January 2, 2017


Sir Ralph Richardson (1902-1983) b. Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England.

Ralph Richardson

Born in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England, Ralph Richardson, the son of a teacher at Cheltenham College, made his professional stage debut in 1921 at the Little Theatre, Brighton. In 1926 he joined the Birmingham Repertory Theatre. He commenced his association with the Old Vic in 1930, and gained prominence in a series of West End productions of modern plays, including Somerset Maugham’s Sheppey (1933) and J.B. Priestley’s Cornelius (1935). Richardson made his feature film debut in Boris Karloff’s The Ghoul (1933), about a dead Egyptologist returning from beyond the grave. He was prominent in the West End throughout the remainder of the decade, touring the United States in 1935, and in 1938. During World War II, Richardson served in the Fleet Air Arm. When demobbed in 1944, he was asked to lead the Old Vic’s post-war revival after it had been bombed out of its old premises. 1946, he went with the Old Vic on a tour of the United States. He was knighted in 1947. Meanwhile, he made a great impact at the cinema, notably in his award-winning performance as the suspected butler in Carol Reed’s The Fallen Idol (1948).

Richardson joined up with David Lean for the role of Sir John Ridgefield in The Sound Barrier (1952), about the early days of jet flight, and renewed his association with Carol Reed in Our Man in Havana (1959). In addition to these he made an appearance in director Laurence Olivier‘s lavish production of Richard III (1955). During the 1950s Richardson also performed at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, receiving excellent notices for his Prospero in Shakespeare’s The Tempest and the title role in Jonson’s Volpone. After a period away from the stage, Richardson returned triumphantly to the theatre in Robert Bolt’s Flowering Cherry (1957). Throughout the 1960s Richardson accepted more roles in films, including Long Day’s Journey Into Night (1962), a supporting role in David Lean‘s Dr. Zhivago (1965) and a comedic turn in The Wrong Box (1966). During the late 1970s and early 1980s Richardson’s work included stage productions of Shakespeare and a whimsical appearance as God in Terry Gilliam‘s fantasy adventure Time Bandits (1981).

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