Richard Wattis

Richard Cameron Wattis (25 February 1912 – 1 February 1975) was an English actor.[1]

Richard Wattis
Wattis circa 1955
Born(1912-02-25)25 February 1912
Wednesbury, Staffordshire, England
Died1 February 1975(1975-02-01) (aged 62)
Kensington, London, England
Years active1938–1975

Early life

Wattis was born in Wednesbury, Staffordshire, the elder of two sons born to Cameron Tom Wattis and Margaret Janet, née Preston. He attended King Edward's School and Bromsgrove School, after which he worked for the electrical engineering firm William Sanders & Co (Wednesbury) Ltd. His uncle, William Preston (1874–1941), was the managing director and was the Conservative MP for Walsall from 1924 to 1929.


After leaving the family business, Wattis became an actor. His debut was with Croydon Repertory Theatre, and he made many stage appearances in the West End in London. His first appearance in a film was A Yank at Oxford (1938), but war service interrupted his career as an actor. He served as a second lieutenant in the Small Arms Section of Special Operations Executive at Station VI during the Second World War (James Bond author, Ian Fleming worked in the same section).[2] He is best known for his appearances, wearing his thick-rimmed round spectacles, in British comedies of the 1950s and 1960s, often as a "Man from the Ministry" or similar character. He was also involved as the secretary to Lord Scrumptious in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Such appearances included the St Trinian's films (The Belles of St Trinian's, Blue Murder at St Trinian's, and The Great St Trinian's Train Robbery) as Manton Bassett, a civil servant who was the Deputy Director of Schools in the Ministry of Education, where he was often seen frowning and expressing indignation at the outrageous behaviour of other characters. To American audiences, Wattis is probably best known for his performance as the British civil servant Northbrook in The Prince and the Showgirl (1957). He broke from this typecasting in his later films, such as his starring role in Games That Lovers Play.

Wattis's other films included Hobson's Choice, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Carry On Spying,[3] The Colditz Story, Dentist on the Job, Very Important Person, The Happiest Days of Your Life, and The Longest Day. He also appeared on television, including a long-running role in Sykes and as a storyteller on the BBC children's programme Jackanory, narrating in fourteen episodes between 1971 and 1972. Other television credits include appearances in Danger Man, The Prisoner, The Goodies, Hancock's Half Hour, and Father, Dear Father.[3] From 1957 to 1958, he appeared as Peter Jamison in three episodes of the American sitcom Dick and the Duchess.

Personal life

Wattis was homosexual in an era when this was a taboo subject, and a criminal offence in the UK.[4]


On 1 February 1975, Wattis died of a heart attack in a restaurant in Kensington, London. He was 62 years old.[5]

In fiction

Wattis was played by Richard Clifford in the 2011 film My Week with Marilyn, which depicts the making of The Prince and the Showgirl.

Selected filmography


  1. "Richard Wattis | BFI". Retrieved 12 May 2014.
  2. "Secret war role of popular and talented member of drama society". Harrogate Advertiser. 9 July 2007. Retrieved 26 February 2017.
  3. Stevens, Christopher (2010). Born Brilliant: The Life Of Kenneth Williams. John Murray. ISBN 1-84854-195-3.
  4. Rebellato, Dan (1999). 1956 and All That: The Making of Modern British Drama. London: Routledge. ISBN 9780415189385.
  5. "Obituaries". Television Heaven. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
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