Reginald Gardiner

Active - 1931 - 1965  |   Born - Feb 27, 1903   |   Died - Jul 7, 1980   |   Genres - Comedy, Musical, Romance, Drama

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The son of an insurance man who'd aspired to appear onstage but never had the chance, British-born actor Reginald Gardiner more than made up for his dad's unrealized dreams with a career lasting 50 years. Graduating from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, Gardiner started as a straight actor but drifted into musical revues, frequently working in the company of such favorite British entertainers as Bea Lillie. His Broadway bow occurred in the 1935 play At Home Abroad, and though he'd made his film debut nearly ten years earlier in Hitchcock's silent The Lodger (1926), he suddenly became a "new" Hollywood find. Handsome enough to play romantic leads had he so chosen (he gets away with it in the 1939 Laurel and Hardy comedy Flying Deuces), Gardiner preferred the sort of kidding-on-the-square comedy he'd done in his revue days. His turn as a traffic cop who imagines himself a symphony conductor in his first American film Born to Dance (1936) was so well received that he virtually repeated the bit--this time as a butler who harbors operatic aspirations--in Damsel in Distress (1937). For most of his film career, Gardiner played suave but slightly untrustworthy British gentlemen; a break from this pattern occurred in Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator (1940), in which Gardiner played a fascist military man who turns his back on dictator "Adenoid Hinkel" to cast his lot with a community of Jews. Devoting his private life to the enjoyment of classical music, rare books, painting, and monitoring the ghost that supposedly haunted his Beverly Hills home, Reginald Gardiner flourished as a stage, film and television actor into the 1960s; one of his latter-day assignments was his weekly dual role in the 1966 Phyllis Diller sitcom, Pruitts of Southampton.

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