Hugh Griffith

Hugh Griffith

From the film Ben-Hur
Born Hugh Emrys Griffith
(1912-05-30)30 May 1912
Marian-glas, Anglesey, Wales
Died 14 May 1980(1980-05-14) (aged 67)
London, England
Alma mater Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts
Occupation Actor
Years active 1939–80
Spouse(s) Adelgunde Margaret Beatrice von Dechend

Hugh Emrys Griffith (30 May 1912 14 May 1980) was a Welsh film, stage and television actor.[1] He won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Ben-Hur (1959) and received an additional Oscar nomination in the same category for his work in Tom Jones (1963).

Early life

Griffith was born in Marian-glas, Anglesey, Wales, the son of Mary and William Griffith.[2] He was educated at Llangefni County School and attempted to gain entrance to university, but failed the English examination. He was then urged to make a career in banking, becoming a bank clerk and transferring to London to be closer to acting opportunities.[3] Just as he was making progress and gained admission to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, he had to suspend his plans in order to serve in the British Army, serving for six years with the Royal Welch Fusiliers in India and the Burma Campaign during the Second World War.[3] He resumed his acting career in 1946.

Stage career

Between 1946 and 1976, Griffith won acclaim for many stage roles, in particular for his portrayals of Falstaff, Lear and Prospero.[3] Griffith acted on both sides of the Atlantic, taking leading roles in London, New York and Stratford. In 1952 he starred in the Broadway adaption of Legend of Lovers, alongside fellow Welsh actor Richard Burton.[4] In 1958 he was back in New York, this time taking a lead role in the opening production of Look Homeward, Angel alongside Anthony Perkins.[5] Both he and Perkins were nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actor in a play for their roles.

Film career

Griffith began his film career in British films during the late 1940s, and by the 1950s was also appearing in Hollywood films. He won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Ben-Hur (1959), and received a nomination for his role in Tom Jones (1963). In 1960, he appeared in an adaptation of A. J. Cronin's The Citadel, and in 1968, he appeared as the magistrate in Oliver! His later career was often blighted by his chronic alcoholism.[6][7]

Television work

On television, he had major roles in Quatermass II (1955) and Clochemerle (1972), but is best remembered for his role as funeral director Caradog Lloyd-Evans in the 1978 comedy Grand Slam. Whilst he was visibly unwell at the time of shooting (years of alcohol abuse had clearly taken their toll), Griffith's portrayal encountered widespread acclaim and helped Grand Slam attain cult status.

Personal life

Griffith married Adelgunde Margaret Beatrice von Dechend (1911–1983), a granddaughter of the Prussian banker Hermann von Dechend.

He received an honorary degree from the University of Wales, Bangor, in 1980, and died from a heart attack in London later the same year, sixteen days before his 68th birthday.


Complete except for TV movies.
Year Film Role Notes
1940 Night Train to Munich Sailor Uncredited
Neutral Port Bit Uncredited
1947 Silver Darlings Packman
1948 The Three Weird Sisters Mabli Hughes
So Evil My Love Coroner
The First Gentleman Bishop of Salisbury
London Belongs to Me Headlam Fynne
1949 The Last Days of Dolwyn The Minister
Kind Hearts and Coronets Lord High Steward
Doctor Morelle Bensall, the butler
A Run for Your Money Huw Price
1950 Gone to Earth Andrew Vessons
1951 The Galloping Major Harold Temple, Process Server
Laughter in Paradise Henry Augustus Russell
1952 The Wild Heart Andrew Vessons
1953 The Titfield Thunderbolt Dan Taylor
The Beggar's Opera The Beggar
1954 The Million Pound Note Potter Uncredited
The Sleeping Tiger The Inspector
1955 Passage Home Pettigrew
1957 The Good Companions Morton Mitcham
Lucky Jim Professor Welch
1959 Ben-Hur Sheik Ilderim Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Laurel Award for Top Male Supporting Performance (3rd place)
National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actor
The Story on Page One Judge Edgar Neilsen
1960 The Day They Robbed the Bank of England O'Shea
Exodus Mandria
1962 The Counterfeit Traitor Collins
The Inspector Van der Pink
Term of Trial O'Hara
Mutiny on the Bounty Alexander Smith
1963 Tom Jones Squire Western Laurel Award for Top Male Supporting Performance (5th place)
Nominated-Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated-BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
Nominated-Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture
1964 Hide and Seek Wilkins
The Bargee Joe Turnbull
1965 The Amorous Adventures of Moll Flanders Prison Governor
Treasure Island Short
1966 The Poppy Is Also a Flower Salah Rahman Khan
How to Steal a Million Bonnet
Il marito è mio e l'ammazzo quando mi pare Ignazio
1967 Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feelin' So Sad Commodore Roseabove
The Sailor from Gibraltar Llewellyn
On My Way to the Crusades, I Met a Girl Who... Ibn-el-Rascid
Brown Eye, Evil Eye Tadeusz Bridges
1968 Oliver! The Magistrate Nominated-Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture
The Fixer Lebedev Nominated-Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture
1970 Start the Revolution Without Me King Louis XVI
Cry of the Banshee Mickey
Wuthering Heights Dr. Kenneth
1971 The Abominable Dr. Phibes Rabbi
1972 Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? The Pigman/Mr. Harrison
Dr. Phibes Rises Again Harry Ambrose
The Canterbury Tales Sir January
What? Joseph Noblart
1973 Crescete e moltiplicatevi
The Final Programme Professor Hira
1974 Luther John Tetzel
Take Me High Sir Harry Cunningham
Cugini Carnali Barone di Roccadura Also screened under the names Loving Cousins, Hot and Bothered, and High School Girl
Craze Solicitor
1975 Legend of the Werewolf Maestro Pamponi
1976 The Passover Plot Caiaphas
1977 Casanova & Co. The Caliph
Joseph Andrews Squire Western
The Last Remake of Beau Geste Judge
1978 Grand Slam Caradog Lloyd-Evans
The Hound of the Baskervilles Frankland
1979 A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square Sid Larkin (Last appearance)


  1. Obituary Variety, 21 May 1980.
  2. "Hugh Griffith". BBC Wales Arts. 12 January 2009. Retrieved 2013-04-16.
  3. 1 2 3 Davies, John; Jenkins, Nigel; Menna, Baines; Lynch, Peredur I., eds. (2008). The Welsh Academy Encyclopaedia of Wales. Cardiff: University of Wales Press. p. 335. ISBN 978-0-7083-1953-6.
  4. "Legend of Lovers". Retrieved 1 February 2011.
  5. "Look Homeward, Angel". Retrieved 1 February 2011.
  6. Biodrowski, Steve (2004). "Dr. Phibes Rises Again". Hollywood Gothique. Retrieved 2013-04-16.
  7. Turner, Robin (29 March 2009). "New book tells of Wales' famous boozers". Western Mail. Retrieved 2013-04-16.
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