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in Stage Fright (1950)
William Miles Malleson
25 May 1888
|Died||15 March 1969 (aged 80)|
|Other names||Miles Malieson|
|Years active||1921– 1965|
|Spouse(s)||Lady Constance Malleson (1915–1923)|
Joan G. Billson (1923–1940)
Tatiana Lieven (1946–1969)
William Miles Malleson (25 May 1888 – 15 March 1969), generally known as Miles Malleson, was an English actor and dramatist, particularly remembered for his appearances in British comedy films of the 1930s to 1960s. Towards the end of his career he also appeared in cameo roles in several Hammer horror films, with a fairly large role in The Brides of Dracula as the hypochondriac and fee-hungry local doctor. Malleson was also a writer on many films, including some of those in which he had small parts, such as Nell Gwyn (1934) and The Thief of Bagdad (1940). He also translated and adapted several of Molière's plays (The Misanthrope, which he titled The Slave of Truth, Tartuffe and The Imaginary Invalid).
Malleson was born in Avondale Road, South Croydon, Surrey, England, the son of Edmund Taylor Malleson (1859-1909), a manufacturing chemist, and Myrrha Bithynia Frances Borrell (1863-1931), a descendant of the numismatist Henry Perigal Borrell and the inventor Francis Maceroni. (Miles' cousin and contemporary Lucy Malleson had a long career as a mystery novelist, mostly under the pen name "Anthony Gilbert".)
He was educated at Brighton College and Emmanuel College, Cambridge. At Cambridge, he created a sensation when it was discovered that he had successfully posed as a politician and given a speech instead of the visitor who had failed to attend a debating society dinner.
Malleson made his first appearance on stage as an actor in September 1911, turning professional two months later. He studied acting at Herbert Beerbohm Tree's Academy of Dramatic Art, which later was renamed the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA). Here he met his first wife in 1913. In September 1914 he enlisted in the Army, and was sent to Malta, but was invalided home and discharged in January 1915. By June 1916 he was writing in support of conscientious objectors.
He married three times and had many relationships. In 1915, he married writer and aspiring actress Lady Constance Malleson. Like her, he was interested in social reform, one of his plays being on the subject of the Tolpuddle Martyrs. Theirs was an open marriage and they divorced amicably in 1923 so that he could marry Joan Billson; they divorced in 1940. His third wife was Tatiana Lieven, whom he married in 1946 and from whom he had been separated for several years at the time of his death.
He was tall and slender, but with a strongly receding chin and a sharp nose that produced the effect of a double chin like that of Robert Morley, who was not slender. His manner was gentle and absent-minded; his voice, soft and high. He is best remembered for his roles as the Sultan in The Thief of Bagdad (1940), the poetically-inclined hangman in Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949) and as Dr. Chasuble in The Importance of Being Earnest (1952).
Failing eyesight led to his being unable to work in his last years. He died in March 1969 following surgery to remove cataracts and was cremated in a private ceremony. A memorial service was held at St Martin-in-the-Fields during which Sybil Thorndike and Laurence Olivier both gave readings.