Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Will Hay of Stockton (c.NZ446193)

[from Wikipedia]

The great William Thomson “Will” Hay was a famed comic screen actor of 1930s and 40s Britain. As a child, he lived in several locations throughout England as his father sought work, but was actually born in Stockton-on-Tees to parents William and Elizabeth in December 1888.

Will began his adult life as an engineer in Salford, but decided to become an actor in his early 20s, spending many years as a music hall performer – including some time in Fred Karno’s famous comedy troupe. After a long and successful stage career, he broke into film in his mid-40s and spent a short but highly successful few years in the business (1934-1943), before moving (very briefly) into radio. His film portrayals saw him play bumbling authority-figure characters – among them lead roles in  Boys Will be Boys, Oh, Mr Porter!, The Ghost of St.Michael’s (above), and My Learned Friend.

He wrote much of his own material, and was also, interestingly, a highly-respected amateur astronomer (and a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, no less). Furthermore, he was one of Britain’s first private pilots (he gave lessons to Amy Johnson) and spoke several languages proficiently. He was married – and fathered three children – before separating from his wife, Gladys. Sadly, he spent the last two years of his life disabled following a stroke in 1947.

Will Hay died in 1949, aged just 60, and was buried in London.

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