Godfrey Tearle

Sir Godfrey Seymour Tearle (12 October 1884 – 9 June 1953) was a British actor who portrayed the quintessential British gentleman on stage and in both British and US films.

Godfrey Tearle
Godfrey Seymour Tearle

(1884-10-12)12 October 1884
Died9 June 1953(1953-06-09) (aged 68)
Years active1923–1953
Spouse(s)Mary Malone (1909–1932)
Stella Freeman (1932–1936) (her death)
Barbara Palmer (1937–?) (divorced)
RelativesConway Tearle (half-brother)


Born in New York City and brought up in Britain, he was the son of British actor/manager George Osmond Tearle (1852–1901) and American actress Marianne "Minnie" Conway (1852-1896),[1][2] the brother of actor Malcolm Tearle, and the half-brother of silent film star Conway Tearle. His maternal grandmother was Sarah Crocker Conway.

In 1893, he made his stage debut as young Prince Richard, Duke of York, in his father's production of Richard III and in 1908 he appeared in his first film as Romeo in Romeo and Juliet. He became a Shakespearean actor of note, appearing on stage in the title roles of Othello, Macbeth and Henry V. His theatrical career was interrupted when he joined the Royal Artillery for a four-year stint beginning in 1915. In 1924 he starred in the West End production of Frederick Lonsdale's drama The Fake.

One of Tearle's most memorable screen roles was in Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps (1935), in which he portrayed Professor Jordan, a seemingly respectable country squire whose missing finger unmasks him as an enemy agent. He was cast as an RAF gunner in One of Our Aircraft Is Missing (1942), a German General in Undercover (film) (1943), an aging First World War veteran in Medal for the General (1944) and as Franklin D. Roosevelt in The Beginning or the End, MGM's 1946 account of the Manhattan Project.

Tearle made his Broadway theatre debut in Carnival in 1919. In his review in the New York Times, Alexander Woollcott noted, "It is difficult to guess why Godfrey Tearle should have selected as the vehicle of his American debut the play called Carnival, which was presented to New York for the first time last evening at the 44th Street Theatre. It is a spare and unsubstantial piece at best, and the role it offers him is distinctly secondary in importance and opportunity."[3] Additional Broadway credits include The Fake (1924), The Flashing Stream (1939), and Antony and Cleopatra (1947).


Tearle was knighted in the 1951 King's Birthday Honours List for services to drama.[4]


He was married three times, to actress Mary Malone from 1909 until their divorce in 1932, to starlet Stella Freeman from 1932 until her sudden death in 1936, and to Barbara Palmer from 1937 until their divorce in 1947.


Sir Godfrey Tearle died on 9 June 1953, aged 68.

Complete filmography



  • Halliwell's Who's Who in the Movies - published by Harper-Collins - ISBN 0-06-093507-3
  • Guide to Movies & Videos published by Dell - ISBN 0-440-21766-0
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