Emlyn Williams

Emlyn Williams

Emlyn Williams, photographed in 1958 at a rehearsal of the play Brad, written by Saunders Lewis

Last updated: 05 January 2009

Actor, dramatist and writer Emlyn Williams is famous for works such as Night Must Fall and The Corn Is Green.

George Emlyn Williams was born in November 1905 in Mostyn, Flintshire, and won scholarships to Holywell Grammar School and Christ Church, Oxford.

Williams joined the Oxford University Dramatic Society, making his acting debut in And So To Bed (1927). He was to become one of Wales' finest stage and screen actors, though won much acclaim as a playwright.

Early success as a dramatist came in the form of A Murder Has Been Arranged but it was with 1935 psychological thriller Night Must Fall that Williams found fame. Its success in London ensured a spell on Broadway, and it has been adapted into film twice, in 1937 and 1964.

In 1937 he was cast as Caligula in an adaptation of Robert Graves's I, Claudius and a year later wrote another of his acclaimed plays, The Corn Is Green. Partly based on his own childhood, the play brought Broadway stage success for Ethel Barrymore and the 1945 film adaptation spurned an Oscar nomination for actress Bette Davis.

Williams' plays Yesterday's Magic, The Morning Star and Someone Waiting were also all performed on Broadway, whilst the 1930s also saw Williams work with iconic director Alfred Hitchcock, starring in Jamaica Inn in 1934, and writing additional dialogue for The Man Who Knew Too Much in 1939.

From the 1950s onwards he toured on several occasions and in different versions of his hit one man show, Emlyn Williams as Charles Dickens. In 1958 he starred in I Accuse, about the life of Emile Zola, and was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actor in A Boy Growing Up. Four years later in 1962 he was awarded the honour of CBE.

His numerous appearances include The Citadel (1938), for which he wrote additional dialogue; Another Man's Poison (1951); The Deep Blue Sea (1955); Beyond This Place (1959); The Wreck of the Mary Deare (1959); The L-Shaped Room (1962); The Great War (1964), in which he voiced the part of David Lloyd George; David Copperfield (1969); Deadly Game (1982); Rumpole of the Bailey (1983) and Past Caring in 1985, his final performance.

Williams published two memoirs, George, An Early Autobiography (1961) and Emlyn: An Early Autography, 1927-1935, which was published in 1974. He is credited as giving early encouragement to budding young actor Richard Burton; his stage and screen debuts, in Druid's Rest and The Last Days of Dolwyn respectively, were both written by Williams, and the latter he also directed.

By the time of his death in September 1987, Williams had appeared in 41 films and teleplays, scribed 20 plays and written or co-written 20 screenplays.

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