Jack Hawkins
(1910-1973)
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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.

Born 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.

Then 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 In his memoirs, Hawkins vividly recalls a note he discovered on his desk, after he had withdrawn from a play which had been running for a while,

‘I must protest in the strongest possible terms of your withdrawal of the play 'Company Love in a Mist' and insist on its immediate return’

Jack notes that it was not the letter that caught his eye but the signature; General William Slim (Commander - South East Asia).

After 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.

Next 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,

‘good show, jolly jolly good show…good hunting’

at Hawkins very proper 'get the job done' British attitude.

 






 

 




 

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