Robert Hardy: 1925-2017

Tea Time Tidbit for the week of August 14, 2017

Tea Time Tidbit

As Siegfried Farnon, with Christopher
Timothy as James Herriot (left), in
All Creatures Great and Small

Last week we reported sad news about the death of actor Robert Hardy, best known to long-time Afternoon Tea viewers as Siegfried Farnon in All Creatures Great and Small; a role he played from the series’ inception in 1978 to its conclusion in 1990.

Hardy also probably starred in more British shows that aired on PBS than any other actor. Whether it was a mystery (Foyle’s War, Midsomer Murders, Inspector Morse, Inspector Lewis, Agatha Christie's Miss Marple) or a Masterpiece Theatre series (Northanger Abbey, Middlemarch, Sense & Sensibility, Little Dorrit, Upstairs Downstairs, The Duchess of Duke Street, Lucky Jim, Elizabeth R, Edward the King, Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years), when Hardy appeared you’d know you were in for a cracker of a scene. For now matter how large or how small, a role he had he always gave it his all – and then some!

Hardy’s performance of Churchill was of such accuracy and depth that he went on to play the wartime Prime Minister no less than nine times! To prepare for the role of Churchill, Hardy reported spent nine months listening – morning, afternoon and evening – to 24 double-sided long playing records of all of the great man’s speeches. As Hardy told the Daily Mail last year “by the end of those nine months I could tell which of the recordings Churchill had made before lunch, and which he’d made after!”

Tea Time Tidbit

As Cornelius Fudge, in the
Harry Potter film series

Hardy wasn’t just a familiar face to the older generation, he enjoyed worldwide recognition among young people as well, through his portrayal of the Minister for Magic, Cornelius Fudge, in the Harry Potter film series. After four films in the series, Hardy’s character had to be written out, as reportedly his age at the time, 85, made him too expensive to insure. JK Rowling who penned the Harry Potter novels, was just one of many who expressed fondness for the actor, who was 91 at the time of his death on August 3. “So very sad to hear about Robert Hardy”, said the author. “He was such a talented actor and everybody who worked with him on Potter loved him.”

Since the start of his acting career at the Stratford Memorial Theatre, now known as the Royal Shakespeare Company, back in 1949, there’s hardly a well-known actor with whom Hardy didn’t work; Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud, Judi Dench, Richard Burton. Hardy knew them all. Although his friendship with Burton pre-dated their acting careers, as they’d first gotten to know each other as undergraduates at Oxford. According to Hardy it wasn’t an instantaneous friendship. “We despised each other on sight,” Hardy said. “He thought I was a prissy child of privilege, I thought him an arrogant rough from the Welsh Valleys. He was very full of himself and got on my wick.” It was their mutual love of Shakespeare that brought the pair together just a couple of weeks after they’d met. Apparently they discovered they were both able to quote Shakespeare’s Henry IV Parts 1, II and III in their entirety! The friendship lasted until Burton’s death at the age of 59.

In a public statement given by his three children after his death, the twice married and twice divorced Hardy was described as “gruff, elegant, twinkly and always dignified”. His family expressed gratitude for the tender care their father had received in the last weeks of his life by the staff at Denville Hall, the London retirement home for actors that we’ve been mentioning far too much of lately.

To contact Heather:
E-mail: heather@mpt.org
Address: Afternoon Tea
Maryland Public Television
11767 Owings Mills Blvd.
Owings Mills, MD 21117

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Afternoon Tea is Maryland Public Television's weekday presentation of British programs.
Our host and Tea Lady is Heather Sanderson.
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