William Hartnell in a publicity still as the First Doctor
|Born||William Henry Hartnell
8 January 1908
St Pancras, London, England
|Died||23 April 1975
Marden, Kent, England
|Cause of death||Heart Failure|
|Spouse(s)||Heather McIntyre (1929–1975; his death)|
|Parents||Lucy Hartnell (mother)|
William Henry Hartnell (8 January 1908 – 23 April 1975) was an English actor. During 1963-66, he was the first actor to play the Doctor in the long-running BBC science fiction television series Doctor Who.
Early life 
Hartnell was born in St Pancras, London, England, the only child of Lucy Hartnell, an unmarried mother. He was brought up partly by a foster mother, though he did spend many happy holidays in Devon with his mother's family of farmers, where he learned to ride.
Hartnell never discovered the identity of his father (whose particulars were left blank on the birth certificate) despite efforts to trace him. Often known as Billy, he left school without prospects and dabbled in petty crime. Through a boys' boxing club, Hartnell met the art collector Hugh Blaker, who would become his unofficial guardian and arrange for him initially to train as a jockey and helped him enter the Italia Conti Academy. Theatre being a passion of Hugh Blaker, he paid for Hartnell to receive some 'polish' at the Imperial Service College, though Hartnell found the strictures too much and ran away.
Hartnell entered the theatre in 1925 working under Frank Benson as a general stagehand. He appeared in several Shakespearian plays, including The Merchant of Venice (1926), Julius Caesar (1926), As You Like It (1926), Hamlet (1926), The Tempest (1926), The Merchant of Venice (1926), Macbeth (1926). He also appeared in She Stoops to Conquer (1926) and School for Scandal (1926) and Good Morning, Bill (1927), before playing in 'Miss Elizabeth's Prisoner' in 1928'. This play was written by Robert Neilson Stephens and E. Lyall Swete. It featured actress Heather McIntyre. The following year they married. His first of more than sixty film appearances was Say It With Music in 1932. He was cast as 'Albert Fosdike' in Noël Coward's 1942 film In Which We Serve but turned up late for his first day of shooting. Coward berated Hartnell in front of cast and crew for his unprofessionalism, made him personally apologise to everyone and then sacked him. Michael Anderson, who was the First Assistant Director, took over the part and was credited as "Mickey Anderson".
At the outbreak of the Second World War, Hartnell served in the Tank Corps, but was invalided out after eighteen months as the result of suffering a nervous breakdown, and he returned to acting. Hartnell usually played comic characters, until 1944 when he was cast in the robust role of Sergeant Ned Fletcher in The Way Ahead. From then on his career was defined by playing mainly policemen, soldiers, and thugs. This typecasting bothered him, for even when cast in comedies he found he was invariably playing the 'heavy'. In 1958 he played the sergeant in the first Carry On film comedy, Carry On Sergeant, and in 1963 he appeared as a town councillor in the Boulting brothers' film Heavens Above! with Peter Sellers. He also appeared as Will Buckley in the film The Mouse That Roared in 1959 (again with Sellers).
His first regular role on television was as Sergeant Major Percy Bullimore in The Army Game from 1957–1961. Again, although it was a comedy series he found himself cast in a "tough-guy" role. In 1963 he appeared in a supporting role in the film version of This Sporting Life, giving a sensitive performance as an aging rugby league talent scout known as 'Dad'.
After living at 51 Church Street, Isleworth, next door to Hugh Blaker, the Hartnells lived on the Island, Thames Ditton. Then in the 1960s they moved to a cottage in Mayfield, Sussex. He lived in later life at Sheephurst Lane in Marden, Kent.
Doctor Who (1963–1966) 
Hartnell's performance in This Sporting Life was noted by Verity Lambert, the producer who was setting up a new science-fiction television series for the BBC, Doctor Who. Lambert offered him the title role. Although Hartnell was initially uncertain about accepting a part in what was pitched to him as a children's series, Lambert and director Waris Hussein convinced him to take the part, and it became the character for which he gained the highest profile and is now most remembered. Hartnell later revealed that he took the role because it led him away from the gruff, military parts in which he had become typecast, and, having two grandchildren of his own, he came to relish particularly the attention and affection that playing the character brought him from children.
Doctor Who earned Hartnell a regular salary of £315 per episode by 1966 (basically, £315 a week in that era of 48-weeks per year production on the series), equivalent to £4,050 a week in modern terms. By comparison, in 1966 his co-stars Anneke Wills and Michael Craze were earning £68 and £52 per episode at the same time. Throughout his tenure as the Doctor, William Hartnell wore a wig when playing the part, as the character had long hair, whereas in private life he himself favoured the traditional short-back-and-sides. Very few photographs exist of him dressed as the Doctor without the wig.
