John Robertson Hare, OBE (17 December 1891 – 25 January 1979) was an English actor, who came to fame in the Aldwych farces. He is remembered by modern audiences for his performances as the Archdeacon in the popular BBC sitcom, All Gas and Gaiters .
Short in stature and of unheroic appearance, Hare made his stage career in character roles. From his early days as an actor he was cast as older men. One of his favourite parts, which he played in the provinces before achieving West End success, was "Grumpy", a retired lawyer, in which he toured before the First World War.
After war service in the army, Hare got his big break. He was cast in a long-running farce with Ralph Lynn and Tom Walls. His meek and put-upon character was repeated in various incarnations in the eleven Aldwych farces presented by Walls between 1923 and 1933. He also appeared in film versions of most of the farces. After the Aldwych series came to an end, Hare continued to be cast in similar roles in new plays by Ben Travers and many others.
Occasionally Hare took a break from farce, appearing in revue with Benny Hill and in a musical with Frankie Howerd. His final major role was on television in the late 1960s, as the Archdeacon of St Ogg's in the BBC comedy series All Gas and Gaiters .
Hare was born in Islington, London, the younger child and only son of Frank Homer Hare, an accountant, and his wife, Louisa Mary, née Robertson.He was educated at Margate College in Kent and then studied drama with the actor and librettist Lewis Cairns James.
In 1911 Hare made his professional stage debut, playing the Duke of Gallminster in a provincial production of The Bear Leaders.The following year he made his London début as one of the crowd in Gilbert Murray's version of Oedipus Rex at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. In 1913 he had his first role in a West End production, as Kaufman in a detective play, The Scarlet Band, at the Comedy Theatre. He then toured the provinces for a number of years. His first leading part was the title role of Grumpy, by Horace Hodges and T. Wigney Percyval, which was one of his favourite roles. Even at this early stage of his career Hare was playing old men: "Grumpy" is an irascible retired lawyer. In December 1915 he married (Alice) Irene Mewton (1890/91–1969); they had one daughter.
After war service with the army in France, Hare resumed his acting career, and came to the notice of the West End public as James Chesterman in a new farce, Tons of Money , in which he and the actor-manager Tom Walls played supporting roles, with Ralph Lynn in the lead.The play ran for nearly two years, after which Walls recruited Lynn and Hare to join him in a series of new farces at the Aldwych Theatre. There were eleven plays in this series, which came to be known as Aldwych farces; they played continuously from 1923 to 1933. Hare played in them all; his roles were: William Smith ( It Pays to Advertise ); The Rev Cathcart Sloley-Jones ( A Cuckoo in the Nest ); Harold Twine ( Rookery Nook ); Hook ( Thark ); Oswald Veal ( Plunder ); Ernest Ramsbotham ( A Cup of Kindness ); Miles Tuckett (A Night Like This); Edwin Stoatt ( Turkey Time ); Clement Peck (Dirty Work); Montague Trigg (Fifty-Fifty); and Augustus Pogson (A Bit of a Test).
His biographer, Eric Midwinter, writes of Hare's characters in these farces:
Hare created a cosily familiar style and was identified completely with, in effect, one part, that of the prissy little man, constantly in a state of unease and agitation, invariably sucked into some maelstrom of domestic upset and dislocation, unfailingly compromised and often trouserless. The bald dome, with brows furrowing anxiously beneath it; the spectacles, emphasizing the shock and bewilderment with which he responded to his travails; the jerky, staccato movements as his distress grew – these made him a highly recognisable stage figure. In concert with the worldly wise Tom Walls and the affable Ralph Lynn … he became one of the premier exponents of English farce.
