Sunday, November 10, 2013

Seven Things to Know About James Robertson Justice

1. James Robertson Justice's most famous role was as Dr. Lancelot Spratt, the blustery chief surgeon at St. Swithin's Hospital in the British Doctor movies. He first appeared as Spratt in 1954's Doctor in the House, with Dirk Bogarde playing handsome medical student Simon Sparrow. Justice played Spratt in five sequels that starred either Bogarde or Leslie Phillips.As the film series progressed, Spratt evolved from a supporting character to co-lead in entries like Doctor in Distress (1963).

2. Although Lancelot Spratt did not appear in the second Doctor film, Doctor at Sea, Justice still returned opposite Dirk Bogarde. In this outing, Justice played Captain Wentworth Hogg, who ran a cargo ship...very much like Dr. Spratt ran St. Swithin's. Young physician Simon Sparrow didn't seem to mind--he was too busy romancing Brigitte Bardot!

3. When he was 17, Justice played for the Beckenham Rugby Club during the 1924-25 season. One of his teammates was Johnnie Craddock, who became famous working alongside his wife Fanny, a celebrity cook. Justice later worked briefly as a journalist at Reuters--as did James Bond author Ian Fleming. Many years later, Justice appeared in the 1968 adaptation of Fleming's children novel Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang.

4. James Robertson Justice co-starred with Gregory Peck in four movies: Captain Horatio Hornblower (1951); David and Bathsheba (1951); Moby Dick (1956); and The Guns of Navarone (1961). In Moby Dick, he played Captain Boomer, who lost an arm to the white whale pursued by Peck's Captain Ahab.

5. He co-starred with Richard Todd in three movies produced by Walt Disney in the early 1950s. He played Little John to Todd's Robin in The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men (1952). He and Todd then re-teamed for The Sword and the Rose and Rob Roy: The Highland Rogue. Both pictures were made in 1953 and also featured the delightful Glynis Johns.

6. Although Justice claimed he was born in Wigtown or Skye Island, Scotland, most sources list South London as his birth place. Regardless, he embraced his Scottish heritage and was Rector of the University of Edinburgh for two three-year terms in 1957 and 1963. The Rector heads the university's highest governing body and is elected by the students and staff. Other famous people to hold the Rector office at the University of Edinburgh are Winston Churchill and Alastair Sim.

7. Justice was married twice. His son, James, died in 1949 at the age of four in a drowning accident. He met actress Irena von Meyendorff, a real-life Baroness, while making The Ambassadress in 1961. They became lovers, later appeared together in Mayerling (1968), and were wed three days before Justice died in 1975 from complications from a stroke.

This post is part of the What a Character! Blogathon hosted by Once Upon a Screen, Paula's Cinema Club, and Outspoken & Freckled. Click here for the full schedule of posts that celebrate cinema's great character actors.

10 comments:

  1. Great post, Rick! This is one actor I know (or knew) nothing about. Wonderful addition to the Character blogathon!!

    Aurora

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    1. It's a terrific idea for a blogathon, Aurora! Thanks for co-hosting it with Paula and Kellee.

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  2. Very interesting stuff. Loved the set up. Justice is a welcome sight in any film. When his name pops up in the credits I seem to settle more comfortably in my chair.

    PS: "What's the bleeding time?"

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    1. CW, the quote you left is the title of a biography on Justice.

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  3. Ack! I do not know this fellow at all! What the heck?!

    Ah well. Thanks to your helpful "7 Things to Know", I'm now a bit smarter.

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    1. I recommend checking the "Doctor" series!

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  4. Rick, you stumped me here! But I must say that I came across a few previously unknown to me characters over the course of these 3 days. I love learning about new (to me) film folk!

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  5. My favorite James Robertson Justice role was that of Mr. Crackenthorpe in Agatha Christie's What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw, Well, the movie sort of based on that book which was titled Murder She Said and starred Margaret Rutherford. I also remember him fondly as Friar Tuck.

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  6. I learned a lot with this post! Unfortunately I don't remember Justice from The Guns of Navarone. And married for just three day and then died? Holy moly!
    Don't forget to read my contribution to the blogathon! :)
    Greetings!

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  7. Excellent post! Justice certainly commanded attention in his roles. The "Doctor in the House" series is quite fun and a good glimpse into silly British humor.

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