Jack Hawkins

Jack Hawkins

Jack Hawkins
Hawkins in 1973, by Allan Warren
Born John Edward Hawkins
(1910-09-14)14 September 1910
Wood Green, Middlesex, England
Died 18 July 1973(1973-07-18) (aged 62)
Chelsea, London, England
Occupation Actor
Years active 1930–73
Spouse(s) Jessica Tandy (1932–40) (divorced) 1 child
Doreen Lawrence (1947–73, his death) 3 children
Children Susan Hawkins (b. 1934)[1]
Caroline Hawkins (b. 1955)[2]
Andrew Hawkins
Nicholas Hawkins

John Edward "Jack" Hawkins, CBE (14 September 1910 – 18 July 1973) was an English actor who worked on stage and in film from the 1930s until the 1970s.[3]


  • Career 1
  • Personal life 2
  • Military service 3
  • Illness and death 4
  • Filmography 5
    • British box office ranking 5.1
  • References 6
  • External links 7


He was born at Lyndhurst Road, Wood Green, now in Haringey, London, the son of a builder. He was educated at Wood Green’s Trinity County Grammar School, where, aged eight he joined the school choir,.[4] By the age of ten Hawkins had joined the local operatic society, and made his stage debut in Patience by Gilbert and Sullivan. His parents enrolled him in the Italia Conti Academy and whilst he was studying there he made his London stage debut, when aged eleven, playing the Elf King in Where the Rainbow Ends at the Holborn Empire on Boxing Day, December 1923, a production that also included the young Noël Coward.[4] He appeared on Broadway in Journey's End by the age of 18.[5] Although he appeared in several films during the 1930s, it was only after service in World War II, during which he had become a colonel in ENSA for India and Southeast Asia,[6] that he began to build a successful career in the cinema.

Hawkins became a star with the release of three successful films in which he played stern but sympathetic authority figures: Angels One Five (1951), The Planter's Wife (1952), and Mandy (1952). In 1952 British exhibitors voted him the fourth most popular local star at the box office.[7] He consolidated this status with The Cruel Sea, which was the most successful film of the year and saw Hawkins voted the most popular star in Britain regardless of nationality.[8]

Hawkins' popularity declined with a series of less successful movies, but his authoritative presence meant he was always in demand. From the late 1950s, he mostly appeared in character roles, often in epic films like The Bridge on the River Kwai, Lawrence of Arabia (playing General Edmund Allenby), Lord Jim, and Oh! What a Lovely War. For The Bridge on the River Kwai, he had to persuade good friend Alec Guinness to take the lead role, which would ultimately win Guinness an Oscar.

Some of Hawkins' more unusual roles included an Egyptian Pharaoh in Land of the Pharaohs, Ben Hur's adoptive Roman father Quintus Arrius in Ben-Hur, and Zulu, where he played against type as the fanatical pacifist, Reverend Otto Witt.[8][9][10]

He appeared as one of The Four Just Men (1959) in the Sapphire Films TV series for ITV.[11]

In reality Hawkins was politically liberal, and an emotional man, in sharp contrast to his conservative screen image. One of his favourite films, The League of Gentlemen, was considered quite groundbreaking for its time in its references to sex. However, though initially sought for the role of a gay barrister in Victim, he turned it down fearing that it might conflict with his masculine image.[12] The role was eventually played by Dirk Bogarde.[13]

Hawkins also produced the film adaptation of Peter Barnes's The Ruling Class (1972), with Peter O'Toole and Alastair Sim.[14]

Personal life

He was married to Jessica Tandy from 1932 to 1940 and later to Doreen Lawrence (1919–2013) from 1947 until his death in 1973.[15][16]

Military service

During WWII Hawkins served as an officer with the Royal Welch Fusiliers.[6]

