Star Archive

Sir Godfrey Tearle (1884 - 1953)

Despite his knighthood, Sir Godfrey Tearle never made it to the absolute top tier of stage actors and his name no longer rings in the same way that a Gielgud or an Olivier does. In his film career he was even less exalted, but he did leave us with a few choice performances.

He was born in New York. His parents were both from a long line actors and toured constantly. His first speaking role was aged 9. His father died when he was 16 and Godfrey left the company and toured with other classical companies including Beerbohm Tree's. War service kept him from the stage and it wasn't until he played Othello in 1921 at the Royal Court that he began to be noticed. Even so, it took another 10 years of slog before he got to play Hamlet in London.

His film career was more successful. Most of his contemporaries had to wait until talkies before their services were in demand but Tearle first played Romeo in 1908. Cinema provided a handy income in the twenties though the films he was paid for were never going to enhance his reputation. Another handy money-spinner was a sweepstake he entered. The winnings provided enough to fund two productions in his bid to be an actor-manager. Sadly, the productions failed.

His most memorable role was in The 39 Steps as the chief villain - the man with the missing finger. This typed him as the respectable sort, though rarely as the sort who would be exposed as a rotter as in The 39 Steps. Over the next few years he produced a small cinematic gallery of doctors, lawyers and bishops.

He was married three times and in 1949 he entered into a relationship with Jill Bennett when she was 19 and he was in his 60s.           


1908 Romeo and Juliet
1916 Sir James Mortimer's Wager
1916 The Real Thing at Last
1919 The March Hare
1919 Queen's Evidence
1919 Nobody's Child
1919 Fancy Dress
1919 Midnight Gambols
1925 Salome of the Tenements
1926 If Youth But Knew
1926 Guy of Warwick
1926 One Colombo Night
1930 Infatuation
1931 These Charming People
1931 The Shadow Between
1934 Jade
1935 The 39 Steps
1936 To-morrow We Live
1936 Puppets of Fate
1936 The Last Journey
1936 East Meets West
1942 One of Our Aircraft is Missing
1943 Tomorrow We Live
1943 Undercover
1943 The Lamp Still Burns
1944 Medal for the General
1945 The Rake's Progress
1947 The Beginning or the End
1949 Private Angelo
1951 White Corridors
1952 I Believe in You
1952 Mandy
1953 Decameron Nights
1953 The Titfield Thunderbolt

Godfrey Tearle at Amazon UK  

Godfrey Tearle at Amazon US