Roger Livesey (25 June 1906 – 4 February 1976) was a Welsh stage and film actor. He is most often remembered for the three Powell & Pressburger films in which he starred: The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, I Know Where I'm Going! and A Matter of Life and Death. Tall and broad with a mop of chestnut hair, Livesey used his highly distinctive husky voice, gentle manner and athletic physique to create many notable roles in his theatre and film work.
|Born||25 June 1906|
|Died||4 February 1976 (aged 69)|
(m. 1937; died 1973)
Livesey was born in Barry, Wales. Although most articles about him indicated that his parents were Samuel Livesey and Mary Catherine (née Edwards), later research has shown that his father was actually Joseph Livesey. The confusion may have arisen because his mother Mary married Samuel (Joseph's brother) after Joseph's death and the death of Samuel's wife, Mary's sister. Samuel and Mary had a child of their own, Stella, who was both Roger's half sister and first cousin. Roger Livesey was educated at Westminster City School, London. His two step-brothers (who were also his first cousins) were also actors.
Livesey studied under Italia Conti. His first stage role was as the office boy in Loyalty at St. James's Theatre in 1917. He then appeared in a wide range of productions from Shakespeare to modern comedies. He played various roles in the West End from 1920 to 1926, toured the West Indies and South Africa, and then returned to join the Old Vic/Sadler's Wells company from September 1932 until May 1934. In 1936 he appeared in New York City in Wycherley's comedy The Country Wife. While in New York he married actress Ursula Jeans, whom he had known previously in England (Livesey's sister Maggie was already married to Ursula Jeans' brother Desmond).
At the outbreak of the Second World War Livesey and Jeans were among the first volunteers to entertain the troops. He then applied for flying duties in the Royal Air Force but due to his age was rejected. Instead he worked in an aircraft factory at Desford aerodrome near Leicester to "do his bit for the war effort".
Livesey was chosen by Michael Powell to play the lead in The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943) after Powell was denied his original choice, Laurence Olivier (Winston Churchill had objected to the movie and the Fleet Air Arm refused to release Olivier, who had been a Hollywood movie star before returning to England to take a Navy commission). The movie was shown in New York and established Livesey's international reputation as a talented character actor. In 1945, he was the first choice for the male lead role in Brief Encounter, which in the end went to Trevor Howard.
He toured Australia from 1956 to 1958 playing Jimmy Broadbent in The Reluctant Debutante and continued playing many theatrical roles during his film career until 1969. One of his last roles was as the Duke of St Bungay in The Pallisers television series. His final television appearance was in the series Benjamin Franklin in 1975.
The Livesey family has a complicated structure. Brothers Joseph and Sam Livesey married the Edwards sisters. Sam married Margaret Ann in 1900 and Joseph married Mary Catherine in 1905. Sam and Margaret Ann had two sons, Jack (1901) and Barrie Livesey (1905). Joseph and Mary Catherine had two children, Roger (1906) and Maggie (1911).
After Joseph died in 1911 and Margaret Ann died in 1913, Sam married Mary Catherine in 1913. They then brought up the children as one large family, having another child of their own, Stella in 1915.
The family tree was further complicated when Roger Livesey married the actress Ursula Jeans whose brother Desmond Jeans was already married to Roger's sister Maggie.
Many of the family formed a touring company of actors, performing in regional theatres and from the back of an old wagon, one side of which could be dropped to form a stage. Because of their touring, they did not regard themselves as particularly Welsh, or English. They were just British because people happened to be born in the places where their mothers happened to be residing at the time.
|Roger Edwards||Mary David||Thomas Carter Livesey||Mary Wright|
|Margaret Ann||Sam Livesey||Mary Catherine||Joseph Livesey|
|Jack Livesey||Barrie Livesey||Stella Livesey||Roger Livesey||Ursula Jeans||Desmond Jeans||Maggie Livesey|
- The Four Feathers (1921) - Harry Faversham - child
- Where the Rainbow Ends (1921) - Cubby the Lion Cub (uncredited)
- Married Love (1923) - Henry Burrows
- East Lynne on the Western Front (1931) - Sandy
- A Cuckoo in the Nest (1933) - Alfred
- The Veteran of Waterloo (1933) - Sergeant MacDonald
- Blind Justice (1934) - Gilbert Jackson
- Lorna Doone (1934) - Tom Faggus
- The Price of Wisdom (1935) - Peter North
- Midshipman Easy (1935) - Captain Wilson
- Rembrandt (1936) - Beggar Saul
- The Drum (1938) - Capt. Carruthers
- The Rebel Son (1938) - Peter Bulba
- Keep Smiling (1938) - Bert Wattle
- Spies of the Air (1940) - Charles Houghton
- Girl in the News (1940) - Bill Mather
- The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943) - Clive Candy
- I Know Where I'm Going! (1945) - Torquil MacNeil
- A Matter of Life and Death (1946) - Doctor Frank Reeves
- Vice Versa (1948) - Paul Bultitude / Dick Bultitude
- That Dangerous Age (1949) - Sir Brian Brooke
- Green Grow the Rushes (1951) - Capt. Cedric Biddle
- The Master of Ballantrae (1953) - Col. Francis Burke
- The Intimate Stranger (1956) - Ben Case
- The Stowaway (1958) - Major Owens
- It Happened in Broad Daylight (1958) - Professor Manz (English version, voice)
- The League of Gentlemen (1960) - Mycroft
- Upgreen - And at Em (1960)
- The Entertainer (1960) - Billy Rice
- By Invitation Only (1961, TV Movie) - Phillip Gordon-Davies
- No My Darling Daughter (1961) - General Henry Barclay
- Of Human Bondage (1964) - Thorpe Athelny
- The Amorous Adventures of Moll Flanders (1965) - Drunken Parson
- Oedipus the King (1968) - Shepherd
- Hamlet (1969) - First Player / Gravedigger
- Futtocks End (1970) - The Artist
- Justice (1971) - To Help an Old School Friend - Uncle George
- The Pallisers (1974, BBC serial) - Duke of St Bungay
In 1958, he, Judith Furse, Terry-Thomas, Rita Webb, Avril Angers, and Miles Malleson, recorded 'Indian Summer of an Uncle', and 'Jeeves Takes Charge' for the Caedmon Audio record label, (Caedmon Audio TC-1137). It was re-released in stereo in 1964.
- The Great Stage Stars, by Sheridan Morley, Facts on File Publications, 1986, p. 235
- Actor's bio, Theatre Program, "Oh Clarence", Grand Theatre, Leeds, Dec.1970.
- A Who's Who of British Film Actors, by Scott Palmer, The Scarecrow Press 1981 p307
- Chapman, James. "'The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp' reconsidered". The Powell & Pressburger Pages. Retrieved 4 February 2012.
- A Brief Encounter with Carnforth Station Archived 9 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine
- The marriage between Sam and Mary Catherine was legal (just only six years after the passing of the Deceased Wife's Sister's Marriage Act 1907). However they didn't advertise the fact due to traditionalists who questioned the morality. This led to the confusion that Roger was actually Sam Livesey's son.
- Roger Livesey at IMDb
- Roger Livesey at the Internet Broadway Database
- Roger Livesey at the BFI's Screenonline
- Performances in the University of Bristol Theatre Archive
- Collection of biography & reviews of Livesey
- From the Powell & Pressburger pages - dynasty of Roger Livesey
- other biographical notes from the same source
- Pages on Roger Livesey from Celebri
- BBC Wales Arts page. Top 10 Welsh actors: Roger Livesey
- Blockbuster page on Roger Livesey films
- Playbill vault. Three Shows that Roger Livesey performed in on Broadway