Illness and death

A three-packet-a-day cigarette smoker, Hawkins began experiencing voice problems in the late 1950s; unknown to the public he had undergone cobalt treatment in 1959 for what was then described as a secondary condition of the larynx, but which was probably cancer. In private, he used a mechanical larynx to aid his speech.[17] In December 1965, he was diagnosed with throat cancer. His entire larynx was removed in January of the following year; thereafter his performances were dubbed, often (with Hawkins's approval) by Robert Rietti or Charles Gray. Hawkins continued to smoke after losing his voice.[18]

Hawkins died at St Stephen's Hospital, Fulham Road, London, on 18 July 1973,[19] following an operation to insert an artificial voicebox. He was 62. His final appearance was in the television miniseries QB VII. His autobiography, Anything For a Quiet Life, was published after his death. He was cremated and his ashes interred at Golders Green Crematorium in north London.[20]


British box office ranking

During the 1950s, British exhibitors consistently voted Hawkins one of the most popular local stars in the country in the annual poll conducted by the Motion Picture Herald:

  • 1952 – 4th most popular British star[7]
  • 1953 – most popular international star
  • 1954 – 5th most popular international star, most popular British star[21]
  • 1955 – 6th most popular British star[22]
  • 1956 – 2nd most popular British star[23]
  • 1957 – 9th most popular British star[24]
  • 1958 – 9th most popular British star


  1. ^ http://articles.latimes.com/1995-06-18/entertainment/ca-14212_1_jessica-tandy
  2. ^ https://books.google.com/books?id=Ey59RZZaWeYC&pg=PA154&lpg=PA154&dq=caroline+hawkins+daughter+of+jack+hawkins&source=bl&ots=vgjIJM_Tug&sig=9lB7VNikILom94DZyHoYR7KaX5o&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CEUQ6AEwCGoVChMIrY22hvWFyAIVjDo-Ch3_nADM#v=onepage&q=caroline%20hawkins%20daughter%20of%20jack%20hawkins&f=false
  3. ^ Obituary Variety, 25 July 1973, page 55.
  4. ^ a b Profile of Jack Hakwins at britmovie.co.uk
  5. ^ The Broadway League. "Jack Hawkins - IBDB: The official source for Broadway Information IBDB: The official source for Broadway Information". ibdb.com. 
  6. ^ a b """Hawkins, John Edward "Jack. ww2gravestone.com. 
  7. ^ a b "COMEDIAN TOPS FILM POLL.".  
  8. ^ a b "Jack Hawkins". britmovie.co.uk. 
  9. ^ Alex von Tunzelmann. "Land of the Pharaohs: the plot won't triangulate - reel history". the Guardian. 
  10. ^ Here they come again': Zulu at 50"'". theartsdesk.com. 
  11. ^ "4 Just Men". 78rpm.co.uk. 
  12. ^ Imdb bio
  13. ^ "Victim". BFI. 
  14. ^ "The Ruling Class". BFI. 
  15. ^ "BFI Screenonline: Hawkins, Jack (1910-1973) Biography". screenonline.org.uk. 
  16. ^ "Widow of Jack Hawkins dies aged 94". Telegraph.co.uk. 17 June 2013. 
  17. ^ Hawkins, Jack (1975). Anything for a Quiet Life. London: Coronet.  
  18. ^ "Jack Hawkins movies, photos, movie reviews, filmography, and biography - AllMovie". AllMovie. 
  19. ^ GRO Register of Deaths: SEP 1973 5a 1339 CHELSEA - John Edward Hawkins, DoB = 14 September 1910
  20. ^ "Jack Hawkins (1910 - 1973) - Find A Grave Memorial". findagrave.com. 
  22. ^ "'The Dam Busters'." The Times [London, England] 29 Dec 1955: 12. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 11 July 2012.
  23. ^ "The Most Popular Film Star In Britain" The Times [London, England] 7 Dec 1956: 3. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 11 July 2012.
  24. ^ 'BRITISH ACTORS HEAD FILM POLL: BOX-OFFICE SURVEY', The Manchester Guardian (1901-1959) [Manchester (UK)] 27 Dec 1957: 3.

External links