Sir Cedric Hardwicke: From Pygmalion to The Pumpkin-Eater


Today is the birthday of indispensable character actor Sir Cedric Hardwicke (1893-1963). A graduate of RADA, he went on the stage in 1912; by the post World War I period, he was considered the pre-eminent Shaw actor of his generation, starring in stage productions of Caesar and Cleopatra, Candida, Pygmalion, Too True to be Good, Don Juan in Hell et al.

In the 1930s he went into films. Hardwicke possessed an air of authority, which, combined with a willful, determined face, allowed him to play both villains and saintly benefactors. Cast as a priest, he could thus either be the demonic Frollo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1940), or the kindly old Bishop who gives Valjean the candlesticks in Les Miserables (1935). He shared a diminutive stature and somewhat rat-like face with both Douglas Dumbrille and George Zucco, making them tough to tell apart at times. Clearly it was a type that was in demand. In addition to prestige pictures, he was useful in Universal horror pics like The Invisible Man Returns (1940), and The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942), as well as Hitchcock thrillers like Suspicion (1941) and Rope (1942). Cecil B. DeMille cast him memorably as Seti I in The Ten Commandments (1956); Irwin Allen cast him as “The High Judge” in the DeMille-esque travesty The Story of Mankind the following year. His last film was The Pumpkin Eater in 1964.


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