Noel Willman

Noel Willman (4 August 1918 – 14 December 1988) was a Northern Irish actor and theatre director. Born in Derry, Ireland, Willman died aged 70 in New York City, United States.[1]

Noel Willman
in The Reptile (1966)
Born4 August 1918
Died14 December 1988 (aged 70)
OccupationTheatre director, actor
Years active1953–1976

Willman's films included The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), Carve Her Name with Pride (1958), The Kiss of the Vampire (1963), Doctor Zhivago (1965), The Reptile (1966), and The Odessa File (1974).[2]

He was also a theatre director and actor, and won a Tony Award in 1962 for his direction of the original Broadway production of Robert Bolt's A Man For All Seasons.[3] According to Bolt, he was instrumental in many aspects of the play's development, including the casting of Paul Scofield as Thomas More. In 1966 he was nominated in the same category for James Goldman's The Lion in Winter.[4] He later directed Katharine Hepburn and Christopher Reeve in A Matter of Gravity in 1976.[5] He frequently collaborated with Bolt, directing The Tiger and the Horse and Gentle Jack (and appearing in Zhivago, which Bolt scripted). One of his most famous theatrical roles was opposite Alec Guinness in the stage production of Bridget Boland's The Prisoner, for which he won the Clarence Derwent Award, and which was later made into a film with Guinness and Jack Hawkins.[6][7]

Willman studied for the stage at the London Theatre Studio which had been set up by Michel St Denis and George Devine in 1935. Working as stage manager for John Gielgud's touring production of The Beggar's Opera, he took over the role of Macheath at short notice from Michael Redgrave, who and fallen ill and whose usual understudy had suffered a bout of laryngitis.[8] During the war he toured with the Old Vic Company, then directed by Tyrone Guthrie, playing in The Merchant of Venice in 1941, and taking part in several productions at the Vic's Liverpool Playhouse base, including Shaw's Androcles and the Lion. Prompted by Guthrie, he became a director, in 1942 presenting his debut production Ah, Wilderness! by Eugene O'Neill.[9]


Year Title Role Notes
1952The Pickwick PapersMr. Perker
1952Androcles and the LionSpintho
1953The NetDr. Dennis Bord
1953Malta StoryHobley, Navy PilotUncredited
1954Beau BrummellLord Byron
1955The Dark AvengerDu Guesclin
1956The Man Who Knew Too MuchWoburn
1957Seven Waves AwayAubrey Clark
1957Across the BridgeChief of Police
1958Carve Her Name with PrideInterrogator
1960Cone of SilenceNigel Pickering
1960Never Let GoInspector Thomas
1960The CriminalPrison Governor
1961Two Living, One DeadJohnson
1961The Girl on the BoatWebster
1963The Kiss of the VampireDr. Ravna
1965Doctor ZhivagoRazin
1966The ReptileDr. Franklyn
1968The Vengeance of SheZa-Tor
1974The Odessa FileFranz Bayer
197621 Hours at MunichInterior Minister Bruno Merk(final film role)


  1. "Noel Willman Biography (1918-1988)".
  2. "Noel Willman". BFI.
  3. "Tony Winner : Noel Willman; Actor-Director on Broadway". latimes.
  4. The Broadway League. "The Lion in Winter - IBDB: The official source for Broadway Information IBDB: The official source for Broadway Information".
  5. The Broadway League. "A Matter of Gravity - IBDB: The official source for Broadway Information IBDB: The official source for Broadway Information".
  6. "Noel Willman:".
  7. K-Point Internet Solutions - Warrenpoint, Newry, County Down. "The Dictionary of Ulster Biography". maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  8. Londonderry Journal 29/02/1940. "Success of Young Derryman".
  9. Theatre Programme, Liverrpool Playhouse (12 October 1943). "Ah, Wilderness!". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
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