Hartnell suffered a bereavement in 1965 whilst working on the serial The Myth Makers. His aunt, Bessie Hartnell, who had looked after him during his troubled childhood, died. But the production schedule on the series was so tight, with a typical 48 episodes a year being transmitted, that it prevented his even taking time off to attend her funeral.
According to some of his colleagues on Doctor Who, he could be a difficult person to work with. Others, however, notably actors Peter Purves and William Russell, and producer Verity Lambert, spoke glowingly of him after more than forty years. Among the more caustic accounts, Nicholas Courtney, in his audio memoirs, recalled that during the filming of The Daleks' Master Plan Hartnell mentioned that an extra on the set was Jewish, Courtney's inference being that Hartnell was slightly prejudiced. In an interview in 2008, Courtney claimed that Hartnell "was quite nationalist-minded, a bit intolerant of other races, I think." However, he always got on extremely well with his first companion, played by Carole Ann Ford, who is Jewish.
Hartnell's deteriorating health (he suffered from arteriosclerosis, which began to affect his ability to say his lines), as well as poor relations with the new production team on the series after the departure of Verity Lambert, ultimately led him to leave Doctor Who in 1966.
When he left Doctor Who, the producer of the show came up with a unique idea: since the Doctor is an alien, he can transform into another man when he dies, thereby renewing himself. William Hartnell himself suggested that Patrick Troughton should be cast as the new Doctor. In Episode 4 of the serial The Tenth Planet, the First Doctor regenerated into Troughton's Second Doctor.
Later life 
Hartnell reprised the role of the Doctor in the 10th Anniversary story The Three Doctors (made in 1972, and broadcast 1972–73) with the help of cue cards, due to his failing memory, but appeared only in pre-filmed inserts seen on video screens. His appearance in this story was his last work as an actor. His health had grown progressively worse in the early 1970s, and in December 1974 he was admitted to hospital permanently. He lived in later life at Sheephurst Lane in Marden, Kent. In early 1975 he suffered a series of strokes brought on by cerebrovascular disease, and died peacefully in his sleep of heart failure on 23 April 1975, at the age of 67. His death was reported on the BBC News and a clip of the Doctor in the TARDIS from the end of "The OK Corral", the final episode of The Gunfighters, was shown.
A clip of his scene from the end of the serial The Dalek Invasion of Earth (1964) was used as a pre-credits sequence for the 20th anniversary story The Five Doctors (1983), although another actor, Richard Hurndall, played the role of the first Doctor for the rest of that story.
Hartnell was married to Heather McIntyre from 9 May 1929 until his death. They had one child, a daughter, Heather Anne, and two grandchildren. His widow, Heather, died in 1984. The only published biography of him is by his granddaughter, Jessica Carney (real name Judith), entitled Who's There, and subtitled The life and career of William Hartnell.
Portrayals in fiction 
For the fiftieth anniversary of Doctor Who in 2013, the BBC commissioned a dramatisation of the events surrounding the creation of the series, entitled An Adventure in Space and Time. The role of Hartnell will be portrayed by David Bradley.
- Meyrick, Robert (2004) "Hugh Blaker: doing his bit for the moderns" Journal of the History of Collections 16 (2):173–89 ISSN 0954-6650
- "Who's There? The life and career of William Hartnell" – Jessica Carney (London, 1996)
- Robert Sharp, "Hartnell, William Henry (1908–1975)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, September 2004; online edn, Oct 2005 http://0-www.oxforddnb.com.catalogue.ulrls.lon.ac.uk:80/view/article/46471 accessed 2 November 2007
- "Obituary: Mr William Hartnell – An actor of varied talents", The Times, 25 April 1975.
- Who Were the Doctors by Craig Cabell (John Blake, 2013)
- Internet Movie DataBase
- Take a break | Currency converter
- Howe, David J.; & Mark Stammers & Stephen James Walker (1994). The Handbook: The First Doctor – The William Hartnell Years 1963–1966. London: Virgin Publishing. ISBN 0-426-20430-1.
- Big Finish Talks Back: The Nicholas Courtney Memoirs (A Soldier in Time)
- Nicholas Courtney: Radio Times Interview, April 2008
- "Doctor Who: Mark Gatiss reveals casting for An Adventure in Space and Time". Radio Times. 29 January 2013. Retrieved 30 January 2013.
- Wood, Tat; & Lawrence Miles (2006). About Time 1: The Unauthorized Guide to Doctor Who 1963–1966. Illinois: Mad Norwegian Press. ISBN 0-9759446-0-6.
- "Who's There? The life and career of William Hartnell" by his real life grand-daughter Jessica Carney (London, 1996). Library of Congress cat. no. PN2598.H338 C37 1996
- William Hartnell at the Internet Movie Database
- William Hartnell at the British Film Institute's Screenonline
- Bio @ article at olddoctorwho.com
- Biography @ Carry On Line