Robert William Speaight by Walter Bird, July 1958.
National Portrait Gallery. Licensed under CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0

Robert Speaight


Robert Speaight (1904–77): actor, producer, author. A graduate of Oxford University, he developed as an actor at the Liverpool Repertory Company, and at the Old Vic and Haymarket Theatre in London, before creating the role of Becket in Murder in the Cathedral at Canterbury Cathedral in 1935. Short and stocky, his resonant and expressive voice fully embodied the character. He played the part more than a thousand times in revivals all over the world – travel was a passion – and he presently became a Roman Catholic convert. In addition to his work as an actor, he wrote books, articles and lectures: monographs on figures including George Eliot, Ronald Knox, Hilaire Belloc, William Rothenstein, Eric Gill, Teilhard de Chardin, Georges Bernanos, and François Mauriac, as well as studies of Shakespeare.