117 Middle St, Deal CT14 6JW, UK
Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts, 14 Lamb's Conduit St, London, UK
Mortlake Crematorium, Townmead Rd, London, Richmond TW9 4EN, UK
George Frederick Joffre Hartree (30 November 1914 – 27 October 1988), known as Charles Hawtrey, was an English comedy actor and musician.
Beginning at an early age as a boy soprano, he made several records before moving on to the radio. His later career encompassed the theatre (as both actor and director), the cinema (where he regularly appeared supporting Will Hay in the 1930s and 1940s in films such as The Ghost of St. Michael's), through the Carry On films, and television.
Little is known about Hawtrey's early years or later private life. He guarded his relationships very carefully in an era (lasting until 1967 in England) when male homosexual behaviour was illegal and punishable by a prison sentence. His outrageous drunken promiscuity did not attract sympathy, nor did his general peevish demeanour and increasing eccentricity earn him many close friends.
If any of his fans asked him for an autograph, Hawtrey would swear at them and rip their paper in half. This upset many people, especially as some of the people asking were children, which angered their parents.
Kenneth Williams recorded a visit to Deal in Kent where Hawtrey owned a house full of old brass bedsteads that the eccentric actor had hoarded, believing that "one day he would make a great deal of money from them".
Hawtrey spent most of his life living with his mother, who suffered senile dementia in later years. Another anecdote recounted by Williams describes how during the filming of Carry On Teacher Joan Sims cried out to Hawtrey that his mother's handbag had caught fire after her cigarette ash fell into it. Without batting an eyelid, Hawtrey poured a cup of tea into the bag to put out the flames, snapped the handbag shut and continued with his story. He would often bring his mother on the set and then lock her in his dressing room when he was required to film a scene. Williams also recounted his gathering up of the sandwiches left over from a buffet for the "Carry On" cast. Williams was envious of Hawtrey's acceptance of his sexuality: "He can sit in a bar and pick up sailors and have a wonderful time. I couldn't do it." In later years, Hawtrey would frequent local pubs, get drunk, insult people and make a general nuisance of himself, calling everyone in his local pub 'peasants'.
Hawtrey hit the headlines after his house caught fire on 5 August 1984. He had gone to bed with a man and had left a cigarette burning on his sofa. Newspaper photographs from the time show a fireman carrying an ill-looking, emotional, partially clothed and toupee-less Hawtrey down a ladder to safety.
On 24 October 1988, Hawtrey collapsed in the doorway of the Royal Hotel in Deal. He shattered his femur and was rushed by ambulance to the Buckland Hospital in Dover. He was discovered to be suffering from peripheral vascular disease, a condition of the arteries brought on by a lifetime of heavy smoking. Hawtrey was told that to save his life his legs would have to be amputated. He refused the operation, allegedly saying that he preferred 'to die with his boots on', and died three days later, aged 73, in a nursing home in Walmer, near Deal. It was claimed that on his deathbed he threw a vase at his nurse who asked for an autograph. He was cremated and his ashes were scattered in Mortlake Crematorium, close to Chiswick in London. Just nine mourners, but including no friends or family, attended.
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