William Hartnell Poster


Jump to: Overview (5) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (1) | Trivia (21) | Personal Quotes (15) | Salary (2)

Overview (5)

Date of Birth 8 January 1908St. Pancras, London, England, UK
Date of Death 23 April 1975Marden, Kent, England, UK  (aftermath of strokes)
Birth NameWilliam Henry Hartnell
Nicknames Billy
Height 5' 8" (1.73 m)

Mini Bio (1)

William Hartnell was born on 8 January 1908, just south of St. Pancras station in London. In press materials in the 1940s he claimed that his father was a farmer and later a stockbroker; it turns out that he had actually been born out of wedlock, as his biography "Who's There?" states. At age 16 he was adopted by Hugh Blaker, a well-known art connoisseur, who helped him to get a job with Sir Frank Benson's Shakespearean Company. He started as a general dogsbody--call-boy, assistant stage manager, property master and assistant lighting director--but was occasionally allowed to play small walk-on parts. Two years later he left Benson's group and went off on tour, working for a number of different companies about Britain. He became known as an actor of farce and understudied renowned performers such as Lawrence Grossmith, Ernest Truex, Bud Flanagan and Charles Heslop. He played repertory in Richmond, Harrogate, Leeds and Sheffield and had a successful run as the lead in a touring production of "Charley's Aunt." He also toured Canada in 1928-29, acquiring much valuable experience. On his return to England, Hartnell married actress Heather McIntyre. He starred in such films as I'm an Explosive (1933), The Way Ahead (1944), Strawberry Roan (1944), The Agitator (1945), Query (1945) and Appointment with Crime (1946). His memorable performance on the television series The Army Game (1957) and the movie This Sporting Life (1963) led to him being cast as the Doctor on Doctor Who (1963), for which he is best remembered. His son-in-law is agent Terry Carney. His granddaughter is Jessica Carney (real name Judith Carney), who authored a biography of her grandfather, "Who's There?", in 1996.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: A. Nonymous

Spouse (1)

Heather McIntyre (9 May 1929 - 23 April 1975) (his death) (1 child)

Trivia (21)

Always claimed he was born in Seaton, Devon, England, but he was actually born in St. Pancras, London, England.
Grandfather of actress Jessica Carney.
At one time he shared the same agent as Nicholas Courtney, who later became a regular in Doctor Who (1963) as Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart.
He was invalided out of the Royal Armoured Corps of the British Army during the Second World War, after suffering a nervous breakdown.
He was the only child of an unmarried mother Lucy Hartnell, who was seventeen years old at the time of his birth. He was raised primarily by her elder sister Bessie.
One of (as of 2009) eleven actors to play "official" incarnations of TV's Doctor Who. Also as of 2009, the only actor playing the The Doctor to have died in England.
Was sacked for being late from In Which We Serve (1942).
Told co-stars on Doctor Who (1963) that he had been offered a role in Doctor Zhivago (1965).
He was the first actor to play the role of the Doctor in Doctor Who (1963). He accepted the part after Cyril Cusack and Leslie French had turned it down.
He was the oldest actor, starting at age 55, to play The Doctor in Doctor Who (1963) until Peter Capaldi, at age 56, took over for Matt Smith in the latest Doctor Who (2005) series.
He reportedly approved of the casting of the versatile character actor Patrick Troughton to succeed him in Doctor Who (1963), a decision by Innes Lloyd, the then producer of the series. However, his former co-star Peter Purves stated in an interview that Hartnell would almost certainly have felt very hurt that anybody felt he could be replaced in the series because he had become so attached to the part that he had originated.
He first took the role of the Doctor to get away from being typecast as gruff military types and to appear in something his grandchildren could watch.
When he left Doctor Who (1963), the producer of the show came up with a unique idea: since the Doctor is an alien, he can transform into another man when he dies, thereby renewing himself.
Throughout his tenure as the Doctor, he wore a wig when playing the part, as the character had long hair, whereas in private life he himself favored the traditional short-back-and-sides. Very few photographs exist of him dressed as the Doctor without the wig.
Appeared in 134 episodes during his 3 years on Doctor Who (1963), the second highest number after Fourth Doctor Tom Baker, who appeared in 172 episodes over 7 years. This heavy workload became tough for him as time went on and his health began to decline.
During his time on Doctor Who (1963) he began to increasingly suffer from arteriosclerosis, which caused him to often make mistakes while delivering his lines. Due to lack of time and money, scenes were usually filmed using one take, so these mistakes ended up in the finished episodes and are considered among fans to be something of a trademark of Hartnell's performance as the Doctor.
His was the only version of The Doctor who smoked (In his case, a pipe).
His last episode as The Doctor ("The Tenth Planet") was also the first ever appearance of The Cybermen.
His final film role was a cameo in The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971), but he was cut out of the film entirely.
His departure from the role of Doctor Who led to the introduction of the "regeneration" concept that has since become a trademark. Ironically, his incarnation of the Doctor is the only version that has also been played by other actors, while still being referred to as the "First Doctor." In the film Dr. Who and the Daleks (1965), the Doctor is played by Peter Cushing; though this was before regeneration had been created. After Hartnell's death, Richard Hurndall played his doctor in Doctor Who: The Five Doctors (1983).
Both he and John Hurt, one of his successors as the Doctor, appeared in film adaptations of Graham Greene's 1938 novel "Brighton Rock": Hartnell played Dallow in Brighton Rock (1947) while Hurt played Phil Corkery in Brighton Rock (2010).

