Michael Hordern

Birth name:
Michael Murray Hordern
Date of Birth:
2 May 1911 Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, England, UK
Sir Michael Hordern established himself as one of the premier stage actors of his generation, and also had a flourishing career as a supporting player in British and international cinema. Born on October 3, 1911, in Berkhampsted, England, Michael Murray Hordern was the son of John Calvery Hordern, a British Army captain, and the former Margareta Emily Murray. After receiving his education and graduating from Brighton College, Hordern supported himself as a teacher and salesman before launching a life in the theater in 1937, after having partaken in amateur theatricals in the evenings and on weekends. He debuted in the cinema in a bit role in Carol Reed's A Girl Must Live (1939) (1939) and also had a bit part in Girl in the News (1940) (1940), but his acting career went on hiatus when Britain went to war against the forces of fascism. Hordern joined the Royal Navy for the duration in 1940.After being demobilized in 1945, Hordern returned to the stage, and also began appearing regular in films and on television. He established his reputation as a first-rate stage actor, excelling in classical and Shakespearan roles at the Old Vic and at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre at Stratford. He befriended a young Richard Burton in the early 1950s, and the two would appear together in eight films starting with Alexander the Great (1956) in 1956, including, most memorably, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965) and Anne of the Thousand Days (1969).Hordern is most likely known to audiences for his portrayal of Jacob Marley in the 1951 British adaptation of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" (known as Scrooge (1951)) starring Alastair Sim, and as the off-screen narrator of Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon (1975), which showcased his mellifluous voice. (Hordern was an outstanding radio actor.) Most critics credit his portrayal of the disillusioned journalist in England Made Me (1973) as his finest screen role.Michael Hordern was knighted in 1983 for his services to the stage, and he wrote his autobiography, "A World Elsewhere," which was published in 1993. His masterful portrayal of Prospero in the BBC's The Tempest (1980) (TV) likely will remain the definite portrait for years to come. He was also a superb King Lear (1982) (TV).Sir Michael Hordern died from kidney disease in Oxford, England on May 2, 1995, at the age of 83. He left behind a daughter by his wife, the former Grace Eveline Mortimer, who had precede him in death in 1986 after 42 years of marriage.
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