English character actor. He appeared in stage roles such as Shakespeare's King Lear and Prospero (in The Tempest), and in plays by Tom Stoppard and Harold Pinter. His films include The Man Who Never Was (1956), The Spy Who Came in From the Cold (1965), The Bed-Sitting Room (1969), and Joseph Andrews (1976). He was knighted in 1983.
Early life Hordern was born in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire. He worked as a sales representative while gaining amateur acting experience. His professional career began in 1937 in repertory in Bristol. After World War II service in the Royal Navy, he graduated to London's West End and attracted notice as Mr Toad in Christmas productions of Toad of Toad Hall in 1948 and 1949.
Classical roles After successes at the Arts Theatre in the title role of Anton Chekhov's Ivanov (1950) and John Whiting's Saint's Day (1951), he moved on to a run of classical roles at Stratford-upon-Avon and at the Old Vic, including a memorably fussy Polonius in Hamlet (1953), and later in the title role of King Lear (1969), in which he portrayed a powerful sense of dementia.
Modern roles In modern drama, Hordern was particularly effective as a failed barrister in John Mortimer's The Dock Brief (1958) and as the husband in Alan Ayckbourn's Relatively Speaking (1967). His exploration of eccentricity, illuminated by a quality of inner intelligence, was exemplified by his creation of the comically anguished philosopher of Tom Stoppard's Jumpers (1972).
Film and TV Hordern was also a frequent player in films, often in conventional roles in costume epics such as Cleopatra (1963). Two offbeat film comedies by Richard Lester, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1966) and The Bed-Sitting Room (1969), afforded full rein to Hordern's capacity for the eccentric. He also often acted on television, his final role being in the serial Middlemarch (1994). On children's TV he supplied the voice of Paddington Bear.
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