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Alec McCowen Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (3)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Trivia (13)

Overview (3)

Born in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England, UK
Died in London, England, UK
Birth NameAlexander Duncan McCowen

Mini Bio (1)

Alec McCowen was born Alexander Duncan McCowan on May 26, 1925 in Tunbridge Wells, England. After studying at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, he made his professional debut in 1942. He established his reputation in classical stage roles, appearing in the ensemble of Laurence Olivier's famed duo-production of William Shakespeare's "Anthony and Cleopatra" and George Bernard Shaw's "Caesar and Cleopatra" at the 1951 Festival of Britain. McCowen transferred with the productions to New York that same year, making his Broadway debut.

McCowen made his movie debut in The Cruel Sea (1953), but for his turn as Police Inspector Oxford in Alfred Hitchcock's Frenzy (1972), his reputation is rooted in his stage work. "Frenzy" led to his one lead role in a major motion picture, that of Henry Pulling in George Cukor's adaptation of 'Graham Greene's Travels with My Aunt (1972). Though the film won an Oscar for Costume Design and a Best Actress nod for co-star Maggie Smith (among its total of four nominations), the movie did not advance McCowen's career. Over a decade later, he played the title role in the Thames Television series Mr. Palfrey of Westminster (1984), which ran for two seasons on British television from 1984 to 1985. His last cinema appearance was in a small role in Gangs of New York (2002) for director Martin Scorsese; he had earlier appeared in Scorsese's The Age of Innocence (1993).

Though his services were in demand in movies and on television, McCowen remained wedded to the stage; he regards the character of "Astrov" in Anton Chekhov's "Uncle Vanya" as his favorite role. From 1967 to 1992, McCowen appeared nine times on Broadway, for which he garnered two Drama Desk Awards (out of four nominations) and three Tony Award nominations. One of his Tony Award nominations was for his magisterial solo performance in "St. Mark's Gospel", which debuted on Broadway in 1978 and had a return engagement on the Great White Way in 1981.

He was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 1972 Queen's New Years Honours and Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 1986 Queen's New Years Honours for his services to drama. Alec McCowan died at age 91 on February 6, 2017 in London, England.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Jon C. Hopwood

Trivia (13)

Attended The Skinners' School in Tunbridge Wells.
Also an author of books about acting.
Famous for his one-man stage show in which he recited the whole of St. Mark's Gospel.
Graduated from Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London, England.
Became an Associate Member of Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA).
He was awarded the 1982 London Evening Standard Theatre Award for Best Actor for his performance in "The Portage of San Cristobal of A.H.".
Was nominated for Broadway's Tony Awards three times: as Best Actor (Dramatic) for "Hadrian VII" (1969) and for "The Philanthropist" (1971); and as Best Actor (Play) for "St. Mark's Gospel" (1979).
He was awarded the OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) in the 1972 Queen's New Years Honours List for his services to drama.
He was awarded the CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in the 1986 Queen's New Years Honours List for his services to drama.
McCowen's one-scene role as a Cardinal in The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965) is uncredited, perhaps because of the actor's dissatisfaction with the way his already-brief role was trimmed during the editing. Essentially, the role was a single speech, a venomous diatribe against Michelangelo. It was not only shortened in the editing, it was also almost entirely played off a close-up of Charlton Heston listening to him. McCowen has always insisted that this foreshortening of his performance was done at Heston's insistence, although the two men worked again five years later in "The Hawaiians".
Had appeared in two adaptations of William Shakespeare's play "Henry V": Henry V (1979) and Henry V (1989). He played the Chorus in the former and the Bishop of Ely in the latter.
Friends with Alan MacNaughtan.
Life partner of Geoffrey Burridge, who died September 30, 1987, age 38.

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