Star Archive

Roger Livesey (1906 - 1976)

Roger Livesey had one of the most distinctive voices in British cinema. A purring growl that stopped just short of an asthmatic wheeze. Even in his duller films there's always that voice to give audiences a jolt of pleasure.

The Liveseys were a theatrical family. Father Sam grew up on stage and his sons Jack, Barrie and Roger all followed in the family business from an early age. roger was schooled at the Italia Conti Stage School and made his West End debut aged 7. As he grew up he gained a wide range of experience from Shakespeare to Aldwych farce. In the early 30s he joined the Old Vic and played Caliban opposite Charles Laughton's Prospero. 

His film career started early with a few silents as a child performer, but it was when talkies arrived that it really got going. There was an insatiable demand for actors who were "talkie ready" and Livesey fitted the bill nicely. Tall, good-looking and equally at home in a suit or a period costume, he was a natural leading man though his slightly unconventional looks helped him get a decent range of character parts too.

His screen career was put temporarily on hold after Rembrandt while he appeared on Broadway with the Old Vic, and while in the US he married fellow company member Ursula Jeans. His sister was already married to Jean's brother.

The trio of films he made with Powell and Pressburger are his lasting legacy: The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, I Know Where I'm Going and A Matter of Life and Death. Three very different films and his performance is central to all three. His Colonel Blimp has a fair claim to be the greatest single performance in British cinema, at least in my opinion.

The end of the war brought a return to the Old Vic for Livesey and Jeans. In films, they settled down into featured roles and cameos. Both continued to work into their 70s.

Livesey died in 1976 of cancer. 

 Roger Livesey in The Rebel SonStill from A Matter of Life and Death  


1921 The Four Feathers
1921 Where the Rainbow Ends
1923 Married Love
1931 East Lynne on the Western Front
1933 A Cuckoo in the Nest
1933 The Veteran of Waterloo
1934 Blind Justice
1934 Lorna Doone
1935 The Price of Wisdom
1935 Midshipman Easy
1936 Rembrandt
1938 The Drum
1938 Keep Smiling
1938 The Rebel Son
1940 Spies of the Air
1940 Girl in the News
1943 The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
1945 I Know Where I'm Going
1946 A Matter of Life and Death
1948 Vice Versa
1949 That Dangerous Age
1951 Green Grow the Rushes
1953 The Master of Ballantrae
1956 Intimate Stranger
1958 The Stowaway
1958 It Happened in Broad Daylight
1960 The League of Gentlemen
1960 Upgreen - And at 'Em
1960 The Entertainer
1961 No My Darling Daughter
1964 Of Human Bondage
1965 The Amorous Adventures of Moll Flanders
1968 Oedipus the King
1969 Hamlet
1970 Futtocks End

Roger Livesey at Amazon UK    

Roger Livesey at Amazon US