Félix Aylmer

Active - 1930 - 1983  |   Born - Feb 21, 1889 in Corsham, Wiltshire  |   Died - Sep 2, 1979   |   Genres - Drama, Comedy, Crime, Mystery, Historical Film

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Biography by Hal Erickson

British actor Felix Aylmer may not be popularly known in the United States, but his was one of the longest and most prestigious careers in the 20th-century British theatre. Aylmer's first stage work was done with another theatrical giant, Sir Seymour Hicks, in 1911. Two years later, Aylmer was engaged by the then-new Birmingham Repertory, premiering as Orsino ("If music be the food of love...") in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. After World War I service, Aylmer established himself as one of the foremost interpreters of the works of George Bernard Shaw; he also concentrated on the London productions of such American plays as Abraham Lincoln and Robert E. Lee (no partisanship here!) Aylmer made his Broadway bow in a production of Galsworthy's Loyalties, periodically returning to the states in such plays as Flashing Stream, wherein he played First Lord of the Admiralty Walter Hornsby, which some regard as his finest performance. Like most British actors, Aylmer acted in plays to feed his soul and films to pay his bills. His motion picture debut was in Escape (1930), after which he averaged a picture a year. Aylmer was seen by American audiences in such internationally popular films as The Citadel (1938), Henry V (1944), Hamlet (1948), Quo Vadis (1951) and Separate Tables (1958). The actor was something of a hero to his fellow actors for his efforts in their behalf during his long tenure as president of British Equity, the performers' trade union; in 1965 Aylmer was knighted for his accomplishments. Active until his eighties, Sir Felix Aylmer made one of his last film appearances as the Judge in The Chalk Garden (1964), a role he'd originated on stage eight years earlier.

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