Harry Andrews

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Harry Andrews Pencil Portrait
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Last updated : 27/5/21

An accomplished Shakespearean actor, appearing at such venues as the Queen’s Theatre, the Lyceum Theatre, and the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in England as well as theatres in New York City, Paris, Antwerp and Brussels, Harry Andrews eventually moved into films, imposing his tall presence in trademark tough military officer roles throughout the 50’s and 60’s. His performance as Sergeant Major Wilson in The Hill alongside Sean Connery earned Andrews the 1965 National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actor and a nomination for the 1966 BAFTA Award for Best British Actor.

His raison d’etre was straightforward : “I don’t want to be a star but I want to be a good actor in good parts” and his presence – all granite face and square jaw – made him standout. It was ironic that he had difficulty in memorizing lines. Sometime later co-star Alan Bates thought him very courageous for his obvious triumph over this impediment. Bates further remarked that Andrews’ great sense of humor and no-nonsense personable character made him a favorite with younger actors as a continuous well of encouragement and learning experiences. Though his parts were smaller as he grew older, he filled each of his roles, big or small – over 100 of them – with a giant’s footsteps.

The longevity of his screen life was even more remarkable for the dark secret he harboured throughout his career, a hidden facet to his makeup that could have destroyed him, both professionally and personally. These were unforgiving times………………….


Born in Tonbridge, Kent, England, Andrews would graduate from Wrekin College, before rapidly distinguishing himself as a stage actor, noted for his portrayals of Shakespearean roles. He first appeared on stage in Liverpool in 1933 in “The Long Christmas Dinner,” and three years later would make his first appearance on the New York stage in 1936, playing Horatio in “Hamlet” at the Empire Theatre. Though he was often typecast as the tough guy in films, Andrews broke the mold in his brilliant portrayal of a flamboyant homosexual in the 1970 black comedy “Entertaining Mr. Sloane.” Finally, after nearly four decades in his chosen profession, the actor chose to offer an insight into his real personality. it was all there for those prepared to “read between the lines.”

“Entertaining Mr Sloane” was written by the English playwright Joe Orton, and was first produced in London at the New Arts Theatre on 6 May 1964.

Andrews long term romantic partner was the English actor, Basil William Hoskins (10 June 1929 – 17 January 2005). Being essentially a gentle soul (despite his screen image) and intensely private, Harry had risked career ruination for many years living with his long-time partner in Salehurst, near Robertsbridge, in East Sussex. Today, Basil is buried next to Harry in the churchyard of St. Mary’s at Salehurst.

In 2020, the journalist Tim Walker provided a rare insight into the actor who never went public about his sexuality. His decision at the time (1985) to publish nothing about the actor’s private life, was highly commendable.

When I arrived at the home of Harry Andrews in the Sussex countryside, I was greeted at the door by his lover of the past 30 years, who led me into the living room where the ‘tough guy’ star of war films such as The Hill and Battle of Britain was waiting with a pot of tea, a plate of biscuits and a broad smile. Andrews was one of those actors who possessed a face that was disproportionately more famous than his name.

Years of appearing on the boards with Olivier, Gielgud and Richardson meant, however, that his status within his profession was assured.

This was the mid-1980s and Andrews had just landed a part in Dynasty, the hit television series that starred Joan Collins and John Forsythe, and, while remunerative, he was fretting about whether it might turn him into a celebrity.

Andrews loathed the word, very rarely gave interviews, and had, in his younger days, turned down the chance of a Hollywood contract, supposedly because he’d baulked at the idea of having to change his much-too-forgettable name. This was an actor who had clearly made a conscious decision not to be any more famous than absolutely necessary.

A factor in this may well have been the lover who had opened the door to me: Basil Hoskins, a popular character actor who had appeared in television series such as Emergency – Ward 10, The Prisoner and also, with Andrews, the film Ice Cold in Alex.

Andrews’ private life was no secret at all within his profession – the Oliviers would entertain him and Hoskins at their home in nearby Steyning – but he had never made any kind of public announcement about it, and no wonder because homosexuality had for most of his career been a criminal offence.

The most Andrews had ever done was to hint at it in later life when he had accepted the part of an overtly gay character in the film Entertaining Mr Sloane.

Andrews was great fun to talk to and he could not have been more easy-going, but professionalism was obviously what mattered to him more than anything. He spoke of his disgust that Marlon Brando, when he had appeared with him in a scene in Superman, had needed ‘idiot boards’ on which his lines were written. He felt Richard Burton, after marrying Elizabeth Taylor, had allowed his celebrity to get in the way of his acting, which he felt he should have put first. He admitted he had no time for fellow actors who failed to appear on sets or stages on time, with their lines learned and sober and ready to start.

Imposingly tall and well-built, Andrews had served in the Royal Artillery during the war and had seen some harrowing real-life combat, but he was, in contrast to his on-screen image, a kind and gentle soul. Gardening, music and reading occupied his own time. He loved most of all the company of fellow actors which is why he’d appeared in the Vincent Price comedy horror film Theatre of Blood because he knew its formidable cast – Jack Hawkins, Coral Browne, Michael Hordern etc – would give him a chance to catch up on gossip between takes.

I hadn’t the slightest idea about Andrews’ sexuality until I’d arrived at his home – not a word about it had ever appeared in the newspapers – but, at 73, he obviously couldn’t be bothered to pretend any more. This posed a moral dilemma for me as an ambitious young journalist on the Brighton Argus: if I got into the issue at all in the interview I knew there was a grim inevitability about what would ensue.

The homophobia of the tabloids was virulent in those days because of AIDS and the coverage of the last days of Rock Hudson – another Dynasty star – had been peculiarly tasteless and judgmental. Did I honestly want it on my conscience I had put not just Andrews but also Hoskins through a lot of lurid ‘gay secret’ headlines in their later years?

This was a scoop I decided I could do without, and, after my interview appeared – focusing on his career – I received a handwritten note from him in which he’d described me as a ‘civilised interrogator’. Andrews passed away peacefully four years later and was able to ‘come out’ on his own terms, and posthumously, in 2005, when Hoskins also died and he was buried beside him in the graveyard at St Mary the Virgin in Salehurst, East Sussex.

Recommended viewing

Ice Cold in Alex (1958)

The Informers (1963)


633 Squadron (1964)

The Hill (1965)

“Now, you’ve all been making a hell of a racket. There’ll be no more of it, or I’ll have the lot of you over the hill. Every damn one of you. Now, if you’ve any complaints, you’re free to see the Commandant. Any more trouble and I’ll read you the Riot Act. You know how long it takes. And if that doesn’t have any effect, I’ll charge the ring leaders with mutiny.”

“Who’s the ring leaders? Every fifth man! Think that over. I don’t waste my breath on idle threats. Now, let’s have you looking like soldiers. Prisoners, attention! Stand at ease! Let’s have that again. Attention! Better.”

Quite possibly his finest moment. Andrews IS the ultimate toy clockwork soldier, half smiling/half snarling, and irrationally determined to follow orders and ensure that orders are followed. Ultimately usurped by his Staff Sergeant Williams, he’s seen roaring at the top of his lungs – “In twenty-five years, I’ve never known a balls-up like it!” I run this place! Me!” I say what goes and what don’t go!”

Running the stockade like the stiff, controlled, tough administrator we all despise and fear, Andrews was well prepared with his script, raising Connery’s game in every scene they share.

The Agony & the Ecstacy (1965)

Entertaining Mr Sloane (1970)