In his most comic roles,
Richard Haydn deliberately makes himself sound as if he were talking
through his nose, although he avoided doing this in his most popular
film, The Sound of Music (1965).
Haydn (1905 - 1985) was an English comic actor in radio, films and
television. Born on March 10th, 1905, in London and got his start in
show business selling tickets in the box office of London's Daly
Theatre. This was followed by an unsuccessful stint with a comedy act
in a musical revue. For a time he became overseer of a Jamaican
banana plantation only to see it wiped out by a hurricane.
After returning home, he appeared in the
1926 West End production of 'Betty of Mayfair' and, soon after, also
began to act on radio. It was in this medium, where he first found
success, creating his signature character, the perpetually befuddled
nasally-voiced fish expert and mother's boy Edwin Carp. Haydn later
immortalised the character in a book, The Journal of Edwin Carp.
Haydn would reprise the Edwin Carp
character on a 1964 season three episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show (below).
"A poem glorifying the pedal
extremity, entitled 'Feet' by Scoutmaster Alan: 'You need feet to
stand up straight with. You need feet to kick your friends. You need
feet to keep your socks on and stop your legs from fraying at the
ends. You need feet to stand on tippy-toe - hm - or to dance the
hoochie coo. Yes, the whole...'
[seemingly miffed at catching the audience
laughing at him]
I don't want to have to get ugly. 'Yes,
the whole world needs feet for something, and I need feet to run away
The Carp routine opened the door for Haydn
to appear with Beatrice Lillie on Broadway in Noel Coward's 'Set to
Music' (1939) and this, in turn, resulted in a contract with 20th
'Too often he looks on the wine when 'tis red
And many a day he will lie in his bed;
With nought but foul oaths for his kith
and his kin,
A pitiful sight with his unshaven chin.
Please try to remember the Dad you once were
Ere Bacchus, with alcohol, made you a cur.
Oh! turn to the fam'ly who hold you so dear
And please, Father Mine, do not drink so
by 'Edwin Carp' from The Journal of Edwin
Carp by Richard Hayden
While his screen debut in Charley's Aunt
(1941) was relatively straight-laced, he was more known for playing
eccentric, scene-stealing characters, such as, Claud Curdle (Mr.
Music, 1950), Richard Rancyd (Miss Tatlock's Millions, 1948), Stanley
Stayle (Dear Wife, 1949) and Horatio Willing (The Late George Apley
(1947). His notable characterisations include the over-enunciating
Professor Oddly in Ball of Fire (1941, below), Rogers the butler in
And Then There Were None (1945) and Mr. Wilson in Cluny Brown (1946).
He essayed a rare villainous role as the odious Earl of Radcliffe in
the period drama Forever Amber (1947) and was back in his best form
as Mr. Appleton in Sitting Pretty (1948).
In the late 40's, Haydn made a brief foray
into directing. Of his three films for Paramount, the Bing Crosby
vehicle Mr. Music (1950) enjoyed the best critical reviews. Among his
later appearances on screen, Haydn performed as the nosy neighbor and
gossip in Sitting Pretty with Clifton Webb and Maureen O'Hara in
1948, using his over-nasal voice. He was Prof. Summerlee in 1960's
The Lost World, and in the same year played opposite Doris Day in
Please Don't Eat the Daisies.
Haydn is also well remembered for his role
as "Uncle" Max Detweiler in The Sound of Music (1965). In
most of his comic roles, his stage delivery was done in a deliberate
over-nasalized and over-enunciated manner, making himself sound as if
he were talking through his nose, although he avoided doing this in
The Sound of Music.
Over the years, Haydn also made an
impression as a voice actor in animated cartoons, notably on Warner
Brothers Looney Tunes ('Super-Rabbit', 1943) and as the Caterpillar
from Alice in Wonderland (1951), and was regular on the Burns and
Allen radio show. He had frequent guest roles on television and
starred in one of the best-remembered episodes of Rod Serling's The
Twilight Zone (1959), 'A Thing About Machines' (1960), as the
pedantic, machine-hating egocentric Bartlett Finchley. He also guest
starred in episodes of Bewitched (1964), The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
(1965) and McCloud (1972) and appeared as Herr Falkstein in Young
In private life, Richard Haydn was a
rather reclusive individual who liked horticulture, shunned
interviews and was never particularly integral to the closely-knit
British colony in Hollywood. In the DVD commentary of Young
Frankenstein, Mel Brooks said that Haydn eschewed the Hollywood
lifestyle, and that he used gardening and horticulture as a means of
escape. In 1943 he was engaged for several months to Maria Riva,
daughter of Marlene Dietrich. Haydn died of a heart attack on April
25th, 1985, in Los Angeles, California.
ABC Stage 67
- The Wide Open Door (1967)
- A Majority of Two (1968)
- The Lady and the Mountain Lion (1969)
- Who Killed Jason Shaw? (1964)
The Dick Van Dyke Show
- The Return of Edwin Carp (1964)
General Electric Theater
- The Ugly Duckling (1960)
It Takes a Thief
- The Old Who Came in from the Spy (1969)
- A Very Small Assignment (1966)
Love, American Style
- Love and the Impossible Gift (1973)
- This Will Do Nicely (1959)
The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
- The Mad, Mad Tea Party Affair (1965)
- Fifth Man in a String Quartet (1972)
Philco Television Playhouse
- The King and Mrs. Candle (1954)