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(My) Top 1000 British Actors of the 20th Century

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  • (My) Top 1000 British Actors of the 20th Century

    I have been researching this subject for many years, I intended to have 1000, whittled down from a master list of around 4000, I am still left with around 1200, I am struggling to whittle any further. The list is my interpretation of the best British actors in British and Hollywood film productions of the last century 1901-2000.
    Criteria for inclusion
    British means the British Isles that England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, more specifically - Ireland and The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, it's Dependencies, Colonies and Territories.
    Those born in/born citizens of/becoming citizens of the above, the only exception being that the actor has to have appeared in British or Hollywood films. I also include foreign actors who have made a major impact on British cinema,
    Any actor who has British Precedence including wife's ,children and grandchildren of Peers and wife's and children of Baronets and Knights.
    My research has almost always come from books rather than the internet, most importantly the works of Denis Gifford, Alan Goble, Leslie Halliwell, Leonard Maltin, Scott Palmer and David Quinlan, the last of these has been particularly helpful in putting faces to names. I have looked at the internet just to confirm dates of birth and death and causes of death.
    The main reason for exclusion has been that the actor is more known for TV rather than film and must await a separate television list, again the exception here has been the TV comedians who I wanted to include although more known for television they still form a sub-genre of British film comedy that includes the Carry-ons, included will be the likes of Frankie Howerd, Benny Hill, Bob Monkhouse, Reg Varney, Terry Scott and duo's including Cook and Moore, The Two Ronnies, Morecambe and Wise to Smith and Jones also The Goons and one half of the Pythons.
    Missing persons, this is film trivia and I have included any major actor who meets my criteria, a few I couldn't confirm are Gary Cooper who had English parents and spent a lot of his youth here, he also made his last couple of movies here, it wouldn't surprise me if he held dual citizenship. The Barrymore's, Lionel is included, he is in the DNB, Ethel and John both enjoyed appearing on British stage, they are from a great British theatrical family, Ethel was friends with the Cassons and the Websters, they likely had dual citizenship. Brian Donlevy, his contemporary CV always stated that he was born in Ireland, he never denied this, his biographer after his death revealed that he was born in the U.S. shortly after his parents arrival, did he retain dual citizenship?. Peter Lorre was one of many immigrants from Europe, I have included Herbert Lom, Theodore Bikel and John Houseman who all took up U.K citizenship, did Peter?. Luise Rainer the only actress to win back to back best Actress Oscars lived most of her life in the U.K. and some sources say she became British, I can find no proof.
    I have included Commonwealth honours where known
    Any corrections, amendments or possible additions (subtractions) greatly received, particularly missing causes of death
    It may be a while before I reach George Zucco
    Last edited by philly; 6th November 2017, 06:27 PM.

  • #2
    John Abbott 1905-1996 (Cancer)
    Joss Ackland CBE 1928
    Ronald Adam OBE 1896-1979
    Jill Adams 1930-2008 (Cancer)
    Tom Adams 1938-2014 (Cancer)
    Dawn Addams 1930-1985 (Cancer?)
    Mark Addy 1964
    Max Adrian 1902-1973 (Heart Attack)
    Jenny Agutter OBE 1952
    Brian Aherne 1902- 1986 (Heart Failure)
    Muriel Aked 1887-1955
    Terence Alexander 1923-2009 (Parkinsons)
    Dorothy Alison 1925-1992
    Elizabeth Allan 1910-1990
    Chesney Allen 1894-1982
    Patrick Allen 1927-2006
    Sara Allgood 1879-1950
    Claud Allister 1888-1970 (Cancer)
    Joss Ambler 1900-1959
    Gillian Anderson 1968
    Jean Anderson 1907-2001
    Dame Judith Anderson 1897-1992 (Pneumonia)
    Rona Anderson 1926-2013
    Anthony Andrews 1948
    Harry Andrews CBE 1911-1989
    Dame Julie Andrews 1935
    Heather Angel 1909-1986 (Cancer)
    Evelyn Ankers 1918-1985
    Francesca Annis 1945
    Lysette Anthony 1963
    Gabrielle Anwar 1970
    Bernard Archard 1916-2008
    George Arliss 1868-1946 (Bronchial Ailment)
    Alun Armstrong 1946
    John Arnatt 1917-1999
    Peter Arne 1918-1983 (Murdered)
    Julia Arnall 1930
    George K Arthur 1899-1985
    Dame Peggy Ashcroft 1907-1991 (Stroke)
    Jane Asher 1946
    Renee Asherson 1915-2014
    Arthur Askey CBE 1900-1982
    Robin Askwith 1950
    Gregoire Aslan 1908-1982 (Heart Attack)
    Dame Eileen Atkins 1934
    Rowan Atkinson CBE 1955
    Lord Richard Attenborough Kt 1923-2014
    Lionel Atwill 1885-1946 (Pneumonia)
    Anne Aubrey 1937
    Sir Felix Aylmer 1889-1979
    Robert Ayres 1914-1968 (Heart Attack)


