Hugh Griffith

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Hugh Griffith
Hugh Griffith in Ben Hur (2).jpg
From the film Ben-Hur
Hugh Emrys Griffith

(1912-05-30)30 May 1912
Died14 May 1980(1980-05-14) (aged 67)
London, England
Alma mater Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts
Years active1939–1980
Spouse(s)Adelgunde Margaret Beatrice von Dechend
RelativesThomas, Elen Roger Jones & Siarlot

Hugh Emrys Griffith (30 May 1912 – 14 May 1980) was a Welsh film, stage and television actor. [1] He won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Ben-Hur (1959) and received an additional Oscar nomination in the same category for his work in Tom Jones (1963).

Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor one of the Academy Awards of Merit

The Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor is an award presented annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). It is given in honor of an actor who has delivered an outstanding performance in a supporting role while working within the film industry. The award was traditionally presented by the previous year's Best Supporting Actress winner.

<i>Ben-Hur</i> (1959 film) 1959 American epic historical drama film by William Wyler

Ben-Hur is a 1959 American epic religious drama film, directed by William Wyler, produced by Sam Zimbalist for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and starring Charlton Heston as the title character. A remake of the 1925 silent film with a similar title, Ben-Hur was adapted from Lew Wallace's 1880 novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ. The screenplay is credited to Karl Tunberg, but includes contributions from Maxwell Anderson, S. N. Behrman, Gore Vidal, and Christopher Fry.

<i>Tom Jones</i> (1963 film) 1963 British adventure comedy film directed by Tony Richardson

Tom Jones is a 1963 British adventure-comedy film, an adaptation of Henry Fielding's classic novel The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling (1749), starring Albert Finney as the titular hero. It was one of the most critically acclaimed and popular comedies of its time, winning four Academy Awards, including Best Picture. The film was directed by Tony Richardson and the screenplay was adapted by playwright John Osborne. The film has an unusual comic style: the opening sequence is performed in the manner of a silent film, and characters sometimes break the fourth wall, often by looking directly into the camera and addressing the audience, and going so far as to have the character of Tom Jones suddenly appearing to notice the camera and covering the lens with his hat. Another unusual feature of the movie is the presence of an unseen narrator voiced by Micheál Mac Liammóir. Mock-serious commentaries between certain scenes deplore the action of several characters as well as the weaknesses in the human character and provides a poetic denouement for the movie.


Early life

Griffith was born in Marian-glas, Anglesey, Wales, the youngest son of Mary and William Griffith. [2] He was educated at Llangefni County School and attempted to gain entrance to university, but failed the English examination. He was then urged to make a career in banking, becoming a bank clerk and transferring to London to be closer to acting opportunities. [3]

Marian-glas village in Anglesey, Wales

Marian-glas or Marianglas is a small village and post town in Anglesey, in north-west Wales. It is situated between the larger villages of Moelfre and Benllech and just off the A5025. There is a large caravan park on the edge of the village and several camp sites. However there is a churchand pub but no shop. It has a memorial to those killed in the two world wars, including a list of 17 seamen from the Merchant Navy.

Anglesey Island

Anglesey is an island off the north coast of Wales with an area of 276 square miles (715 km2). Anglesey is by far the largest island in Wales and the seventh largest in the British Isles. Anglesey is also the largest island in the Irish Sea by area, and the second most populous island. The ferry port of Holyhead handles more than 2 million passengers each year. The Menai Suspension Bridge, designed by Thomas Telford in 1826, and the Britannia Bridge span the Menai Strait to connect Anglesey with the mainland.

Wales Country in northwest Europe, part of the United Kingdom

Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain. It is bordered by England to the east, the Irish Sea to the north and west, and the Bristol Channel to the south. It had a population in 2011 of 3,063,456 and has a total area of 20,779 km2 (8,023 sq mi). Wales has over 1,680 miles (2,700 km) of coastline and is largely mountainous, with its higher peaks in the north and central areas, including Snowdon, its highest summit. The country lies within the north temperate zone and has a changeable, maritime climate.

