British actor-manager. He was knighted in 1957.
Born in Newark-on-Trent, Wolfit made his stage debut in 1920 and first appeared in London as Phirous in The Wandering Jew (1924). After joining the Old Vic in 1929 he had a number of engagements, including a tour of Canada as Robert Browning in The Barretts of Wimpole Street and a couple of seasons at Stratford-on-Avon (1936–37). A man of immense dedication to his profession, Wolfit founded his own company in 1937 and began the work for which he is perhaps best remembered. Performing mainly Shakespeare's plays, the company toured extensively as well as appearing in the West End. During the Battle of Britain (1940) he continued to stage performances when nearly all the other London theatres were closed. He also undertook tours with ENSA to entertain troops in Europe and the Middle East.
Among Wolfit's many notable roles were Hamlet, Lear, Shylock, Malvolio, Macbeth, Volpone, Richard III, and Tamburlaine, as well as Pastor Manders in Ghosts, which he also played on television. He gave numerous Shakespeare recitals throughout the world, either solo or in partnership with his third wife, actress Rosalind Iden. He made many broadcasts and some twenty films (1934–68), one of his most memorable portrayals being the title role of Svengali (1954).
Subjects: Theatre — Shakespeare Studies and Criticism.