Jack Hawkins

 



He was considered for an American Academy Award nomination for his portrayal of Quintus Arrius in 1959's Ben-Hur, but the Best Supporting Actor Oscar went to another actor in that blockbuster, Hugh Griffith. Around this same time, Hawkins was one of four rotating stars in the Rank produced TV series The Four Just Men; the other three were Vittorio de Sica, Dan Dailey and Richard Conte.

But in 1960, it was interesting to see him submit his officer and gentleman persona to some comic scrutiny in Basil Deardens 'The League of Gentlemen'. This was a classic british comedy hailing the start of the 1960's. Hawkins molded himself easily into the role of the ex army officer and it surrounded a cleverly planned bank heist. He has some superb timing and one of my favourite scenes is with Nigel Patrick who (having seen an oil painting in Hawkins house), opens the sequence with,

'is that your wife'

'yes…'

'is she dead?' (regretfully)

'no I regret to say the bitch is still going strong..'

Five years later in Lawrence of Arabia (1962) he played General Allenby, again reprising the classic British army figure. A departure a few years later was as a minister in the epic film Zulu.

He underwent cobalt treatment for a secondary condition of the larynx in 1959 whilst filming 'The League of Gentlemen' Afterwards he took voice coaching and reduced the number of cigarettes he smoked each day from about sixty to five. However, while filming Guns at Batasi (1964) five years later his voice began to fail. It was not until Christmas 1965 that he was diagnosed with throat cancer, by which time the only possible treatment was a total larengectomy.

In 1966, Hawkins underwent an operation for cancer of the larynx. Though the operation cost him his voice, publicity releases indicated that Hawkins was training himself to talk again with an artificial device and also that he defiantly continued chain-smoking. Hawkins appeared in films right up until his death, miming the dialogue that was dubbed in post­production by either Charles Gray or Robert Rietti.

In his next-to-last film Theatre of Blood (1973), he was effectively cast in a substantial role that required no dialogue whatsoever - something that the viewer realizes only in retrospect. Ironically, Hawkins' biography was titled 'Anything for a Quiet Life'. Jack Hawkins was married twice, to actresses Jessica Tandy and Doreen Lawrence.

Autobiographies:

'Anything for a quiet life' (1973)

Suggested films to see:

The League of Gentleman (1959)
Ben Hur (1959)
Bridge on the river Kwai (1957)
Mandy (1952)
The Cruel Sea (1953)









 

 

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