Donald Wolfit

Donald Wolfit

Although Sir Donald was a very good actor he was also quite vain and always surrounded himself with inexperienced or inferior actors so that his part always took center stage unchallenged by a better performer.

At the time that Laurence Olivier first played Richard III onstage in 1944, Wolfit's Richard had set the standard and was considered definitive, but Olivier's portrayal easily surpassed Wolfit's, and became the new standard by which other performances of the role have been judged.

Father was an accountant.

He was awarded the the CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) before being awarded Knight Bachelor of the Order of the British Empire in the 1957 Queen's Honours List for his services to drama.

His daughter Margaret Wolfit is also a successful stage actress

In 1948, Donald finally married his longtime co-star, actress Rosalind Iden, who was the daughter of British director, actor and educator B. (Ben) Iden Payne (1881-1976) and Edwardian actress Mona Limerick. Dr. Payne was internationally known as a Shakespearean director and for his modified Elizabethan staging. He directed both Donald and his daughter in Stratford Festival productions of "Troilus and Cressida" and "Much Ado About Nothing" in 1936. Dr. Payne was also the source of inspiration for the character of "The Old Actor" in Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt's long-running musical "The Fantasticks".

Often derided as a ham actor because, although he was good, his company was full of nondescript actors, none of whom would be able to outshine the star. He gave his name to the character "Wolfit" in the ground-breaking 1950s radio comedy "The Goon Show" played by 'Spike Milligan' who reprised the character in the 1956 film The Case of the Mukkinese Battle-Horn (1956) where a 'resting' silent actor accidentally goes into the Police station instead of the Labour Exchange.

Third wife Rosalind co-starred on Broadway with Donald in 1947 playing Cordelia to his Lear, Rosalind to his Touchstone, Portia to his Shylock, and Ophelia to his Hamlet.

Took his first job teaching in a preparatory school in Eastbourne.