Just as he was making progress and gained admission to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, he had to suspend his plans in order to join the British Army, serving for six years with the Royal Welch Fusiliers in India and the Burma Campaign during the Second World War. [3] He resumed his acting career in 1946.

British Army land warfare branch of the British Armed Forces of the United Kingdom

The British Army is the principal land warfare force of the United Kingdom, a part of British Armed Forces. As of 2018, the British Army comprises just over 81,500 trained regular (full-time) personnel and just over 27,000 trained reserve (part-time) personnel.

Royal Welch Fusiliers former military unit of the British Army

The Royal Welch Fusiliers was a line infantry regiment of the British Army and part of the Prince of Wales' Division, founded in 1689 shortly after the Glorious Revolution. In 1702, it was designated a fusilier regiment and became The Welch Regiment of Fusiliers; the prefix "Royal" was added in 1713, then confirmed in 1714 when George I named it The Prince of Wales's Own Royal Regiment of Welsh Fusiliers. After the 1751 reforms that standardised the naming and numbering of regiments, it became the 23rd Foot.

Burma Campaign series of battles fought in the British colony of Burma, South-East Asian theatre of World War II

The Burma Campaign was a series of battles fought in the British colony of Burma, South-East Asian theatre of World War II, primarily involving the forces of the British Empire and China, with support from the United States, against the invading forces of Imperial Japan, Thailand, and the Indian National Army. British Empire forces peaked at around 1,000,000 land and air forces, and were drawn primarily from British India, with British Army forces, 100,000 East and West African colonial troops, and smaller numbers of land and air forces from several other Dominions and Colonies. The Burma Independence Army was trained by the Japanese and spearheaded the initial attacks against British Empire forces.

Acting career

Between 1946 and 1976, Griffith won acclaim for many stage roles, in particular for his portrayals of Falstaff, Lear and Prospero. [3] Griffith performed on both sides of the Atlantic, taking leading roles in London, New York City and Stratford. In 1952, he starred in the Broadway adaption of Legend of Lovers, alongside fellow Welsh actor Richard Burton. [4]

Stratford-upon-Avon Town in Warwickshire, England

Stratford-upon-Avon, commonly known as just Stratford, is a market town and civil parish in the Stratford-on-Avon District, in the county of Warwickshire, England, on the River Avon, 91 miles (146 km) north west of London, 22 miles (35 km) south east of Birmingham, and 8 miles (13 km) south west of Warwick. The estimated population in 2007 was 25,505, increasing to 27,445 at the 2011 Census.

Richard Burton Welsh actor

Richard Burton, CBE was a Welsh actor. Noted for his mellifluous baritone voice, Burton established himself as a formidable Shakespearean actor in the 1950s, and he gave a memorable performance of Hamlet in 1964. He was called "the natural successor to Olivier" by critic and dramaturge Kenneth Tynan. An alcoholic, Burton's failure to live up to those expectations disappointed critics and colleagues and fuelled his legend as a great thespian wastrel.

In 1958, he was back in New York, this time taking a lead role in the opening production of Look Homeward, Angel , alongside Anthony Perkins. [5] Both he and Perkins were nominated for the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play.

<i>Look Homeward, Angel</i> (play) play written by Ketti Frings

Look Homeward, Angel is a 1957 stage play by the playwright Ketti Frings. The play is based on Thomas Wolfe's largely autobiographical novel of the same title, which was published in 1929.

Anthony Perkins American actor and director

Anthony Perkins was an American actor and singer. He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his second film, Friendly Persuasion, but is best known for playing Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960) and its three sequels. His other films include Fear Strikes Out (1957), The Matchmaker (1958), On the Beach (1959), Tall Story (1960), The Trial (1962), Phaedra (1962), Five Miles to Midnight (1962), Pretty Poison (1968), Murder on the Orient Express (1974), Mahogany (1975), North Sea Hijack (1979), The Black Hole (1979), and Crimes of Passion (1984).

