Sir Charles Hawtrey

Definition

Theater

  • (1858 - 1923) British actor-manager, the leading Britishcomedian of his day. He made his debut in 1881 at the Prince of Wales'Theatre in The Colonel. Two years later he raised £1,200from friends to produce his own adaptation of Von Moser's comedy ThePrivate Secretary with Beerbohm Tree in the lead. He became managerof Her Majesty's Theatre in 1885 and of the Comedy Theatre in 1887.

    One of Hawtrey's most successful roles was Lord Goring inWilde's An Ideal Husband (1895). With Charles Brookfield,who also played in An Ideal Husband, he helped to round upwitnesses to testify against Wilde in the homosexuality trial of 1895.

    In 1911 Hawtrey taught stage techniques to the child actorNoël Coward, who was among the cast of Where the Rainbow Ends.Coward always acknowledged his debt to Hawtrey's training: "Iremember him standing over me at rehearsal, in front of the wholecompany, and saying, 'Now, boy, you've got to laugh.'"

    Off stage, Hawtrey was a renowned gambler and bon vivantwho always dressed immaculately. An extravagant spender, he was constantlypursued by creditors. He once received a writ-server in his office,offering the bewildered man his best cigars and insisting that heaccept free tickets for a show. Hawtrey disappeared into an adjoiningoffice and returned with an envelope: "There you are, my dearchap, two for tonight." Only after the man had stammered hisgratitude and departed did he open the envelope and find the writinside.

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