Godfrey Tearle (Godfrey Seymour Tearle)
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BiographyNew York City, New York, USA
Godfrey Seymour Tearle was born in 1884, the son of British actor/manager George (Osmond) Tearle and American actress Marianne Conway (her second marriage). His father and uncle were first-generation acting Tearles, and his mother also came from a family of actors. It seems that Godfrey's destiny was set at birth. The Tearles' family's origins lay rooted in the rural areas of Bedfordshire. His grandfather was a soldier who served in the Crimean War. Godfrey made his stage debut at age nine as young Prince Richard, Duke of York, in his father's production of "Richard III. Read more... "Carlisle, England, but continued acting in his father's company into his teen years. His older half-brother, Frederick (Levy), was also a successful actor and later billed himself as Conway Tearle and earned distinction as a suave silent-era matinée idol. In 1908 Godfrey made his film debut in a shortened version of Romeo and Juliet (1908), at the Lyceum Theatre, which co-starred then-wife actress Mary Malone. Building up his stage reputation in the classics, he became a Shakespearean player of note with sterling portrayals of "Othello", "Macbeth" and "Henry V", among others. Active service in the Royal Field Artillery in 1915 temporarily interrupted his budding theater career for nearly four years. He returned to the footlights, but also attempted to earn a reputation in silents. Although he was less successful, Godfrey's mellifluous voice proved ideal for sound and he made a mild go of it with occasional movie forays in the 1930s and 1940s. He distinguished himself as patrician gents in both character leads and supports. He made a particular impression in The 39 Steps (1935), Alfred Hitchcock's classic thriller, in which he played the professor (aka menacing agent) minus a finger; The Beginning or the End (1947) as President Franklin D. Roosevelt; Crash of Silence (1952), a four-tissue tearjerker, as the grandfather of a deaf child; and the charming comedy The Titfield Thunderbolt (1953) as a genial bishop, which was released the year of his death. On the personal front, he and actress Malone were divorced after 20 years of marriage, and Godfrey married much-younger starlet Stella Freeman in 1932. Tragically she died aged 26 in May 1936 from pneumonia, just a few months after the suicide of his actor/brother Malcolm Tearle. A third marriage failed for but he managed to enjoy the last few years of his life in the company of Stratford stage actress Jill Bennett. He was knighted in 1951 and died two years later in London, following a lengthy illness, at age 68.