Edward Woodward, English actor, dies aged 79

Monday, November 16, 2009

English actor Edward Woodward has died today, aged 79. The actor was unwell for several months, suffering from a number of illnesses including pneumonia. He died in hospital in Cornwall, England.

Born in Croydon, London, Woodward was perhaps best known for his role as Sergeant Howie in the 1973 cult British horror film The Wicker Man. The director of that film, Robin Hardy, described him as "one of the greatest actors of his generation" and "an extremely nice human being". His appearance in the Australian film Breaker Morant was also highly acclaimed.

He began his career in theatre, starting out in 1946. He later worked across the country and internationally, appearing in the West End, London and Broadway, New York. In 1963 he was cast in Noël Coward's Broadway production High Spirits. Coward described him as "One of the nicest and most co-operative actors I have ever met or worked with. He is the only one who has given me no trouble at all."

Woodward later appeared in over 2,000 television productions, notably starring in the American show The Equalizer in the 1980s, in addition to Callan on ITV in Britain. Outside of film and television, he recorded three albums of poetry and several LPs.

Despite having triple heart bypass surgery in 1996, and being diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2003, he continued to work. His final television appearance was in six episodes of the British soap opera EastEnders earlier this year.

"He was a delight to work with, and delivered a characteristically touching and layered performance," said Diederick Santer, the executive producer of EastEnders. "Our thoughts are with his family."

Woodward had two sons and a daughter from his first marriage, to Venetia Mary Collett in 1953. All three became successful actors. In 1987 he married the actress Michele Dotrice, with whom he had a daughter.