Jump to: navigation, search

The Times (21/Oct/1952) - Obituary: Basil Radford

(c) The Times (21/Oct/1952)



Mr. Basil Radford, who died yesterday in hospital in London at the age of 55, was a versatile actor best suited, on the stage and on the screen, to the medium of light comedy.

He endeared himself to theatrical and film audiences as the Englishman of a popular romantic convention. No great shakes as a thinker, this Englishman never lost his sense of values, and in the thick of fearful hazards was less dismayed by the likelihood of imminent capture than by the news that England had collapsed in the second innings. These parts showed the eternal small boy twinkling through the wrinkles of middle age; but Radford's range was much wider than is suggested by his successful hold on a single type. Indeed, versatility was, perhaps, his foible.

He believed that an accomplished actor should be capable of dealing effectively with emotional as well as comic situations. As the distraught Salathiel in John Drinkwater's Biblical play, A Man's House, and in other pieces, he made good his theory ; but when he chose to represent men of the world, eminent lawyers and the like, a sense of strain sometimes appeared and the emotional effects came by contrivance rather than through a complete identification of self with part. There was always something irrepressibly boyish in his playing, and he was happiest in those comedies which helped him to exploit this amiable quality.

The first film in which Radford appeared was Barnum was Right in 1929, but it was not until several years later that his real chance came on the screen, and good use he made of it. In such films as The Lady Vanishes and Dead of Night, he portrayed, in partnership with Mr. Naunton Wayne, the dim-wilted, but dogged and amiable, sportsman with a good effect, which was less easy to sustain when transferred to the medium of broadcasting. That his place in film comedy was secure is shown by his appearance recently in such successful productions as Passport to Pimlico and Whisky Galore.

Basil Radford was born at Chester, on June 25, 1897, and was educated at St. Peter's, York. He was on active service from 1915-18, and on his return to civil life studied for the stage at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, making his first appearance on the London stage in July, 1924, in Collusion at the Ambassadors . From 1927 until 1931 he was abroad, first touring New Zealand in The Ghost Train, and thereafter at San Francisco and Los Angeles. For nearly two years he played with the British Guild Players at Vancouver, and then, returning to England, reappeared at the Strand in May, 1932, in The Love Pirate. From then on he appeared in a great variety of plays, notably Night Must Fall and Spring Tide. Since the last war he has played in Clutterbuck, Blind Goddess, and The White Falcon. In the summer of last year his health began to give trouble, and he decided to take a holiday. He made several gallant attempts to resume acting, but after several collapses the last of which occurred last August, he was compelled to relinquish his career.

In 1926 he married Miss Shirly Deuchars. They had one son.