British Character Actors No. 6: Richard Wattis

The Arts

Always in his trademark glasses, Richard Wattis often played officials – as indeed a small army of actors did in the postwar years. The difference was that, instead of playing them as frustrated and bumbling, he was drily cynical and sharp. He’s especially funny in ‘The Happiest Days Of Your Life’. During the 1950s Wattis starred in numerous Ealing comedies as well as the ‘St Trinian’ films of Launder and Gilliat, ‘Around The World in 80 Days’ and ‘The Prince & The Showgirl.’ He appeared in ‘Carry On’s,’ Norman Wisdom films, and starred in over 100 films in all. On television he became a comic foil for Tony Hancock, Dickie Henderson and Eric Sykes. He was gay and always struck me as a little melancholy – he rarely smiled on film, but you were always rather glad to see him turn up.

7 comments on “British Character Actors No. 6: Richard Wattis”

  1. He was a brilliant actor. Nice to see this tribute to him too. A bit of a plug if you don’t mind, for our theatre tour of HANCOCKS FINEST HOUR by Colin Bennett. You might enjoy it. Details are on the Facebook page or at the website Cheers, Nick.

  2. Ian Payn says:

    He only has one line in The Longest Day, but it’s hilarious.

  3. Trevor Taundry says:

    One of the great actors who was always the foil. Never knew his name thanks for sharing this. I remember him with Jerry Desmond lol

  4. Jim Diamond says:

    I have been trying to add photos and information to old film stars on the wiki. That is a great picture of a great man, Richard Wattis. Could you possibly put it on his page on the wiki, or at least give me permission to. They are VERY fussy about copyright, though it looks like a “promotional picture”, as they say. Thanks.

  5. admin says:

    I just lifted it from somewhere online – it was probably a Rank studio shot, as you say, so just give them my provenance.

  6. IAN PAYNE says:

    Lovely blog Chris – CONGRATS !!

    A great great actor and it was a privilage to write about him between 2003 and 2005. Copies of my unpublished books are at Walsall History Centre and Wednesbury library respectively :

    I go round the Midlands talking about him. The shot above is Richard in RIGHT, LEFT & CENTRE and it is a must for every election period !! RW played the agent to Ian’s Tory Toff candidate character.

    It is Terence Rattigan’s 100th anniversary of his birth this year and of course his most famous play was THE SLEEPING PRINCE [film version became PRINCE & THE SHOWGIRL] starring Richard Wattis. There is a film being made about the making of this film at present :

    I still get celsbs communicating when RW is mentioned. Only today I got a signed photo from Lalo Schifrin – RW starred in this film [Lalo wrote the theme tune] :

    Thanks for the kind comments about RW – much missed by many. I won’t go on because I wouldn’t stop !!!

    In the ACTORS CHURCH Covent Garden his brass plate is a few plaques away from his friend Hattie Jacques :

  7. Matthew says:

    He was a fine actor .

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