Reginald Purdell

Last updated

Reginald Purdell
Reginald William Henry Grasdorff

(1896-11-04)4 November 1896
Died22 April 1953(1953-04-22) (aged 56)
OccupationActor, screenwriter, film director
Years active1930 1952

Reginald Purdell (4 November 1896 22 April 1953) was an English actor and screenwriter who appeared in over 40 films between 1930 and 1951. [1] During the same period he also contributed to the screenplays of 15 feature films, such as The Dark Tower , and had a brief foray into directing with two films in 1937.


Early life

Purdell was born in Clapham, London, [2] the son of Charles William Grasdorff by his marriage to Mary Ann Piddill. [3] At the 1881 census a few weeks after the marriage the couple was living in Monmouthshire and his father stated his name as Carl H. W. Grasdorff, giving his place of birth as Germany, about 1844, while his mother gave hers as Cardiff, about 1857. [4] Grasdorff was naturalized as a British subject under the name of Carl Hermann Wilhelm Grasdorff. [5] Mary Ann Grasdorff's maiden name of Piddill, suitably improved, later provided their son's stage name.

In 1892, Grasdorff was listed as "Grasdorff, Carl H. W., Newport, Monmouthshire, and Bute Docks, Cardiff, Sailing and Steamship Broker, Coal Exporter, and Managing Steamship Owner". [6] [7]

Both parents were living in Clapham in 1901. [8]


As a young man, under the name of Reginald Grasdorff, he served in the British Army with the South Wales Borderers regiment for the duration of the First World War. On returning to civilian life after the war, he decided to try his luck as an actor under the name of Purdell and gained experience on the stage through the 1920s. His move into films in 1930 coincided with the advent of the talkie era in British cinema.

Purdell's first screen appearance was in the 1930 comedy The Middle Watch , in a role he would later reprise in a 1940 remake. [9] [10] He next travelled to Germany to feature in historical drama Congress Dances , an ambitious and lavishly budgeted project by the UFA film company, involving the simultaneous filming of three versions of the same story in German, English and French in an attempt to prove that a European company could challenge the dominance of American studios in the new era of sound by delivering a continent-wide hit. [11] [12]

Purdell soon began to accumulate screen credits in a wide variety of films ranging from cheaply made quota quickies to more sophisticated productions. He showed a knack for playing comedy, and his 1930s films fell mainly into this genre, with occasional ventures into straight drama and thrillers. Purdell's screenwriting career began in 1932 and he was most productive in this field during the late 1930s, with only occasional ventures later in his career. He tried his hand at film directing in 1937 with two comedies Don't Get Me Wrong , a Max Miller vehicle co-directed with Arthur B. Woods, and Patricia Gets Her Man . Both films were reasonably well-received, but Purdell appears to have decided that directing was not for him, as there would be no more ventures in this area.

In the 1940s Purdell's acting career diversified, with fewer throwaway comedies and more appearances in high-quality dramatic vehicles. His credits included war dramas We Dive at Dawn and Two Thousand Women , Gainsborough melodrama Love Story , notorious box-office flop musical London Town and the classic Brighton Rock . Purdell's last screen appearance was in 1951. [13]

Personal life

In the summer of 1928, under his real name of Reginald William Henry Grasdorff, Purdell married May Watson at Wandsworth. [14] They had a son in 1932, born in Kensington and registered under the name of John R. W. Grasdorff. [15]

Purdell died on 22 April 1953, [13] at Kensington, London. His death was registered under the name of Reginald Purdell and his age stated as 57. [16]

Partial filmography

Related Research Articles

Robert Florey was a French-American director, screenwriter, film journalist and actor.

Dennis OKeefe American actor (1899–1957)

Dennis O'Keefe was an American actor and writer.

Ward Bond American actor (1903–1960)

Wardell Edwin Bond was an American film character actor who appeared in more than 200 films and starred in the NBC television series Wagon Train from 1957 to 1960. Among his best-remembered roles are Bert, the cop, in Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life (1946) and Captain Clayton in John Ford's The Searchers (1956).

Ralph Forbes English actor

Ralph Forbes was an English film and stage actor active in Britain and the United States.

Billy Gilbert American actor, comedian, director and writer (1894–1971)

William Gilbert Barron was an American actor, comedian, director and writer. He was known for his comic sneeze routines. He appeared in over 200 feature films, short subjects and television shows beginning in 1929.

Edgar Kennedy American actor (1890–1948)

Edgar Livingston Kennedy was an American comedic character actor who appeared in at least 500 films during the silent and sound eras. Professionally, he was known as "Slow Burn", owing to his ability to portray characters whose anger slowly rose in frustrating situations.

Francis L. Sullivan English actor

Francis Loftus Sullivan was an English film and stage actor.

Chris-Pin Martin American actor

Chris-Pin Martin was an American character actor whose specialty lay in portraying comical Mexicans, particularly sidekicks in The Cisco Kid film series. He acted in over 100 films between 1925 and 1953, including over 50 westerns.

