Web Page 1182
14th September 2013
Top Picture: The original Dr Who
Bottom Picture: An original Police Box not a TARDIS
William Henry Hartnell ( known to most of us as the first, and the best, Dr Who) was born in St Pancras, London the only child of Lucy Hartnell, an unmarried mother. He was brought up partly by a foster mother, though he did spend many happy holidays in Devon with his mother's family of farmers, where he learned to ride.
He never found out the identity of his father (the name was left blank on his birth certificate) despite efforts to trace him. William was known as Billy at school and Bill during his acting career. He left school without prospects and became involved in petty crime. Through a boys' boxing club, he met the art collector Hugh Blaker, who would become his unofficial guardian and arrange for him initially to train as a jockey and then helped him enter the Italia Conti Academy Acting Academy, the theatre was a passion of Hugh Blaker and he paid for William Hartnell to receive some 'polish' at the Imperial Service College, though this was not to his liking and he ran away.
His first theatre job was in 1925 working as a stagehand. He appeared in several Shakespearian plays, and in She Stoops to Conquer and School for Scandal. He also appeared in 'Miss Elizabeth's Prisoner' in 1928' a play that featured Heather McIntyre. The following year they married. His first of more than sixty film appearances was Say It With Music in 1932. He was cast as 'Albert Fosdike' in Noël Coward's 1942 film In Which We Serve but turned up late for his first day of shooting. Coward berated him in front of cast and crew for his unprofessionalism, made him personally apologise to everyone and then sacked him.
At the outbreak of the Second World War, he served in the Tank Corps, but was invalided out after eighteen months suffering from a nervous breakdown and returned to acting. He usually played comic characters, until 1944 when he was cast as Sergeant Ned Fletcher in The Way Ahead and from then on his career was defined by playing mainly policemen, soldiers, and thugs. This typecasting bothered him for even when cast in comedies he found he was playing the 'heavy'. In 1958 he played the sergeant in the first Carry On film comedy, Carry On Sergeant, and in 1963 he appeared as a town councillor in the Boulting brothers' film Heavens Above! with Peter Sellers. He also appeared in The Mouse That Roared in 1959 (again with Peter Sellers).
His first regular role on television was as Sergeant Major Percy Bullimore in The Army Game from 1957–1961. Again, although it was a comedy series he found himself cast in a "tough-guy" role.
After living at 51 Church Street, Isleworth, next door to Hugh Blaker, the Hartnells lived on the Island, Thames Ditton. Then in the 1960s they moved to a cottage in Mayfield, Sussex. He lived in later life at Sheephurst Lane in Marden, Kent.
His performance in the film This Sporting Life was noted by Verity Lambert, the producer who was setting up a new science-fiction television series for the BBC, Doctor Who and she offered him the title role. He was uncertain about accepting a part in a children's series but he was persuaded to take the part, and it became the character for which he became best remembered. He later revealed that he took the role because it led him away from the gruff, military parts in which he had become typecast, and, having two grandchildren of his own, he came to relish particularly the attention and affection that playing the character brought him from children. Doctor Who earned him a regular salary of £315 per episode by 1966 equivalent to £4,050 a week in modern terms. By comparison, in 1966 his co-stars Anneke Wills and Michael Craze were earning £68 and £52 per episode at the same time. Throughout his time as the Doctor, he wore a wig whereas in private life he himself favoured the short-back-and-sides.
In 1965 his aunt Bessie Hartnell, who had looked after him during his troubled childhood, died. But the production schedule on the series was so tight, with a typical 48 episodes a year being transmitted, that it prevented his even taking time off to attend her funeral.
According to some of his colleagues on Doctor Who, he could be difficult to work with. Others, however, notably actors Peter Purves and William Russell, and producer Verity Lambert, spoke glowingly of him after more than forty years.
