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Michael Wilding

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Michael Wilding
Wilding in 1964
Michael Charles Gauntlet Wilding

(1912-07-23)23 July 1912
Died8 July 1979(1979-07-08) (aged 66)
Chichester, England
Years active1933–1979
Kay Young
(m. 1937; div. 1951)
(m. 1952; div. 1957)
Susan Nell
(m. 1958; div. 1962)
(m. 1964; died 1976)

Michael Charles Gauntlet Wilding (23 July 1912 – 8 July 1979) was an English stage, television, and film actor. He is best known for a series of films he made with Anna Neagle; he also made two films with Alfred Hitchcock, Under Capricorn (1949) and Stage Fright (1950); and he guest starred on Hitchcock's TV show in 1963. He was married four times, including to Elizabeth Taylor, with whom he had two sons.

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Early life

Born in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, England, and educated at Christ's Hospital,[1] Wilding left home at age 17 and trained as a commercial artist. He went to Europe when he was 20 and supported himself in Europe by doing sketches.[2] He wanted to get into designing sets for films and approached a London film studio in 1933 looking for work. They invited him to come to work as an extra.[3]

Acting career

Wilding appeared as an extra in British films such as Bitter Sweet (1933), Heads We Go (1933), and Channel Crossing (1933).[4] He caught the acting bug and decided to make it a career. He reportedly appeared in an Austrian film called Pastorale.[3]

He made his stage debut in The Ringer in 1934 for the Watford Repertory Company and made his London stage debut in Chase the Ace the following year. He could be spotted in the films Late Extra (1935), When Knights Were Bold (1936), and Wedding Group (1936).[2] He was in two musicals on stage, Spread It Abroad and Home and Beauty.

In 1937–38 he toured Australia and New Zealand with Fay Compton's stage company.[5] The plays included Personal Appearance, Victoria Regina, Tonight at Eight Thirty and George and Margaret.[6] While in Australia he filmed a prologue for Personal Appearance.[7]

Back in England he appeared in the first Gate Revue, then followed this with another revue, Let's Face It and a pantomime, Who's Taking Liberty.[3]

He had bigger film parts in There Ain't No Justice (1939), Convoy (1940), and Tilly of Bloomsbury (1940). He had a good role in Sailors Three (1940), and Sailors Don't Care (1940).

Wilding had a leading role in Spring Meeting (1941) but was back to support parts in The Farmer's Wife (1941). His films grew more prestigious: Kipps (1941), Cottage to Let (1941), Ships with Wings (1941), The Big Blockade (1941), In Which We Serve (1942), Secret Mission (1942), and Undercover (1943). He played in Quiet Weekend on stage for a year. In 1943 he performed for the troops in Gibraltar with John Gielgud.[3]


Wilding finally became a film name with Dear Octopus (1943). He followed it with English Without Tears (1944).

Collaboration with Anna Neagle

What really made him a star was appearing opposite Anna Neagle in Piccadilly Incident (1946). Director Herbert Wilcox had wanted Rex Harrison or John Mills and had only taken Wilding reluctantly. However, once he saw the rushes he signed Wilding to a long-term contract. Piccadilly Incident was the second most popular film at the British box office in 1946. After co-starring with Sally Gray in Carnival (1946), Wilding was reunited with Neagle and Wilcox in The Courtneys of Curzon Street (1947), the biggest hit at the 1947 British box office and one of the most-seen British films of all time. Alexander Korda cast him opposite Paulette Goddard in An Ideal Husband (1947), another hit, but it failed to recoup its enormous cost. Wilding, Neagle and Wilcox reteamed for Spring in Park Lane (1948), another outstanding hit. It led to a sequel, Maytime in Mayfair (1949), which was also enormously popular.

Wilding was now one of the biggest stars in Britain—indeed he was voted as such by the readers of Kine Weekly.[8] Director Alfred Hitchcock then cast him in two consecutive films that he produced through his own film production company Transatlantic Pictures (distributed through Warner Brothers Pictures). The first, Under Capricorn (released in 1949), in which he played opposite Ingrid Bergman and Joseph Cotten, was shot mostly in London but had final retakes and overdubs filmed in Hollywood. It was one of Hitchcock's few flops. His second film for Hitchcock was the more popular Stage Fright (released in 1950), also filmed in London, with Marlene Dietrich and Jane Wyman. Thirteen years later, in 1963, Wilding starred in an Alfred Hitchcock Hour episode titled "Last Seen Wearing Blue Jeans".

Wilcox used him in a film without Neagle, Into the Blue (1950) and the public response was considerably less enthusiastic than for the films they made together. He put Anouk Aimée under personal contract and announced plans to make a movie together[9] but none resulted.


MGM made an offer for Wilding to appear opposite Greer Garson in The Law and the Lady (1951);[10] the film was not a success. He returned to Britain for The Lady with a Lamp (1951), a biopic of Florence Nightingale with Neagle and Wilcox. It was popular in Britain, though less so than their earlier collaborations.

