Richard Haydn

Active - 1941 - 1974  |   Born - Mar 10, 1905   |   Died - Apr 25, 1985   |   Genres - Comedy, Romance, Drama, Musical, Adventure

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Tweedy, eccentric character actor Richard Haydn failed at several professions -- including music hall entertainer and overseer of a Jamaican banana plantation -- before latching onto a touring British theatre troupe. While performing on radio, Haydn created the character of nerdish, nasal "fish expert" Edwin Carp, a role which earned him a spot in the American variety revue Set to Music and later resulted in several satirical books written by the actor (he would reprise the Edwin Carp character on a memorable 1964 episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show). Signed to a 20th Century-Fox film contract in 1940, Haydn's first film assignment was the comparatively straight role of Charley Wyckham in Charley's Aunt (1941). Versatile to a fault, Haydn's film roles ranged from normal, sobersided types like the schoolteacher in the Green Years (1946), to the despicable British nobleman in Forever Amber (1946). His most enjoyable performances were as fey, prissy, often mother-dominated types: Cluny Brown (1946) and Sitting Pretty (1947) were his best assignments in this vein. Haydn directed three films for Paramount, playing small roles in each (under such pseudonyms as Richard Rancyd): Miss Tatlock's Millions (1947), Dear Wife (1948) and Mr, Music (1950), The biggest hit with which Haydn was associated was 1965's The Sound of Music (1965), in which he played the vacillating theatrical entrepreneur Max Detweiller. He also sparkled in TV roles on such series as Lassie, The Man From UNCLE and Bonanza. His last film role (heavily cut before release) was a tiny expository part at the beginning of Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein (1974). Almost as mercurial offscreen as on, Richard Haydn was averse to granting interviews, usually making comments like "There is no Richard Haydn. It is probably something you ate".

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