Walter Hudd

Active - 1935 - 1963  |   Born - Feb 20, 1897   |   Died - Jan 20, 1963   |   Genres - Drama, Comedy, Crime, War, Romance

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Biography by Bruce Eder

Walter Hudd was one of the busier actors of his generation, across a 40-year career that carried him from touring the British provinces to work in international films. Born in London at the end of the 19th century, he began his professional performing career in the teens, making his debut in the play The Manxman in 1919. He toured as a member of the Fred Terry Company, and made his London debut in the 1920s. Hudd first came to serious critical attention with his portrayal of Guildenstern in a 1925 modern-dress production of Hamlet, and he later became a theatrical star in the play Too Good To Be True, in the role of Private Meek, a character modeled after T.E. Lawrence; as surviving photos from the production reveal, in costume he was a near dead-ringer for the real-life Lawrence. Hudd also directed on the stage during the 1930s and 1940s, including several Shakespearean plays presented at Stratford-on-Avon. In movies, Hudd was usually cast in supporting and character roles, initially as part of the stable of actors associated with Alexander Korda's London Films, in movies like I Stand Condemned and Rembrandt. In 1937, however, he got a rare chance to play a lead onscreen, as Petersen in Elephant Boy, an unusual documentary-drama co-directed by Robert Flaherty and Zoltan Korda, which is best remembered today for having introduced the boy actor Sabu to the world. Hudd devoted a great deal of effort to bringing theatrical entertainment to the factory workers and more remote villages of England during World War II, though he still managed to play roles in Major Barbara and I Know Where I'm Going, among a handful of major movies. After the war, his film parts multiplied, and he was very busy on the screen during the 1950s, in productions as different as Anthony Asquith's The Importance of Being Earnest and Tony Richardson's Look Back in Anger, and playing every kind of character role from coroners (in Cast a Dark Shadow) to British admirals (in Sink the Bismarck!) and German intelligence chiefs (in The Two-Headed Spy). Had he lived longer, Hudd would almost certainly have become a fixture of British television -- he had done one very, very early episode of The Avengers -- but his death in early 1963, at age 65, cut short a promising Indian summer to his career.

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