So too was Derby Day (1952), the last Neagle–Wilding collaboration. Wilcox tried Wilding with a new star, Margaret Lockwood, in Trent's Last Case (1952), a minor hit. In 1952 British exhibitors voted him the fourth most popular star at the local box office.[11]

In May 1952 Wilding signed a long-term contract with MGM.[12] He turned down a role in MGM's Latin Lovers and the studio put him under suspension.[13]

In Hollywood, Wilding supported Joan Crawford in MGM's Torch Song (1953). 20th Century Fox borrowed him to play a pharaoh in their big budget spectacular, The Egyptian (1954), which was a box office disappointment.

At MGM he was Prince Charming to Leslie Caron's Cinderella in The Glass Slipper (1955), and Major John André in The Scarlet Coat (1956).

Supporting actor

Wilding journeyed with Taylor to Africa to appear in Zarak (1956) for Warwick Films, after which his marriage to Taylor ended. He began appearing regularly on U.S. television, including the title role in the 1957 episode "The Trial of Colonel Blood" of NBC's anthology series The Joseph Cotten Show.

He had some roles in Danger Within (1959), a POW movie; The World of Suzie Wong (1960); The Naked Edge (1961); The Best of Enemies (1961); and A Girl Named Tamiko (1962).

Final films

His last roles included The Sweet Ride (1968) and Waterloo (1970).

His last appearance in a feature was in a cameo in Lady Caroline Lamb (1972), which co-starred his last wife, Margaret Leighton. His last role was in the TV movie Frankenstein: The True Story (1973).

Box-office ranking

At the peak of his career, British exhibitors voted him among the most popular stars in the country:

  • 1947—seventh most popular British star[14]
  • 1948—fifth most popular star[15]
  • 1949—second most popular star[16]
  • 1950—sixth most popular British star[17]
  • 1951—tenth most popular star[18]
  • 1952 – fourth most popular British star[11]

Personal life

Wilding was married four times: to Kay Young (married August 1937, separated December 1945, divorced December 1951);[19] Elizabeth Taylor (married February 1952, separated July 1956, divorced January 1957); Susan Nell (married February 1958, divorced July 1962);[20] and Margaret Leighton (married from July 1964 until her death in January 1976).

He and Taylor, who was 20 years his junior, had two sons, Michael Howard (born 6 January 1953) and Christopher Edward (born 27 February 1955). In 1957 he had a short-lived romance with actress Marie McDonald, who was nicknamed The Body.

In the 1960s he was forced to cut back on his film appearances because of illness related to his lifelong epilepsy.[citation needed]


Wilding died on 8 July 1979 in Chichester, West Sussex, as a result of head injuries from a fall down a flight of stairs during an epileptic seizure.[21] His body was cremated and the ashes were scattered.


Year Title Role Notes
1933 Bitter Sweet Extra Uncredited
Heads We Go Minor Role Uncredited
Channel Crossing Passenger Boarding Ferry Uncredited
1935 Late Extra Newspaper Telephone Operator Uncredited
1936 When Knights Were Bold Soldier Uncredited
Wedding Group Dr. Hutherford
1939 There Ain't No Justice Len Charteris
1940 Convoy Dot
Tilly of Bloomsbury Percy Welwyn
Sailors Three Johnny Wilding
Sailors Don't Care Dick
1941 Mr. Proudfoot Shows a Light Officer #2
Spring Meeting Tony Fox-Collier
The Farmer's Wife Richard Coaker
Kipps Ronnie Walshingham
Cottage to Let Alan Trently
1942 Ships with Wings Lieutenant David Grant
The Big Blockade Captain Uncredited
In Which We Serve Flags
Secret Mission Private Nobby Clark
1943 Undercover Constantine
Dear Octopus Nicholas Randolph
1944 English Without Tears Tom Gilbey
1946 Piccadilly Incident Capt. (later Major) Alan Pearson
Carnival Maurice Avery
1947 The Courtneys of Curzon Street Sir Edward Courtney
An Ideal Husband Viscount Arthur Goring
1948 Spring in Park Lane Richard
1949 Maytime in Mayfair Michael Gore-Brown
Under Capricorn Honorable Charles Adare
1950 Stage Fright Detective Inspector Wilfred 'Ordinary' Smith
Into the Blue Nicholas Foster
1951 The Law and the Lady Nigel Duxbury / Lord Henry Minden aka Hoskins
The Lady with a Lamp Sidney Herbert / Lord Herbert of Lea
1952 Derby Day David Scott
Trent's Last Case Philip Trent
1953 Torch Song Tye Graham
1954 The Egyptian Akhnaton
1955 The Glass Slipper Prince Charming
The Scarlet Coat Major John Andre
1956 Zarak Major Michael Ingram
1959 Danger Within Major Charles Marquand
1960 The World of Suzie Wong Ben Marlowe
1961 The Naked Edge Morris Brooke
The Best of Enemies Burke
1962 A Girl Named Tamiko Nigel Costairs
1968 Code Name, Red Roses English General
The Sweet Ride Mr. Cartwright
1970 Waterloo Sir William Ponsonby
1972 Lady Caroline Lamb Lord Holland


