From the trailer for Stage Fright (1950)
Michael Charles Gauntlet Wilding
23 July 1912
|Died||8 July 1979 (aged 66)|
|Cause of death||Head injury sustained in a fall|
(m. 1937; div. 1951)
(m. 1952; div. 1957)
(m. 1958; div. 1962)
(m. 1964; died 1976)
Michael Charles Gauntlet Wilding (23 July 1912 – 8 July 1979) was an English stage, television, and film actor. He is best known for a series of films he made with Anna Neagle, for the two films he made with Alfred Hitchcock and for being Elizabeth Taylor's second husband.
Born in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, England, and educated at Christ's Hospital, Wilding left home at age 17 and trained as a commercial artist. He went to Europe when he was 20 and supported himself in Europe by doing sketches. He wanted to get into designing sets for films and approached a London film studio in 1933 looking for work. They invited him to come to work as an extra.
Wilding appeared as an extra in British films such as Bitter Sweet (1933), Heads We Go (1933), and Channel Crossing (1933). He caught the acting bug and decided to make it a career. He reportedly appeared in an Austrian film called Pastorale.
He made his stage debut in The Ringer in 1934 for the Watford Repertory Company and made his London stage debut in Chase the Ace the following year. He could be spotted in the films Late Extra (1935), When Knights Were Bold (1936), and Wedding Group (1936). He was in two musicals on stage, Spread It Abroad and Home and Beauty.
In 1937-38 he toured Australia and New Zealand with Fay Compton's stage company. The plays included Personal Appearance, Victoria Regina, Tonight at Eight Thirty and George and Margaret. While in Australia he filmed a prologue for Personal Appearance.
Back in England he appeared in the first Gate Revue, then followed this with another revue, Let's Face It and a pantomime, Who's Taking Liberty.
Wilding had a leading role in Spring Meeting (1941) but was back to support parts in The Farmer's Wife (1941). His films grew more prestigious: Kipps (1941), Cottage to Let (1941), Ships with Wings (1941), The Big Blockade (1941), In Which We Serve (1942), Secret Mission (1942), and Undercover (1943). He played in Quiet Weekend on stage for a year. In 1943 he performed for the troops in Gibraltar with John Gielgud.
What really made him a star was appearing opposite Anna Neagle in Piccadilly Incident (1946). Director Herbert Wilcox had wanted Rex Harrison or John Mills and had only taken Wilding reluctantly. However, once he saw the rushes he signed Wilding to a long-term contract. Piccadilly Incident was the second most popular film at the British box office in 1946. After co-starring with Sally Gray in Carnival (1946), Wilding was reunited with Neagle and Wilcox in The Courtneys of Curzon Street (1947), the biggest hit at the 1947 British box office and one of the most-seen British films of all time. Alexander Korda cast him opposite Paulette Goddard in An Ideal Husband (1947), another hit, but it failed to recoup its enormous cost. Wilding, Neagle and Wilcox reteamed for Spring in Park Lane (1948), another outstanding hit. It led to a sequel, Maytime in Mayfair (1949), which was also enormously popular.
Wilding was now one of the biggest stars in Britain--indeed he was voted as such by the readers of Kine Weekly. Director Alfred Hitchcock then cast him in two consecutive films that he produced through his own film production company Transatlantic Pictures (distributed through Warner Brothers Pictures). The first, Under Capricorn (released in 1949), in which he played opposite Ingrid Bergman and Joseph Cotten, was shot mostly in London but had final retakes and overdubs filmed in Hollywood. It was one of Hitchcock's few flops. His second film for Hitchcock was the more popular Stage Fright (released in 1950), also filmed in London, with Marlene Dietrich and Jane Wyman. Thirteen years later, in 1963, Wilding starred in an Alfred Hitchcock Hour episode titled "Last Seen Wearing Blue Jeans".
Wilcox used him in a film without Neagle, Into the Blue (1950) and the public response was considerably less enthusiastic than for the films they made together. He put Anouk Aimée under personal contract and announced plans to make a movie together but none resulted.
MGM made an offer for Wilding to appear opposite Greer Garson in The Law and the Lady (1951); the film was not a success. He returned to Britain for The Lady With a Lamp (1951), a biopic of Florence Nightingale with Neagle and Wilcox. It was popular in Britain, though less so than their earlier collaborations.
So too was Derby Day (1952), the last Neagle-Wilding collaboration. Wilcox tried Wilding with a new star, Margaret Lockwood, in Trent's Last Case (1952), a minor hit. In 1952 British exhibitors voted him the fourth most popular star at the local box office.
In Hollywood, Wilding supported Joan Crawford in MGM's Torch Song (1953). 20th Century Fox borrowed him to play a pharaoh in their big budget spectacular, The Egyptian (1954), which was a box office disappointment.
Wilding journeyed with Taylor to Africa to appear in Zarak (1956) for Warwick Films, after which his marriage to Taylor ended. He began appearing regularly on U.S. television, including the title role in the 1957 episode "The Trial of Colonel Blood" of NBC's anthology series The Joseph Cotten Show.
