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The Times (10/May/1983) - Obituary: John Williams

(c) The Times (10/May/1983)


John Williams, an Englishman who. after early London success, went to Broadway in a Lonsdale play and remained there for most of his professional life, has died, aged 80. From the 1930s he appeared regularly in films and for more than 40 years was a dependable supporting player who was particularly effective in parts which used his talent for polished comedy.

Born at Chalfont St Giles in April 1903, son of Colonel Alfred Williams, he was educated at Lancing. He began as a child actor, made his debut in Peter Pan in 1916, and was precociously a handsome young man about the West End theatre, acting principally in light comedies or unexacting dramas. It was sound experience for a player who never aspired to classical parts, but who was always valuable in any cast, and specially in work from London.

His most noticeable parts in the Twenties were Bobby in The Romantic Age and Bertie in The Knave of Diamonds; he also acted in Milne's Success (1923). In 1924 he followed Francis Lister in Lonsdale's uncharacteristic piece, The Fake: in this he went to New York with Godfrey Tearle late in 1924.

For the rest of his career he returned only once to the London stage. That was at the Haymarkel (1935) as Archie in Ivor Novello's Full House. On Broadway, down the years, with a break during 1941-45 when he served with the RAF in England, he acted in nearly 30 plays.

In films he will probably be best remembered as the police inspector in Hitchcock's thriller, Dial M for Murder a nicely dry performance he had previously given in the stage version. He was excellent, too, in Hitchcock's To Catch a Thief, and among his many other films were Next of Kin, Sabrina Fair, The Solid Gold Cadillac, Island In the Sun and Witness For the Prosecution.

He married Beatrice Helen Blanchard.