• 20 April 1902
  •  New Balderton, Nottinghamshire, England, UK

Donald Wolfit


One of the great British stage actors of his era Donald Wolfit was noted for his magnificent portrayals of King Lear and Tamburlaine. Yet no actor of his generation was surrounded by more controversy. He was temperamental and difficult to deal with, enraged by criticism and tyrannical with the companies he led. Although his talent was never in any doubt, critics often condemned his companies' poor supporting players and tasteless costumes. Even in death he had his critics. Wolfit appeared in numerous theatre seasons at the Old Vic and Stratford-upon-Avon but preferred the life of a touring player and as the star of a vagabond troupe. He also appeared in many films and television plays. One of his most barnstorming performances was in the title role of the film Svengali (1954) in which, with his hypnotic real-life stare, he puts Hildegard Knef into a permanent trance. The money from his film work helped to finance many of his stage productions. Wolfit is best remembered today as the inspiration for the film The Dresser (1983), in which Albert Finney plays a barnstorming actor-manager.