Personal Quotes (15)

I don't like anything blue or salacious or suggestive because I'm not that type of actor.
[on children] They find me a cross between the Wizard of Oz and Father Christmas.
I'm a legitimate character actor of the theatre and film.
[on the Daleks] They were difficult to play to. Because you're not looking into human eyes, you know what I mean. You're looking at a metal object moving about, with a voice-over.
Space travel? Quite honestly, it scares me to death. I haven't the slightest wish to get in a rocket and zoom through the stratosphere. Somebody else can be the first man on the moon. It doesn't interest me at all. I do, however, believe that there is life on other planets - and that they know we're here but haven't got the technology to get through.
It may seem like hindsight now, but I just knew that Doctor Who (1963) was going to be an enormous success. Don't ask me how. Not everybody thought as I did. I was universally scoffed at for my initial faith in the series, but I believed in it. It was magical.
We did Doctor Who (1963) for forty-eight weeks a year but I loved it. I couldn't go out into the street without a bunch of children following me, like the Pied Piper. People used to take it terribly seriously. I'd get letters from boys swotting for exams, asking me complicated questions about time ratios and the TARDIS. I couldn't help them. A lot of the script writers used to make the Doctor use expressions like 'centrifugal force' but I refused. If it gets too technical, the children don't understand and they lose interest. I saw the Doctor as a kind of lama, one of those long-lived old boys out in Tibet who might be anything up to eight hundred years old but only look seventy-five.
I was so pleased to be offered Doctor Who (1963). To me kids are the greatest audience - and the greatest critics - in the world.
Before the part came along I'd been playing a bunch of crooks, sergeants, prison warders and detectives. Then, after appearing in This Sporting Life (1963), I got a phone call from my agent. He said, "I wouldn't normally have suggested you work in children's television, Bill, but there's a sort of character part come up that I think you'd just love to play. My agent said the part was that of an eccentric old grandfather- cum-professor type who travels in space and time. Well, I wasn't that keen, but I agreed to meet the producer. Then, the moment this brilliant young producer Miss Verity Lambert started telling me about Doctor Who (1963), I was hooked. I remember telling her, "This is going to run for five years." And look what's happened.
[on Doctor Who (1963)] We did it forty-eight weeks a year in those days and it was very hard work. But I loved every minute.
Doctor Who (1963) is certainly a test for any actor. Animals and children are renowned scene-stealers and we had both - plus an assortment of monsters that became popular in their own right. Look at the Daleks. They started in the second series and were an immediate success.
At one time (in late 1964) I thought we might extend the series and I suggested giving the Doctor a son and calling the programme The Son of Doctor Who. The idea was for me to have a wicked son. We would both look alike, each have a TARDIS and travel in outer space. In actual fact, it would have meant that I had to play a dual role when I 'met' my son. But the idea was not taken up by the BBC so I dropped it. I still think it would have worked and been exciting to children.
You know, I couldn't go out into the high street without a bunch of kids following me. I felt like the Pied Piper.
People really used to take it literally. I'd get letters from boys swotting for O-levels asking complicated questions about time-ratio and the TARDIS. The Doctor might have been able to answer them - I'm afraid I couldn't! But I do believe there is life on other planets - and they know there's life here but don't have the technology to get through.
Memories? There are so many. There was the occasion when I arrived at an air display in the TARDIS and the kids were convinced I had flown it there! On another occasion I went by limousine to open a local fete. When we got there the children just converged on the car cheering and shouting, their faces all lit up. I knew then just how much the Doctor really meant to them.

Salary (2)

Carry on Sergeant (1958) £2,000
Doctor Who (1963) £315 per episode (1966)

See also

Other Works | Publicity Listings | Official Sites | Contact Info

Contribute to This Page