terence Young's choice for the role of James Bond, but he turned the producers down as he did not favour a lengthy contract.[5] He also appeared in several Italian films, including Lucio Fulci's cult classic, Zombi 2 and Sergio Martino's L'isola degli uomini pesce (aka Island of the Fishmen). At the same time, he was a stage actor, appearing in the title role in Tony Richardson's production of Pericles, Prince of Tyre in 1958. In the 1960s, he starred in an episode of the TV anthology The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, playing a con artist who fleeces Fay Bainter and is given his just deserts courtesy of Geraldine Fitzgerald.

Johnson's stage career has been extensive and distinguished. His early work in the London theatre attracted the attention of the director of the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre. He appeared in many important productions at that theatre in the late 1950s and early 1960s, making notable successes as Romeo, Orlando, Pericles and Mark Antony in Julius Caesar. In 1958 he appeared in Sir Peter Hall's first production at the theatre, Cymbeline, and the following year in Twelfth Night (as Sir Andrew Aguecheek). Hall took over the direction of the company in 1959 - it was renamed the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), and he invited Johnson to be part of the first group of actors to be named an Associate Artist of the RSC, a position he retains to this day. He has continued to act with the RSC from time to time. His most notable role has been Antony in Antony and Cleopatra which he has played on two occasions, 1971–72 and 1991–92. He played the role in ITV's production in 1974. He also appeared as the King in Cymbeline for BBC TV.

Other TV appearances have included Rembrandt in the BBC's Tony-award winning play of the same name and the leading role in Anglo-Saxon Attitudes, for which he was awarded the Best Actor prize (1993) by the TV critics' Guild of Television Writers.

He has continued to appear on film and television in the first decade of the 21st century. Films have included Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas; he has also played in several TV films: in 2005 he appeared as Stanley Baldwin in Wallis & Edward, in 2007 as Earl Mountbatten in Whatever Love Means, and in 2009 in Lewis; he also contributed to British episodic TV, including Spooks, Waking the Dead, twice in Midsomer Murders, and twice in Doc Martin (as Colonel Gilbert Spencer). Since 2007 he has led the cast of the BBC's award-winning hit radio comedy series Bleak Expectations which attained its 4th series in 2010.

Johnson wrote the original story for the 1975 thriller, Hennessy, starring Rod Steiger, himself and Lee Remick. He was (in 2010) preparing a series of scripts for a television series to be entitled Karma.

Throughout his career Johnson has continued to teach Shakespearean skills to young actors and students. He has toured American universities and taught summer schools at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London. He was appointed to the Council of RADA in 2000, and has also served as a Council Member of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) in the 1970s.

Johnson founded the British production company United British Artists (UBA) in 1981, and served as the company's CEO until 1990, when he resigned in order to resume his acting career. During his tenure at UBA he produced the films Turtle Diary (starring Glenda Jackson and Ben Kingsley, with a screenplay commissioned from Harold Pinter), and The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne (starring Maggie Smith, directed by Jack Clayton); in the London theatre he produced Harold Pinter's Old Times, a revival of Serjeant Musgrave's Dance at the Old Vic, and for theatre and TV, the docudrama Biko, about the death of the South African hero of apartheid-resistance.

Richard writes travel articles regularly for the London mass-circulation newspaper The Mail on Sunday.

Selected filmography[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Richard Johnson Biography (1927–)". Filmreference.com. 30 July 1927. Retrieved 28 February 2012. 
  2. ^ "sukeyparnell.com". sukeyparnell.com. Retrieved 28 February 2012. 
  3. ^ "It's a Green Green World". Itsagreengreenworld.com. Retrieved 28 February 2012. 
  4. ^ The Shakespeare Masterclass. "The Shakespeare Masterclass". The Shakespeare Masterclass. Retrieved 28 February 2012. 
  5. ^ Cinema Retro magazine issue #10

External links[edit]