Charles Hawtrey, born as George Frederick Joffre Hartree (November 30th 1914 — October 27th 1988) was an English actor, singer and comedian, known for making frequent appearances in the popular Carry On movies.
He began his career in the performing arts rather early in his life. By the time he was a teenager, he had appeared on stage, cameoed in comedy films, and was a choirboy, recording songs with a fellow choirgirl. After this, he decided to pursue a career in acting and directing, so he studied in the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts for both professions, while playing bit characters in independent theater plays around England. It was at least around this point that he changed his name to "Charles Hawtrey" — the name of the famous British silent movie actor, joking that he was his distant relative.
When the Second World War came about, Hartree began to appear on the radio and directed a couple of movies. He also took the time to make cameos in stage productions and television series, earning the catchphrase, "How's yer mother? Off for dripping?" in the popular radio show Just William.
In 1958, Charles appeared in the Summer Blockbuster Carry On, Sergeant, which would lead to a long association with the series, appearing in 23 movies from the Carry On franchise, portraying wimpy, overshadowed characters, who later became eccentric alcoholics, reflecting part of his personal life at the end of the 1960s.
The more Carry On movies that Hawtrey would appear in, the more he would become a nuisance to the cast, with stories of diva demands, drunken episodes and homosexual misbehaviour, which had remained private until homosexuality was legal in the UK in 1967. Many assumed that this was due to issues with his home life, such as his mother's dementia diagnosis and her slow, painful death in 1965, which increased his alcoholism throughout his career. The Carry On production team were annoyed with his habits, but tried to keep him relaxed by writing his characters as Mummy's Boy drunkards, giving him an excuse to drink as much alcohol as he wanted to on camera. This spiraled out of control, leading to him being fired from the cast in 1972.
It seemed that it was at this point, his life was beginning to fall apart. Charles struggled to find work after his redundancy, leading to going back to his roots in independent theatre companies — often getting the leading part — but his alcoholism had worsened ever since 1972, leading him to mess up lines on stage, stagger around and barely getting past his character's first line. He was apparently so insufferable at the time that the people he lived near often ignored him, and he raised suspicion amongst them because of his lack of family and visitors.
Hawtrey spent the last few years of his life being a recluse in his home in Devon. He'd been coping with his struggles by drinking more alcohol and secretly having flings with male prostitutes. He was reportedly last seen by some of his neighbours when he burnt down his kitchen in 1987 and was rescued by the fire department, but in 1988, he collapsed in a doorway, and discovered he was suffering from peripheral vascular disease in his legs, brought on by heavy smoking. He refused to have leg amputations, claiming he wanted to die "with his boots on", eventually dying in October of that year.
With no friends and family left, his cremation ceremony was attended by no one.
Hawtrey's filmography on TV Tropes
- Sabotage: (1936) as Studious Youth at the Aquarium
- A Canterbury Tale (1944) as Thomas Duckett
- Passport to Pimlico (1949) as Bert Fitch
- Carry On, Sergeant (1958) as Peter Golightly
- Carry On Nurse (1959) as Humphrey Hinton
- Carry On Teacher (1959) as Michael Bean
- Please Turn Over (1959) as Jeweler
- Inn for Trouble (1960) as Silas Withering
- Carry On Constable (1960) as PC Timothy Gorse
- Carry On Regardless (1961) as Gabriel Dimple
- Dentist on the Job (1961) as Mr. Roper
- What a Whopper (1961) as Arnold
- Carry On Cabby (1963) as Terry 'Pintpot' Tankard
- Carry On Jack (1963) as Walter Sweetly
- Carry On Spying (1964) as Charlie Bind
- Carry On Cleo (1964) as Seneca
- Carry On Cowboy (1965) as Chief Big Heap
- Carry On Screaming! (1966) as Dan Dann
- Don't Lose Your Head (1966) as Duc de Pommfrit
- Follow That Camel! (1967) as Captain Le Pice
- Carry On Doctor (1967) as Mr. Barron
- Carry On... Up the Khyber (1968) as Pte. James Widdle
- Carry On Camping (1969) as Charlie Muggins
- Carry On Again, Doctor (1969) as Doctor Ernest Stoppidge
- Carry On Up the Jungle (1970) as Tonka the Great / Walter Bagley
- Carry On Loving (1970) as James Bedsop
- Carry On Henry (1971) as Sir Roger de Lodgerley
- Carry On at Your Convenience (1971) as Charles Coote
- Carry On Matron (1972) as Dr. Francis A. Goode
- Carry On Abroad (1972) as Eustace Tuttle
- The Alcoholic: To such an extent that it led to his sacking from the Carry On films.
- Camp Gay: That's putting it mildly. He reveled in it in Real Life as well.
- Collector of the Strange: According to Kenneth Williams, he collected antique brass bedstead, believing that they were worth a fortune.
- Face Death with Dignity: When told that he had to lose his legs or die, he refused surgery to remove them, saying that he wanted to die with his boots on.
- The Friend Nobody Likes: His coworkers grew to dislike him because of his drunkenness, unreliability, eccentricity and prima donna behaviour.
- Lonely Funeral: When he died, he'd become such a recluse that only nine people attended his funeral. As per his wishes, he was buried without a gravestone or marking.
- Missing Episode: Lots of feature films that he appeared in (and directed) have been lost over time. Recordings from his early singing career have also gone missing.
- Mummy's Boy: To such an extent that he had conversations with her after she'd died.
- Persona Non Grata: The landlord of his favourite pub refused to put a picture of him up behind the bar after his death because the customers hated him so much. Given that he'd often drunkenly refer to them as "peasants" it's easy to see why.
- The Prima Donna: The reason he isn't in Carry On Abroad is that he started making demands, such as a gold star on his dressing room door.