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|Born||Richard Gibbon Hurndall
3 November 1910
Darlington, County Durham, England
|Died||13 April 1984
|Cause of death||Heart attack|
|Notable work||The First Doctor, Doctor Who|
Hurndall was born in Darlington and he attended Claremont Preparatory School, Darlington and Scarborough College, before training as an actor at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. He then appeared in several plays at Stratford-upon-Avon. Hurndall acted with the BBC radio drama repertory company from 1949 to 1952. In 1959, he played Sherlock Holmes in a BBC radio adaptation of the Sherlock Holmes presentation The Sign of the Four.
In 1958 he became the third host of the Radio Luxembourg program called This I Believe. (This show had originally been hosted by Edward R. Murrow on the U.S. CBS Radio Network from 1951 to 1955 and it was then edited in London for rebroadcast on 208 with a British style of presentation at 9:30 PM on Sunday evenings.)
Hurndall appeared in numerous radio and stage plays, films and television series over the course of his lengthy career. He appeared in ‘Someone at the Door’, a 1949 TV comedy / thriller, which also featured Patrick Troughton (with whom he was later to appear in Doctor Who - see below). The more fondly-remembered series he appeared in include The Avengers, The Persuaders!, Blake's 7, Whodunnit! and Bergerac. He played the suave London gangster Mackelson in the gritty 1968 drama series Spindoe and the following year had a recurring role as flawed senior civil servant Jason Fowler in the final series of The Power Game. He appeared in the comedy series Steptoe and Son in 1970 as Timothy, a gay antique dealer who takes a shine to Harold Steptoe, in Any Old Iron (series 5 episode 3, 20 March 1970). He appeared twice in the series Public Eye, first playing a distinguished entomologist who is unwilling to trace his missing son in "The Golden Boy" (10 January 1973) and later a priest in "How About a Cup of Tea?" (13 January 1975).
In 1983, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the BBC science fiction television series Doctor Who, producer John Nathan-Turner planned a special event, The Five Doctors, a 90-minute episode to feature the four of the five actors who had at that point played the role of the Doctor. William Hartnell, the actor who originated the role, had died in 1975. Hurndall eventually won the role of the First Doctor, playing him as acerbic and temperamental but in some ways wiser than his successors (even though, as the first incarnation, he was also the youngest Doctor chronologically). His casting in the role was approved by Hartnell's widow, Heather. When Tom Baker, who played the Fourth Doctor, declined to appear in the programme, Hurndall's role was expanded slightly to have the First Doctor take a greater part in the action.
His films included Follow That Camel (1967) which was later assimilated into the Carry On canon, Joanna (1968), Hostile Witness (1968), Some Girls Do (1969), Zeppelin (1971), the Amicus horror film I, Monster (1971) which was a hastily retitled version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Lady Caroline Lamb (1972), Royal Flash (1975), and Crossed Swords (1977).
Hurndall died of a heart attack at the age of 73 in London, less than five months after the first broadcast of The Five Doctors. Many sources, including Elisabeth Sladen's autobiography, state that he died before being paid for the role.
- This I Believe - 1957 second season on Radio Luxembourg