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Anthony Quayle

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Anthony Quayle
Quayle in The Story of David (1976)
John Anthony Quayle

(1913-09-07)7 September 1913
Died20 October 1989(1989-10-20) (aged 76)
Chelsea, London, England
Occupation(s)Actor and theatre director
Years active1935–1989
(m. 1935; div. 1941)
(m. 1947)

Sir John Anthony Quayle CBE (7 September 1913 – 20 October 1989) was a British actor, theatre director and novelist. He was nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe for his supporting role as Thomas Wolsey in the film Anne of the Thousand Days (1969). He also played important roles in such major studio productions as The Guns of Navarone (1961), Lawrence of Arabia (1962), The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964), Operation Crossbow (1965), QB VII (1974) and The Eagle Has Landed (1976). Quayle was knighted in the 1985 New Years Honours List.

Early life


Quayle was born on 7 September 1913 at 2 Delamere Road, Ainsdale,[1] Southport, Lancashire, to solicitor Arthur Quayle, of a Manx family, and Esther Kate Quayle (née Overton).[3]

He was educated at Abberley Hall School, a preparatory school in Abberley, Worcestershire, and at Rugby School, then an all-boys independent boarding school. He trained for one year at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London. His first professional stage appearance was in The Ghost Train at the Q Theatre, while on holiday from RADA. After appearing in music hall, he joined the Old Vic in 1932.[3]

Second World War service


During the Second World War, he served in the Royal Artillery, British Army.[3] Having joined as a gunner (i.e. private), he attended the 70th Coast Defence Training Regiment and was commissioned as a second lieutenant on 7 January 1940.[4] He was made one of the area commanders of the Auxiliary Units in Northumberland.[5][6]

Later he joined the Special Operations Executive (SOE) and served as a liaison officer with the partisans in Albania. Reportedly, his service with the SOE seriously affected him, and he never felt comfortable talking about it. He described his experiences in a fictional form in Eight Hours from England.[7]

He was an aide to the Governor of Gibraltar at the time of the air crash of General Władysław Sikorski's aircraft on 4 July 1943.[8] He wrote of his Gibraltar experience in his second novel On Such a Night, published by Heinemann.

By the end of the war, he held the rank of temporary major.[9] In May 1946, it was published that he had been mentioned in despatches "in recognition of gallant and distinguished services in the Mediterranean Theatre".[9]





From 1948 to 1956 Quayle directed at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, and laid the foundations for the creation of the Royal Shakespeare Company. His own Shakespearian roles included Falstaff, Othello, Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing, Henry VIII and Aaron in Titus Andronicus with Laurence Olivier; he played Mosca in Ben Jonson's Volpone; and he also appeared in contemporary plays. He played the role of Moses in Christopher Fry's play The Firstborn, in a production starring opposite Katharine Cornell.[10] He also made an LP with Cornell, in which he played the role of poet Robert Browning in The Barretts of Wimpole Street.[11]

Quayle made his Broadway debut in The Country Wife in 1936. Thirty-four years later, he won critical acclaim for his starring role in the highly successful Anthony Shaffer play Sleuth, which earned him a Drama Desk Award.

Quayle played James Tyrone in the first UK production of Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night (Globe Theatre, London, 1958).[12]

Quayle was artist-in-residence at the University of Tennessee in the mid-70s. He came to Knoxville in spring 1974, through a partnership with the Kennedy Center, starring in Henry Denker's The Headhunters, which rehearsed and opened at the Clarence Brown Theatre and then moved on to the Kennedy Center's Eisenhower Theatre. Quayle was appointed as professor in theatre in 1974. He taught classes as an artist in residence and served as artistic director of the Clarence Brown Company—a professional theatre company in residence at UT. He played in Everyman the same year.

In 1984, he founded Compass Theatre Company, that he inaugurated with a tour of The Clandestine Marriage, directing and playing the part of Lord Ogleby. This production had a run at the Albery Theatre, London. With the same company he subsequently toured with a number of other plays, including Saint Joan, Dandy Dick and King Lear with himself in the title role.

Sherry barrel signed by Anthony Quayle

Film and Television


His first film role was an uncredited brief appearance as an Italian wigmaker in Pygmalion (1938) – subsequent film roles included parts in Alfred Hitchcock's The Wrong Man, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's The Battle of the River Plate (both 1956), Ice Cold in Alex (1958), Tarzan's Greatest Adventure (1959), The Guns of Navarone (1961), H.M.S. Defiant, David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia (both 1962) and The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964). He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Cardinal Wolsey in Anne of the Thousand Days (1969).

Often cast as the decent British officer, Quayle drew upon his own wartime experiences, bringing a degree of authenticity to the parts absent from the performances of some non-combatant stars. One of his best friends from his days at the Old Vic was fellow actor Alec Guinness, who appeared in several films with him. He was also a close friend of Jack Hawkins and Jack Gwillim; all four actors appeared in Lawrence of Arabia.

