Born at Hounslow in Middlesex, England, as George Frederick Joffre Hartree, he took his stage name from a celebrated theatrical knight of the previous century, Sir Charles Hawtrey. He began acting as a child, studying at the Italia Conti school, eventually appearing in films opposite Will Hay during the 1930s such as 'The Ghost of St Michaels' and 'Boys will be Boys'. It has mistakenly been suggested, and encouraged by Hartree himself, that he was son of Sir Charles Hawtrey but there is no foundation to this. His father was actually a London car mechanic.
Hawtrey was an accomplished musician (had been a semi-professional pianist for the armed forces during WWII), and recorded several records as a boy soprano. He also appeared on radio during Children's Hour as Norman, Bones, Boy Detective alongside the actress Patricia Hayes (first broadcast 1943). He made his London stage debut at the age of 18 at the Scala theatre as the White Cat in 'Bluebell in Fairyland', and appeared in a number of plays throughout the 1930s - most notably 'The Taming of the Shrew' at the Old Vic, and 'Peter Pan' at the London Palladium. A review in the Telegraph commended him for having a comedy sense not unworthy of his famous name. Hawtrey also directed a number of plays at the Q theatre in South London - including 'What do we do now" in 1945.
Hawtrey's television career began in the 1950s with 'The Army Game' and continued in 'Our House' (1960) with Hattie Jacques, and 'Best of Friends' (1963) with Hylda Baker.
He became a core member of the Carry On series of films throughout the 1960s and 70s, mostly playing effeminate characters. He revealed little about his private life and went into retirement in Deal, Kent after the series ended. His last film was Carry On Abroad (1972), after which producer Peter Rogers took him out of the series because of his growing alcohol consumption, worsened since Carry On Cowboy in 1965.
He had suffered from arthritis for a long time, and by 1988 his doctors told him that the condition had become so serious that his legs would have to be amputated. He refused, and died almost a month later, aged 73.
Charles Hawtrey Facts
|November 30, 1914
|Middlesex, England, United Kingdom
|Date of death
|October 27, 1988 (age 73)