Dorothy Granger American actress

Dorothy Karolyn Granger was an American actress best known for her roles in short subject comedies in Hollywood.

Paul Hurst (actor) American actor

Paul Causey Hurst was an American actor and director.

Reginald Barlow Actor (1866-1943)

Reginald Harry Barlow was a veteran stage and screen character actor, author, and film director. He was a busy performer in Hollywood films of the 1930s.

Clyde Cook (actor) Australian-American vaudevillian and actor (1891–1984)

Clyde Wilfred Cook was an Australian-born vaudevillian who went on to perform in Hollywood and whose career spanned the silent film era, talkies and television.

Lucien Littlefield American actor (1895–1960)

Lucien Littlefield was an American actor who achieved a long career from silent films to the television era. He was noted for his versatility, playing a wide range of roles and already portraying old men before he was of voting age.

Eddy Chandler American actor (1894–1948)

Eddy Chandler was an American actor who appeared, mostly uncredited, in more than 350 films. Three of these films won the Academy Award for Best Picture: It Happened One Night (1934), You Can't Take It with You (1938), and Gone with the Wind (1939). Chandler was born in the small Iowa city of Wilton Junction and died in Los Angeles. He served in World War I.

John Miljan American actor

John Miljan was an American actor. He appeared in more than 200 films between 1924 and 1958.

Robert Emmett OConnor Irish-American actor (1885–1962)

Robert Emmett O'Connor was an Irish-American actor. He appeared in more than 200 films between 1919 and 1950. He is probably best remembered as the warmhearted bootlegger Paddy Ryan in The Public Enemy (1931) and as Detective Sergeant Henderson pursuing the Marx Brothers in A Night at the Opera (1935). He also appeared as Jonesy in Billy Wilder's 1950 film Sunset Boulevard. He also made an appearance at the very beginning and very end of the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer cartoon short Who Killed Who? (1943).

Seton Ingersoll Miller was an American screenwriter and producer. During his career, he worked with film directors such as Howard Hawks and Michael Curtiz. Miller received two Oscar nominations and won once for Best Screenplay for fantasy romantic comedy film Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941) along with Sidney Buchman.

Kane Richmond American actor (1906-1973)

Kane Richmond was an American film actor of the 1930s and 1940s, mostly appearing in cliffhangers and serials. He is best known today for his portrayal of the character Lamont Cranston in The Shadow films in addition to his leading role in the successful serials Spy Smasher and Brick Bradford.

Morgan Wallace American actor (1881–1953)

Morgan Wallace, was an American actor. He appeared in more than 120 films between 1914 and 1946, including W.C. Fields' It's a Gift (1934) where he persistently asks Fields for some "Kumquats". He supported Fields again in My Little Chickadee (1940).

Arthur Hambling British actor (1888–1952)

Arthur Hambling was a British actor, on stage from 1912, and best known for appearances in the films Henry V (1944) and The Lavender Hill Mob (1951). In 1939 he appeared in the West End in N.C. Hunter's comedy Grouse in June.


  1. "Reginald Purdell". BFI. Archived from the original on 11 July 2012.
  2. "Grasdorff, Reginald W H", in Register of Births for Wandsworth Registration District, vol. 1d (December 1896), p. 694
  3. Marriages Mar 1881: GRASDORFF, Charles William, and PIDDILL, Mary Ann, in Register of Marriages for Newport Monmouthshire, vol. 11a (1881), p. 191
  4. 1891 Census for Monmouthshire, Wales, household of Carl H W Grasdorff and Mary A Grasdorff
  5. "Grasdorff, Carl H. W". In United Kingdom Naturalisation Certificates and Declarations, 1870-1916
  6. The Weekly Notes, Volume 27 (Incorporated Council of Law Reporting for England and Wales, 1892) p. 131
  7. James William Dawson, "Commerce and customs: a history of the ports of Newport and Caerleon" (1932), p. 114
  8. Carl H W Gerasdorff, Spouse Mary A Gerasdorff, Census for 1901
  9. "Reginald Purdell - Movies and Filmography - AllMovie". AllMovie.
  10. "The Middle Watch (1940)".
  11. "The Congress Dances (1931)".
  12. "Der Kongress Tanzt (1931) - Eric Charell - Synopsis, Characteristics, Moods, Themes and Related - AllMovie". AllMovie.
  13. 1 2 "Reginald Purdell, British Actor, Dead" New York Times, 23 April 1953. (Subscription required to read online)
  14. "Grasdorff, Reginald W H, & Watson, May" in Register of Marriages for Wandsworth Registration District, vol. 1d (September 1928), p. 169
  15. Births 1932: John R W Grasdorff, mother’s maiden name Watson, in Register of Births for Kensington Rrgistration District, vol. 1a (1932), p. 114
  16. Deaths 1953: PURDELL, Reginald, aged 57, in Register of Deaths for Kensington Registration District, vol. 5c (1953), p. 896