Robertson Hare (John Robertson Hare)

Robertson Hare

Hare was born in Islington, London, the younger child and only son of Frank Homer Hare, an accountant, and his wife, Louisa Mary, née Robertson. He was educated at Margate College in Kent and then studied drama with the actor and librettist Lewis Cairns James. In 1911 Hare made his professional stage debut, playing the Duke of Gallminster in a provincial production of The Bear Leaders. The following year he made his London début as one of the crowd in Gilbert Murray’s version of Oedipus Rex at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. In 1913 he had his first role in a West End production, as Kaufman in a detective play, The Scarlet Band, at the Comedy Theatre. He then toured the provinces for a number of years. His first leading part was the title role of Grumpy, by Horace Hodges and T. Wigney Percyval, which was one of his favourite roles. Even at this early stage of his career Hare was playing old men: “Grumpy” is an irascible retired lawyer. In December 1915 he married (Alice) Irene Mewton (1890/91–1969; they had one daughter. After war service with the army in France, Hare resumed his acting career, and came to the notice of the West End public as James Chesterman in a new farce, Tons of Money, in which he and the actor-manager Tom Walls played supporting roles, with Ralph Lynn in the lead. The play ran for nearly two years, after which Walls recruited Lynn and Hare to join him in a series of new farces at the Aldwych Theatre. There were eleven plays in this series, which came to be known as Aldwych farces; they played continuously from 1923 to 1933. Hare played in them all; his roles were: William Smith (It Pays to Advertise); The Rev Cathcart Sloley-Jones (A Cuckoo in the Nest); Harold Twine (Rookery Nook); Hook (Thark); Oswald Veal (Plunder); Ernest Ramsbotham (A Cup of Kindness); Miles Tuckett (A Night Like This); Edwin Stoatt (Turkey Time); Clement Peck (Dirty Work); Montague Trigg (Fifty-Fifty); and Augustus Pogson (A Bit of a Test).

Hare appeared in films of most of the Aldwych farces, and played more than a dozen film roles in the post-war years. For the rest of his stage career he was usually cast in similar roles. After the last Aldwych farce in 1933 he played his customary types in more than twenty new farces over the next three decades. Among his most successful creations of this kind was Willoughby Pink in Travers’s Banana Ridge in 1938, in which he played a British Empire builder with a dubious past. He made a few appearances in revue: his first was Fine Fettle (1959) in which he appeared with Benny Hill and Shani Wallis. In 1963 Hare played in a long-running stage musical, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (762 performances), in which he was cast as Erronius to Frankie Howerd’s Pseudolus. In the 1960s Hare toured in Arsenic and Old Lace. In 1962 he briefly escaped type-casting, appearing with Wilfrid Hyde White in a comedy called Crooks Anonymous, in which he played an old lag, his familiar bald head disguised under a wig. In 1968 he joined Naunton Wayne in Oh, Clarence!, an adaptation of a P. G. Wodehouse Blandings novel, which he played in London, on tour in the provinces, and in South Africa. He reached a new public in the late 1960s in a television series, All Gas and Gaiters. He played the Archdeacon of St. Ogg’s, the Ven Henry Blunt. Hare died in London at the age of 87.

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  • December, 17, 1891
  • United Kingdom
  • Islington, London, England


  • January, 25, 1979
  • United Kingdom
  • London, England

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