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William Rukard Hurd Hatfield (December 7, 1917 – December 26, 1998) was an American actor. He is best known for having played characters of handsome, narcissistic young men, most notably Dorian Gray in the film The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945). Hatfield told Silver Screen he was dating a female dancer he'd met in the MGM commissary, but in truth the star of The Picture of Dorian Gray was well known within the industry as homosexual, perhaps the reason he was both chosen for the Oscar Wilde adaptation and then pretty much abandoned after that classic picture.
Hatfield was born in New York City to William Henry Hatfield (died 1954), an attorney who served as deputy attorney general for New York, and Adele McGuire. He was educated at Columbia University, then moved to London, England where he studied drama and began acting in theatre.
In 1941 Yul Brynner traveled to the U.S., where he began an affair with Hurd Hatfield. Both men were enrolled at the Michael Chekhov Theatre Studio in Ridgefield, Connecticut, and many of their classmates have since confirmed the affair. Michael Chekhov (1891-1955), mentored performers such as Marilyn Monroe, Jack Palance, Patricia Neal, Ingrid Bergman, Gregory Peck, Leslie Caron, Gary Cooper, Clint Eastwood, Anthony Quinn, Jennifer Jones, Robert Vaughn and many others.
by Carl Van Vechten
He returned to America for his film debut in Dragon Seed (1944), in which he and his co-stars (Katharine Hepburn, Akim Tamiroff, Aline MacMahon, Turhan Bey) portrayed Chinese peasants, some more convincingly than others. Hatfield's second film, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945), made him a star. As Oscar Wilde's ageless anti-hero, Hatfield received widespread acclaim for his dark good looks as much as for his acting ability. However, the actor was ambivalent about the role and his performance. "The film didn't make me popular in Hollywood," he commented later. "It was too odd, too avant-garde, too ahead of its time. The decadence, the hints of bisexuality and so on, made me a leper! Nobody knew I had a sense of humour, and people wouldn't even have lunch with me." His follow-up films, The Diary of a Chambermaid (1946), The Beginning or the End (1947), and The Unsuspected (1947), were successful, but Joan of Arc (1948) was a critical and financial failure. Hatfield's film career began to lose momentum very quickly in the 1950s, and he returned to the stage. His subsequent movies included supporting roles in The Left Handed Gun (1958), King of Kings (as Pontius Pilate) (1961), El Cid (1961), Harlow (1965) (as Paul Bern), and The Boston Strangler (1968). He cut back on performing in the 1970s. His later movies included King David (1985) and Her Alibi (1989). He appeared frequently on television and received an Emmy Award nomination for the Hallmark Hall of Fame videotaped play The Invincible Mr. Disraeli (1963). In 1957, he appeared in Beyond This Place, directed by Sidney Lumet. Hatfield's other television credits include three guest appearances on Murder, She Wrote opposite his Picture of Dorian Gray costar Angela Lansbury, who had become a lifelong friend. He also appeared as the villain in the second episode of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, titled "The City Beneath the Sea". He appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Presents in "None Are So Blind", which first aired October 28, 1956. In 1952, Hatfield appeared as Joseph in Westinghouse Studio One's The Nativity. This was a rare commercial network staging of a 14th-century mystery play, adapted from the York and Chester plays. In 1966, he appeared on the television series The Wild Wild West in an episode titled "The Night of the Man-Eating House". In a twist on his Dorian role, his character starts as an old man who, upon entering a house inhabited by the ghost of his mother, is turned back into a youthful Confederate soldier. A second appearance in the third season episode "The Night of the Undead" had him portray the vengeful and mad Dr. Articulus. According to the magazine Films in Review, Hatfield was ambivalent about having played Dorian Gray, feeling that it had typecast him. "You know, I was never a great beauty in Gray...and I never understood why I got the part and have spent my career regretting it", he is reported to have said.
Having been introduced to Ireland by actress and former co-star Angela Lansbury, Hatfield lived at Ballinterry House, Rathcormac, County Cork from the early 1970s. He purchased the structure to save it from demolition and he spent 24 years restoring and renovating it. A keen collector of antiques and art, he referred to Ballinterry House as a painting which he never would finish. He died in his sleep of a heart attack at a friend's home, aged 81, after celebrating Christmas dinner. Hatfield never married. His long-time close friend and colleague Maggie Williams was heir of both Ballinterry House and his collection. She maintained the historic Irish country home exactly as it was at the time of Hatfield's death. The house was sold in late 2006, and the entire contents of the Hurd Hatfield Collection were sold at an auction on the premises by Country House Antique & Fine Art Auction in March 2007. At the time of his death, Hatfield was writing his autobiography. He was cremated, and his ashes were interred at Abbeystrowry Cemetery in Skibbereem, County Cork, Ireland.
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