As the war raged on I studied English at Oxford University, but my education was interrupted by my joining the RAF to train as a pilot. It was there that I got to meet Richard Burton – a navigator in the RAF – who would become so great a friend.
In 1949 I embarked on a career as an actor, and I was with Richard when I met Churchill for a second time in the early 1950s. We were appearing in Hamlet together at the Old Vic, with Richard as the Prince of Denmark. We knew Winston, who at this time was once again Prime Minister, was in the audience – he was unmissable sitting in the front row.
After the performance we were in Richard’s dressing room when the mighty man burst in, cigar in hand, and, addressing Richard as if he was still in character, said, ‘Your Highness, I am in great need – do have you a lavatory?’
When he came out he complemented Richard on his ‘very forthright Hamlet’ before adding, ‘I’m astonished that such a man should wait so long to avenge his father!’ Needless to say, Richard and I dined out on that for weeks to come.
Sad news. British actor Robert Hardy has died at 91. Far too young for such a delightful man and talented actor. At Oxford he studied English under CS Lewis and JRR Tokien, and he ever cherished that opportunity that fate handed him. He became one of the foremost authorities on the English longbow. (I have a book in my library that he wrote on the history of the longbow.) He spoke and wrote in a most pellucid English, no doubt a tribute to his instruction from Lewis and Tolkien. He of course is remembered for his acting. To the younger generation he is Cornelius Fudge, the Minister of Magic in the Harry Potter films. Some may recall him as irascible, but good-hearted, veterinary Siegfried Farnon in the television series All Creatures Great and Small. To me he will always be the definitive film Winston Churchill, a role that he played nine times. His longest portrayal was in the eight part miniseries The Wilderness Years, broadcast in the eighties, which may be found on You Tube. Hail and farewell Mr. Hardy, may you have a joyous reunion with your two favorite professors in the world to come.