Hare appeared in films of most of the Aldwych farces, and played more than a dozen film roles in the post-war years.For the rest of his stage career he was usually cast in similar roles. After the last Aldwych farce in 1933 he played his customary types in more than twenty new farces over the next three decades. Among his most successful creations of this kind was Willoughby Pink in Travers's Banana Ridge in 1938, in which he played a British Empire builder with a dubious past. In 1947 he starred at the Apollo Theatre in She Wanted a Cream Front Door , 1954 saw him in the political farce The Party Spirit , while in 1956 was in John Dighton's Man Alive! at the Aldwych. The same year he appeared with Cicely Courtneidge in the long-running The Bride and the Bachelor at the Duchess Theatre. He made a few appearances in revue: his first was Fine Fettle (1959) in which he appeared with Benny Hill and Shani Wallis. In 1963 Hare played in a long-running stage musical, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (762 performances), in which he was cast as Erronius to Frankie Howerd's Pseudolus.
In the 1960s Hare toured in Arsenic and Old Lace .In 1962 he briefly escaped type-casting, appearing with Wilfrid Hyde White in a comedy film Crooks Anonymous , in which he played an old lag, his familiar bald head disguised under a wig. In 1968 he joined Naunton Wayne in Oh, Clarence!, an adaptation of a P. G. Wodehouse Blandings novel, which he played in London, on tour in the provinces, and in South Africa. He reached a new public in the late 1960s in a television series, All Gas and Gaiters . He played the Archdeacon of St. Ogg's, the Ven Henry Blunt. His co-stars were William Mervyn as the Rt Rev Cuthbert Hever, Bishop of St Ogg's, Derek Nimmo as the Rev Mervyn Noote, the Bishop's chaplain, and John Barron as the Very Rev Lionel Pugh-Critchley, Dean of St Ogg's. George Melly wrote:
Most weeks the plot hangs on the rivalry between the pompous but cosy Bishop and the austere, perfectionist Dean. Derek Nimmo does his clerical silly ass and Robertson Hare is a sherry-loving rather simple-minded Archdeacon … Hare is not only innately comic in himself but manages to suggest a certain depth in a character who on the page can hardly exist.
He was awarded the OBE in 1979. Hare died in London at the age of 87.
Ben Travers CBE AFC was an English writer. His output includes more than twenty plays, thirty screenplays, five novels, and three volumes of memoirs. He is best remembered for his long-running series of farces first staged in the 1920s and 1930s at the Aldwych Theatre. Many of these were made into films and later television productions.
Thomas Kirby Walls, known as Tom Walls, was an English stage and film actor, producer and director, best known for presenting and co-starring in the Aldwych farces in the 1920s and for starring in and directing the film adaptations of those plays in the 1930s.
Ralph Clifford Lynn was an English actor who had a 60-year career, and is best remembered for playing comedy parts in the Aldwych farces first on stage and then in film.
Gordon James was an English actor who became known as the "heavy" in the Aldwych farces, between 1923 and 1933. He also appeared in some twenty films between 1929 and 1942.
Winifred Florence Shotter was an English actress best known for her appearances in the Aldwych farces of the 1920s and early 1930s.
Rookery Nook is a farce by the English playwright Ben Travers based on his own 1923 novel. It was first given at the Aldwych Theatre, London, the third in the series of twelve Aldwych farces presented by the actor-manager Tom Walls at the theatre between 1923 and 1933. Several of the actors formed a regular core cast for the Aldwych farces. The play depicts the complications that ensue when a young woman, dressed in pyjamas, seeks refuge from her bullying stepfather at a country house in the middle of the night.
Tons of Money is a farcical play by British writers Will Evans and Arthur Valentine. It was co-produced by Tom Walls and Leslie Henson. In the story of the play, a hard-up inventor pretends to be his cousin, in order to escape the clutches of his creditors.
Turkey Time is a farce by Ben Travers. It was one of the series of Aldwych farces that ran nearly continuously at the Aldwych Theatre in London from 1923 to 1933. The story concerns two guests, staying at the Stoatt household for Christmas, who offer shelter to a pretty concert performer left stranded when her employer absconds, leaving his cast unpaid.
