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Remembering Edward Woodward. 1930-2009

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Edward Woodward in Callan. Screenshot by me.

If the actor Edward Woodward was still with us, he would be celebrating his 89th birthday today.   

Edward Woodward was born in Croydon, London, on the 1st of June, 1930. He would go on to become one of the most beloved British actors. 

Unfortunately you don’t see very much discussion of him today. That’s such a great shame in my opinion. I wanted to write this post in the hope that I can introduce him to some new fans.

Edward Woodward began his acting career by working in theatre and television. He first gained recognition with his performance as Guy Crouchback, in the 1967 BBC television adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s trilogy, Sword Of Honour.

He would became a household name here in the UK in the late 1960’s, when he starred in a gritty spy series called Callan. I wrote in depth about this series and Edward’s performance here.  The tough and troubled spy, David Callan, is the role with which Edward is still most identified with today here in the UK.

In the 1980’s he also became a household name over in the US, thanks to another hit series about a spy, this one called The Equalizer. In this series he plays Robert McCall, a retired American agent who is now known as The Equalizer. He sets up a helpline for people in desperate need of help in situations where the Police haven’t been able to help them or solve a case. Robert McCall goes after scumbags and dishes out a dose of their own medicine to them. Edward makes Robert McCall into a classy badass, and someone who you really wouldn’t want to mess with at all. It is very difficult to imagine any other actor having played that role in the series.   

Edward also gained recognition for his superb performances in the horror film The Wicker Man and also in the powerful Boer War set drama, Breaker Morant; a film based on a true story, in which Edward played the lead role of a British officer accused of war crimes. 

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Edward alongside Bryan Brown in Breaker Morant. Screenshot by me.

Edward has become one of my favourite actors. I love him so much because he was so very adept at the subtle style of acting. The majority of his performances work as well as they do because of the little looks, gestures and mannerisms that he displays/conveys. With this man a brief flash of emotion in the eyes can speak volumes. He was also terrific at doing scenes where his characters unleash pent up rage or despair. He had the knack to be able to make audiences really feel and believe what he was going through on stage or screen. I also like him because by all accounts he was a genuinely lovely and down to earth man in real life. I like it when actors don’t give themselves airs and graces.  

One of my favourite Edward Woodward performances can be found in the little known miniseries, The Bass Player And The Blonde. Here Edward gets to show off his ability to play both comic and serious characters. He plays cynical bass player, George Mangham, who is both in heavy debt and despair. He meets the much younger Theresa(Jane Wymark) and the pair fall in love.

I love how Edward shows George gaining a newfound enthusiasm for life once he falls in love. The series shows us the difficulties inherent in a May/December relationship, and also shows us that the course of true love rarely runs smooth. Edward has you laughing one moment and feeling deeply for him the next in this. I love this series because it just sits back and lets the actors do their thing. I also love it due to the mix of comic and poignant moments. 

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Edward in his later years. Image source IMDb.

In addition to being a very fine actor, Edward Woodward was also a marvellous singer. His tenor voice is such a joy to listen to. He recorded a series of albums over the years. I think it’s such a shame that his singing career doesn’t seem to get as much appreciation as his acting career. I especially adore his beautiful cover of The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face. You can still buy his albums, and several of his songs are also available on YouTube. 

Edward would continue to work steadily in TV, Film and Theatre for decades. His last major film role was his hilarious performance in the film, Hot Fuzz.

Edward suffered a massive heart attack while he was making The Equalizer series and he suffered another in 1994. He underwent triple bypass surgery in 1996. In 2003 he announced that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. Edward passed away on the 16th of November, 2009. He had been suffering from pneumonia. 

He had four children: Tim, Sarah, Peter and Emily. All of his children followed in their dad’s footsteps and became actors. Edward was married twice. His first wife was Venetia Barrett, to whom he was married from 1952- 1986. His second wife was Michele Dotrice, to whom he was married from 1987 until his death. 

He left behind such a wonderful body of work for us to enjoy. I urge anyone who isn’t familiar with him to start checking out some of his films and series. I highly recommend watching Callan(TV), 1990(TV), Breaker Morant(Film), The Equalizer(TV), A Christmas Carol(Film, 1984), The Wicker Man(Film), The Bass Player And The Blonde(TV), The House Of Angelo(Film), Common As Muck(TV), Champions(Film).

Happy Birthday and R.I.P to a screen legend. Thanks for all your fine work, Edward. You are missed. 

Are you a fan of Edward Woodward? Please share your thoughts below. 

8 thoughts on “Remembering Edward Woodward. 1930-2009”

  1. Like you say “powerful” sums up the Breaker Morant film. Great movie. I’ve got my eye on the complete collection of 1990 box-set. I’ll grab it soon…. I’ve got very vague memories of The Bass Player And The Blonde being shown on telly as a kid! I never knew what it was until now looking it up. He was good in Sitting Target with Oliver Reed and Ian McShane.
    Nice tribute to the great man Maddy. Well done.

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  2. A nice tribute.

    Woodward is one of those actors who was basically good in everything, even if the material wasn’t worthy of him. I know we talked about him before, but one I didn’t mention was King David. He is very good in that as Saul, even though the film itself isn’t up to much.

    I sort of can imagine other actors doing The Equalizer, but I can’t picture anyone else doing Callan, that’s the one he’ll be remembered for, that and The Wicker Man.

    I had no idea he had played Crouchback in Sword of Honour. I saw a reference to that version somewhere recently, but it seems to be obscure. Maybe it was wiped.

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  3. My introduction to Woodward was Breaker Morant, and I’ve been a fan ever since. I agree he doesn’t get as much discussion as he merits as an actor. Having said that…I have a confession to make – I wasn’t the biggest fan of “the Equalizer.”

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  4. Nice tribute. Breaker Morant is a great movie but I just love him in Hot Fuzz, a film I must have seen a hundred times by now.

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  5. I “discovered” Mr. Woodward in the summer of 1964. He was appearing on Broadway in HIGH SPIRITS, the musical version of Noel Coward’s play, HIGH SPIRITS. He was superb and more than held his own with co-stars Tammy Grimes and Beatrice Lillie. You should check out the original broadway cast album CD. Excellent!

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  6. Maddy, I’m not very familiar with Edward Woodward, so I’m glad to learn more about him. I did see him in “Breaker Morant”, and I wasn’t surprised to learn he had such a multi-faceted career. And he sang, too? Some folks have all the talent.

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  7. Like many Americans, I fell in love with Woodward in the 1980s on the Equalizer. It was later, when streaming services from the US started re-running the series, I re-discovered Woodward again, and with the internet was able to research an actor I had always admired but knew nothing about. I discovered Wicker Man, and Breaker Morant, and Woodward’s lovely singing voice and fascinating history. More importantly, I discovered David Callan! I have what could only be called an obsessive personality, so I have now managed to collect all of the existing LPs (I’m with you about First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, although I am partial to his rendition of Maman on “An Evening With Edward Woodward” as my favorite!) and even quite a few of his spoken word cassettes or other recordings. He did so many books on tape, as well as a history of the US White House and the life of William Shakespeare, the poetry of Kipling, and many more. I also found videos or DVDs of all of the existing films including Bass Player and the Blonde and his first film appearance in Where There’s a Will. I have read the Callan books, and have the DVDs of the existing episodes! I am delighted that there are other fans out there, and am glad to help direct others to learn more about this amazing actor who also appeared to be a pretty nice guy!

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