Jack Hawkins had a massive physique, a deliberate
hesitating delivery of his gravelly voice and a curious believability
that meant when he was playing a role – you really believed that
he WAS that character. Perhaps this is because he was so typically English
in some many regards that when it came to playing a straight laced major
or a corvette Captain – he just easily fitted in.
on the 14th September 1910 in London, Hawkins scored his first film
role in 1921 in 'The Four Just Men' and made his theatrical debut in
London at age 12, playing the elf king in 'Where the Rainbow Ends'.
After his first film, 1930's 'Birds of Prey', Hawkins languished for
several years in secondary roles before achieving minor stardom by the
end of that decade.
came the war and Hawkins enlisted into the Royal Welsh Fusiliers and
was soon promoted to the rank of Captain. Whilst serving with the British
army in India he was seconded to ENSA, a military entertainment unit,
where he finished his military service in Asia. In his memoirs, Hawkins
vividly recalls a note he discovered on his desk, after he had withdrawn
from a play which had been running for a while,
must protest in the strongest possible terms of your withdrawal of the
play 'Company Love in a Mist' and insist on its immediate return’
notes that it was not the letter that caught his eye but the signature;
General William Slim (Commander - South East Asia).
the war Hawkins began his most successful period starring 'The Cruel
Sea', the top grossing film of 1953. As Commander Ericson, Hawkins's
roughly hewn face sheds silent tears at the loss of the drifting British
crewmen, blown up by his decision to depth-charge a suspected submarine.
It was a great film and really introduced two other British actors at
the time Denholm Elliott and Donald Sinden.
was the gruffly humane teacher of deaf children in 'Mandy', and the
paternalistic Merton in 'The Intruder' (1953). Then came one of this
finest roles played Major Warden (back in south east asia where he served
13 years earlier), the passionate and fervent demolition expert of The
Bridge on the River Kwai (1957). His counterparts were Alec Guinness
and William Holden and unfortunately he missed the BAFTA for best supporting
actor. Sir Alec picked up the 'Best Actor' award on both sides of the
Atlantic. His interaction with Holden will be what I remember him best
for in the film. Holdens character is cynical and war weary 'good for
nothing' and whenever Hawkins is showing stiff upper lip, he never fails
to fit some sarcasm into the dialogue, such as his retort,
show, jolly jolly good show…good hunting’
Hawkins very proper 'get the job done' British attitude.