Star Archive

Sir Ralph Richardson (1902 - 1983)

Ralph Richardson was born, the third of four boys, in Cheltenham where his father was a master at the famous Ladies' College. His parents' marriage broke up when he was four and his mother took him and his younger brother to Shoreham. He started his working career as an office boy in Brighton, but he was able to reconsider his career choice when his grandmother died leaving him a 500.

After an abortive attempt at being a painter, he paid to join a Brighton rep company so he could learn the trade. He then joined Charles Doran's touring company. In 1924, he married budding actress Muriel Hewitt. By the end of the twenties he was established in West End, and he joined the Old Vic in 1930.

His film career started with The Ghoul in which he played a seemingly-harmless vicar. It was this capacity to portray inoffensive ordinariness that cinema exploited for much of his career. If his character was in charge, then he was genial and clubbable; if he was lower down the pecking order then his character carried a hidden pain. There were, of course, exceptions to this rule such as his thuggish Boss in Things to Come.

Alexander Korda offered him a contract in 1935 and he was to remain under contract to him for the next 21 years, though much of his film work was for other companies.

He joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve when the war started. His wife died in 1942 as a result of sleeping sickness contracted on a tour of South Africa in the late twenties. A couple of years later he married Meriel Forbes. In the same year he was released from service to help run the Old Vic.

He was given the sack from there, along with Olivier, in 1947 - the same year he was knighted. Leaving the Old Vic meant he could devote more attention to his film work and he delivered three great performances in a row in Anna Karenina, The Fallen Idol, and The Heiress. He got a BAFTA for his role in The Sound Barrier.

As the 60s progressed, he developed an "eccentric old duffer" persona which suited his film cameos. On stage however, his work got more profound, particularly in his stage partnership with John Gielgud which began with Home at the Royal Court in 1970. He died in 1983, and his wife Meriel lived until 2000.

Ralph Richardson in Things To ComeRalph Richardson in On The Night Of The FireRalph Richardson in On The Night Of The FirePostcard of Ralph Richardson

Filmography as actor

1933 The Ghoul
1933 Friday the Thirteenth
1934 Thunder in the Air
1934 The King of Paris
1934 Java Head
1934 The Return of Bulldog Drummond
1935 Bulldog Jack
1936 Things to Come
1936 The Man Who Could Work Miracles
1937 Thunder in the City
1938 The Divorce of Lady X
1938 South Riding
1938 The Citadel
1939 Q Planes
1939 The Four Feathers
1939 The Lion Has Wings
1940 On the Night of the Fire
1942 The Day Will Dawn
1943 The Silver Fleet
1946 School for Secrets
1948 Anna Karenina
1948 The Fallen Idol
1949 The Heiress (US)
1952 Outcast of the Islands
1952 Home at Seven +dir.
1952 The Sound Barrier
1952 The Holly and the Ivy
1955 Richard III
1956 Smiley
1957 The Passionate Stranger
1959 Our Man in Havana
1960 Oscar Wilde
1960 Exodus
1962 The 300 Spartans
1962 Long Day's Journey Into Night
1964 Woman of Straw
1965 Chimes at Midnight
1965 Doctor Zhivago
1966 Khartoum
1966 The Wrong Box
1969 Oh What A Lovely War
1969 Midas Run
1969 The Bed Sitting Room
1969 The Battle of Britain
1969 The Looking Glass War
1971 Whoever Slew Auntie Roo?
1972 Lady Caroline Lamb
1972 Eagle in a Cage
1972 Tales from the Crypt
1972 Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
1973 A Doll's House
1973 Oh Lucky Man
1975 Rollerball
1978 Watership Down
1981 Dragonslayer
1981 Time Bandits
1984 Greystoke
1984 Give My Regards to Broad Street
1985 Invitation to the Wedding

 Ralph Richardson at Amazon UK

 Ralph Richardson at Amazon US