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Hawkins, Jack (1910-1973)


Main image of Hawkins, Jack (1910-1973)

Square-jawed actor who exploited his rich vocal tones to endow the countless figures of authority he played with a formidable screen presence. A child performer, Hawkins scored his first film role in 1921 in The Four Just Men (d. George Ridgewell) and made his theatrical debut in London at age 12, playing the elf king in Where the Rainbow Ends. Years of minor screen work followed, as did his marriage (1932-42) to Jessica Tandy, and a stint in India during WW2 as Colonel in ENSA (the entertainment arm of Britain's armed forces).

Serious fame came in the '50s with his roles as Captain Ericson in The Cruel Sea (d. Charles Frend, 1952) and the gruffly humane teacher of deaf children in Mandy (d. Alexander Mackendrick, 1952), the paternalistic Merton in The Intruder (d. Guy Hamilton, 1953), Major Warden, the fervent demolition expert of The Bridge on the River Kwai (d. David Lean, 1957), and his most commanding turn of all, Quintus Arrius ("Your eyes are full of hate, 41") in Ben Hur (US, d. William Wyler, 1959). In 1960, it was interesting to see him submit his officer-and-gentleman persona to some scrutiny in The League of Gentlemen (d. Basil Dearden), and he remained in regular demand in British and international films.

In 1966, cancer of the larynx destroyed his voice though not his desire to act. Hawkins appeared in films right up until his death, miming the dialogue that was dubbed in post-production by either Charles Gray or Robert Rietty.

Autobiography: Anything for a Quiet Life, 1973.

Melinda Hildebrandt, Encyclopedia of British Film

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From the BFI's filmographic database

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