His deteriorating health (he suffered from arteriosclerosis, which began to affect his ability to say his lines), as well as poor relations with the new production team on the series after the departure of Verity Lambert, ultimately led him to leave Doctor Who in 1966. When he left Doctor Who, the producer of the show came up with a unique idea: since the Doctor is an alien, he can transform into another man when he dies, thereby renewing himself. William Hartnell himself suggested that Patrick Troughton should be cast as the new Doctor. In Episode 4 of the serial The Tenth Planet, the First Doctor regenerated into the Second Doctor.
He reprised the role of the Doctor in the 10th Anniversary story The Three Doctors (made in 1972, and broadcast 1972–73) with the help of cue cards, due to his failing memory, but appeared only in pre-filmed inserts seen on video screens. His appearance in this story was his last work as an actor. His health had grown worse in the early 1970s, and in December 1974 he was admitted to hospital permanently. In early 1975 he suffered a series of strokes brought on by cerebrovascular disease, and died peacefully in his sleep of heart failure on 23 April 1975, at the age of 67. His death was reported on the BBC News and a clip of the Doctor in the TARDIS from the end of "The OK Corral", the final episode of The Gunfighters, was shown.
He was survived by his widow Heather McIntyre they had a daughter, Heather Anne and two grandchildren. His widow, Heather, died in 1984. The only published biography of him is by his granddaughter, Jessica Carney (real name Judith), entitled Who's There, and subtitled The life and career of William Hartnell.
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Didn`t I have a giggle when I read today`s blog. When I started Court Lane School I had no idea of sex education and I certainly wasn`t told anything at home. Once on the way home on the bus I laughed at what I thought was a fat lady wearing strange clothes, only to be told by Linda Gubby (bless her) that the lady was going to have a baby. There was a programmne on TV one night which explained it all but I wasn`t allowed to see it. Next day a few of us were discussing it and I can remember thinking that this can`t be true and that my parents wouldn`t do anything like that. After we moved to the country where animals were producing their young all the time, I soon learned!!! Still my parents said nothing and no thoughtful, little books were put by my bedside. When I left school I went to St Marys Hospital and trained to be a dispenser. I learned so much about life. Some time later my mother asked me about my work one day and I said that I was now doing the dispensing for the clinic which dealt with sexually transmitted diseases. My mother was shocked and horrified, but still nothing was said. When I married and had children I vowed that this wouldn`t happen with them. We all talked about things very freely. Even when they were much older they would say "We can ask Mum anything". Strangely enough, one day my mother said that she envied me and how we could speak openly about anything. It was my turn to be shocked and I actually felt sad.
News and Views:
On this day 14th September 1960-1965.
On 14/09/1960 the number one single was Apache - The Shadows and the number one album was Down Drury Lane to Memory Lane - A Hundred and One Strings. The top rated TV show was No Hiding Place (AR) and the box office smash was Psycho. A pound of today's money was worth £13.68 and Tottenham Hotspur were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.
On 14/09/1961 the number one single was Johnny Remember Me - John Leyton and the number one album was South Pacific Soundtrack. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was One Hundred and One Dalmations. A pound of today's money was worth £13.25 and Ipswich Town were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions. The big news story of the day was First Mothercare shop opens in Surrey.
On 14/09/1962 the number one single was She's Not You - Elvis Presley and the number one album was Pot Luck - Elvis Presley. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was Lawrence of Arabia. A pound of today's money was worth £12.89 and Everton were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.
On 14/09/1963 the number one single was She Loves You - The Beatles and the number one album was Please Please Me - The Beatles. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was The Great Escape. A pound of today's money was worth £12.64 and Liverpool were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.
On 14/09/1964 the number one single was You Really Got Me - Kinks and the number one album was A Hard Day's Night - Beatles. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was Dr Strangelove. A pound of today's money was worth £12.24 and Manchester United were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.
On 14/09/1965 the number one single was (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction - Rolling Stones and the number one album was Help - The Beatles. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was The Sound of Music. A pound of today's money was worth £11.69 and Liverpool were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.