Skip to content

On the Passing of Robert Hardy (1925-2017)

August 15, 2017

Many Americans are unfamiliar with the name Robert Hardy.  Some Harry Potter fans will recognize him as the actor who portrayed Cornelius Fudge, the Minister of Magic, in several Potter films.  My familiarity with him goes back much further.

When I was in junior high school, I became an enthusiast of the “All Creatures Great and Small” book series by James Herriot. I was equally enthralled by the BBC television adaptation which ran for seven seasons, spread out over thirteen years.  Robert Hardy played the relentlessly memorable character of Siegfried Farnon.  Siegfried was a superb veterinarian, highly skilled and competent at his job, but was also plagued with a poor memory.  He could be stubborn and self-righteous, yet kind, generous and charming.  He was always unwilling to accept blame for his mistakes, yet was an incredibly patient and effective teacher and mentor.  In short, he was a complex and multidimensional character. Hardy sank his teeth into this splendid role, and put on what my father would describe as a “clinic in acting.”

“Watch carefully,” my father directed as we watched an episode. “Notice the shifts in his facial expressions, the changes of tone in his voice.  The subtle adjustments in body language.” My father went on to explain that these were not an actor’s choices, but instincts—they couldn’t be taught.  All the great actors had them, and the best part was the audience was usually unaware of these actions; they just knew the actor was good.  I developed an affection for Hardy, the character he played, and the series itself. It is the only television series of which I posses each and every episode.

00F8BD2100000191-0-image-a-60_1429315004873

Hardy, flanked by his “All Creatures” castmates Christopher Timothy and Peter Davison

But Hardy was so much more than that.  He made a name for himself as a young man playing “Henry V” on stage.  His research into Henry became so extensive Hardy ended up writing a book about the Battle of Agincourt.   He also became so fascinated with the longbow–a key to British victory in that battle—that he became one of the United Kingdom’s leading experts on the weapon.  While a young student at Oxford, he had the good fortune to study with both J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.  He also befriended a drama student named Richard Burton. They would remain close friends until Burton’s death.  One of Sir Richard’s biographers described Hardy as Burton’s “sane friend.”  Lord knows the man needed one.

He also played Winston Churchill countless times on television and stage (including a one man show in Paris—in French).  Many accomplished actors have given great performances as Churchill.  None of them were better than Hardy.  None of them.

Perhaps more important than any of that, Hardy was a kind man, generous with his time. I know this personally.  Last year, I read on the BBC website that Hardy would soon turn 90.  I had always wanted to write him a letter, and express to him my appreciation, and I thought—if I’m going to do it, I should do it soon.  I located his representative on IMDB, and mailed the letter.

A few months later, I received a reply. That was surprising enough, but the letter he sent me was hand written.  A few excerpts, subject to handwriting interpretation:

“My Dear Fellow,

Thank you so much for your letter.  I am always delighted to hear from my American friends, and surprised when they fail to mention Harry Potter! I am thrilled my work on “All Creatures” meant so much to you.  It was a brilliant show, and I am very proud of my association with it. I especially enjoyed your description of what your father said about my acting. How wonderful it must have been to have a father who enjoyed and knew the arts.  While I am very sorry he passed away so young, always be grateful his last words to you were an expression of pride.  Most of us are not so fortunate…

Given what you describe as his great love of words, I imagine your father was a reason you became a poet and a playwright.  I therefore have no doubt he is still very proud of his son…”

Very truly yours,

Timothy Sidney Robert Hardy.”

Adieu, Siegfried.  Rest in peace.

Advertisements
2 Comments leave one →
  1. Keth Thapper permalink
    August 16, 2017 1:19 am

    Lovely to read what you have written!
    Best wishes

  2. August 16, 2017 12:17 pm

    Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: