Despite his knighthood, Sir Godfrey Tearle never made it to the absolute top tier of stage actors and his name no longer rings in the same way that a Gielgud or an Olivier does. In his film career he was even less exalted, but he did leave us with a few choice performances.
He was born in New York. His parents were both from a long line actors and toured constantly. His first speaking role was aged 9. His father died when he was 16 and Godfrey left the company and toured with other classical companies including Beerbohm Tree's. War service kept him from the stage and it wasn't until he played Othello in 1921 at the Royal Court that he began to be noticed. Even so, it took another 10 years of slog before he got to play Hamlet in London.
His film career was more successful. Most of his contemporaries had to wait until talkies before their services were in demand but Tearle first played Romeo in 1908. Cinema provided a handy income in the twenties though the films he was paid for were never going to enhance his reputation. Another handy money-spinner was a sweepstake he entered. The winnings provided enough to fund two productions in his bid to be an actor-manager. Sadly, the productions failed.
His most memorable role was in The 39 Steps as the chief villain - the man with the missing finger. This typed him as the respectable sort, though rarely as the sort who would be exposed as a rotter as in The 39 Steps. Over the next few years he produced a small cinematic gallery of doctors, lawyers and bishops.
He was married three times and in 1949 he entered into a relationship with Jill Bennett when she was 19 and he was in his 60s.
|1908||Romeo and Juliet|
|1916||Sir James Mortimer's Wager|
|1916||The Real Thing at Last|
|1919||The March Hare|
|1925||Salome of the Tenements|
|1926||If Youth But Knew|
|1926||Guy of Warwick|
|1926||One Colombo Night|
|1931||These Charming People|
|1931||The Shadow Between|
|1935||The 39 Steps|
|1936||Tomorrow We Live|
|1936||Puppets of Fate|
|1936||The Last Journey|
|1936||East Meets West|
|1942||One of Our Aircraft is Missing|
|1943||Tomorrow We Live|
|1943||The Lamp Still Burns|
|1944||Medal for the General|
|1945||The Rake's Progress|
|1947||The Beginning or the End|
|1952||I Believe in You|
|1953||The Titfield Thunderbolt|
Godfrey Tearle at Amazon UK
Godfrey Tearle at Amazon US