Year Title Role Other notes
1956 Screen Director's Playhouse David Scott Episode: The Carroll Formula
1955-1956 The 20th Century Fox Hour Robert Marryot
Captain Robert Wilton
Episode: Cavalcade
Episode: Stranger in the Night
1957 The Joseph Cotten Show Colonel Blood Episode: The Trial of Colonel Blood
1958 Climax! Lieutenant MacKenzie Barton Episode: The Volcano Seat (1)
Episode: The Volcano Seat (2)
Target Episode: The Clean Kill
1959 Lux Playhouse Stephen MacIllroy Episode: The Case of the Two Sisters
1958-1959 Playhouse 90 Sir John Alexander
Chris Hughes
Episode: Verdict of Three
Episode: Dark as the Night
1962 Saints and Sinners Sir Robert Episode: A Night of Horns and Bells
1963 The Alfred Hitchcock Hour David Saunders Season 1 Episode 28: "Last Seen Wearing Blue Jeans"
Burke's Law Dr. Alex Steiner Episode: Who Killed Sweet Betsy?
1966 The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. Franz Joseph Episode: The Lethal Eagle Affair
Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre Major Tucker Episode: The Fatal Mistake
1968 Mannix Phillip Montford/Sir Arnold Salt Episode: A View of Nowhere
1973 Frankenstein: The True Story Sir Richard Fanshawe TV film, (final film role)

See also


  1. ^ Flint, Peter (9 July 1979). "Michael Wilding, British Movie Star". The Washington Post. Retrieved 10 April 2019.
  2. ^ a b "Michael Wilding Reached The Top The Hard Way". Weekly Times. No. 4204. Victoria, Australia. 18 January 1950. p. 46. Retrieved 29 August 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  3. ^ a b c d "ENGLISH TO THE CORE". Voice. Vol. 23, no. 34. Tasmania. 26 August 1950. p. 4. Retrieved 29 August 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  4. ^ "ANNA NEAGLE AND MICHAEL WILDING". Cootamundra Herald. New South Wales, Australia. 29 June 1948. p. 4. Retrieved 29 August 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  5. ^ "BRITISH ACTOR Michael Wilding dies, aged 66". The Canberra Times. Vol. 53, no. 15, 995. 10 July 1979. p. 5. Retrieved 29 August 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  6. ^ "GEORGE AND MARGARET'". The Telegraph (SECOND ed.). Queensland. 2 May 1938. p. 12. Retrieved 29 August 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  7. ^ "FOR WOMEN". The Sydney Morning Herald. No. 31, 363. 9 July 1938. p. 11. Retrieved 29 August 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  8. ^ "DUAL HONOR FOR MICHAEL WILDING". Weekly Times. No. 4194. Victoria, Australia. 9 November 1949. p. 49. Retrieved 29 August 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  9. ^ "French Starlet Signed By Michael Wilding". The Newcastle Sun. No. 10, 026. New South Wales, Australia. 18 February 1950. p. 6. Retrieved 29 August 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  10. ^ "Studio Gossip". The Sydney Morning Herald. No. 35, 252. 14 December 1950. p. 19. Retrieved 29 August 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  11. ^ a b "Vivien Leigh Actress of the Year". Townsville Daily Bulletin. Qld. 29 December 1951. p. 1. Retrieved 9 July 2012 – via National Library of Australia.
  12. ^ "Wilding signs U.S. contract". The Mail. Vol. 42, no. 2, 086. Adelaide. 31 May 1952. p. 7 (SUNDAY MAGAZINE). Retrieved 29 August 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  13. ^ "No Lana -No Pay". Truth. No. 3277. Sydney. 16 November 1952. p. 3. Retrieved 29 August 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  14. ^ 'Bing's Lucky Number: Pa Crosby Dons 4th B.O. Crown', The Washington Post 3 January 1948: 12.
  15. ^ "Bing Crosby Still Best Box-office Draw". The Sydney Morning Herald. 31 December 1948. p. 3. Retrieved 11 July 2012 – via National Library of Australia.
  16. ^ "Film World Anna Neagle: Biggest U.K. Box-Office Draw". The West Australian. Perth. 23 January 1950. p. 9. Retrieved 10 July 2012 – via National Library of Australia.
  17. ^ "Success of British Films." Times [London, England] 29 December 1950: 4. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 11 July 2012.
  18. ^ "Films That Make Money." Times [London, England] 28 December 1951: 7. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 11 July 2012.
  19. ^ "MICHAEL WILDING DIVORCED". Queensland Times. No. 20, 269. 20 December 1951. p. 3 (Daily). Retrieved 29 August 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  20. ^ Wilding, Michael & Pamela Wilcox, Apple Sauce (London: Allen & Unwin, 1982) pp. 140-144.
  21. ^ Michael Wilding dead from fall

External links

Husband of Elizabeth Taylor
Preceded by Husband of Elizabeth Taylor
(by order of marriage)

Succeeded by
This page was last edited on 26 May 2024, at 12:58
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