Stephen Murray (actor)

Stephen Umfreville Hay Murray (6 September 1912 – 31 March 1983) was an English cinema, radio, theatre and television actor.

Stephen Murray
Actor Stephen Murray.jpg
Stephen Umfreville Hay Murray

(1912-09-06)6 September 1912
Died31 March 1983(1983-03-31) (aged 70)
London, England
Alma materRADA
Spouse(s)Joan Alestha Butterfield (m.1937)
ChildrenAmanda Murray (b.1942)

Background and educationEdit

A member of Clan Murray headed by the Duke of Atholl, he was born in Partney, Lincolnshire, the son of the Reverend Charles Murray, Rector of Kirby Knowle, North Riding of Yorkshire, and Mabel (née Umfreville). He was the great-grandson of the Right Reverend George Murray, Bishop of Rochester, while the diplomat Sir Ralph Murray was his elder brother. He was educated at Brentwood School, Essex and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, London.[1] He was also the great uncle of the comedian Al Murray.[2]

Acting careerEdit

Murray found his greatest fame as the new Number 1, later promoted to Lieutenant Commander in The Navy Lark on BBC Radio.[3] His film debut was as the second police officer who interrupts an amorous Eliza and Freddy (Wendy Hiller and David Tree) in Pygmalion (1938).[4] He was Gladstone to John Gielgud's Disraeli in The Prime Minister in 1941.[5] He played Dr. Stephan Petrovitch in the 1943 Ealing war film Undercover.[6] Among his other larger film roles were Uncle Henry in London Belongs to Me (1948, heavily made-up to look several decades older) and the lead in Terence Fisher's Four Sided Triangle (1953).[7] He once again appeared under heavy make-up as the elderly Dr Manette in A Tale of Two Cities (1958).[8]

Murray made his stage debut at Stratford-upon-Avon in 1933, and he played such parts as Seyton in Macbeth, among smaller roles.[9] He later did seasons at the Malvern Festival and at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, where he played Hamlet.[10] He worked at the Old Vic in London with Laurence Olivier and Tyrone Guthrie.[11] He also played at the Open Air Theatre in Regent's Park, and in the West End.[12] At the Westminster Theatre in 1940 he portrayed the title character in John Drinkwater's Abraham Lincoln.[13] He was in many of the plays of George Bernard Shaw, and he did later engagements at the Mermaid Theatre in London and at Stratford, Ontario, Canada. His leading roles on television included Svengali.[14] In 1952 he returned to the Old Vic to play King Lear, and toured Europe in that production. Several years later he also played Lear on radio.[15]

Radio became one of Murray's most triumphant acting areas, with appearances in over 300 plays.[16] He played Macbeth in 1949 with Flora Robson, a month after playing the part on television (with Ruth Lodge), so different were the two medium's audiences deemed to be.[17][18] He played the part again on radio in 1960. He was a fine Leontes in The Winter's Tale in 1951 with Elspeth March and Fay Compton, and again in 1966 with Rachel Gurney and Edith Evans. He played Shakespeare's Timon of Athens both in 1961 and in 1975.[19] In 1964, he played the title role in the monumental BBC Radio production of Marlowe's Tamburlaine with Sheila Allen as Zenocrate with Timothy West, Andrew Sachs, Joss Ackland, Gabriel Woolf, Bruce Condell and other leading Shakespearian actors of the day.[20] He did two versions of the BBC radio epic The Rescue by Edward Sackville-West, where he played Odysseus.[21][22] Other classic '50s roles included Marlowe's Doctor Faustus, John Gabriel Borkman and Brand as well as Calderon's The Mayor of Zalamea.[23][24][25][26] However, his longest running part was that of "No 1" in The Navy Lark in which he starred from 1960 to 1977.[27]

In 1970 Murray played alongside Glenda Jackson in the BBC drama series Elizabeth R about the life and reign of Queen Elizabeth I.[28] In this he played Sir Francis Walsingham, head of Elizabeth's secret service, and a noted Puritan, whose work exposed the Babington Plot which led to the trial and execution of Mary, Queen of Scots.[29] Even in the 1970s he enjoyed the difficult roles, like August Strindberg's To Damascus with Zena Walker.[30]

