Ian Richardson CBE
(1934-2007)


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Perhaps best known for his role as the scheming and determined Francis Urquart in a series of television dramas, ‘House of Cards’, ‘To Play the King’ and ‘The Final Cut’, Ian Richardson's career was both diverse and rewarding. Similar to other countrymen and great thespians, John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson, although a generation later, Ian Richardson has made more of an enduring career in theatre and BBC television dramas than in films. This said in later years he has gravitated toward the latter. His dignified countenance and locutions have brought him frequent casting as men of education and refinement.

Richardson was born on April 7 1934 in Edinburgh, Scotland. He was educated at Balgreen Primary School and then attended Tynecastle High School prior to training at the College of Dramatic Arts in Glasgow. He said of his upbringing

'My parents were wonderful. My father had begun with McVitie's and Price off the Gorgie Road at the age of 14 loading and unloading horse-drawn vehicles and from there worked his way up to become a general manager. He went off to war and my mother did rather well for us because she kept poultry and was able to swap eggs for anything we needed'

He first made a name for himself playing Hamlet at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre in 1960 before joining the Royal Shakespeare Company where he began a stint of several years appearing in a variety of roles. At the RSC, he created the role of Jean Paul Marat in Marat/Sade, reprising it for the much-heralded 1966 film version. Stage success in Stratford, Ontario, and New York would soon follow.

Richardson appeared as Oberon in Peter Hall's well-liked 1968 rendition of A Midsummer Night's Dream, then as Don John in the BBC Much Ado About Nothing in 1978. Much of his best work has been on TV, the silkiness of his delivery equipping him equally for traitors like the mole who sells out in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1979) or, eponymous, Blunt (1985), or as a speaker of Six Centuries of Verse (1984). His portrayal in the former role of Bill Haydon in the adpation of John Le Carres novel was exquisite and would reward a watching.

He also starred in a TV version of the Hound of the Baskervilles (1983) which was very enjoyable for his very believable rendition of the reoccurring gypsy.Richardson began gaining more worldwide recognition with his role as an officious bureaucrat in the dystopian universe of Terry Gilliam's Brazil (1985). For the rest of the 1980's there were a variety of character roles in both films and TV.

He also appeared in such films as Cry Freedom and The Fourth Protocol (both 1987), and eventually shifting over to Hollywood. He has been sparing with screen work, making his debut in The Marat/Sade ... (1966), reprising his stage role; a sharper­ than usual Polonius in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1990). He put a twist on his Shakespearean experience by appearing as Polonius in the 1990 film version of Tom Stoppard's 'Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead'.













 

 

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