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Tomlinson, David (1917-2000)


Main image of Tomlinson, David (1917-2000)

An amiable light comedy actor with lugubrious features, popular on stage and in British films from 1948 to 1960, often as endearing upper-class fools, often flustered and bewildered, sometimes providing a light touch in serious films such as The Wooden Horse (d. Jack Lee, 1950).

After Tonbridge School and (briefly) the Grenadier Guards, he made his West End debut in 1938, and was spotted by Anthony Asquith while touring in Quiet Wedding and cast in the 1941 film. After RAF service in WW2, he continued in supporting roles, becoming busy in the late '40s, when he featured more prominently in such Gainsborough films as Broken Journey (d. Ken Annakin, 1948), My Brother's Keeper (d. Alfred Roome, 1948), and the popular mermaid comedy Miranda (d. Annakin, 1948). In another popular success, The Chiltern Hundreds (d. John Paddy Carstairs, 1949), he starred as a twittish Viscount who unsuccessfully stands for both Tory and Labour as an election candidate.

In the '50s, he starred on the West End stage in The Little Hut for three years. His reputation for playing genial upper-class twits continued with the infantile Humpy in All for Mary (d. Wendy Toye, 1955), 'J' in Three Men in a Boat (d. Annakin, 1956), and Lt. Fairweather in Up the Creek and Further Up the Creek (both d. Val Guest, 1958).

A sighting of Tomlinson on stage by Walt Disney led to his best remembered role, the prosperous Edwardian father in Mary Poppins (US, d. Robert Stevenson, 1964), resulting in other US and British children's films, such as Bedknobs and Broomsticks (US, d. Stevenson, 1971) and Wombling Free (d. Lionel Jeffries, 1977).

Autobiography: Luckier Than Most, 1990

Roger Philip Mellor, Encyclopedia of British Film

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Selected credits

Thumbnail image of 'Pimpernel' Smith (1940)'Pimpernel' Smith (1940)

Impressive WWII propaganda film updating the Scarlet Pimpernel story

Thumbnail image of I See A Dark Stranger (1946)I See A Dark Stranger (1946)

A fiery Irishwoman becomes a spy for the Germans during World War II

Thumbnail image of Is Your Honeymoon Really Necessary (1953)Is Your Honeymoon Really Necessary (1953)

Diana Dors stars in this frothy farce about a marital mix-up

Thumbnail image of Magic Box, The (1951)Magic Box, The (1951)

Star-studded biopic of British film pioneer William Friese-Greene

Thumbnail image of Miranda (1948)Miranda (1948)

Glynis Johns plays a mermaid in this light fishy comedy

Thumbnail image of My Brother's Keeper (1948)My Brother's Keeper (1948)

Fast-paced thriller with Jack Warner and George Cole as fugitive convicts

Thumbnail image of Way to the Stars, The (1945)Way to the Stars, The (1945)

Deceptively low-key drama about RAF pilots in World War II

Thumbnail image of Wooden Horse, The (1950)Wooden Horse, The (1950)

Three British POWs escape from the notorious Stalag Luft III

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