Star Archive

Wilfrid Lawson (1900 - 1966)

Lawson was born in Bradford and became an actor when he was 16. He was just old enough to catch the last year of the Great War which he spent as a pilot in the RAF. The 1920s were spent slogging away in provincial theatres before he made his name in a series of Shaw plays in the West End from 1930. In most of these roles he played older men including the dustman Doolittle in Pygmalion. This set his career as a star character actor.  

In the mid-30s he spent a couple of years on Broadway, though he turned down the offer of a Hollywood contract. On his return to Britain he took a leading role in Turn of the Tide, the film which helped establish J Arthur Rank's film empire. He was in demand during the run up to the Second World War both in film and on the stage, and he was again in America when war broke out. He returned and rejoined the RAF, though his film career continued. Hollywood came calling again, this time for the prestigious production of How Green Was My Valley, but he was refused an exit permit by the Home Secretary.

He remained in demand during the 50s, though his drinking was now a problem and was rapidly assuming legendary status in the profession. One live television performance was nearly wrecked by a doorman refusing him re-admittance to the studio in the belief Lawson was just a drunken tramp. Despite this, people still valued his skill enough to give him plum roles, including at the Royal Court and the RSC.

If it hadn't been for his drinking, Lawson could have been bracketed with the great acting knights Olivier, Richardson etc. As it was, he left a legacy of solid performances on film including some records of his fine stage portrayals. 

Still from Pastor Hall featuring Wilfrid LawsonStill from Tower of Terror with Wilfrid Lawson


1931 East Lynne on the Western Front
1933 Strike It Rich
1935 Turn of the Tide
1936 Ladies in Love
1936 White Hunter
1937 The Man Who Made Diamonds
1938 Bank Holiday
1938 The Terror
1938 Yellow Sands
1938 Pygmalion
1938 The Gaunt Stranger
1939 The Stolen Life
1939 The First Rebel
1940 Dead Man's Shoes
1940 Pastor Hall
1940 The Long Voyage Home
1940 It Happened to One Man
1941 The Farmer's Wife
1941 The Man at the Gate
1941 Danny Boy
1941 Jeannie
1941 Tower of Terror
1942 Hard Steel
1942 The Night Has Eyes
1942 The Great Mr Handel
1943 Thursday's Child
1945 Fanny by Gaslight
1947 The Turners of Prospect Road
1954 Make Me an Offer
1955 The Prisoner
1955 An Alligator Named Daisy
1956 Now and Forever
1956 War and Peace
1957 Mr Morgan
1957 Miracle in Soho
1957 Hell Drivers
1957 The Naked Truth
1958 Tread Softly Stranger
1959 Room at the Top
1959 Expresso Bongo
1961 Over the Odds
1961 The Naked Edge
1961 Nothing Barred
1962 Postman's Knock
1962 Go to Blazes
1963 Tom Jones
1964 Becket
1966 The Wrong Box
1967 The Viking Queen

 Wilfrid Lawson at Amazon UK

 Wilfrid Lawson at Amazon US