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Publicity photo of Hatfield, 1945
William Rukard Hurd Hatfield
December 7, 1917
New York City, U.S.
|Died||December 26, 1998 (aged 81)|
|Resting place||Abbeystrowry Cemetery, Skibbereen, Ireland|
|The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945)|
William Rukard Hurd Hatfield (December 7, 1917 – December 26, 1998) was an American actor. He was best known for often playing characters of handsome, narcissistic young men, most notably Dorian Gray in the film The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945).
Hatfield was born in New York City to William Henry Hatfield (died 1954), an attorney who served as deputy attorney general for New York, and his wife, Adele (née McGuire). He was educated at Columbia University before traveling to London, England where he studied drama and began acting in theatre.
He returned to America for his film debut in Dragon Seed (1944), in which he and his co-stars (Katharine Hepburn, Akim Tamiroff, Aline MacMahon, Turhan Bey) portrayed Chinese peasants, some more convincingly than others. It was Hatfield's second film, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945), that made him a star. As Oscar Wilde's ageless anti-hero, Hatfield received widespread acclaim for his dark good looks as much as for his acting ability. However, the actor was ambivalent about the role and his performance. "The film didn't make me popular in Hollywood," he commented later. "It was too odd, too avant-garde, too ahead of its time. The decadence, the hints of bisexuality and so on, made me a leper! Nobody knew I had a sense of humour, and people wouldn't even have lunch with me."
His follow-up films, The Diary of a Chambermaid (1946), The Beginning or the End (1947), and The Unsuspected (1947) were successful, but Joan of Arc (1948) was a critical and financial major failure. Hatfield's film career began to lose momentum very quickly in the 1950's and he decided to return to the stage. Subsequent films include supporting roles in The Left Handed Gun (1958), King of Kings (as Pontius Pilate) (1961), El Cid (1961), Harlow (1965) (as Paul Bern), The Boston Strangler (1968). He cut back on performing in the 1970's. His final films included King David (1985) and Her Alibi (1989).
He appeared frequently on television and received an Emmy Award nomination for the Hallmark Hall of Fame videotaped play The Invincible Mr. Disraeli (1963). In 1957, he appeared in Beyond This Place which was directed by Sidney Lumet. Among Hatfield's many other television credits are three guest appearances on Murder, She Wrote opposite his Picture of Dorian Gray costar, Angela Lansbury, who had become a lifelong friend, and who also had a home in County Cork. He also appeared as the villain in the second episode of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, entitled "The City Beneath the Sea". He appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Season 2 episode 5, in "None Are So Blind", which first aired October 28, 1956.
In 1952, Hatfield appeared as Joseph in Westinghouse Studio One's The Nativity, with a full supporting cast and singing provided by the Robert Shaw Chorale. This was a rare commercial network staging of a 14th century mystery play, adapted from the York and Chester plays.
In 1966, he appeared on the television series The Wild Wild West in an episode entitled "The Night of the Man-Eating House". In a twist on his Dorian role, his character starts as an old man who, upon entering a house inhabited by the ghost of his mother, is turned back into a youthful Confederate soldier. A second appearance in the third season episode "The Night of the Undead" had him portray the vengeful and mad Dr. Articulus.
According to the magazine Films in Review, Hatfield was ambivalent about having played Dorian Gray, feeling that it had typecast him. "You know, I was never a great beauty in Gray ... and I never understood why I got the part and have spent my career regretting it", he is reported to have said.
Personal life and death
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Having been introduced to Ireland by actress and former co-star Angela Lansbury, Hatfield lived at Ballinterry House, Rathcormac, County Cork from the early 1970s. A keen collector of antiques and art, he referred to Ballinterry House as a painting which he would never quite finish. He died in his sleep of a heart attack at his country home, aged 81, after having had Christmas dinner with friends.
Hatfield never married. Both Ballinterry House and his collection were inherited by his long-time close friend and colleague Maggie Williams, who maintained the historic Irish country home exactly as it was at the time of Hatfield's death. The house was sold in late 2006, and the entire contents of the 'Hurd Hatfield Collection' was sold at an auction on the premises 'Country House Antique & Fine Art Auction' in March 2007.
At the time of his death, Hatfield was writing his autobiography.
- Dragon Seed (1944) - Lao San Tan - Youngest Son
- The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945) - Dorian Gray
- The Diary of a Chambermaid (1946) - Georges Lanlaire
- The Beginning or the End (1947) - Dr. John Wyatt
- The Unsuspected (1947) - Oliver Keane
- The Checkered Coat (1948) - Steve 'Creepy' Bolin
- Joan of Arc (1948) - Father Pasquerel (Joan's chaplain)
- Chinatown at Midnight (1949) - Clifford Ward
- Destination Murder (1950) - Stretch Norton
- Tarzan and the Slave Girl (1950) - Prince of the Lionians
- The Left Handed Gun (1958) - Moultrie
- King Of Kings (1961) - Pontius Pilate
- El Cid (1961) - Arias
- Héroes de blanco (1962)
- Harlow (1965) - Paul Bern
- Mickey One (1965) - Ed Castle
- Lamp At Midnight (1966) - Sagredo Niccolini
- The Boston Strangler (1968) - Terence Huntley
- Von Richthofen and Brown (1971) - Anthony Fokker
- The Word (1978) - Cedric Plummer
- King David (1985) - Ahimelech
- Crimes of the Heart (1986) - Old Granddaddy
- Her Alibi (1989) - Troppa
- Mank, Gregory William (2001). Hollywood Cauldron: Thirteen Horror Films from the Genre's Golden Age. McFarland. p. 296. ISBN 9780786462551. Retrieved 5 November 2016.
- Willis, John (2002). Theatre World 1998-1999. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 261. ISBN 9781557834331. Retrieved 5 November 2016.
- Tom Vallance. "Obituary: Hurd Hatfield". The Independent. Retrieved 2016-07-16.
- Don Bachardy (1985). "Camp David". Films in Review. Archived from the original on 2007-08-17. Retrieved 2007-09-05.
- Mank, Gregory (1994). Hollywood Cauldron. McFarland Classics. p. 321. ISBN 0-7864-1112-0.
- Motion Picture and Television Magazine, November 1952, page 33, Ideal Publishers
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