    • #3
      I was going to publish a list as a combination of British born actors and actors who appeared in British productions and then eliminate TV only players...

      Just tried the first pass and ended up with 944 Letter 'A''s alone.
      Last edited by Wearysloth; 5th November 2017, 05:21 PM.


      • #4
        Please go ahead Weary, it would be interesting to see other interpretations, I don't class mine as definitive.


        • #5
          Final Selection from the database (such as it stands today):
          Anyone with more than 5 British film credited appearances with billing in the top 10 gives me 1131 names
          Abbott, John (1905-1996)
          Ackland, Joss (1928)
          Adam, Ronald (1896-1979)
          Adams, Jill (1930-2008)
          Adams, Tom (1938-2014)
          Addams, Dawn (1930-1985)
          Adrian, Max (1902-1973)
          Agutter, Jenny (1952)
          Alderton, John (1940)
          Alexander, Terence (1923-2009)
          Alison, Dorothy (1925-1992)
          Allan, Elizabeth (1908-1990)
          Allen, Keith
          Allen, Patrick (1927-2006)
          Allen, Ronald (1930-1991)
          Ambler, Joss
          Anderson, Daphne (1922-2013)
          Anderson, Jean (1907-2001)
          Anderson, Rona (1926-2013)
          Andress, Ursula (1936)
          Andrews, Anthony (1948)
          Andrews, Dana (1912-1992)
          Andrews, Harry (1911-1989)
          Angers, Avril (1922-2005)
          Annis, Francesca (1944)
          Armstrong, Alun (1946)
          Arnatt, John (1917-1999)
          Arne, Peter (1920-1983)
          Ashcroft, Peggy (1907-1991)
          Asher, Jane (1946)
          Asherson, Renee (1915-2014)
          Ashton-Griffiths, Roger (1957)
          Askwith, Robin (1950)
          Aslan, Gregoire (1908-1982)
          Atkins, Eileen (1934)
          Atkinson, Rowan (1955)
          Attenborough, Richard (1923-2014)
          Aubrey, James (1947-2010)
          Audley, Maxine (1923-1992)
          Aylmer, Felix (1889-1979)
          Ayres, Robert (1914-1968)
          Ayres, Rosalind (1946)


