Actor who played the calm and attentive Dr Watson to the moody sage of Baker Street
Published 22/05/2011 | 05:00
EDWARD Hardwicke, who died recently aged 78, was best known on television for playing Dr Watson in a Sherlock Holmes series in the Eighties, but had already come to public attention in the Seventies series Colditz as the character based on the real-life war hero Pat Reid.
Hardwicke had been suggested as the bumbling foil to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's inscrutable sleuth by the actor David Burke, who had portrayed Watson in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1984-85), alongside Jeremy Brett, the 117th actor to take the title role.
When Holmes was resurrected from the dead after plunging from the Reichenbach Falls and the series was revived, in 1986, as The Return of Sherlock Holmes, Hardwicke played Watson in 11 hour-long episodes.
As the calm and attentive companion to the moody sage of Baker Street, Hardwicke retained the role for two-hour versions of The Sign Of Four and The Hound Of The Baskervilles (1988) as well as in subsequent adventures broadcast as The Casebook Of Sherlock Holmes (1991) and the valedictory The Memoirs Of Sherlock Holmes (1994).
"The superbly handsome Jeremy Brett, the regularity of his features made dramatic by a broken nose, the mellifluousness of his voice made arresting by a slight vocal impediment, presented a ravaged and romantic Holmes . . . [whose] relationship with Edward Hardwicke's transparently decent Watson was that of a drowning man clinging to a raft," declared the actor Simon Callow.
As Captain Pat Grant in Colditz, Hardwicke based his character on Major Pat Reid, the real-life escape officer in the supposedly escape-proof German prison perched on a 250ft-high cliff. The first series, shown in 1972, and the follow-up two years later were based on Reid's books about his exploits at Colditz and the efforts of the Allied prisoners to escape.
Edward Cedric Hardwicke was born on August 7, 1932, in London, the son of the actors Sir Cedric Hardwicke and Helena Pickard. His film career in Hollywood began when he was only 10, in Victor Fleming's film A Guy Named Joe (1943), with Spencer Tracy. Returning to England, he was educated at Stowe, and did his national service as a pilot officer in the RAF. He then went to Rada.
He appeared at the Bristol Old Vic, the Oxford Playhouse and the Nottingham Playhouse before joining Laurence Olivier's National Theatre in 1964, performing there regularly for seven years. He appeared with Olivier in Othello and The Master Builder.
Among many other roles, Hardwicke also appeared in Charley's Aunt; Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead; Congreve's The Way of the World; and with Robert Stephens in Peter Shaffer's The Royal Hunt of the Sun. He returned to the National in 1977 for a production of Feydeau's The Lady From Maxim's.
In 2001 he played Arthur Winslow in The Winslow Boy at the Chichester Festival Theatre, reprising a role taken by his father in the 1948 film.
Hardwicke's other television credits included My Old Man, Holocaust (1978); Oppenheimer (1980); Lovejoy (1992); The Ruth Rendell Mysteries (1997); David Copperfield (2000); Agatha Christie's Poirot (2004); and Fanny Hill (2007). In 1978 he appeared in the last episode of The Sweeney.
He also had parts in numerous films, among them The Day of the Jackal (1973); The Black Windmill (1974); Richard Loncraine's 1995 version of Richard III; The Scarlet Letter (1995); Shadowlands (1993); Elizabeth (1998); Enigma (2001); The Gathering Storm (2002); and the romantic comedy Love Actually (2003).
Edward Hardwicke was twice married. He was divorced from his first wife, Anne Iddon, who died in 2000, and is survived by his second wife, Prim Cotton, as well as by the two daughters from his first marriage.