|Born||Harold Thomas Gregson
15 March 1919
Liverpool, Lancashire, England
|Died||8 January 1975
Porlock Weir, Somerset, England
|Cause of death||heart attack|
|Thea Gregory (1947-75)|
John Gregson, (born Harold Thomas Gregson, (15 March 1919 - 8 January 1975) was an English actor of stage, television and film, with 40 credited film roles. He was best known for his comedy roles.
He was credited in 40 films between 1948 and 1971, and on television from 1960 until his death. He was often cast as a police inspector or as a navy or army officer, or for his comedy roles in Ealing and other British films.
Gregson was born of Irish descent, and grew up in Wavertree, Liverpool, where he was educated at Greenbank Road Primary School and later at St. Francis Xavier's College. He left school at 16, working first for a telephone company, then for Liverpool Corporation, as the city council was then known, before the Second World War. During this time, he became interested in amateur dramatics, joining first his local Catholic church theatre group at St. Anthony's, Mossley Hill, and later the Liverpool Playgoers' Club.
After being demobilised in 1945, he joined the Playhouse in Liverpool for a year, before going on to Perth Theatre in Perth, Scotland. Here he met his future wife, actress Ida Reddish from Nottingham, who at the time was using the stage name Thea Kronberg and had recently arrived from the Birmingham Repertory Theatre. In 1947 they moved to London and married there. They eventually had three daughters and three sons.
One of his first appearances was in the film Saraband for Dead Lovers, a tearjerking romance starring Joan Greenwood and Stewart Granger. In the popular Scott of the Antarctic (1948) he played Tom Crean.
Gregson could also be seen in Ealing's Whisky Galore! (1949) (the first of the Ealing comedies) and Train of Events (1949), as well as The Hasty Heart (1949), Cairo Road (1950), Treasure Island (1950) and The Lavender Hill Mob (1951). Gregson had a good part in Angels One Five (1951), a popular war film.
Gregson was promoted to leading man for The Brave Don't Cry (1952), about a mining disaster. He had the second lead in Rank's Venetian Bird (1952) and supported in The Holly and the Ivy (1952). He had a good part in another Ealing comedy, The Titfield Thunderbolt (1952).
He was second billed to Glynis Johns in a prison drama, The Weak and the Wicked (1954), another hit and played the lead in a light drama, Conflict of Wings (1954). Gregson followed this with The Crowded Day (1954), a comedy; To Dorothy a Son (1954) a comedy co-starring Shelley Winters; and Three Cases of Murder (1955), an omnibus film co-starring Orson Welles.
Gregson had a big hit with a war film, Above Us the Waves (1956), playing an Australian, in support of John Mills. He did a comedy with Diana Dors, Value for Money (1956), and a drama Jacqueline (1956).
More successful was another war movie based on a true story, The Battle of the River Plate (1956) where Gregson played F. S. Bell. This film helped British exhibitors vote him the 8th biggest British film star in the country for 1956.
He followed it with True as a Turtle (1957), a comedy;Miracle in Soho (1957), a drama. That year he was the fourth biggest British star. The following year he was 8th, his last year in the top ten; his films included Rooney (1958), a comedy playing an Irish sportsman; Sea of Sand (1958), a war film; and The Captain's Table (1959) a comedy.
He supported in SOS Pacific (1960) and Hand in Hand (1960) but was top billed in Faces in the Dark (1960) and The Frightened City (1961). He has a support role in The Treasure of Monte Cristo (1961) and was one of many names in The Longest Day (1962).
After that 'his film career faded after ten good years [1952-1962]'. He was one of many leading men and women of the 1950s (the others including Kenneth More, Richard Todd, Patrick Holt, Michael Craig, Sylvia Syms and Muriel Pavlow) who struggled to maintain their status as leads beyond the early 1960s. From 1963 onwards, Gregson never played another leading film role.
He also appeared in The Saint with Roger Moore, and a popular comedy adventure series with Shirley MacLaine, Shirley's World. He took over from Kenneth More in long-running TV adverts for coffee on British television.
He appeared in It's the Geography That Counts, the last play at the St James's Theatre before its closure in 1957.
John Gregson died before retirement and suddenly from a heart attack near Porlock Weir, Somerset, aged 55, whilst on holiday, walking on the path to St. Beuno's Church, Culbone. He left a widow, Thea Gregory, and six children.
His final television role was in the Southern Television serial Dangerous Knowledge, which was broadcast posthumously in 1976. His body was interred at Sunbury Cemetery, Sunbury-on-Thames, Surrey near his family home at Creek House, Chertsey Road, Shepperton.
For several years British exhibitors listed Gregson as one of the most popular local stars at the box office.