Actor. He is best remembered to American audiences for his role of 'Klaatu' in the sci-fi classic movie “The Day the Earth Stood Still” (1951). Born Eric Alexander Rennie in Bradford, Yorkshire, England, his great-great-grandfather, James Rennie, had designed and built the famous Waterloo Bridge. Rennie was educated at The Leys, a private school in the city of Cambridge, England, where he excelled in sports, including rowing, fencing, cricket, boxing and swimming. Upon graduation, he worked at a number of jobs, including car salesman and manager of his uncle’s rope factory, before turning to acting in 1936, when he stood-in for actor Robert Young in Alfred Hitchcock’s film “Secret Agent” (1936). Liking acting, he moved to the stage, working in York and Windsor to gain experience. In 1941, he joined the Royal Air Force, becoming a fighter pilot. While training at Napier Field, Alabama, in 1942, his fellow pilots asked him what he did in civilian life; when he told them he was an actor, they all laughed at him in disbelief. Two nights later, the group went to town to catch the movie “Ships with Wings” (1942) and Rennie got the last laugh when they realized he was playing the role of Royal Navy Pilot Lt. Maxwell in the film. When the war ended in 1945, he returned to films, and achieved rave notice for his role of Bob Fielding in “I’ll be Your Sweetheart” (1945). He more often played a supporting role in British films, but in 1951, Darrel Zanuck of 20th Century Fox brought him to Hollywood, and cast him as Klaatu, in “The Day the Earth Stood Still” (1951), now considered a science-fiction classic. He was married twice, first to Joan Phyllis England (1938-1945; divorced), then to Margaret “Maggie” McGrath (1947-1960; divorced). He and Maggie had a son, David, born in 1953. He continued to work as a supporting actor, often uncredited, in such films as “Five Fingers” (1952), “Pony Soldier” (1952), “Titanic” (1953), “The Robe” (1953), “King of the Khyber Rifles” (1953), “Prince Valiant” (1954), “Soldier of Fortune” (1955), “Seven Cities of Gold” (1955), and “Island in the Sun” (1957). Returning to England, he obtained the lead role of Harry Lime in the television series “The Third Man” (1959), but later offers went back to supporting roles. He also appeared in a number of guest spots on American television shows, including Zane Grey Theater, Route 66, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Perry Mason, The Virginian, Wagon Train, and Lost in Space. A heavy smoker, Rennie had respiratory problems for many years which in the late 1960s had him hospitalized several times; his last film was in 1971, “The Last Generation” (1971). He had lived his remaining years in Geneva, Switzerland, but died at his mother’s home in 1971 in Harrogate, Yorkshire, England, while visiting her because of his brother’s death.
Bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson