Richard Wattis

Active - 1938 - 1974  |   Born - Feb 25, 1912 in Wednesbury, Staffordshire  |   Died - Feb 1, 1975 in London, England, UK  |   Genres - Comedy, Drama

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For almost 40 years, from the end of the 1930s to the mid-'70s, Richard Wattis enjoyed a reputation as one of England's more reliable character actors, and -- in British films, at least -- developed something akin to star power in non-starring roles. Born in 1912, as a young man he managed to avoid potential futures in both electric contracting and chartered accountancy, instead becoming an acting student in his twenties. His stage career began in the second half of the 1930s, and in between acting and sometimes producing in repertory companies, Wattis became part of that rarified group of British actors who appeared on the BBC's pre-World War II television broadcasts. He made his big-screen debut with a role in the 1939 feature A Yank at Oxford, but spent the most of the six years that followed serving in uniform. It was after World War II that Wattis came to the attention of critics, directors, and producers for his comic timing and projection, and began getting cast in the kinds of screen and stage roles for which he would ultimately become famous, as pompous, dry, deadpan authority figures, snooping civil servants, and other comical pests. Beginning with Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat's The Happiest Days of Your Life (1950), his roles and billing got bigger, and he was cast to perfection as Manton Bassett in the "St. Trinian's" films of Launder and Gilliat. Wattis became so well liked by audiences in those kinds of parts -- as annoying government officials, in particular -- that producers would see to it, if his part was big enough, that he was mentioned on posters and lobby cards. He remained very busy in films right up until the time of his death in the mid-'70s.

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