William Hartnell

William Henry Hartnell (1908 - 1975)

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William Henry Hartnell
Born in St Pancras, London, Englandmap
Ancestors ancestors
Son of [father unknown] and
[sibling(s) unknown]
Husband of — married (to ) in United Kingdommap
Descendants descendants
Died in Marden, Kent, Englandmap
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Profile last modified | Created 30 Oct 2014 | Last significant change: 8 Jan 2019
03:42: Summer Seely edited the Biography for William Henry Hartnell (1908-1975). [Thank Summer for this]
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Categories: English Notables | Actors.

William Hartnell is Notable.


Originated the role of the Doctor in the "Dr Who" tv show.

Veteran character actor William Hartnell was born in 1908 to humble beginnings; his mother was unwed, he never knew his father, and his first career move was into petty crime.

A boxing instructor got him started on horse racing, but he found his real passion when he got a job as a stagehand at the age of 18. He quickly got into acting, working constantly with only a break to serve in World War II in an armored regiment. He ended up typecast in comic tough-guy roles (you can see one of them in The Mouse That Roared), and when Verity Lambert offered him the part of a mysterious time traveler in an educational show aimed at children, he jumped at the part. He created a character who was highly intelligent but not always as wise as he thought himself, brilliant but forgetful, cantankerous but with a deep compassion under the surface. He enjoyed the role tremendously, but by 1966, his health was deteriorating due to arteriosclerosis and he had to quit.

The producers came up with the idea of having his character transform into a new actor, and Hartnell suggested Patrick Troughton, who was approached and accepted the part. Hartnell reprised his role once more for the tenth anniversary special, "The Three Doctors," but his health had deteriorated more than the production crew realized and his part had to be rewritten to accommodate his capabilities; it was his final work as an actor, and he passed away in 1974 at the age of 67.

The role of Dr Who has since been played by: Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker (no relation to previous Doctor, Tom Baker), Sylvester McCoy, Paul McGann, Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, Matt Smith, Peter Capaldi, and (as the first female Doctor) Jodie Whittaker.


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No known carriers of William's Y-chromosome or his mother's mitochondrial DNA have taken yDNA or mtDNA tests and no close relatives have taken a 23andMe, AncestryDNA, or Family Tree DNA "Family Finder" test.

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Images: 2
William Hartnell Image 1
William Hartnell Image 1

William Hartnell, in his role as Dr Who
William Hartnell, in his role as Dr Who


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