His last appearance in a feature was in an uncredited, nonspeaking cameo in Lady Caroline Lamb (1972), which co-starred his last wife, Margaret Leighton. His last role was in the TV movie Frankenstein: The True Story (1973).
At the peak of his career, British exhibitors voted him among the most popular stars in the country:
Wilding was married four times: to Kay Young (married 1937, divorced 1951), actress Elizabeth Taylor (married 1952, divorced 1957), Susan Nell (married 1958, divorced 1962), and actress Margaret Leighton (married 1964 until her death in 1976).
He and Taylor, who was 20 years his junior, had two sons, Michael Howard Wilding (born 1953) and Christopher Edward Wilding (born 1955). In 1957 he had a short-lived romance with actress Marie McDonald, who was nicknamed The Body.
In the 1960s he was forced to cut back on his film appearances because of illness related to his lifelong epilepsy.
|Heads We Go||Minor Role||Uncredited|
|Channel Crossing||Passenger Boarding Ferry||Uncredited|
|1935||Late Extra||Newspaper Telephone Operator||Uncredited|
|1936||When Knights Were Bold||Soldier||Uncredited|
|Wedding Group||Dr. Hutherford|
|1939||There Ain't No Justice||Len Charteris|
|Tilly of Bloomsbury||Percy Welwyn|
|Sailors Three||Johnny Wilding|
|Sailors Don't Care||Dick|
|1941||Mr. Proudfoot Shows a Light||Officer|
|Spring Meeting||Tony Fox-Collier|
|The Farmer's Wife||Richard Coaker|
|Cottage to Let||Alan Trently|
|1942||Ships with Wings||Lt. David Grant|
|The Big Blockade||Captain||Uncredited|
|In Which We Serve||Flags|
|Secret Mission||Pvt. Nobby Clark|
|Dear Octopus||Nicholas Randolph|
|1944||English Without Tears||Tom Gilbey|
|1946||Piccadilly Incident||Capt. (later Major) Alan Pearson|
|1947||The Courtneys of Curzon Street||Sir Edward Courtney|
|An Ideal Husband||Viscount Arthur Goring|
|1948||Spring in Park Lane||Richard|
|1949||Maytime in Mayfair||Michael Gore-Brown|
|Under Capricorn||Hon. Charles Adare|
|1950||Stage Fright||Det. Insp. Wilfred 'Ordinary' Smith|
|Into the Blue||Nicholas Foster|
|1951||The Law and the Lady||Nigel Duxbury / Lord Henry Minden aka Hoskins|
|The Lady with a Lamp||Sidney Herbert / Lord Herbert of Lea|
|1952||Derby Day||David Scott|
|Trent's Last Case||Philip Trent|
|1953||Torch Song||Tye Graham|
|1955||The Glass Slipper||Prince Charles|
|The Scarlet Coat||Major John Andre|
|1956||Zarak||Major Michael Ingram|
|1959||Danger Within||Major Charles Marquand|
|1960||The World of Suzie Wong||Ben Marlowe|
|1961||The Naked Edge||Morris Brooke|
|The Best of Enemies||Burke|
|1962||A Girl Named Tamiko||Nigel Costairs|
|1968||Code Name, Red Roses||English General|
|The Sweet Ride||Mr. Cartwright|
|1970||Waterloo||Sir William Ponsonby|
|1972||Lady Caroline Lamb||Lord Holland|
|1956||Screen Director's Playhouse||David Scott||Episode: The Carroll Formula|
|1955, 1956||The 20th Century Fox Hour||Robert Marryot
Captain Robert Wilton
|Episode: Cavalcade |
Stranger in the Night
|1957||The Joseph Cotten Show||Colonel Blood||Episode: The Trial of Colonel Blood|
|1958||Climax!||Lt. MacKenzie Barton||Episode: The Volcano Seat (1) |
Episode: The Volcano Seat (2)
|Target||Episode: The Clean Kill|
|1959||Lux Playhouse||Stephen MacIllroy||Episode: The Case of the Two Sisters|
|1958, 1959||Playhouse 90||Sir John Alexander
|Episode: Verdict of Three |
Episode: Dark as the Night
|1962||Saints and Sinners||Sir Robert||Episode: A Night of Horns and Bells|
|1963||The Alfred Hitchcock Hour||David Saunders||Episode: Last Seen Wearing Blue Jeans|
|Burke's Law||Dr. Alex Steiner||Episode: Who Killed Sweet Betsy?|
|1966||The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.||Franz Joseph||Episode: The Lethal Eagle Affair|
|Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre||Major Tucker||Episode: The Fatal Mistake|
|1968||Mannix||Phillip Montford/Sir Arnold Salt||Episode: A View of Nowhere|
|1973||Frankenstein: The True Story||Sir Richard Fanshawe||TV film, (final film role)|