Actor. Born William Henry Hartnell in St. Pancras, London, the only son of a single mother, he was raised primarily by his aunt. He studied acting at The Sylvia Young Theatre School. At 16, he was adopted by Hugh Blaker who helped him gain entry to Sir Frank Benson's Shakespearean Company. He worked his way through the ranks from gopher to stage manager to bit player. He played in repertory theatre in Richmond, Harrogate, Leeds and Sheffield. He then earned the lead in a touring production of ‘Charley's Aunt.' He made his film debut in ‘Say It With Music' in 1932. Conscripted into the Royal Armoured Corps during WWII, he was invalided out after suffering a nervous breakdown. After a long convalescence his career took off again in 1940 with ‘Murder Will Out.' He appeared in over fifty feature film in the 1940s and 1950s including ‘Now Barabbas' in 1949; ‘The Pickwick Papers' in 1952; ‘Carry on Sergeant' in 1958; and ‘The Mouse That Roared' in 1959. His appearance in ‘This Sporting Life' in 1963, brought him to the attention of Verity Lambert, the producer of a new science fiction program called ‘Doctor Who,' the leading role was offered to Hartnell. His run as the first incarnation of the Doctor began in 1963 with ‘An Unearthly Child' and would continue until ‘The Tenth Planet' in 1966. Although Hartnell claimed that he did not willingly give up the part of the Doctor, conflicts with a new production team and ill health lead to his departure from the series. Hartnell made theatre and television appearances for the remainder of his career. Despite failing health, he reprised the role of the Doctor for the 1973 10th Anniversary television film, ‘The Three Doctors,' although most of his part was made with the help of cue cards and he appeared only in pre-filmed inserts. Hartnell's health grew progressively worse and in December 1974 he was admitted to hospital permanently. In early 1975 he suffered a series of stokes and died in his sleep. His granddaughter, Jessica Carney, wrote ‘Who's There?' a biography of her grandfather in 1996.
Bio by: Iola