December 1, 1897|
|Died||December 18, 1977
Cyril Ritchard (1 December 1897 – 18 December 1977) was an Australian stage, screen and television actor, and director. He is probably best remembered today for his performance as Captain Hook in the Mary Martin musical production of Peter Pan. In 1945, he played Gabriele Eisenstein in Gay Rosalinda at the Palace theatre in London, a version of Strauss's Die Fledermaus by Erich Wolfgang Korngold in which he appeared with Peter Graves, Irene Ambrus and Ruth Naylor. The show was conducted by Richard Tauber and ran for almost a year. [Ref: Charles Castle, This was Richard Tauber, London 1971]
He was born Cyril Trimnell-Ritchard in Surry Hills, Sydney, Australia, to Sydney-born parents, Herbert Trimnell-Ritchard, a Protestant grocer, and his wife Marguerite, a devout Roman Catholic who ensured her son was raised as a Roman Catholic. Educated by the Jesuits at St Aloysius' College, Cyril was a lifelong devout Catholic who attended Sunday Mass wherever he happened to be.
He achieved star status in 1954 as Captain Hook in the Broadway production of Peter Pan co-starring Mary Martin, with whom he shared the same birthday (1 December). For his work in the show, Ritchard received a Tony Award as Best Featured Actor in a Musical. Both Ritchard and Martin reprised their roles in the NBC television productions of the musical, beginning with a live color telecast in 1955. In 1959 he won second Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play for "The Pleasure of His Company"
He appeared onstage in Sugar (1972), and The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd (1965), with Anthony Newley. He was also a director, directing on Broadway The Happiest Girl in the World (1961) (in which he also appeared), Roar Like a Dove (1964) and The Irregular Verb to Love (1963), in which he also appeared.
Ritchard also appeared regularly on a variety of television programs in the late 1950s and 1960s. For example, he did a stint as one of the What's My Line? mystery guests on 22 December 1957, episode of the popular Sunday night CBS-TV program. In the 1960s Ritchard played the comic lead in Jacques Offenbach's operetta, La Perichole at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. Later Ritchard served as a guest panelist on the Met's radio quiz show, where he was, perhaps comically, referred to as 'Sir Cyril'. However, Ritchard was never knighted.
A memorable television out-take features Ritchard saying 'Goodnight' to an audience, before spinning a ball on a roulette wheel. Ritchard watches as the ball rattles around the wheel, seemingly interminably, before it finally bounces off the wheel, hits the spindle and flies off-screen.
Shortly before he died, Ritchard performed as the voice of Elrond in the Rankin/Bass television production of The Hobbit. Ritchard lived at the famed Langham apartment house in New York City. He suffered a heart attack on 25 November 1977, aged 79, while appearing as the narrator in the Chicago touring company of Side by Side by Sondheim. He died a month later in Chicago, aged 80, and was buried at Saint Mary's Cemetery in Ridgefield, Connecticut, where he had long resided in his rural home. His funeral Mass was celebrated by Archbishop Fulton Sheen. He survived his wife, Madge, who died in 1955, and a baby boy who died in infancy in 1939.