William Hartnell in a publicity still as the First Doctor

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William Hartnell

William Henry Hartnell (January 8, 1908–April 23, 1975), a British actor, was the first actor to play the lead role of the Doctor in the long-running science fiction television series Doctor Who from 1963 to 1966. more...

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Hartnell was born in St Pancras, London. Often known as Billy, he was educated at home and at Imperial Service College. After training as a jockey, and boxing, he studied acting at The Sylvia Young Theatre School and entered the theatre in 1924. The first of more than sixty film appearances was Say It With Music in 1932. Hartnell usually played comic characters, until 1944 with the robust role of sergeant Ned Fletcher in The Way Ahead. From then on, he played mainly policemen, soldiers, and thugs, like Dallow in Brighton Rock. In 1958 he appeared in the first Carry On film, Carry On Sergeant as Sergeant Grimshaw, and in 1963 he appeared as a town councillor in the Boulting Brothers' film Heavens Above! with Peter Sellers.

His first regular role on television was in The Army Game from 1957–1961. In 1963 he appeared in a supporting role in the film version of This Sporting Life in an atypical part for him, a sensitive performance as an ageing Rugby League talent scout. This performance was noted by Verity Lambert, the producer who was setting up a new science-fiction television series for the BBC, Doctor Who. She offered him the title role, and although he was initially uncertain, Lambert and director Waris Hussein convinced him to take the part. It became the part for which he gained the highest profile and is now most widely remembered. (See List of Doctor Who serials). Hartnell came to relish particularly the attention and affection playing the character brought him from children, and he became very fond of the role.

According to some he worked with on Doctor Who, he could be a difficult person to work with. His poor health (arteriosclerosis, possibly exacerbated by years of drinking) as well as poor relations with the new production team ultimately led him to leave Doctor Who in 1966. Some fan commentators now believe that reports of Hartnell's illness were subsequently exaggerated by Lambert's successors in the role of producer, John Wiles and Innes Lloyd, to justify a decision to sack the actor. Other sources suggest that it was a mutual decision between Hartnell and the production team that he should leave the programme, although Hartnell in later life claimed he did not want to go.

Hartnell reprised the role in the 10th Anniversary story The Three Doctors (1973) with the help of cue cards but appeared only in pre-filmed inserts. Hartnell's health had grown progressively worse since leaving Doctor Who and in December 1974 he was admitted to hospital permanently. In early 1975 he suffered a series of strokes brought on by cerebrovascular disease and died in his sleep of heart failure on April 23, 1975 at the age of 67.

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New listing
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		Appointment With Crime 1947 (Blu-ray) New Sealed! British Noir! William HartnellNew listing Appointment With Crime 1947 (Blu-ray) New Sealed! British Noir! William Hartnell $9.99
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