From the film Ben-Hur
|Born||Hugh Emrys Griffith
30 May 1912
Marian-glas, Anglesey, Wales
|Died||14 May 1980
|Alma mater||Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts|
Hugh Emrys Griffith (30 May 1912 – 14 May 1980) was a Welsh film, stage and television actor. He won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Ben-Hur (1959) and received an additional Oscar nomination for the same category in Tom Jones (1963).
Griffith was born in Marian-glas, Anglesey, Wales, the son of Mary and William Griffith. He was educated at Llangefni County School and attempted to gain entrance to university, but failed the English examination. He was then urged to make a career in banking, becoming a bank clerk and transferring to London to be closer to acting opportunities. Just as he was making progress and gained admission to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, he had to suspend his plans in order to serve in the British Army, serving for six years with the Royal Welch Fusiliers in India and the Burma Campaign during the Second World War. He resumed his acting career in 1946.
Between 1946 and 1976, Griffith won acclaim for many stage roles, in particular for his portrayals of Falstaff, Lear and Prospero. Griffith acted on both sides of the Atlantic, taking leading roles in London, New York and Stratford. In 1952 he starred in the Broadway adaption of Legend of Lovers, alongside fellow Welsh actor Richard Burton. In 1958 he was back in New York, this time taking a lead role in the opening production of Look Homeward, Angel alongside Anthony Perkins. Both he and Perkins were nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actor in a play for their roles.
Griffith began his film career in British films during the late 1940s, and by the 1950s was also appearing in Hollywood films. He won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Ben-Hur (1959), and received a nomination for his role in Tom Jones (1963). In 1960, he appeared in an adaptation of A. J. Cronin's The Citadel, and in 1968, he appeared as the magistrate in Oliver! His later career was often blighted by his chronic alcoholism.
On television, he had major roles in Quatermass II (1955) and Clochemerle (1972), but is best remembered for his role as funeral director Caradog Lloyd-Evans in the 1978 comedy Grand Slam. Whilst he was visibly unwell at the time of shooting (years of alcohol abuse had clearly taken their toll), Griffith's portrayal encountered widespread acclaim and helped Grand Slam attain cult status.
Griffith married Adelgunde Margaret Beatrice von Dechend (1911–1983), a granddaughter of the Prussian banker Hermann von Dechend.
- Obituary Variety, 21 May 1980.
- "Hugh Griffith". BBC Wales Arts. 12 January 2009. Retrieved 2013-04-16.
- Davies, John; Jenkins, Nigel; Menna, Baines; Lynch, Peredur I., eds. (2008). The Welsh Academy Encyclopaedia of Wales. Cardiff: University of Wales Press. p. 335. ISBN 978-0-7083-1953-6.
- "Legend of Lovers". IBDB.com. Retrieved 1 February 2011.
- "Look Homeward, Angel". IBDB.com. Retrieved 1 February 2011.
- Biodrowski, Steve (2004). "Dr. Phibes Rises Again". Hollywood Gothique. Retrieved 2013-04-16.
- Turner, Robin (29 March 2009). "New book tells of Wales’ famous boozers". Western Mail (walesonline.co.uk). Retrieved 2013-04-16.
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