Television appearances include the Armchair Theatre episode "The Scent of Fear" (1959) for ITV, the title role in the drama series Strange Report (ITC, 1969) and as French General Villers in the television film adaptation of The Bourne Identity (1988). He starred in the miniseries Masada (1981) as Rubrius Gallius. Also he narrated the BBC drama serial The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1970), and the acclaimed aviation documentary series Reaching for the Skies (1988). Quayle also starred in the 'Last Bottle in The World' episode of Tales of the Unexpected (TV series)

Personal life


Quayle married twice. His first wife was the actress Hermione Hannen (1913–1983), to whom he was married from 1935 to 1941. In 1947, he married American-born actress Dorothy Hyson (1914–1996), known as "Dot" to family and friends.[8] He and Dorothy had two daughters, Jenny and Rosanna, and a son, Christopher.

Quayle died at his home in Chelsea from liver cancer on 20 October 1989.[13]

Awards and honours

Awards (nominations)
Awards (won)

Quayle was mentioned in despatches during the Second World War.[9] He was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 1952 Birthday Honours.[14] He was appointed a Knight Bachelor in the 1985 New Year Honours for services to the Theatre,[15] and knighted by Queen Elizabeth II during a ceremony at Buckingham Palace on 5 March 1985.[16]




Year Film Role Director Notes
1935 Moscow Nights Soldier dictating Letter Anthony Asquith Uncredited
1938 Pygmalion Eliza's Hairdresser Leslie Howard Uncredited
1948 Hamlet Marcellus Laurence Olivier
1948 Saraband for Dead Lovers Durer Basil Dearden
1949 Train of Events Violinist Basil Dearden Uncredited
1955 Oh... Rosalinda!! Gen. Orlovsky Emeric Pressburger
1956 The Battle of the River Plate Commodore Harwood Emeric Pressburger
1956 The Wrong Man Frank D. O'Connor Alfred Hitchcock
1957 Woman in a Dressing Gown Jim Preston J. Lee Thompson
1957 No Time for Tears Dr. Graham Seagrave Cyril Frankel
1958 The Man Who Wouldn't Talk Dr. Frank Smith Herbert Wilcox
1958 Ice Cold in Alex Captain van der Poel J. Lee Thompson
1959 Serious Charge Howard Phillips Terence Young
1959 Tarzan's Greatest Adventure Slade John Guillermin
1960 The Challenge Jim John Gilling
1961 The Guns of Navarone Maj. Roy Franklin J. Lee Thompson
1962 H.M.S. Defiant Vizard Lewis Gilbert
1962 Lawrence of Arabia Colonel Brighton David Lean
1964 The Fall of the Roman Empire Verulus Anthony Mann
1964 East of Sudan Private Baker Nathan H. Juran
1965 Operation Crossbow Bamford Michael Anderson
1965 A Study in Terror Doctor Murray James Hill
1966 The Poppy Is Also a Flower Captain Vanderbilt Terence Young
1966 Misunderstood Sir John Edward Duncombe Luigi Comencini
1969 Mackenna's Gold Older Englishman J. Lee Thompson
1969 Before Winter Comes Brigadier Bewley J. Lee Thompson
1969 Anne of the Thousand Days Thomas Wolsey Charles Jarrott
1972 Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask) The King Woody Allen
1973 Bequest to the Nation Lord Minto James Cellan Jones
1974 The Tamarind Seed Jack Loder Blake Edwards
1976 The Eagle Has Landed Admiral Canaris John Sturges
1977 Holocaust 2000 Griffith Alberto De Martino
1979 Murder by Decree Sir Charles Warren Bob Clark
1988 The Legend of the Holy Drinker The Distinguished Gentleman Ermanno Olmi
1988 Buster Sir James McDowell David Green
1989 Magdalene Father Noessler Monica Teuber [de] Posthumous release
1990 King of the Wind Lord Granville Peter Duffell Posthumous release
1993 The Thief and the Cobbler King Nod Richard Williams Posthumous release, original version, voice


Year Film Role Director Notes
1954 Sunday Night Theatre Othello TV series, 1 episode: "We Live to Please"
1956 Producers' Showcase Various Various TV series, 2 episodes
1958 Suspicion Graham Jack Smight TV series, 1 episode: "The Man with the Gun"
1959–61 Armchair Theatre Various Various TV series, 3 episodes
1961 BBC Sunday-Night Play The General Leo Lehmann TV series, 1 episode: "A Reason for Staying"
1961–65 ITV Play of the Week Various Various TV series, 3 episodes
1963 Man of the World Dr. Moretti John Llewellyn Moxey TV series, 1 episode: "The Enemy"
1964 Drama 64 Samurai James Ferman TV series, 1 episode: "Miss Hanago"
1964 Espionage Philip Michael Powell TV series, 1 episode: "A Free Agent"
1964 The Saint Lord Thornton Yearley Peter Yates TV series, 1 episode: "The Noble Sportsman"
1966 Court Martial Colonel Julian Rodney Peter Maxwell TV series, 1 episode: "The House Where He Lived"
1966 Barefoot in Athens Pausanias George Schaefer TV movie
1967 Playhouse Daniel Bloch John Gorrie TV series, 1 episode: "The Waste Spaces"
1968 A Case of Libel Colonel Douglas Charles Jarrott TV movie
1969 Destiny of a Spy Colonel Malendin Boris Sagal TV movie
1969 Red Peppers Mr. Edwards Michael Mills TV movie
1969–70 Strange Report Adam Strange Various TV series
1970 The Six Wives of Henry VIII Narrator Naomi Capon
John Glenister
TV series
1973 Jarrett Cosmo Bastrop Barry Shear TV movie
1974 QB VII Tom Banniester Tom Gries Miniseries
1974 Moses the Lawgiver Aaron Gianfranco De Bosio Miniseries
1974 Great Expectations Jaggers Joseph Hardy TV movie
1974–75 The Lives of Benjamin Franklin Dartmouth Glenn Jordan Miniseries, 2 episodes
1976 The Story of David King Saul Alex Segal TV movie
1976 21 Hours at Munich General Zvi Zamir William A. Graham TV movie
1978 BBC2 Play of the Week The Old Man David Jones TV series, 1 episode: "Ice Age"
1979 The First Part of King Henry the Fourth Sir John Falstaff David Giles TV movie
1979 The Second Part of King Henry the Fourth Sir John Falstaff David Giles TV movie
1981 Manions of America Lord Montgomery Charles S. Dubin
Joseph Sargent
1981 Masada Rubrius Gallus Boris Sagal Miniseries
1981 Tales of the Unexpected Kyros Kassoulas John Gorrie TV series, 1 episode: "The Last Bottle in the World"
1981 Dial M for Murder Insp. Hubbard Boris Sagal TV movie
1984 Lace Dr. Geneste William Hale Miniseries
1984 The Last Days of Pompeii Quintus Peter R. Hunt Miniseries
1984 The Testament of John John Douglas Don Taylor TV movie
1985 The Key to Rebecca Abdullah David Hemmings TV movie
1986 The Theban Plays by Sophocles Oedipus Don Taylor Miniseries, 1 episode: "Oedipus at Colonus"
1988 The Bourne Identity Gen. François Villiers Roger Young TV movie
1988 Reaching for the Skies Narrator TV series, documentary
1989 The Endless Game Glanville Bryan Forbes Miniseries, 1 episode
1989 Confessional The Pope Gordon Flemyng Posthumous release, miniseries, 2 episodes



Quayle authored two novels and an autobiography.

The first novel is a semi-fictional account of his war service with the S.O.E. in Albania.


  1. ^ a b Ainsdale became part of the County Borough of Southport in 1912
  2. ^ Before 1 April 1974 Southport was part of Lancashire
  3. ^ a b c "The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. 2004. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/39947. ISBN 978-0-19-861412-8. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  4. ^ "No. 34768". The London Gazette (Supplement). 5 January 1940. pp. 146–148.
  5. ^ Auxiliary Units were the "stay-behind forces" put in place in UK in case of a German invasion
  6. ^ "Auxunits in Northumberland". Evening Chronicle. Newcastle upon Tyne. 24 April 1968. Retrieved 15 April 2013.
  7. ^ Quayle, Anthony (1945). Eight Hours from England. London: Heinemann.
  8. ^ a b Collins, Glenn (21 October 1989). "Sir Anthony Quayle, British Actor And Theater Director, Dies at 76". The New York Times. p. 10 Sec. 1.
  9. ^ a b c "No. 37575". The London Gazette (Supplement). 21 May 1946. pp. 2443–2447.
  10. ^ Mosel, Tad (1978). Leading Lady: The World and Theatre of Katharine Cornell. Little, Brown. ISBN 978-0316585378.
  11. ^ Caedmon Publishers, TC-1071 (1957)
  12. ^ "Production of Long Day's Journey Into Night | Theatricalia". theatricalia.com. Retrieved 9 May 2024.
  13. ^ "Quayle tough guy on and off screen", The Sydney Morning Herald, 22 October 1989, p. 5.
  14. ^ "No. 39555". The London Gazette (Supplement). 5 June 1952. p. 3007.
  15. ^ "No. 49969". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 1984. p. 2.
  16. ^ "No. 50078". The London Gazette. 29 March 1985. p. 4500.

Further reading

  • Information on Quayle's war experience taken from Howarth, Patrick (1980). Undercover. London: Routledge. ISBN 0-7100-0573-3. Howarth was an early member of SOE's HQ.
  • The Wildest Province: SOE in the Land of the Eagle (2008), by Roderick Bailey, London: Cape.
  • His autobiography: Time to Speak (1990)