Felix Aylmer

Sir Felix Aylmer

Felix Aylmer, 1938
Born Felix Edward Aylmer Jones
(1889-02-21)21 February 1889
Corsham, Wiltshire, England
Died 2 September 1979(1979-09-02) (aged 90)
Surrey, England
Years active 1911–68
Spouse(s) Cecily Byrne (1915-75; 2 children)

Sir Felix Edward Aylmer Jones, OBE (21 February 1889 – 2 September 1979), known as Felix Aylmer, was an English stage actor who also appeared in the cinema and on television. Aylmer made appearances in films with comedians such as Will Hay and George Formby.

Early life

Portrait of Sir Felix Aylmer in his garden in 1973 by Allan Warren

Felix Aylmer was born in Corsham, Wiltshire, the son of Lilian (Cookworthy) and Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Edward Aylmer Jones.[1][2] He was educated at King James's Grammar School, Almondbury, near Huddersfield, where he was a boarder from 1897 to 1900,[3] Magdalen College School, and Exeter College, Oxford, where he was a member of Oxford University Dramatic Society (OUDS).[2] He trained under the Victorian-era actress and director Rosina Filippi before securing his first professional engagement at the London Coliseum in 1911.[2] He appeared in the world premiere of The Farmer's Wife by Eden Phillpotts at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre in 1917.


He acted with Sir Laurence Olivier in Shakespearean films, appearing as Polonius in Hamlet (1948), and often played wise old men, such as Merlin in Knights of the Round Table (1953). He played the Archbishop of Canterbury in the film adaptation of Becket (1964), with Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole and gave elocution lessons to the young Audrey Hepburn.[4]

His memorable style of delivery—dignified and learned—[5] was frequently mimicked by comedians such as Peter Sellers and Kenneth Williams. Indeed, as dramatist and barrister John Mortimer noted, the mannerisms Aylmer brought to bear in his roles came to be imitated in the real-life performances of judges on the bench.[6] Williams observed that an impersonation of Aylmer was a speciality of a colleague during his days with ENSA, the Armed Forces Entertainment Association, but he was certain that none of the troops knew who was being impersonated.

Aylmer was President of Equity from 1950 to 1969. He was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire[7] in the 1950 King's Birthday Honours and knighted[8][9] in the 1965 Queen's Birthday Honours.

At the age of 80 Felix Aylmer played a villain in an episode of Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) entitled "It's Supposed to be Thicker than Water". His last major screen role was as the Abbot in the sitcom Oh, Brother!, opposite Derek Nimmo (1968–70). Aylmer died in a nursing home in Pyrford, Surrey in 1979.

Personal life

One of his younger siblings was Air Chief Marshal Sir John Whitworth-Jones.[10]




Year Title Role Notes
1930 Escape Governor
The Temporary Widow Public Prosecutor
1932 The World, the Flesh, the Devil Sir Henderson Trent
1933 Home Sweet Home Robert Wilding KC
The Ghost Camera Coroner
The Shadow Sir Richard Bryant
The Wandering Jew Ferera
1934 The Clairvoyant Prosecutor (uncredited)
Whispering Tongues Supt. Fulton
The Night Club Queen Prosecution
The Path of Glory President of Thalia
The Iron Duke Lord Uxbridge
My Old Dutch Judge
Doctor's Orders Sir Daniel Summerfield released as The Doctor's Secret in USA
1935 She Shall Have Music Donald Black
Hello, Sweetheart Peabody
Old Roses Lord Sandelbury
Checkmate Henry Nicholls
The Divine Spark Butler
The Ace of Spades Lord Yardleigh
The Price of a Song Graham
1936 In the Soup Counsel (uncredited)
The Improper Duchess Count Seidel
Rhodes of Africa Johannesburg Diplomat (uncredited) released as Rhodes in USA
Tudor Rose Edward Seymour released as Nine Days a Queen in USA
Her Last Affaire Lord Carnforth
Royal Eagle Windridge
Seven Sinners Sir Charles Webber
As You Like It Duke Frederick
Dusty Ermine Police commissioner
The Man in the Mirror The Earl of Wigan
Sensation Lord Bouverie
Jack of All Trades Managing director
1937 The Mill on the Floss Mr Wakem
The Live Wire
Dreaming Lips Sir Robert Blaker
The Frog John Bennett
Glamorous Night Diplomat
The Vicar of Bray Earl of Brendon
Action for Slander Sir Eustace Cunninghame
Victoria the Great Lord Palmerston
The Rat Prosecuting Counsel
1938 South Riding Chairman of counsel
Bank Holiday Surgeon
Kate Plus Ten Bishop
Break the News Sir George Bickory
I've Got a Horse Lovatt
Sixty Glorious Years Lord Palmerston released as Queen of Destiny in USA
The Citadel Mr Boon
1939 Just like a Woman Sir Robert Hummel
Young Man's Fancy Sir Caleb Crowther
1940 Night Train to Munich Dr John Fredericks
Girl in the News Prosecuting counsel
Spies of the Air Colonel Cairns
Charley's (Big-Hearted) Aunt The Proctor
Dr. O'Dowd President
The Briggs Family Mr Sand
The Case of the Frightened Lady Dr Amersham released as The Frightened Lady in USA
Saloon Bar Mayour


