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Cyril Ritchard

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Cyril Ritchard
Cyril Ritchard

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 campy performance as Captain Hook in the Mary Martin musical production of Peter Pan.

He was born Cyril Trimnell-Ritchard in Surry Hills, Sydney, New South Wales, son of a Protestant grocer and a devout Roman Catholic who ensured her son was raised and educated (by the Jesuits) as a Catholic. Early in his career, Ritchard played in numerous musical comedies, including Yes, Uncle! and Going Up, both in 1918 and both with Madge Elliott (later his wife).

He achieved star status in 1954 as Captain Hook in the Broadway production of Peter Pan co-starring Mary Martin. For his work in the show, Ritchard received a Tony Award.

He appeared onstage in The Happiest Girl in the World, Sugar, The Roar of the Greasepaint - The Smell of the Crowd (with Anthony Newley), Roar Like a Dove, and The Irregular Verb to Love. His film appearances include a villainous role in Alfred Hitchcock's early talkie Blackmail (1929) and much later in the Tommy Steele vehicle Half a Sixpence (1967).

Ritchard also appeared regularly on a variety of television programs in the late 1950s and 1960s. For example, he did a stint as one the What's My Line? mystery guests on the December 22, 1957, episode of the popular Sunday night CBS-TV program. Later, Ritchard also served as a guest panelist on that quiz show, where he was, perhaps comically, referred to as 'Sir Cyril'. (He 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. He suffered a heart attack on 25 November 1977, at the age of 80, while appearing as the narrator in the Chicago touring company of Side by Side by Sondheim. He died a month later in Chicago and was buried at Saint Mary's Cemetery in Ridgefield, Connecticut where he had long resided in his rural home.

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