          • #6
            Hermoine Baddeley 1906-1986 (Stroke)
            George Baker MBE 1931-2011 (Pneumonia)
            Sir Stanley Baker 1927-1976 (Pneumonia)
            Christian Bale 1974
            Betty Balfour 1903-1979
            Michael Balfour 1918-1997
            Vincent Ball OAM 1923
            Victor Banerjee 1946
            Leslie Banks CBE 1890-1952 (Pneumonia)
            Ian Bannen 1928-1999 (Car Accident)
            Eric Barker 1912-1990
            Ronnie Barker OBE 1929-2005 (Heart Failure)
            Ivor Barnard 1887-1953
            Barry K Barnes 1906-1965
            Binnie Barnes 1903-1998
            Patrick Barr 1908-1985
            Ray Barrett 1927-2009 (Cerebral Haemorrhage)
            Wendy Barrie 1912-1978
            Lionel Barrymore 1878-1954 (Heart Attack)
            Freddie Bartholomew 1924-1992 (Heart Failure)
            Eva Bartok 1927-1998
            Alfie Bass 1916-1987 (Heart Attack)
            Linda Bassett 1950
            Sir Alan Bates 1934-2003 (Stroke/Cancer)
            Jane Baxter 1909-1996 (Stomach Cancer)
            Geoffrey Bayldon 1924-2017
            Stephanie Beacham 1947
            Sean Bean 1959
            Robert Beatty 1909-1992
            Kate Beckinsale 1973
            Reginald Beckwith 1908-1965
            Hywel Bennett 1944-2017
            Jill Bennett 1931-1990 (Suicide)
            George Benson 1911-1983
            Martin Benson 1918-2010
            John Bentley 1916-2009
            Patrick Bergin 1951
            Elisabeth Bergner 1897-1986
            Ballard Berkeley 1904-1988
            Steven Berkoff 1937
            Edna Best 1900-1974
            Billy Bevan 1887-1957
            Theodore Bikel 1924-2015
            Norman Bird 1924-2005
            Jacqueline Bisset 1944
            Honor Blackman 1925
            Colin Blakeley 1930-1987 (Leukaemia)
            Brenda Blethyn OBE 1946
            Claire Bloom CBE 1931
            Eric Blore 1887-1959 (Heart Attack)
            John Blythe 1921-1993
            Martin Boddey 1907-1975
            Sir Dirk Bogarde 1921-1999 (Heart Attack)
            Derek Bond 1920-2006
            Helena Bonham Carter CBE 1966
            James Booth 1927-2005
            Chili Bouchier 1909- 1999 (Accident)
            David Bowie (1947-2016 (Liver Cancer)
            John Boxer 1909-1982
            Stephen Boyd 1931-1977 (Heart Attack)
            Wilfred Brambell 1912-1985 (Cancer)
            Sir Kenneth Branagh 1960
            Michael Brennan 1912-1982
            George Brent 1904-1979
            Bernard Bresslaw 1934-1993 (Heart Attack)
            Tony Britton 1924
            Johnny Briggs MBE 1935
            Jim Broadbent 1949
            Sydney Bromley 1919-1987 (Cancer)
            Clive Brook 1887-1974
            Lesley Brook 1917-2009
            Elwyn Brook-Jones 1911-1962
            Ray Brooks 1939
            Pierce Brosnan 1953
            Mary Brough 1863-1934
            Georgia Brown 1933-1992 (Complications During Surgery)
            Brenda Bruce OBE 1919-1996
            Nigel Bruce 1895-1953 (Heart Attack)
            Dora Bryan OBE 1923-2014
            Jack Buchanan 1891-1957 (Spinal Cancer)
            Peter Bull 1912-1984 (Heart Attack)
            Kathy Burke 1964
            Alfred Burke 1918-2011 (Chest Infection)
            Davy Burnaby 1881-1949
            Saffron Burrows 1972
            Richard Burton CBE 1925-1984
            Mae Busch 1891-1946 (Colon Cancer)
            Peter Butterworth 1919-1979 (Heart Attack)
            Max Bygraves OBE 1922-2012
            Eddie Byrne 1911-1981
            Gabriel Byrne 1950
            Kathleen Byron 1921-2009

            Last edited by philly; 7th November 2017, 02:01 PM.


            • #7
              and just change the letter of the alphabet for the rest of the indices...

              I succeeded in promoting Arthur Askey to the A list (for some reason I didn't have his titles marked as home made, shame on me)
              Mark Addy fails to make the cut because most of his feature films are US made - which is a dilemma
              I think Andress, Ursula (1936) deserves her place though...
              Thanks, for making think about the problem!

              Philly, what do you intend to do with your lists when done?
              Last edited by Wearysloth; 6th November 2017, 11:15 PM.


              • #8
                I haven't thought about doing anything with the list.
                I think the two lists will be different, it seems yours is a list of actors in British films and mine is of British actors in British and Hollywood films, I will have quite a few actors that only appear in the latter, my 'Colonies' criteria allows for the inclusion of pre-independence Australian actors (born before 1901) i.e Keystone Kops Billy Bevan and Snub Pollard, also Mae Busch and Leon Errol.
                I have enjoyed looking at your lists, I am also compiling a similar list but restricted to 1960-69, I would like to name every actor to appear on screen credited and uncredited, impossible but fun trying, I am only up to 1963 at the moment.


                • #9
                  I was thinking of incorporating your lists into the site in some fashion...

                  One project that defeats me constantly is some way to have a kind of identity parade so the bit players and extras are easier to pick out.
                  DaveW, Gerald Lovell and others have this down to a science, but I have a hard time associating names and faces.

                  The 1960-69 project might be easier for me since the criteria is a bit more straightforward

                  Here are the A's for 1960 for example

                  Abney, William
                  Adam, Ronald
                  Adam, Tempe
                  Adams, Jill
                  Adams, Robert
                  Adcock, Chris
                  Addams, Dawn
                  Alberoni, Sherry
                  Alexander, Julie
                  Alexander, Terence
                  Alfred, Sandra
                  Allen, Ronald
                  Allenby, Peter
                  Alston, Andy
                  Anderson, Gene
                  Andipa, Maria
                  Andreas, Andrew
                  Andrews, Harry
                  Annis, Francesca
                  Antrobus, John
                  Archard, Bernard
                  Archdale, Alexander
                  Arden, Neal
                  Armstrong, Jack
                  Arnall, Julia
                  Arnatt, John
                  Arne, Peter
                  Arnold, Grace
                  Arnold, Irene
                  Arnold, Robert
                  Ashley, Rosalie
                  Aslan, Grégoire
                  Atkinson, Frank
                  Attenborough, Richard
                  Aubrey, Diane
                  Audley, Maxine
                  Aylmer, Felix
                  Aylward, Derek


                  • #10
                    You are welcome to use my lists Weary. An identity parade would be a good idea, I may be able to help, I hopefully qualify as one of the 'and others' haha.

                    I have not collated all my notes for 1960-69 they appear in many notebooks, my preliminary A's for 1960 (including 1959 copyright films not released till 1960)also include
                    Ray Austin
                    Peter Avella
                    John Adams
                    Joy Andrews
                    Robert Aldous
                    Roger Avon
                    Michael Anderson Jr
                    Pier Angeli
                    Anne Aubrey
                    Michael Anthony
                    Sheila Allen
                    Janet Ayres
                    Lewis Alexander

                    Lewis Alexander was in an extended cast list of 'Tunes of Glory' published here by Gerald Lovell from Scott Palmer I believe, he is not noticeable in the film though and may be buried in the cocktail party scene or one of the theatregoers leaving the theatre unidentifiable at the back of shot, indeed Lewis has credits dating back to the forties but I think the earliest sighting for him is 1964 (One Way Pendulum?) hopefully Gerald will correct me if there are earlier sightings.

                    I also compile actors who have received or inherited titles, I have over 400 of them, and I am still working on a list of pop/chart stars who migrated into films.
                    Last edited by philly; 8th November 2017, 12:56 PM.


                    • #11
                      The earliest sighting I have personally found for Lewis Alexander so far is Three Men in a Boat (1956 version): he's sitting in the cricket pavilion. However, Scott has told me Lewis's appearances date back to the 40s, although Lewis was in business/commerce for many years, so maybe he only moved more or less full time into extra work in the late 50s/early 60s.


                      • #12
                        ...and to complicate this further we are calling him Alex Lewis