Robert Newton

Active - 1932 - 1966  |   Born - Jun 1, 1905   |   Died - Mar 25, 1956   |   Genres - Drama, Adventure, Mystery, Crime, Action

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Professionally, British actor Robert Newton was two people: The wry, sensitive, often subtle performer seen in such plays as Noel Coward's Private Lives and such films as This Happy Breed (1944), and the eye-rolling, chop-licking ham in such roles as Bill Sykes in Oliver Twist (1948) and Long John Silver (arr! arr!) in Treasure Island (1950). Born into a gifted family -- his mother was a writer, his father and his siblings painters -- Newton made his professional debut when he was 15 with the British Repertory Company. Before he was 25, Newton had toured the world as an actor and stage manager, making his Broadway bow when he replaced Laurence Olivier in Private Lives. There was little of Olivier (except perhaps the older Olivier) in most of Newton's movie roles; despite his wide actor's range, he seemed happiest tearing a passion to tatters in such films as Jamaica Inn (1939), Blackbeard the Pirate (1952) and The Beachcomber (1954). Ripe though his acting could be, it was clear Newton knew his audience. From 1947 through 1951 he was one of Britain's top ten moneymaking film stars, so who were the critics to tell him what to do? Newton's final film role was the dogged Inspector Fix in the blockbuster Around the World in 80 Days (1956). Less than one month after completing Around the World in 80 Days, Robert Newton died of a heart attack in the arms of his wife.

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