Claim to Fame
St Pancras, London, England
Place of Death
Marden, Kent, England, UK
Profile Bio Text
William Henry Hartnell (8 January 1908 – 23 April 1975) was an English actor. Hartnell played the first incarnation of the Doctor in Doctor Who, from 1963 to 1966.
Hartnell was born in St Pancras, London, England, the only child of Lucy Hartnell, an unmarried mother. He was brought up partly by a foster mother, and also spent many holidays in Devon with his mother's family of farmers, where he learned to ride.
Hartnell never discovered the identity of his father (whose particulars were left blank on the birth certificate) despite efforts to trace him. Often known as Billy, he left school without prospects and dabbled in petty crime. Through a boys' boxing club, at the age of 14 Hartnell met the art collector Hugh Blaker, who later became his unofficial guardian and arranged for him initially to train as a jockey and helped him enter the Italia Conti Academy. Theatre being a passion of Hugh Blaker, he paid for Hartnell to receive some 'polish' at the Imperial Service College, though Hartnell found the strictures too much and ran away.
Hartnell entered the theatre in 1925 working under Frank Benson as a general stagehand. He appeared in numerous Shakespearian plays, including The Merchant of Venice (1926), Julius Caesar (1926), As You Like It (1926), Hamlet (1926), The Tempest (1926), Macbeth (1926). He also appeared in She Stoops to Conquer (1926) and School for Scandal (1926) and Good Morning, Bill (1927), before performing in Miss Elizabeth's Prisoner (1928). This play was written by Robert Neilson Stephens and E. Lyall Swete. It featured the actress Heather McIntyre, whom he married during the following year. His first of more than sixty film appearances was in Say It With Music (1932). He was cast as Albert Fosdike in Noël Coward's film In Which We Serve (1942) but turned up late for his first day of shooting. Coward berated Hartnell in front of cast and crew for his unprofessionalism, made him personally apologise to everyone and then sacked him. Michael Anderson, who was the First Assistant Director, took over the part and was credited as "Mickey Anderson".
At the outbreak of the Second World War, Hartnell served in the Tank Corps, but was invalided out after eighteen months as the result of suffering a nervous breakdown, and returned to acting. Hartnell usually played comic characters, until he was cast in the robust role of Sergeant Ned Fletcher in The Way Ahead (1944). From then on his career was defined by playing mainly policemen, soldiers, and thugs. This typecasting bothered him, for even when cast in comedies he found he was invariably playing the 'heavy'. In 1958 he played the sergeant in the first Carry On film comedy, Carry On Sergeant, and appeared as a town councillor in the Boulting brothers' film Heavens Above! (1963) with Peter Sellers. He also appeared as Will Buckley - another military character - in the film The Mouse That Roared (1959), again with Sellers.
His first regular role on television was as Sergeant Major Percy Bullimore in The Army Game from 1957 to 1961. Again, although it was a comedy series, he found himself cast in a "tough-guy" role. He appeared in a supporting role in the film version of This Sporting Life (1963), giving a sensitive performance as an aging rugby league talent scout known as 'Dad'.
After living at 51 Church Street, Isleworth, next door to Hugh Blaker, the Hartnells lived on the Thames Ditton Island. Then in the 1960s they moved to a cottage in Mayfield, Sussex. He lived in later life at Sheephurst Lane in Marden, Kent.
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Full Name at Birth
William Henry Hartnell
William Henry Hartnell (8 January 1908 – 23 April 1975), also known as Billy Hartnell or Bill Hartnell, was an English actor. Hartnell played the first incarnation of the Doctor in Doctor Who, from 1963 to 1966. He was also known for his roles as Sergeant Grimshaw, the title character of the first Carry On film, Carry on Sergeant in 1958, and Company Sergeant Major Percy Bullimore in the sitcom The Army Game from 1957 until 1958, and again in 1960.
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