Hawkins, John, born 14-09-1910, at Lyndhurst Road, Wood Green, Middlesex, the son of master builder Thomas George Hawkins and his wife, Phoebe born Goodman. The youngest of four children in a close-knit family, Jack was educated at St. Michael’s School, Wood Green, where he joined his school choir at the age of eight; two years later he sang in the local operatic society’s Patience by Gilbert and Sullivan.
Hawkins attended stage school in London, the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts, which led to his London stage debut in Where the Rainbow Ends at the Holborn Empire on 26-12-1923, a production that also included the young Noël Coward. Hawkins made his New York stage debut on Broadway by 20-03-1929 as Second Lieutenant Hibbert in R. C. Sherriff’s Journey’s End, at the age of 18. As early as 1933, the drama critic of the Evening News called him ‘the most indubitable of matinee idols’ and predicted that he might outstrip talented contemporaries such as Ralph Richardson and John Gielgud, and in the pre-war years Hawkins often worked with the latter. The high point of this collaboration was Gielgud’s staging, in the period of the Phoney War, of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest in which Hawkins scintillated in the role of Algernon Moncrieff. After the fall of France in 1940, Hawkins volunteered for service with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers
He was posted to India where he was put in charge of troop entertainment and, by July 1944, he was a colonel commanding the administration of the Entertainments National Service Association (ENSA) for India and Southeast Asia. Although he had appeared in several films during the 1930s, it was only after World War II that he began to build a successful career in the cinema . A three-pack-a-day smoker, Hawkins began experiencing voice problems in the late 1950s; unknown to the public he had undergone cobalt treatment in 1959 for what was then described as a secondary condition of the larynx, but which was probably cancer. In private, he used a mechanical larynx to aid his speech. In December 1965, he was diagnosed with throat cancer. His entire larynx was removed in January of the following year; thereafter his performances were dubbed, often, with Hawkins’s approval, by Robert Rietti or actor Charles Gray.
Death and burial ground of Hawkins, John Edward “Jack”.
His final appearance was in the television miniseries QB VII. Following an unsuccessful operation to fit him with an artificial voice box, he died at St Stephen’s Hospital, Fulham Road, London, on 18-07-1973, age 62. His autobiography, Anything For a Quiet Life, was published after his death. He was cremated and interred at the Golders Green Crematorium.