Biographies: George Coulouris (England, 1903-89)


Figure 1.--Here George is at 4 years old, presumably in 1906 or 1907. This portrait of George give the impression that he was a little rich boy. The family ws not rich which should be born in mind when interpreting old photographs of unknown provinance. His father by this time was making good money and his mother was intent on entering the middle class.

George Coulouris was a noted actor especially during the 1930s and 40s. I recall him especially as the heavy in "Watch on the Rhine" in which he played a Romanian. The family was actually of Greek ancestry. George as a boy recalls being teased by his mates as being a "greasy Greek". His fatger began as an imigrat laborer, but is mother was insistent on entering the middle class. An early portrait of George give the impression that he was a little rich boy. He wears a wide-brimmed hat with a velvet suit and large ruffled collar. The family background should be born in mind when interpreting old photographs of unknown provinance.

Parents

George's father was Greek. He came to Liverpool without speaking English. He found work on the docks as a day laborer. He sought other opportunities and became the head chef at a Blackpool hotel Then he opened his own restaurant opposite No. 8 Dock Gates. He trook to describing himself as "late Chef, of the County Palatine and Lane Ends Hotel". Monet from the restaurant was disappointing. He began buying items from captains from the dockyards which he would often resell for a tidy profit. He explains, "My father's rascality and enterprise, my mother's thrift and hard work in the restaurant, made us comparatively well off."

Childhood

George grew up in limited circumstances, but his mother was uinsistent on entering the middle class. George recalled, "I played happily together with a set of semi-hooligans who all looked down on me as a greasy Greek suffering cruel jokes such as a tub of water being poured over me because they'd realised I was wearing a nice new suit. I put up with it for the sake of the companionship and above all for the games, cricket on a bare cindery croft where I learnt to bat and bowl, very crudely with a cross bat, but with a good eye for slogging, and a very good bowling action with a natural break back, as it was known in those far off days."

Childhood Clothes

An early portrait of George give the impression that he was a little rich boy (figure 1). He wears a wide-brimmed hat with a velvet suit and large ruffled collar. The family was not rich which should be born in mind when interpreting old photographs of unknown provinance. His father by this time was making good money and his mother who had worked as a servant was intent on entering the middle class. His father by his reading Father, the trader and restauranter, was making good profits. As can be seen here, his mother gave considrable attention to his clothing. George writes, "She was dying for me to be a little gentleman. Sent off to Sunday school, I endured more catcalls because of the Eton collar and suit she dressed me in."

Education

George explains bout his mother and his education, "She was determined that I would never sink to the level of our poor little neighbours who shuffled off barefoot to board school every morning. [HBC note: I'm not sure what a 'board school' was, but think it meant a state primary school which often had very large classes.] Early on she found a little dame school for me. After a couple of years there I found myself at Pendleton Grammar School. Sometimes it was quite an ordeal getting there. The half-mile walk from the tram through the slums around the school gave the slum kids a chance to pick on me from time to time and knock off my maroon and yellow striped cap." George managed to earn admission the Manchester Grammar School. He explains, "Mr Moir, the emaciated looking rather sadistic Scots headmaster, must have persuaded my mother that I could pass the entrance exam for the famous Grammar School, one of the glories of the city of Manchester. My mother was all for it." George tells us a little bit about class additudes at the time. "I had soon realised at Manchester Grammar School that I was living in a very strange neighbourhood. Although the school was almost free from snobbery, I couldn't help feeling ashamed that I lived in Salford." They soon lived to a better neighborhood.

Actor

George Coulouris was a noted actor especially during the 1930s and 40s. I recall him especially as the heavy in "Watch on the Rhine" in which he played a Romanian. The family was actually of Greek ancestry. George as a boy recalls being teased by his mates as being a "greasy Greek".

Reader Comments

A reader writes us, "Not many actors have influenced my life as much as George Coulouris. It was through him that I gained a life-long interest in astronomy when I was just about to enter my teens. He played a character called Harcourt Brown in a series of space adventures, which were televised on Sunday afternoons around teatime as part of ITVís Family Hour. They were called "Pathfinders in Space" (1960), "Pathfinders to Mars", and "Pathfinders to Venus". In these programmes George Coulouris was cast as the villain who was deluded with the thought of finding alien life. I reckon he played his part magnificently. It was during an episode of "Pathfinders to Mars" that the seed was sewn for my interest in astronomy. There were two children in the series who played brother and sister. Gillian Ferguson (Valerie Wedgwood) and Richard Dean (Jimmy Wedgwood). There was one particular scene in that programme, which sticks out in my mind. The children and Harcourt Brown are standing on Mars and Valerie points to a particular star, Brown tells her that it is Earth, the Morning Star and that one scene was the catalyst that gave me my interest in astronomy. Whenever I saw George Coulouris in subsequent parts that he played in both television and film, no matter what part he played, I still saw him as Harcourt Brown from the Pathfinders. This wasnít my first acquaintance with him, I first became aware of him at the age of 7 when my Mum took me to see a 1953 film called "Doctor in the House" in which he played a hypochondriac hospital patient."

Sources

The Guardian, February 15, 1986.





HBC





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Created: March 7, 2004
Last updated: March 15, 2004