Torin Thatcher

Active - 1934 - 1976  |   Born - Jan 15, 1905   |   Died - Mar 4, 1981   |   Genres - Drama, Adventure, Spy Film, Comedy

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Biography by Bruce Eder

Torin Thatcher came out of a military family in India to become a top stage actor in England and a well-known character actor in international films and television. Born Torin Herbert Erskine Thatcher in Bombay, India, in 1905, he was the great-grandson and grandson of generals -- one of whom had fought with Clive -- but he planned for a quieter life; educated at Bedford School, he originally intended to become a teacher before being bitten by the acting bug. Instead, he attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and later worked in every kind of theatrical production there was, from Greek tragedy to burlesque. Thatcher made his London debut in 1927 as Tranio in a production of The Taming of the Shrew with the Old Vic Company, and he subsequently portrayed both the Ghost and Claudius in Hamlet with the same company. In the years that followed, Thatcher was in more than 50 Shakespearean productions and 20 plays by George Bernard Shaw. The outbreak of the Second World War took Thatcher into uniform, and he served for six years in the army, achieving the rank of lieutenant colonel before he returned to civilian life in 1946.

In 1944, Thatcher had made his first acquaintance of the theater world in New York when he found himself on leave in the city with only ten shillings in his pocket -- he spent it sparingly and discovered that Allied servicemen, even officers, were accorded a great many perks in those days; he was also amazed and delighted when he was recognized while on his way into a play in New York by a theatergoer who was able to name virtually every movie that he'd done in England over the preceding decade. He got a firsthand look at the city's generosity and also made sure to meet a number of people associated with the New York theater scene, contacts that served him in good stead when he returned to New York in 1946, as a civilian eager to pick up his career. He starred in two plays opposite Katharine Cornell, First Born and That Lady, and portrayed Claggart in a stage adaptation of Billy Budd, but his big success was in Noel Langley and Robert Morley's Edward My Son. Thatcher had been in movies in England since 1933, in small roles, occasionally in major and important films such as Alfred Hitchcock's Young and Innocent (1937) and Michael Powell's The Spy in Black (1939); his British career had peaked with a superb performance in a small but important role in Carol Reed's The Fallen Idol (1948). After moving to the United States, however, Thatcher quickly moved up to starring and major supporting roles in Hollywood movies, beginning with Affair in Trinidad (1952). He was busy at 20th Century Fox, Universal, and Warner Bros. over the next decade, moving between their American and British units, and stood out in such hit movies as The Crimson Pirate (1952) (as the pirate Humble Bellows) and Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing (1955).

Although Thatcher could play benevolent characters, his intense expression and presence and imposing physique made him more natural as a villain, and he spent his later career in an array of screen malefactors, of whom the best known was the sorcerer Sokurah in The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958), directed by Nathan Juran. Thatcher and Juran were close friends and the director loved to use him -- the two became a kind of double act together for a time, turning up in "The Space Trader" episode of Lost in Space, guest-starring Thatcher and directed by Juran.

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