The Aldwych farces were a series of twelve stage farces presented at the Aldwych Theatre, London, nearly continuously from 1923 to 1933. All but three of them were written by Ben Travers. They incorporate and develop British low comedy styles, combined with clever word-play. The plays were presented by the actor-manager Tom Walls and starred Walls and Ralph Lynn, supported by a regular company that included Robertson Hare, Mary Brough, Winifred Shotter, Ethel Coleridge, and Gordon James.
Thark is a farce by the English playwright Ben Travers. It was first given at the Aldwych Theatre, London, the fourth in the series of twelve Aldwych farces presented at the theatre by the actor-manager Tom Walls between 1923 and 1933. It starred the same cast members as many of the other Aldwych farces. The story concerns a reputedly haunted English country house. Investigators and frightened occupants of the house spend a tense night searching for the ghost.
A Cuckoo in the Nest is a farce by the English playwright Ben Travers. It was first given at the Aldwych Theatre, London, the second in the series of twelve Aldwych farces presented by the actor-manager Tom Walls at the theatre between 1923 and 1933. Several of the cast formed the regular core cast for the later Aldwych farces. The plot concerns two friends, a man and a woman, who are each married to other people. While travelling together, they are obliged by circumstances to share a hotel bedroom. Everyone else assumes the worst, but the two travellers are able to prove their innocence.
Plunder is a farce by the English playwright Ben Travers. It was first given at the Aldwych Theatre, London, the fifth in the series of twelve Aldwych farces presented by the actor-manager Tom Walls at the theatre between 1923 and 1933. Several of the actors formed a regular core cast for the Aldwych farces. The play shows two friends committing a jewel robbery, for arguably honourable reasons, with fatal results.
A Cup of Kindness is a farce by the English playwright Ben Travers. It was first given at the Aldwych Theatre, London, the sixth in the series of twelve Aldwych farces presented by the actor-manager Tom Walls at the theatre between 1923 and 1933. Several of the actors formed a regular core cast for the Aldwych farces. The play depicts the feud between two suburban families.
A Night Like This is a farce by Ben Travers, written as one of the series of Aldwych farces staged nearly continuously at the Aldwych Theatre, London, from 1923 to 1933. The farces were directed by Tom Walls, who co-starred in most of them with Ralph Lynn, and a supporting cast of regular Aldwych performers. The play is a spoof of detective plays and thrillers, with the two stars successfully taking on a criminal gang. Eventually, the gang is rounded up, and the jewels taken from the heroine are restored to their proper owner.
Thark is a 1932 British film farce, directed by Tom Walls, with a script by Ben Travers. In addition to Walls, the film stars Ralph Lynn and Robertson Hare. The film is a screen adaptation of the original 1927 Aldwych farce of the play of the same name. It was made at Elstree Studios.
A Night Like This is a 1932 comedy film directed by Tom Walls and starring Walls, Ralph Lynn and Winifred Shotter. Ben Travers wrote the screenplay, adapting his own play, the original 1930 Aldwych farce of the same title.
Fifty-Fifty is a farce by H. F. Maltby, adapted from a French original, Azaïs, by Louis Verneuil and Georges Berr. It was the penultimate work of the series of Aldwych farces that ran nearly continuously at the Aldwych Theatre in London from 1923 to 1933. The play centres on the sudden rise of an impoverished music teacher to become manager of a grand casino.
Marry the Girl is a farce by George Arthurs and Arthur Miller. It was one of the series of Aldwych farces that ran at the Aldwych Theatre in London nearly continuously from 1923 to 1933. The play centres on a breach of promise case brought before a British court of justice.
Dirty Work is a farce by Ben Travers. It was one of the series of twelve Aldwych farces that ran in uninterrupted succession at the Aldwych Theatre in London from 1923 to 1933. The play depicts the maladroit but ultimately successful efforts of a shop-walker to outwit a gang of jewel thieves.
A Bit of a Test is a farce by Ben Travers. It was the last, and least successful, of the series of twelve Aldwych farces that ran in uninterrupted succession at the Aldwych Theatre in London from 1923 to 1933. The play depicts the efforts of the England cricket captain to keep his star batsman out of trouble during an Ashes series in Australia.