We all know and love Patrick Troughton for his three year stretch as the Second Doctor, but what of his acting career before he succeeded William Hartnell's First?
Patrick was born on March 25th 1920 in Mill Hill, London- his first exposure to the stage coming in 1937 when he appeared in a school production of JB Priestley's Bees On The Boat Deck. From there he went on to study at the Embassy School of Acting, now part of the Central School of Speech & Drama before securing himself a scholarship in America and then returning to join the Tonbridge Repertory Company. In fact, the day his American studies finished was a rather momentous one according to the man himself!
"The day we broke up we listened to Neville Chamberlain announcing that we had declared war on Germany. My dad was a lawyer in a shipping firm and he arranged me a trip back on a Belgian ship."In 1940 he joined the Navy as part of the Second World War effort, rising to the rank of Lieutenant within the Royal Naval Reserve- helping to take out German E-boats ( the 'E' a British addition designating them as enemy craft)! It was during this time that he might have initially discovered a love of hats, as he was known to wear a tea towel on his head on cold patrols in the North Sea!
Following the end of the war it was back to the theatre for Pat. Stints with the Amersham Rep, Bristol Old Vic Company and Pilgrim Players followed before a first television appearance in 1947. Cinema was the next logical step for him, and he took on a role in Laurence Olivier's adaptation of Shakespeare's Hamlet- he portrayed the Player King, one of the participants in the play within a play which echoes the murder of the titular prince's father.
He & Bill Hartnell would then appear together in Escape. Perhaps it was the memory of working with Troughton on this which reportedly inspired Hartnell to say "There's only one man in England who can take over, and that's Patrick Troughton" upon his exit from Doctor Who? The man who would become the Doctor also has the honour of appearing in Disney's 1950 adaptation of Treasure Island.
Pat plays Roach, though its Robert Newton's portrayal of Long John Silver which takes the popular critical plaudits. As The Pirate Empire says of the film & Newton's performance:
"Newton, always a flamboyant man, used his own West Country accent as the basis for Silver’s voice, and hammed it up dramatically. Both choices were sound decisions for the part. The accent was an appropriate one for a pirate, and the character of Silver is charming, enthusiastic, powerful and sly. Newton was all of these, and more besides."Interestingly enough a similar approach was, perhaps jokingly, proposed by Troughton to the character of the Doctor a few years later!
"My original idea was to black up and wear a big turban and brass earrings and a big grey beard and do it like the Arabian Knights . I thought that would be a wonderful idea, but when I’d finished, I could shave off, take the black off, take the turban off and nobody would know who I was and I wouldn’t be typecast. But they didn’t think that was a very good idea."
Some years before that, though, viewers who saw the BBC's 1953 series Robin Hood would have seen him playing quite another folk hero.
He later remembered that:
"The projectionists were from Pinewood Studios, because they had a machine, and we had to hire it from them. We came on for a scene and there was a noise behind us from the back projection and when we looked they had put the forest in sideways! We continued doing the scene and the trees disappeared. There was a white screen and then the trees appeared again the right way up! This was all being broadcast because it was live television and you couldn't stop."Perhaps fittingly an image of him in the role appears in Robot Of Sherwood.
Troughton could have appeared in Doctor Who prior to his casting as the new incarnation of the Time Lord, too! He was offered the role of Johnny Ringo in The Gunfighters but declined, the part eventually going to Laurence Payne. Come 1966, though, he would be back!
"I've been renewed, have I? That's it. I've been renewed."Troughton rarely gave interviews, and when he did his answers proved somewhat cryptic. "I think acting is magic. If I tell you all about myself it will spoil it" summing that side of things up rather neatly. Concerns over typecasting seem to have been the driving force behind his departure in 1969, and after handing over the keys to the TARDIS he enjoyed many more film & television roles. Perhaps one of the best known of these is the part of Father Brennan in The Omen!
You might also recognise the judge in the famous Two Ronnies courtroom sketch...
Within two years of that Pat sadly died of a heart attack just two days after his 67th birthday while attending a Doctor Who fan convention in Columbus, Georgia- during which legend has it he requested a screening of The Dominators as part of the event.
A great man & a great Doctor- highly rated by Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy and Matt Smith - as well as the team here at Warped Factor.
Feel free to drop us a hypercube in celebration of his legacy..........