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Anthony Quayle
Born John Anthony Quayle
7 September 1913(1913-09-07)
Ainsdale, Southport, Lancashire, England
Died 20 October 1989 (aged 76)
London, England
Years active 1935–1989
Spouse(s) Hermione Hannen (1934–1941) (divorced)
Dorothy Hyson (1947–1989) (his death) 3 children

Sir John Anthony Quayle, CBE (7 September 1913 – 20 October 1989) was an English actor and director.


Early life

He was born in Ainsdale, Southport in Lancashire educated at the private Rugby School and trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. After appearing in music hall, he joined the Old Vic in 1932. During the Second World War he was an Army Officer and was made one of the area commanders of the Auxiliary Units [1]. Later he joined the Special Operations Executive and served as a liaison officer with the partisans in Albania (reportedly, his service with the SOE seriously affected him, and he never felt comfortable talking about it).He described his experiences in a fictionalised form in Eight Hours from England.[2] In 1944 he was an aide to the Governor of Gibraltar [3] at the time of the air crash of General Władysław Sikorski's aircraft on 4 July 1943.He fictionalised his Gibrlatar experience in his second novel 'On Such a Night', published by Heinemann


From 1948 to 1956 he directed at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, and laid the foundations for the creation of the Royal Shakespeare Company. His own Shakespearian roles included Falstaff, Othello, Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing, Henry VIII, and Aaron in Titus Andronicus opposite Laurence Olivier; he played Mosca in Ben Jonson's Volpone; and he also appeared in contemporary plays. He played the role of Moses in Christopher Fry's play "The Firstborn," in a production starring opposite Katharine Cornell.[4]

His first film role was a brief uncredited one as an Italian wigmaker in the 1938 Pygmalion - subsequent film roles included parts in Alfred Hitchcock's The Wrong Man, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's The Battle of the River Plate (both 1956), Ice-Cold in Alex (1958), Tarzan's Greatest Adventure (1959), The Guns of Navarone (1961), Damn the Defiant, David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia (both 1962) and The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964). He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1969 for his role as Cardinal Wolsey in Anne of the Thousand Days. Often cast as the decent British officer, he drew upon his own wartime experience, bringing a degree of authenticity to the parts notably absent from the performances of some non-combatant stars. One of his best friends from his days at the Old Vic was fellow actor Alec Guinness, who appeared in several films with him. He was also close friends with Jack Hawkins and Jack Gwillim; all four actors appeared in Lawrence of Arabia.

Quayle made his Broadway debut in The Country Wife in 1936. Thirty-four years later, he won critical acclaim for his starring role in the highly successful Anthony Shaffer play Sleuth, which earned him a Drama Desk Award.

Television appearances include Armchair Theatre: The Scent of Fear (1959) for ITV, the title role in the 1969 ITC drama series Strange Report and as French General Villers in the 1988 miniseries adaptation of The Bourne Identity. Also he narrated the miniseries The Six Wives of Henry VIII in 1970, and the acclaimed aviation documentary series Reaching for the Skies.

In 1984 he founded Compass Theatre Company which he inaugurated with a tour of "The Clandestine Marriage", directing and playing the part of Lord Ogleby. This production had a run at the Albery Theatre London. With the same company subsequently toured with a number of other plays, including "Sait Joan", "Dandy Dick" and "King Lear" with him in the title role.

Quayle was knighted in 1985 and he died in London from liver cancer in October 1989. He was married twice. His first wife was actress Hermione Hannen (1913–1983) and his widow and second wife was Dorothy Hyson (1914–1996), known as "Dot" to family and friends. He and Dorothy had two daughters, Jenny and Rosanna, and a son, Christopher.


  1. ^ Auxiliary Units were the "stay-behind forces" put in place in UK in case of a German invasion
  2. ^ Quayle, Anthony (1945). Eight Hours from England. London: Heinemann. 
  3. ^ New York Times obituary
  4. ^ Mosel, "Leading Lady: The World and Theatre of Katharine Cornell" (1978)

Further reading

  • Information on Quayle's war experience taken from Howarth, Patrick (1980). Undercover. London: Routledge. ISBN 0-7100-0573-3.  Howarth was an early member of SOE's HQ.
  • The Wildest Province: SOE in the Land of the Eagle (2008), by Roderick Bailey, London: Cape.

External links



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