A graduate of Britain's Brighton College, Michael Hordern entered the workaday world as a schoolteacher. Engaging in amateur theatricals in his off-hours, Hordern turned pro in 1937, making his film debut two years later. After serving in the Royal Navy from 1940 to 1945, Hordern returned to show business, matriculating into one of England's most delightful and prolific character actors. His extensive stage work included two Shakespearean roles that may as well have been for him: King Lear and The Tempest's Prospero. In films, Hordern appeared as Marley's Ghost in the 1951 Alastair Sim version of A Christmas Carol (1951), Demosthenes in Alexander the Great (1956), Cicero in Cleopatra (1963), Baptista in Zeffirelli's Taming of the Shrew (1967), Thomas Boleyn in Anne of a Thousand Days (1968), and Brownlow in the 1982 TV adaptation of Oliver Twist. Other significant movie credits include the lascivious Senex (he's the one who introduces the song "Everybody Ought to Have a Maid") in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1966), a pathetic Kim Philby type in The Spy Who Came in From the Cold (1967), theatre critic George Maxwell (who has his heart cut out by looney actor Vincent Price) in Theatre of Blood (1973), and what many consider his finest film assignment, the dissipated, disillusioned journalist in England Made Me (1983). He also served as offscreen narrator for Barry Lyndon (1976) and Young Sherlock Holmes (1985). Michael Hordern was knighted in 1983, and a decade later published his autobiography, A World Elsewhere.
by Hal Erickson biography