Friday, August 22, 2008

Richard Wattis, Character Actor 1912 - 1975

I thought I would dedicate today's post to Richard Wattis, a character actor whom I was very familiar with growing up and I remember him in many old movies. You could have knocked me down with a feather when I found out he was born in my home town. He gave us many hours of entertainment and I often remember my parents' laughter - and that of my sister and me - when we saw him in comedies. He was an excellent comedien in his stiff-upper-lip kind of way, and I thought he was so entertaining and was so good that we got lost in his role, a sign of an excellent actor.

Here are a few statistics I found out about Mr. Wattis.

Born: Feb 25, 1912 in Wednesdbury, Staffordshire, England, UK
Died: Feb 01, 1975 in London, England, UK
Occupation: Actor
Active: '50s-'60s
Major Genres: Comedy, Drama
Career Highlights: The Prince and the Showgirl, The Happiest Days of Your Life, The Great St. Trinian's Train Robbery
First Major Screen Credit: The Happiest Days of Your Life (1950)
For almost 40 years, from the end of the 1930s to the mid-'70s, Richard Wattis enjoyed a reputation as one of England's more reliable character actors, and - in British films, at least - developed something akin to star power in non-starring roles. Born in 1912, as a young man he managed to avoid potential futures in both electric contracting and chartered accountancy, instead becoming an acting student in his twenties. His stage career began in the second half of the 1930s, and in between acting and sometimes producing in repertory companies, Wattis became part of that rarified group of British actors who appeared on the BBC's pre-World War II television broadcasts. He made his big-screen debut with a role in the 1939 feature A Yank at Oxford, but spent the most of the six years that followed serving in uniform. It was after World War II that Wattis came to the attention of critics, directors, and producers for his comic timing and projection, and began getting cast in the kinds of screen and stage roles for which he would ultimately become famous, as pompous, dry, deadpan authority figures, snooping civil servants, and other comical pests. Beginning with Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat’s The Happiest Days of Your Life (1950), his roles and billing got bigger, and he was cast to perfection as Manton Bassett in the "St. Trinian's" films of Launder and Gilliat. Wattis became so well liked by audiences in those kinds of parts - as annoying government officials, in particular - that producers would see to it, if his part was big enough, that he was mentioned on posters and lobby cards. He remained very busy in films right up until the time of his death in the mid-'70s. ~ Bruce Eder, All Movie Guide