Anthony Quayle

Active - 1935 - 1990  |   Born - Sep 7, 1913   |   Died - Oct 20, 1989   |   Genres - Drama, Spy Film, Action, Culture & Society, History

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When Anthony Quayle appeared in films about war and espionage, he performed brilliantly, earning critical acclaim. And no wonder. Quayle had served as a spy in Albania during World War II, snooping around corners into Nazi business and rising to the rank of major for his contributions to the allied effort. His war experience primed him well for roles in such productions as The Battle of the River Plate (1956), The Guns of Navarone (1961), Operation Crossbow (1965), and 21 Hours at Munich (1976). In time, he gained a reputation as one of the 20th century's best-trained character actors, performing in productions in virtually every genre and in every medium -- stage, film, television, and audiocassette. But being well prepared for acting roles was nothing new for Quayle. As a young man, he had trained long and hard to hone his thespian skills, attending the best schools and apprenticing with the best acting companies. Quayle was born on September 7, 1913, in Ainsdale, Sefton, England, where his father was a lawyer. After attending the Rugby secondary school, he received further training at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, then performed in minor roles in stage and film productions before his military service. After the war, he appeared on-stage in Dostoyevksy's Crime and Punishment with John Gielgud and Edith Evans, then joined the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre company at Stratford-upon-Avon. In 1948, he played Marcellus in Laurence Olivier's Academy award-winning film production of Hamlet. Between 1948 and 1956, Quayle served as director of the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, laying the groundwork for the founding of the famed Royal Shakespeare Company. Quayle went on to perform in some of the best-known films of all time, many of them historical epics, including Lawrence of Arabia (1962), The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964), and Anne of the Thousand Days (1969), in which he earned an Academy award nomination for his portrayal of Cardinal Wolsey, lord chancellor of England under Henry VIII. He also played major roles in important TV miniseries such as Great Expectations (1974), Moses the Lawgiver (1975), The Story of David (1976), and Masada (1981). In addition, Quayle narrated films, wrote two books (Eight Hours From England and On Such a Night), made audiocassettes, and continued to perform in stage productions in London and New York. What made Quayle special was his discipline and intensity. Watch him in any of his films and you will see a man consumed by his role, a man who abandons his own identity to assume another's. In performance, he is always busy, preoccupied, his brow furrowed by the concerns of his character. Fittingly, he was pronounced a knight of the realm in 1985 for his acting achievements. Four years later, on October 20, 1989, he died of cancer in London. He had been married to Dorothy Hysen (1947-1989) and Hermione Hannen (1934-1941).

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