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HAWTREY, Charles 1914-1988

(George C. Hartree)

Thin, dark-haired, British comic character star with dry, plaintive tones. He moved from what seemed a lifetime of skinny, snooty, trouble-making schoolboys in the late 1950's to become a regular member of the 'Carry On' films for 15 years. Pop-eyed and bespectacled, thin lips, it seemed, permanently pursed in an expression of disapproval or in anticipation of trouble, Hawtrey came originally from a theatrical family based in Middlesex. At the age of six he was writing plays that he and friends would put on for anyone who would pay a penny. The stage was in his own back garden. But greater fame beckoned when he developed a fine soprano voice, joined an amateur operatic society and even made a record or two. There were roles in silent films, a first stage appearance at eleven and some training at drama school before he made his debut London stage appearance at eighteen.


For a while Hawtrey tried producing but found it less satisfying and returned to acting. He gradually began to get a footing in the 'false boom' of the British cinema industry of the mid-1930's when versatile actors found themselves in great demand. But it was a series of films that Hawtrey made with Will Hay that made his name, defined his image and familiarised audiences with his face. Hay was Hawtrey's idol - he once said 'I learned everything I know from him - and he even turned down a role in Top of the Form (1952), a remake of Hay's 1937 film Good Morning, Boys, because he thought (rightly) that it cheapened the original.


In between his five films with Hay, Hawtrey became a regular broadcaster, most notably on children's programmes as the voice of Norman Bones, boy detective. His light, earnest-sounding speaking voice enabled him to keep going in the role for several years after his debut in 1943. And there were numerous film performances, almost always in comic cameos, before his performance as an inept private soldier in Carry On Sergeant made him a regular member of the highly successful series of film farces until 1972.


Knobbly-kneed and goggle-eyed, Hawtrey's characters in these films were vaguely camp and campily vague. He was always worth a smile and the running gag about him being tortured in Carry On Henry is the best thing in the film. Hawtrey's last years were far from happy. He became a heavy drinker and lost his place on the 'Carry On' team. Bitterly, he would tell friends that he had been dumped for being too old, an ironic fate for the perennial schoolboy. In his seventies, Hawtrey developed serious arterial problems. Revived after his heart stopped beating in September 1988, he was told that he would die unless both legs were removed.


He refused the operation and died a month later. He lived alone in a terraced house in a Kent seaside town, seldom visited by old companions from the film world. A sad ending for the multi-talented youngster once billed as 'Master Charles Hawtrey - the Angel Voiced Choirboy'.




Tell Your Children


This Freedom


Marry Me


The Melody Maker


Kiddies On Parade


Sabotage (US: Lie Woman Alone)

Cheer Up!

Well Done Henry


Good Morning, Bow! (US: Were There's A Will)

The Cap

East Ludgate Hill


Where's That Fire?



The Ghost Of St Michael's

The Black Sheep Of Whitehall


Let The People Sing

The Goose Steps Out

Much Too Shy


Bell Bottom George


A Canterbury Tale


Meet Me At Dawn


The End Of the River


The Story Of Shirley Yorke


Passport To Pimlico

Dark Street


Room To Let


Smart Alec

The Galloping Major

Brandy For The Parson


Hammer The Toff

You're Only Young Twice!


Five Days (US: Paid To Kill)

To Dorothy A Son (US: Cash On Delivery)


As Long As They're Happy

Man Of The Moment

Timeslip (US: The Atomic Man)

Simon And Laura

Jumping For Joy

Who Done It?


The March Hare


Carry On Sergeant


I Only Arsked!

Carry On Nurse

Carry On Teacher

Please Turn Over

Inn For Trouble


Carry On Constable


Carry On Regardless

Dentist On The Job (US: Get On With It!)

What A Whopper!


Carry On Cabby

Carry On Jack (US: Carry On Venus)


Carry On Cleo

Carry On Spying


Carry On Cowboy


Carry On Screaming

Don't Lose Your Head


The Terrornauts

Follow That Camel

Carry On Doctor


Carry On Up The Khyber


Carry On Camping

Carry On Again, Doctor

Zeta One


Carry On Loving

Carry On Up The Jungle

Carry On Henry

Grasshopper Island (TV)


Carry On At Your Convenience


Carry On Matron

Carry On Abroad