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John Gregson (born Harold Thomas Gregson, 15 March 1919 – 8 January 1975) was an English actor of stage, television and film, with 40 credited film roles. He was best known for his comedy roles.
Harold Thomas Gregson
15 March 1919
|Died||8 January 1975 (aged 55)|
(m. 1947; his death 1975)
|Children||6 (3 daughters, 3 sons)|
He was credited in 40 films between 1948 and 1971, and on television from 1960 until his death. He was often cast as a police inspector or as a navy or army officer, or for his comedy roles in Ealing and other British films.
Early life and military serviceEdit
Born in Liverpool of Irish descent, Gregson grew up in the city's Wavertree area, where he was educated at Greenbank Road Primary School and later at St. Francis Xavier's College in Woolton. He left school at 16, working first for a telephone company, then for Liverpool Corporation, as the city council was then known, before the Second World War. During this time, he became interested in amateur dramatics, joining first the local Catholic church theatre group at St Anthony's in Mossley Hill.
Early postwar careerEdit
After being demobilised in 1945, he joined the Liverpool Playhouse for a year, before going on to Perth Theatre in Scotland. There he met his future wife, actress Ida Reddish from Nottingham (at the time using the stage name Thea Kronberg, though she later became Thea Gregory) who had recently arrived from the Birmingham Repertory Theatre. They moved to London in 1947, and married there. They eventually had three daughters and three sons.
One of his first appearances was in the film Saraband for Dead Lovers (1948), a tearjerking romance starring Joan Greenwood and Stewart Granger. In the popular Scott of the Antarctic (also 1948) he played Tom Crean.
Gregson could also be seen in Ealing's Whisky Galore! (1949) and Train of Events (1949), as well as The Hasty Heart (1949), Cairo Road (1950), Treasure Island (1950) and The Lavender Hill Mob (1951). He had a lead role in Angels One Five (1951), a war film.
He was promoted to leading man for The Brave Don't Cry (1952), about a mining disaster. Gregson had the second lead in Rank's Venetian Bird and supported in The Holly and the Ivy (both 1952). He also had a leading role in another Ealing comedy, The Titfield Thunderbolt (1953).
He was second-billed to Glynis Johns in a prison drama, The Weak and the Wicked (1954), another hit, and played the lead in a light drama, Conflict of Wings (1954). He followed this with The Crowded Day (1954), a comedy; To Dorothy a Son (1954), a comedy co-starring Shelley Winters; and Three Cases of Murder (1955), an omnibus film co-starring Orson Welles.
Gregson had a big hit with a war film, Above Us the Waves (1956), playing an Australian, in support of John Mills. He did a comedy with Diana Dors, Value for Money, and a drama Jacqueline (both 1956).
More successful was another war movie based on a true story, The Battle of the River Plate (1956) in which Gregson played F. S. Bell. This film helped British exhibitors vote him the eighth-biggest British film star in the country for 1956.
He followed it with True as a Turtle (1957), a comedy; and Miracle in Soho (1957), a drama. That year he was the fourth-biggest British star. The following year he was eighth, his last year in the top ten; his films included Rooney (1958), a comedy in which he played an Irish sportsman; Sea of Sand (1958), a war film; and The Captain's Table (1959) a comedy.
He supported in SOS Pacific and Hand in Hand (both 1960), but was top-billed in Faces in the Dark (1960) and The Frightened City (1961). He had a support role in The Treasure of Monte Cristo (1961) and was one of many names in The Longest Day (1962).
His film career faded after ten good years [1952–1962]'. He was one of many leading men and women of the 1950s (the others including Kenneth More, Richard Todd, Patrick Holt, Michael Craig, Sylvia Syms and Muriel Pavlow) who struggled to maintain their status as leads beyond the early 1960s. From 1963 onwards, Gregson never played another leading film role.
He also appeared in The Saint with Roger Moore and a popular comedy adventure series with Shirley MacLaine, Shirley's World. He took over from Kenneth More in long-running TV adverts for coffee on British television.
John Gregson died suddenly from a heart attack near Porlock Weir, Somerset, aged 55, whilst on holiday, walking on the path to St. Beuno's Church, Culbone. He left a widow, Thea Gregory, and six children.
His final television role was in the Southern Television serial Dangerous Knowledge, which was broadcast posthumously in 1976. His body was interred at Sunbury Cemetery, Sunbury-on-Thames, Surrey near his family home at Creek House, Chertsey Road, Shepperton.
- London Belongs to Me (1948) - (uncredited)
- Saraband for Dead Lovers (1948) - (uncredited)
- Scott of the Antarctic (1948) - P.O. T. Crean R.N.
- Whisky Galore! (1949) - Sammy MacCodrun
- Train of Events (1949) - Malcolm Murray-Bruce (segment "The Composer")
- The Hasty Heart (1949) - Raw recruit in jungle (uncredited)
- Cairo Road (1950) - Coast Guardsman
- Treasure Island (1950) - Redruth
- The Lavender Hill Mob (1951) - Farrow
- Angels One Five (1952) - Pilot Officer 'Septic' Baird
- The Brave Don't Cry (1952) - John Cameron
- Venetian Bird (1952) - Renzo Uccello
- The Holly and the Ivy (1952) - David Paterson
- The Titfield Thunderbolt (1953) - Gordon
- Captain Brassbound's Conversion (1953 TV movie) - Captain Brassbound
- Genevieve (1953) - Alan McKim
- The Weak and the Wicked (1954) - Dr. Michael Hale
- Conflict of Wings (1954) - Cpl. Bill Morris
- The Crowded Day (1954) - Leslie
- To Dorothy a Son (1954) - Tony Rapallo
- Three Cases of Murder (1955) - Edgar Curtain ("You Killed Elizabeth" segment)
- Above Us the Waves (1955) - Lt Alec Duffy
- Value for Money (1955) - Chayley Broadbent
- Jacqueline (1956) - Mike McNeil
- The Battle of the River Plate (1956) - Captain Bell - H.M.S. Exeter
- True as a Turtle (1957) - Tony Hudson
- Miracle in Soho (1957) - Michael Morgan
- Rooney (1958) - James Ignatius Rooney
- Sea of Sand (1958) - Capt. Williams
- The Captain's Table (1959) - Capt. Albert Ebbs
- SOS Pacific (1959) - Jack Bennett
- Hand in Hand (1960) - Father Timothy
- Faces in the Dark (1960) - Richard Hammond
- The Frightened City (1961) - Det. Insp. Sayers
- The Treasure of Monte Cristo (1961) - Renato
- The Longest Day (1962) - British Padre
- Live Now, Pay Later (1962) - Callendar
- Tomorrow at Ten (1962) - Detective Chief Inspector Parnell
- The Night of the Generals (1967) - Colonel Sandauer
- Hans Brinker (1969 TV movie) - Mijnheer Brinker
- Speaking of Murder (1971 TV movie) - Charles Ashton
- Fright (1971) - Dr. Cordell
Box office rankingsEdit
For several years British exhibitors listed Gregson as one of the most popular local stars at the box office.
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- "Festival film". The Canberra Times. 49 (13, 961). Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 11 January 1975. p. 11. Retrieved 15 September 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
- Shepperton Matters: Famous People of Shepperton Issue 17 February 2013 page 4 Nick Pollard of Sunbury and Shepperton Local History Society
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