Year Title Role Notes
1941 The Seventh Survivor Sir Elmer Norton
The Saint's Vacation Leighton
The Ghost of St. Michael's Dr Winter
Spellbound Mr Morton released as The Spell of Amy Nugent in USA
Major Barbara James
Once a Crook King's counsel
Atlantic Ferry bank president
I Thank You Henry Potter
Hi Gang! Lord Amersham
South American George Mr Appleby
1942 The Peterville Diamond President
The Black Sheep of Whitehall Crabtree
Sabotage at Sea John Dighton
The Young Mr Pitt Lord North
Uncensored Colonel von Hohenstein
1943 The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp The Bishop
Thursday's Child Mr Keith
The Demi-Paradise Mr Runalow
Escape to Danger Sir Alfred Horton
1944 English Without Tears
Time Flies The Professor
Mr. Emmanuel Mr Emmanuel
Henry V Archbishop of Canterbury
1945 The Way to the Stars Reverend Charles Moss
The Wicked Lady Hogarth
Caesar and Cleopatra First nobleman
1946 The Years Between Sir Enrst Forster
The Magic Bow Signor Fazzini
The Laughing Lady Sir Felix Mountroyal
1947 Green Fingers Daniel Booth
The Man Within Priest
The October Man Dr Martin
A Man About the House Richard Sanctuary
The Ghosts of Berkeley Square Col. H. "Bulldog" Kelsoe
1948 Hamlet Polonius [11]
Quartet Martin [12]
1949 Edward, My Son Mr Hanray
Alice in Wonderland Dr Liddel/The Chesire Cat (voice)
Christopher Columbus Father Perez
Prince of Foxes Count Marc Antonio Verano
1950 Your Witness The British judge released as Eye Witness in USA
So Long at the Fair British consul
Trio Bank manager
She Shall Have Murder Mr Playfair


Year Title Role Notes
1951 No Highway Sir Philip (uncredited)
The Lady with a Lamp Lord Palmerston
Quo Vadis Plautius
The House in the Square Sir William, the Physician (uncredited) released as I'll Never forget You in USA
1952 Ivanhoe Isaac
The Man Who Watched the Trains Go By Mr Merkemans released as The Paris Express in USA
1953 Knights of the Round Table Merlin
The Master of Ballantrae Lord Durrisdeer
1954 The Love Lottery Winant
The Angel Who Pawned Her Harp Joshua Webman
1956 Loser Takes All The Other
Anastasia Chamberlain
1957 Saint Joan Inquisitor
1958 I Accuse! Edgar Demange
The Two-Headed Spy Cornaz
The Doctor's Dilemma Sir Patrick Cullen
Separate Tables Mr Fowler
1959 The Mummy Stephen Banning [13]
1960 Never Take Sweets from a Stranger Clarence Olderberry Sr.
From the Terrace James Duncan MacHardie
Exodus Dr Liberman
The Hands of Orlac Dr Francis Cochrane


Year Title Role Notes
1962 The Road to Hong Kong Grand Lama
The Boys The Judge
1963 The Affair
The Running Man Parson
1964 Becket Archbishop of Canterbury
The Thief and the Cobbler
The Chalk Garden Judge McWhirrey
1965 Masquerade Henrickson
1968 Decline and Fall... of a Birdwatcher Judge
Hostile Witness Justice Osborne


  1. Lundy, Darryl. "Person Page 14172". Thepeerage.com. Retrieved 2012-06-09.
  2. 1 2 3 Nimmo, Derek (2004). "'Aylmer, Sir Felix (1889–1979)'". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/30776. Retrieved 16 November 2009.
  3. Hinchliffe, Gerald (1963). A history of the King James's Grammar School in Almondbury. Huddersfield: Advertiser Press. p. 234.
  4. "Unseen Audrey Hepburn letters up for auction". bbc.co.uk. BBC News. 14 June 2016. Retrieved 29 October 2016. her mentor and lifelong friend Sir Felix Aylmer.
  5. Darlington, William A. (4 February 1979). "Sir Felix Aylmer, distinguished actor". The Daily Telegraph. London.
  6. Mortimer, John (24 January 2001). "Dodgy wigs, extravagant costumes, over-the-top speeches? You'd never get away with that on stage". The Guardian. p. G2–14.
  7. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 38929. pp. 2786–2786. 2 June 1950. Retrieved 2009-03-09.
  8. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 43667. p. 5471. 4 June 1965. Retrieved 2007-11-26.
  9. The London Gazette: no. 43720. p. 7029. 23 July 1965. Retrieved 2008-02-18.
  10. Lundy, Darryl. "Person Page 14172". Thepeerage.com. Retrieved 2012-06-09.
  11. Campbell Dixon (23 April 2014). "Shakespeare: Laurence Olivier as Hamlet: original 1948 Telegraph review". telegraph.co.uk. The Telegraph. Retrieved 29 October 2016.
  12. Simon Heffer (21 August 2015). "The unsung greatness of George Cole". telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 29 October 2016.
  13. Henry Barnes (11 June 2015). "Christopher Lee: a career in clips". theguardian.com. The Guardian. Retrieved 29 October 2016. bumbling archaeologists (Felix Aylmer...

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