Roger Livesey had one of the most distinctive voices in British cinema. A purring growl that stopped just short of an asthmatic wheeze. Even in his duller films there's always that voice to give audiences a jolt of pleasure.
The Liveseys were a theatrical family. Father Sam grew up on stage and his sons Jack, Barrie and Roger all followed in the family business from an early age. roger was schooled at the Italia Conti Stage School and made his West End debut aged 7. As he grew up he gained a wide range of experience from Shakespeare to Aldwych farce. In the early 30s he joined the Old Vic and played Caliban opposite Charles Laughton's Prospero.
His film career started early with a few silents as a child performer, but it was when talkies arrived that it really got going. There was an insatiable demand for actors who were "talkie ready" and Livesey fitted the bill nicely. Tall, good-looking and equally at home in a suit or a period costume, he was a natural leading man though his slightly unconventional looks helped him get a decent range of character parts too.
His screen career was put temporarily on hold after Rembrandt while he appeared on Broadway with the Old Vic, and while in the US he married fellow company member Ursula Jeans. His sister was already married to Jean's brother.
The trio of films he made with Powell and Pressburger are his lasting legacy: The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, I Know Where I'm Going and A Matter of Life and Death. Three very different films and his performance is central to all three. His Colonel Blimp has a fair claim to be the greatest single performance in British cinema, at least in my opinion.
The end of the war brought a return to the Old Vic for Livesey and Jeans. In films, they settled down into featured roles and cameos. Both continued to work into their 70s.
Livesey died in 1976 of cancer.
|1921||The Four Feathers|
|1921||Where the Rainbow Ends|
|1931||East Lynne on the Western Front|
|1933||A Cuckoo in the Nest|
|1933||The Veteran of Waterloo|
|1935||The Price of Wisdom|
|1938||The Rebel Son|
|1940||Spies of the Air|
|1940||Girl in the News|
|1943||The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp|
|1945||I Know Where I'm Going|
|1946||A Matter of Life and Death|
|1949||That Dangerous Age|
|1951||Green Grow the Rushes|
|1953||The Master of Ballantrae|
|1958||It Happened in Broad Daylight|
|1960||The League of Gentlemen|
|1960||Upgreen - And at 'Em|
|1961||No My Darling Daughter|
|1964||Of Human Bondage|
|1965||The Amorous Adventures of Moll Flanders|
|1968||Oedipus the King|
Roger Livesey at Amazon UK
Roger Livesey at Amazon US