With a Name Like Bramwell Fletcher, You’ve GOT to Be an Actor

British-American stage and screen actor Bramwell Fletcher (1904-1988) is of that generation of Pre-Code Hollywood stars that includes the likes of his first wife Helen Chandler, as well as people like David Manners, Mae Clarke, Zita Johann, and Chester Morris, and like many of them, he is associated with horror. Although, as you will see his dossier extends beyond this by many decades and many productions.

From West Riding, Yorkshire, Fletcher began his stage carer with a production of The Winters Tale in Stratford-on-Avon in 1927. Three British films and a half dozen West End productions ensued before he crossed the Atlantic to appear in the play Scotland Yard on Broadway in 1929. 1930 through 1932 were spent in Hollywood, where Fletcher’s good looks and British manner suited him especially well in mysteries and horror, appearing in Raffles (1930), Svengali (1931), The Mummy (1932), The Monkey’s Paw (1933), and much later The Undying Monster (1942).

I’ve always found Fletcher’s scene in The Mummy, where he goes mad after bringing the titular monster to life after reading aloud some hieroglyphs, one of the most disturbing in all classic cinema. At this early phase of his career, Fletcher was also in The MIilionaire (1931), A Bill of Divorcement (1932, Katharine Hepburn’s first film, Fletcher’s second with John Barrymore), and The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934).

Fletcher mostly got supporting roles in Hollywood despite his leading man looks, so starting in late 1932 he returned to Broadway, where he starred in nearly two dozen plays over the next two decades. He was Maxim de Winter in the stage adaptation of Rebecca (1945) — unusually, five years after Hitchcock’s Hollywood version starring Laurence Olivier. From 1934 through 1940 he was married to Helen Chandler, who had also returned to the Broadway stage after a brief fling with Hollywood. From 1942 through 1946 he was married to Diana Barrymore, whom he had gotten to know through acting in films with her father. In later years Fletcher was to become known for his interpretations of Shaw, acting in The Doctor’s Dilemma (1941), Candida (1952), Misalliance (1953) and understudying Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady (1956-62). In 1965 he wrote and starred in his own touring vehicle The Bernard Shaw Story. 

Throughout the 1950s and mid ’60s, Fletcher acted in scores of live television dramatic productions on shows like General Electric Theater and Robert Montgomery Presents. His last TV credit was a 1967 episode of a show called Coronet Blue. He acted in regional theatre through the mid 1970s, then retired to New Hampshire.