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25 February 1912|
Wednesbury, Staffordshire, England
|Died||1 February 1975
Kensington, London, England
Richard Cameron Wattis (25 February 1912 – 1 February 1975) was an English actor.
Wattis was born in Wednesbury, Staffordshire. He attended King Edward's School and Bromsgrove School, after which he worked for the electrical engineering firm William Sanders & Co (Wednesbury) Ltd. His uncle, William Preston (1874–1941), was the managing director and was the Conservative MP for Walsall from 1924 to 1929.
After leaving the family business, Wattis became an actor. His debut was with Croydon Repertory Theatre, and he made many stage appearances in the West End in London. His first appearance in a film was A Yank at Oxford (1938), but war service interrupted his career as an actor. He served as a second lieutenant with the Arms Section of Special Operations Executive at Station VI during World War II. He is best known for his appearances in British comedies of the 1950s and 1960s, typically as the "Man from the Ministry" or similar character, with his trademark thick-rimmed round spectacles.
Such appearances included the St Trinian's films (The Belles of St Trinian's, Blue Murder at St Trinian's, and The Great St Trinian's Train Robbery) as Manton Bassett, a civil servant who was the Deputy Director of Schools in the Ministry of Education, where he was often seen frowning and expressing indignation at the outrageous behaviour of other characters. To American audiences, Wattis is probably best known for his performance as the British civil servant Northbrook in The Prince and the Showgirl (1957).
Wattis's other films included Hobson's Choice, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Carry On Spying, The Colditz Story, Dentist on the Job, Very Important Person, The Happiest Days of Your Life, and The Longest Day. He also appeared on television, including a long-running role in Sykes, and appearances in Danger Man, The Prisoner, The Goodies, Hancock's Half Hour, and Father, Dear Father. From 1957 to 1958, he appeared as Peter Jamison in three episodes of the American sitcom Dick and the Duchess.
Wattis was gay in an era when this was a taboo subject; unusually, in his role as Northbrook in The Prince and the Showgirl by gay playwright Terence Rattigan, he made it clear near the beginning of the film that he is attracted to the title character.
- "Richard Wattis | BFI | BFI". Explore.bfi.org.uk. Retrieved 2014-05-12.
- Stevens, Christopher (2010). Born Brilliant: The Life Of Kenneth Williams. John Murray. ISBN 1-84854-195-3.
- Dan Rebellato 1956 and all that: the making of modern British drama, London: Routledge, 1999
- 1956 and all that at google books