Obituary: Llewellyn Rees

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The Independent Online
I FIRST met Llewellyn Rees in December 1952, writes Ronald Harwood (further to the obituary by Peter Cotes, 10 January). Donald Wolfit was interviewing actors for his company which was to occupy the King's Theatre, Hammersmith, the following year. Llewellyn had just been appointed Wolfit's administrator.

He was 51 years old and he looked exactly the same then as he did when I last saw him, 41 years later, on his 92nd birthday: erect, venerable, immaculate, a trifle hard of hearing perhaps, a little awkward in his gait, but the same Llewellyn all right, perfect casting for an Archbishop of Canterbury or a Lord Chief Justice.

We became close friends during the course of our year with Wolfit and remained close friends for the rest of his life. An odd friendship, I suppose, for he was all I was not. In every way - cast of thought, bearing, background - Llewellyn was an English gentleman, the definition of which he most favoured was someone who was never unintentionally rude. He fitted that to a T.

There were at least two strands to his extraordinarily rich and long life. The first was his wife, Madeleine, and his children, Sarah-Jane and Nicholas. He became a father in his sixties. His friend Robert Morley said, 'I always thought Lulu would be a strong finisher.'

The second strand was his unshakeable faith in Christianity and in socialism. He saw the two as indivisible. One would have expected these beliefs to modify with age but, on the contrary, he seemed to become more certain and more radical. Yet, he was not a proselytiser, nor was he earnest; he was much too witty and entertaining to be either.

He was a wonderful, generous friend and instrumental in setting me on the road as a writer. He gave the typescript of my first novel to his friend Robert Knittel, of Jonathan Cape; the book was published. I know he did not read a line before handing it over but then his friendships, like his beliefs, were built on faith and unwavering loyalty.

Years later, I was able to suggest him for the part of one of the old actors in the film of The Dresser, which I know gave him immense pleasure. He loved the theatre and he loved working. Only a few months ago he complained that there were not enough parts around for actors in their nineties.

I shall always be thankful to him for enriching my life in countless ways. And I shall always remember the twinkle in his eye, his apparent inability to take anything too seriously, his amazing vitality, even in old age, which made one think that he would regard death as little more than a temporary inconvenience.

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