Maurice Herbert Evans



  • (1901 - 89) British-born US actor who was praised for hisperformances in the plays of Shakespeare and Shaw. He was also well-knownfor his film and television roles, which included a warlock in the long-runningTV series Bewitched.

    Evans made his professional debut in 1926 as Orestes in theOresteia of Aeschylus at the Festival Theatre, Cambridge. His firstnotable success came in 1928, as Lieutenant Raleigh in R. C. Sherriff'sJourney's End at the Apollo Theatre, with Laurence Olivieras Captain Stanhope. When Olivier was subsequently offered the leadin Beau Geste, Evans turned down a part in the same productionto avoid working with him again so soon in a supporting role. WhenOlivier played Romeo in 1940 on Broadway, US critics compared himunfavourably to Evans.

    In 1934 Evans joined the Old Vic company, playing the leads in RichardII and a full-length Hamlet, known to the company as 'Hamletin its eternity'. The US director Guthrie McClintic was in the audience,seeking a Romeo to play opposite his wife, Katherine Cornell; as aresult Evans made his Broadway debut in 1935 in this role. He wonhis best reviews ever in 1937 for Richard II, which ran for171 performances at the St James Theatre: the Drama League named himthe best actor of the year, and the critic John Mason Brown wrote"It is one of the finest Shakespearian performances the moderntheater has seen." The British critic James Agate, however,thought Evans too boyish for tragedy.

    In 1941, the year he became a US citizen, Evans played Macbethin a high-profile New York production; bizarrely, some blamed the famous curse of the Scottish Play when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor a few weeks later. Undeterred, Evans took the play to Hawaii in 1943 ina special 'Uncle Sam production'; all the supporting roles were played byserving US soldiers. During the war Evans would also entertain the troopswith his simplified G.I. Hamlet. His postwar work includedfour Shaw roles, including John Tanner in Man and Superman(1947) and Captain Shotover in Heartbreak House (1959). In1961 he won an Emmy for his television performance as Macbeth. After givinga solo Shakespeare recital (at the age of 72) at the Kennedy Centerin Washington, DC, Evans 'retired' to Britain but continued to appearon stage and screen well into his eighties.