Roger Livesey

Roger Livesey (June 25 1906 - February 4 1976) was a Welsh stage and film actor, married to actress Ursula Jeans from 1936 until her death in 1973. He is most often remembered for the three Powell & Pressburger films in which he starred: The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, I Know Where I'm Going! and A Matter of Life and Death.


The son of Joseph Livesey and Mary Catherine (nee Edwards), Livesey was born in Barry, Wales and educated at Westminster City School, London. His two stepbrothers were also actors. His first stage appearance was the office boy in Loyalties at St. James's Theatre in 1917. He then played in everything from Shakespeare to modern comedies. He played various roles in the West End from 1920 to 1926, toured the West Indies and South Africa, and then returned to join the Old Vic/Sadler's Wells company from September 1932 until May 1934. In 1936, he appeared in New York in the old English comedy The Country Wife and married actress Ursula Jeans, whom he had known previously in England. (Livesey's sister Peggy was already married to Ursula Jeans' brother Desmond.)

At the outbreak of World War II, Livesey and Jeans were among the first volunteers to entertain the troops, before he volunteered for flying duties in the R.A.F. He was turned down as too old, so he went to work in an aircraft factory at Desford aerodrome near Leicester to "do his bit for the war effort". He was chosen by Michael Powell to play the lead in The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943). This was shown in New York and established his international reputation as a talented character actor. In 1945, he was the first choice for the male lead role in Brief Encounter, which in the end went to Trevor Howard .

He continued playing many theatrical roles during his film career until 1969. One of his last roles was as the Duke of St Bungey in the Pallisers television series. Livesey died from colorectal cancer at the age of 69.

Tall and broad with a mop of chestnut hair, Livesey had a husky voice, a gentle manner and an athletic physique. His favourite hobby is listed as "tinkering".

Livesey family

The Livesey family structure is quite a complicated one. Brothers Joseph and Sam Livesey married sisters. Sam married Margaret Ann Edwards in 1900 and Joseph married Mary Catherine Edwards in 1905. Sam and Margaret Ann had two sons, Jack Livesey and Barrie Livesey. Joseph and Mary Catherine had two children, Roger and Maggie. Joseph died in 1911 and Margaret Ann died in 1913, so Sam married Mary Catherine later in 1913 and they brought up the children as one large family, producing another child of their own, Stella in 1915.

The complexity propagated into the next generation when Roger Livesey married Ursula Jeans, as her brother Desmond was already married to Roger's sister Maggie.

Many of the family formed a touring company of actors, performing in regional theatres and from the back of an old waggon, one side of which could be dropped to form a stage. Because of their touring, they did not regard themselves as particularly Welsh, or English. They were just British. Different people happened to be born in different places just because that was where their mother happened to be at the time.

Selected films


External links

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