British actor Edward Woodward made a highly successful transition into Hollywood stardom in the mid 1980s thanks to a popular TV dramatic series. Possessing a magnetic, yet coldly handsome demeanor in the same mold as Christopher Plummer, he was born on June 1, 1930, in London and received his early education at various schools before becoming a student at Kingston College. Trained in acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, he made his stage debut in 1946 and gained valuable experience in repertory companies throughout England and Scotland. He took his first London curtain call in 1954 with “Where There’s a Will” and subsequently made his movie debut recreating his stage part in the film version of Where There’s a Will (1955).
A gifted singer, he produced over a dozen musical recordings. He also put out a host of audio books that made fine use of his mastery of the spoken word. He performed in such Shakespearean productions as “Hamlet,” “Romeo and Juliet,” “Pericles,” “Much Ado About Nothing” and “Measure for Measure” before scoring a major success with the play “Rattle of a Simple Man” in 1961, making his Broadway debut in the play two years later. Elsewhere on Broadway, he showed off his singing pipes excellently as Charles Condomine in the musical adaptation of Noël Coward’s “Blithe Spirit” entitled “High Spirits” (1964) starring Tammy Grimes, Louise Troy and Beatrice Lillie, and following this with the comedy “The Best Laid Plans” (1966). In later years and on various stages, he played a superb “Cyrano de Bergerac” as well as noble appearances in “The White Devil,” “Babes in the Wood,” “The Male of the Species,” “The Beggar’s Opera” and “Private Lives.” His latest theatre venture was in “The Dead Secret” in 1992.
Although in movies from 1955, it was TV that earned him his initial star in England. Feature film roles in such acclaimed period costumers as Becket (1964) and Young Winston (1972) were overshadowed by his more successful work on the smaller screen, especially his weary spy in Callan (1967), which spawned TV-movie and the popular character. A brilliant performance in the film The Wicker Man (1973) eventually led to international stardom as courtmartialed Lt. Harry Morant in the classic Aussie-made historical drama Breaker Morant (1980). Woodward was finally granted some attention in the States at age 55, earning his own popular series, the noirish espionage series The Equalizer (1985).
Served up best in crime, historical and political intrigue, he has been completely at home playing no-nonsense authoritarians and brooding loner types. Following the series’ cancellation, he returned to British TV with the mystery In Suspicious Circumstances (1991) but was never far away from the US shores. Maturing roles in advancing years included a wide range of characters — everything from Merlin to the Ghost of Christmas Present in mini-movie formats. He married actress Venetia Barrett (nee Collett) in 1952 and had three children, all of whom went into acting: Tim Woodward, Peter Woodward and Sarah Woodward. Sarah earned a Tony nomination for her featured performance in “The Real Thing” in 2000. After his tabloid divorce (after over 30 years) from his first wife, he quickly married lovely actress Michele Dotrice in 1987, the sister of former 1960s’ Disney child star Karen Dotrice of Mary Poppins (1964) fame. He and Michele produced one child, Emily.
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