Wilfrid Lawson (actor)

Wilfrid Lawson (born Wilfrid Worsnop, 14 January 1900 10 October 1966) was an English character actor of stage and screen.[1]

Wilfrid Lawson
Wilfrid Worsnop

(1900-01-14)14 January 1900
Died10 October 1966(1966-10-10) (aged 66)
London, England
OccupationStage and screen actor
Years active1918–1966
Spouse(s)Lillian (née Fenn)

Life and career

Lawson was born Wilfrid Worsnop at 18 Harris Street, Bradford, West Riding of Yorkshire. He was educated at Hanson Boys' Grammar School, Bradford, and entered the theatre in his late teens, appearing on both the British and American stage throughout his career.

He made his film début in East Lynne on the Western Front (1931) and appeared in supporting roles until he took the lead in The Terror (1938). In arguably his most celebrated film role, he played dustman-turned-lecturer Alfred P. Doolittle in the film version of George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion (1938), alongside Leslie Howard and Wendy Hiller.

He also had memorable leading roles in Pastor Hall (1940), as a German village clergyman who denounces the new Nazi regime in 1934; Tower of Terror (1941) as the wild-eyed maniacal lighthouse keeper Wolfe Kristen; and the title role in The Great Mr. Handel (1942), a biopic of the 18th century composer, all three showing his broad range. He also made a number of films in America beginning with Ladies in Love (1936) and including John Ford's The Long Voyage Home (1940) alongside John Wayne. His last leading role was in The Turners of Prospect Road (1947).

As a result of bouts of alcoholism,[2] Lawson became difficult to work with, and throughout the 1950s his roles became increasingly small—even uncredited in some cases. Despite this he still gave memorable performances such as Prince Andrei Bolkonsky's father in King Vidor's War and Peace (1956), Ed in Hell Drivers (1957) and Uncle Nat in Room at the Top (1958), filmed in Lawson's home town of Bradford.

The 1960s saw something of a career resurgence, beginning with his turn as Black George in Tony Richardson's Tom Jones (1963) and culminating in two of his most notable latter day performances: the decrepit butler Peacock in The Wrong Box and the Dormouse in Jonathan Miller's television adaptation of Alice in Wonderland (both 1966). That same year saw his death, in London, from a heart attack.

His brother was the supporting player Gerald Lawson (born Bernard Worsnop, 30 April 1897 – 6 December 1973) and a nephew was actor Bernard Fox (born Bernard Lawson, 10 May 1927 – 14 December 2016).

Selected stage performances


Television and radio


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