William Hutt (1920-2007)

William Hutt

Year Born: 1920

Year Died: 2007


Hutt, William (1920-2007)

Though his lengthy career as an actor was primarily on the stage, William Hutt made substantial contributions to Canadian broadcasting; in particular, he will always be remembered for his portrayal of John A. Macdonald in CBC Television’s epic eight-part adaptation of Pierre Berton’s The National Dream, in 1974.

Born in Toronto on May 2nd 1920, William Hutt was educated at Vaughan Road Collegiate –  whose other alumni included Al Waxman and Don Harron – and obtained his B.A. from Trinity College at U. of T. in 1948.  It was in that same year that he made his first professional stage appearance in summer stock, whence he was recruited by the Canadian Repertory Theatre of Ottawa. In 1953, he became a founding member of the company of players who launched the Stratford Festival in a tent in the small Ontario town that was to become the home of Shakespeare in Canada.

In the ensuing years at Stratford, Hutt played all Shakespeare’s great lead characters – Hamlet, Macbeth, Titus Andronicus, King Lear, Falstaff and Prospero among them – and recreated many of these performances for CBC radio and television. He was also seen from time to time on CTV: he had a role in Michael Langham’s 1966 Stratford production of Henry V, starring Douglas Rain, which was recreated in the Toronto CFTO studios by Lorne Freed, and in 1973 he played in one episode of Harland Ellison’s futuristic series The Starlost, which starred Keir Dullea.  In 1996, he was in the film of the 1994 Stratford cast’s moving production of Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night, and won a Genie Award for his performance. The film was shown on PBS in September 1999. In 1998, he was part of the cast of the CBC mini-series Emily Of New Moon”, and in 1999 he guested in an episode of CTV’s one-hour Twice In a Lifetime series, which starred Al Waxman.

Other notable Hutt appearances on television included his portrayal of Columbus in an episode of Patrick Watson’s Witness To Yesterday interview series, and a guest role in The Winners, a CBC 1982 series of ten half-hour programs on Canadian heroes.  He also made several films, including Oedipus Rex (1957), There Was a Crooked Man (1960), Macbeth (1963), The Fixer (1968), The Shape of Things to Come (1979), Covergirl (1981), The Wars (1983) and The Statement (2003).

In 2003, at the age of 83, he co-starred with Peter Donat in Albert Schultz’s Soulpepper stage production of Pinter’s No Man’s Land at Toronto’s Premiere Dance Theatre, a performance which won him a Dora Mavor Moore Award. Three years later, in the summer of 2006, he made a noteworthy series of guest appearances in the television series Slings and Arrows on the Movie Network, playing an aging, drug-dependent actor cast in a production of King Lear.

In 1969, William Hutt was made a Companion of the Order of Canada for his services to Canadian theatre.  His role as John A Macdonald in The National Dream earned him both a Genie and an ACTRA Award, and in 1992 he received a Governor-General’s Performing Arts Award for his “…indelible contribution to Canada’s cultural life.” In the year 2000 he had his star unveiled on Canada’s Walk of Fame in Toronto’s theatre district, and in 2004 he received the Barbara Hamilton for Excellence and Professionalism in the Performing Arts.

William Hutt died of acute lukemia in hospital in Stratford, Ontario, on June 27th 2007. He was 87. 

(Photo courtesy Canada’s Walk of Fame)

Written by Pip Wedge – August, 2004