His expressive voice was often anguished and uncertain in his roles, so he was ideal for A Hospital Case by Dino Buzzati, a play which Albert Camus had translated and adapted for the Paris stage.[31] He also did new radio work like Peter Tegel's Rocklife.[32] In 1970 he was the old Prince Bolkonsky in BBC radio's War and Peace.[33] He tried his hand at science fiction in radio's The Tor Sands Experience by Bruce Stewart.[34]

Personal lifeEdit

Murray married Joan Alestha, daughter of John Joseph Moy Butterfield, in 1937. He died in London on 31 March 1983, aged 70.[1]

Selected filmographyEdit


  1. ^ a b "Person Page".
  2. ^ "Comedian Al Murray has a chat about his Pub Landlord character, TV satire and mentally sub-normal medieval fools". 16 March 2014.
  3. ^ "Mr Murray Is Victimised, The Navy Lark - BBC Radio 4 Extra". BBC.
  4. ^ "Stephen Murray - Biography, Movie Highlights and Photos - AllMovie". AllMovie.
  5. ^ "The Prime Minister (1941)".
  6. ^ "Undercover (1943)".
  7. ^ "Stephen Murray".
  8. ^ "Stephen Murray".
  9. ^ "Stephen Murray - Theatricalia".
  10. ^ "Production of Hamlet - Theatricalia".
  11. ^ "Production of Othello - Theatricalia".
  12. ^ Morgan, Charles (20 May 2013). "Dramatic Critic: Selected Reviews (1922-1939): Selected Reviews (1922-1939)". Oberon Books – via Google Books.
  13. ^ Wearing, J. P. (22 August 2014). "The London Stage 1940-1949: A Calendar of Productions, Performers, and Personnel". Rowman & Littlefield – via Google Books.
  14. ^ "Trilby (1959)".
  15. ^ "Tragedy of King Lear, The · British Universities Film & Video Council".
  16. ^ McFarlane, Brian (16 May 2016). "The Encyclopedia of British Film: Fourth edition". Oxford University Press – via Google Books.
  17. ^ Kabatchnik, Amnon (14 August 2017). "Blood on the Stage, 1600 to 1800: Milestone Plays of Murder, Mystery, and Mayhem". Rowman & Littlefield – via Google Books.
  18. ^ Hand, Richard J. (1 November 2015). "Listen in terror: British horror radio from the advent of broadcasting to the digital age". Oxford University Press – via Google Books.
  19. ^ Shakespeare, William (14 August 2008). "Timon of Athens: The Oxford Shakespeare". OUP Oxford – via Google Books.
  20. ^ Marlowe, Christopher (1 January 1967). Tamburlaine the Great: Parts 1 and 2. U of Nebraska Press – via Internet Archive. tamburlaine 1964 bbc radio.
  21. ^ Deacon, Alison Deacon, Nigel. "radio plays drama,bbc,The Rescue, by Edward Sackville-West, DIVERSITY website".
  22. ^ "The Rescue (BBC Third Programme, 1943)". 3 May 2014.
  23. ^ "The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus". 28 May 1964. p. 30 – via BBC Genome.
  24. ^ "World Theatre presents Stephen Murray with Beatrix Lehmann and Dorothy Holmes-Gore in ' JOHN GABRIEL BORKMAN'". 25 May 1956. p. 18 – via BBC Genome.
  25. ^ "Brand". 1 March 1957. p. 39 – via BBC Genome.
  26. ^ "Stephen Murray and Barbara Jefford in 'THE MAYOR OF ZALAMEA'". 12 February 1954. p. 43 – via BBC Genome.
  27. ^ "The Navy Lark - Cast".
  28. ^ "Elizabeth R - Cast & Crew on MUBI".
  29. ^ "The Enterprise of England (1971)".
  30. ^ Strindberg, August (29 May 2014). "Strindberg Plays: 3: Master Olof; Creditors; To Damascus". Bloomsbury Publishing – via Google Books.
  31. ^ "BBC Radio 4 FM - 19 June 1972 - BBC Genome".
  32. ^ Deacon, Alison Deacon, Nigel. "radio plays drama,bbc,Peter Tegel, DIVERSITY website".
  33. ^ "War and Peace". 5 March 1970. p. 35 – via BBC Genome.
  34. ^ "The Tor Sands Experience". 21 December 1978. p. 103 – via BBC Genome.

External linksEdit