Tony Award awards for live Broadway theatre

The Antoinette Perry Award for Excellence in Broadway Theatre, more commonly known as the Tony Award, recognizes excellence in live Broadway theatre. The awards are presented by the American Theatre Wing and The Broadway League at an annual ceremony in Manhattan. The awards are given for Broadway productions and performances, and an award is given for regional theatre. Several discretionary non-competitive awards are also given, including a Special Tony Award, the Tony Honors for Excellence in Theatre, and the Isabelle Stevenson Award. The awards are named after Antoinette "Tony" Perry, co-founder of the American Theatre Wing.

Griffith began his film career in British films during the late 1940s, and by the 1950s was also working in Hollywood. He won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Ben-Hur (1959), and was nominated for his performance in Tom Jones (1963). In 1968, he appeared as the magistrate in Oliver! . His later career was often blighted by his chronic alcoholism. [6] [7]

Cinema of the United States Filmmaking in the USA

The cinema of the United States, often metonymously referred to as Hollywood, has had a large effect on the film industry in general since the early 20th century. The dominant style of American cinema is classical Hollywood cinema, which developed from 1917 to 1960 and characterizes most films made there to this day. While Frenchmen Auguste and Louis Lumière are generally credited with the birth of modern cinema, American cinema soon came to be a dominant force in the industry as it emerged. It produces the total largest number of films of any single-language national cinema, with more than 700 English-language films released on average every year. While the national cinemas of the United Kingdom (299), Canada (206), Australia, and New Zealand also produce films in the same language, they are not considered part of the Hollywood system. Hollywood has also been considered a transnational cinema. Classical Hollywood produced multiple language versions of some titles, often in Spanish or French. Contemporary Hollywood offshores production to Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

<i>Oliver!</i> (film) 1968 film by Carol Reed

Oliver! is a 1968 British musical drama film directed by Carol Reed, written by Vernon Harris, and based on the stage musical of the same name. Both the film and play are based on Charles Dickens's novel Oliver Twist. The film includes such musical numbers as "Food, Glorious Food", "Consider Yourself", "As Long as He Needs Me", "You've Got to Pick a Pocket or Two", and "Where Is Love?". Filmed at Shepperton Film Studio in Surrey, it was a Romulus Films production and was distributed internationally by Columbia Pictures.

He played the funeral director Caradog Lloyd-Evans in the 1978 comedy Grand Slam . While visibly unwell at the time of shooting (years of alcohol abuse had clearly taken their toll), Griffith's portrayal received widespread acclaim and helped the movie attain cult status.[ citation needed ]

On television, he had major roles in Quatermass II (1955), a miniseries adaptation of A. J. Cronin's The Citadel (1960) and Clochemerle (1972).[ citation needed ]


He received an honorary degree from the University of Wales, Bangor, in 1980.[ citation needed ]

Personal life/death

Griffith died of a heart attack in London in 1980, shortly before his 68th birthday.[ citation needed ]


