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


  1. I don't remember this man...did he play the headmaster in the St Trinian's movies?


  2. He did appear in one I found, The Belles of St. Trinians, made in 1954.

  3. I remember Richard Wattis and was able to even recall his voice as I read about him - great memories Denise. A x

  4. I'm happy you remember him Anne. I remember his voice so vividly.
    Yes, great memories. Denise x

  5. I'm trying to find out the actual restaurant in Kensington that he died in, apparently he was having his favourite meal with claret when he died.

  6. I remember Richard Wattis very well. His favourate restaurant (opposite where he lived) was Como Lario in Pimlico. He would sit in the window,facing in and relished being recognised. It is many years ago now and I do not know if this was the restaurant that he died in. Mr Lario was the owner and he had two brothers that were waiters.

  7. Although I don't publish anonymous comments anymore as blogger automatically puts them in my spam folder and I don't have the time to weave through them all, I am going to try to catch ones that relate to the posts they are intended for, and add them on my own, as I do appreciate every visit and I thank you very much.

    If anyone else would like to drop in, you are always welcome but perhaps you could sign your name so that I can add that too.

    My latest anonymous comment on this post came today, which was:

    "I have recently become re aware of Richard Wattis from a repeat of 'The Syke's' where he played Mr Brown. He was a great character that needs to be introduced to generations that did not know of him."

    I do so agree with you. He was a wonderful actor.

  8. I remember the face but I truly can't remember seeing him in any films. I obviously did though or otherwise why would I remember him. Denise says she remembers his voice and do you know, I think I do too. Yes, I definitely do now I think about it.
    So nice of you to pay homage to a great actor.

  9. I have no idea who he is but then I can imagine you would have problems with some of our early actors and actresses? LOL