1939Johnson Was No GentlemanA FootmanTV movie
1940 Night Train to Munich SailorUncredited
Neutral Port BitUncredited
1947The Wandering JewJuan de TexedaTV movie
Maria Marten or, the Murder at the Red BarnIshmaelTV movie
The Tragical History of Doctor FaustusMephistophilisTV movie
Silver Darlings Packman
1948 The Three Weird Sisters Mabli Hughes
So Evil My Love Coroner
The First Gentleman Bishop of Salisbury
A Comedy of Good and EvilThe Rev. John WilliamsTV movie
London Belongs to Me Headlam Fynne
1949 The Last Days of Dolwyn The Minister
Kind Hearts and Coronets Lord High Steward
Doctor Morelle Bensall
A Run for Your Money Huw Price
1950 Gone to Earth Andrew VessonsSignificantly changed for the American market, retitled The Wild Heart and released in 1952
1951 The Galloping Major Harold Temple, Process Server
Laughter in Paradise Henry Augustus Russell
1952The Wild HeartAndrew Vessons
1953 The Titfield Thunderbolt Dan Taylor
The Beggar's Opera The Beggar
EscapadeAndrew DeesonTV movie
The Broken JugJudge AdamTV movie
The Teddy BearCharley DelaneyTV movie
1954 The Million Pound Note PotterUncredited
The Sleeping Tiger The Inspector
1955 Passage Home Pettigrew
The Merry ChristmasScroogeTV movie
1957 The Good Companions Morton Mitcham
Lucky Jim Professor Welch
1959 Ben-Hur Sheik Ilderim Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Laurel Award for Top Male Supporting Performance (3rd place)
National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actor
The Story on Page One Judge Edgar Neilsen
1960The CitadelPhilip DennyTV movie
The Day They Robbed the Bank of England O'Shea
Point of DepartureFatherTV movie
Exodus Mandria
1962 The Counterfeit Traitor Collins
The Inspector Van der Pink
Term of Trial O'Hara
Mutiny on the Bounty Alexander Smith
1963 Tom Jones Squire Western Laurel Award for Top Male Supporting Performance (5th place)
Nominated-Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated-BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
Nominated-Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture
1964 Hide and Seek Wilkins
The Bargee Joe Turnbull
1965 The Amorous Adventures of Moll Flanders Prison Governor
Treasure IslandShort
1966 The Poppy Is Also a Flower Salah Rahman Khan
How to Steal a Million Bonnet
1967 Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feelin' So Sad Commodore Roseabove
The Sailor from Gibraltar Llewellyn
On My Way to the Crusades, I Met a Girl Who... Ibn-el-Rascid
Brown Eye, Evil Eye Tadeusz Bridges
1968Il marito è mio e l'ammazzo quando mi pareIgnazio
Oliver! The MagistrateNominated-Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture
The Fixer Lebedev
1970 Start the Revolution Without Me King Louis XVI
Cry of the Banshee Mickey
Wuthering Heights Dr. Kenneth
1971 Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? The Pigman/Mr. Harrison
The Abominable Dr. Phibes Rabbi
1972 Dr. Phibes Rises Again Harry Ambrose
The Canterbury Tales Sir January
What? Joseph Noblart
1973Crescete e moltiplicatevi
The Final Programme Professor Hira
Take Me High Sir Harry Cunningham
1974 Luther John Tetzel
Cugini CarnaliBarone di RoccaduraAlso screened under the names Loving Cousins, Hot and Bothered, and High School Girl
Craze Solicitor
1975 Legend of the Werewolf Maestro Pamponi
1976 The Passover Plot Caiaphas
1977 Casanova & Co. The Caliph
Joseph Andrews Squire Western
The Last Remake of Beau Geste Judge
1978 Grand Slam Caradog Lloyd-EvansTV movie
The Hound of the Baskervilles Frankland
1979 A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square Sid LarkinFinal film role

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  1. Obituary Variety , 21 May 1980.
  2. "Hugh Griffith". BBC Wales Arts. 12 January 2009. Retrieved 16 April 2013.
  3. 1 2 3 Davies, John; Jenkins, Nigel; Menna, Baines; Lynch, Peredur I., eds. (2008). The Welsh Academy Encyclopaedia of Wales. Cardiff: University of Wales Press. p. 335. ISBN   978-0-7083-1953-6.
  4. "Legend of Lovers". Retrieved 1 February 2011.
  5. "Look Homeward, Angel". Retrieved 1 February 2011.
  6. Biodrowski, Steve (2004). "Dr. Phibes Rises Again". Hollywood Gothique. Retrieved 16 April 2013.
  7. Turner, Robin (29 March 2009). "New book tells of Wales' famous boozers". Western Mail . Retrieved 16 April 2013.