Oscar Actors: Griffith, Hugh–Background, Career, Awards (Cum Advantage, Second Oscar Nom; Tony Nom)

Updated June 27, 2020
Hugh Griffith Career Summary:

Occupational Inheritance: No (parents wished banking career)

Social Class:



Training: RADA, accepted, but joined the military for 6 years

Radio Debut:

TV Debut: 1939; age 27

Stage Debut: 1946; age 34

Broadway Debut:

Film Debut:

Oscar Role: Ben-Hur, 1959; age 37

Other Noms: Tom Jones, 1963; age 41

Other Awards: Tony Nomination

Screen Image: character actor

Last Film: Grand Slam, 1978; age 66

Career Output:

Film Career Span:



Death: age 67 (alcoholic)

Hugh Emrys Griffith (May 30, 1912–May 14, 1980) was a Welsh film, stage and television actor.

He is best remembered for his role in the Ben-Hur (1959), which earned him critical acclaim and the Best Supporting Actor Oscar.

Some of his other notable credits include Exodus (1960), Mutiny on the Bounty (1962), Tom Jones (1963) and Oliver! (1968).

Griffith was born in Marian-glas, Anglesey, Wales, the youngest son of Mary and William Griffith.

He was educated at Llangefni County School and attempted to gain entrance to university, but he failed the English examination.

He was then urged to make career in banking, becoming a bank clerk and transferring to London to be closer to acting opportunities.

Just as he gained admission to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, he had to suspend his plans in to join the British Army, serving for 6 years with the Royal Welch Fusiliers in India and the Burma Campaign during the Second World War.

He resumed his acting career in 1946.

Between 1946 and 1976, Griffith won acclaim for many stage roles, including Falstaff, King Lear and Prospero.

Griffith performed on both sides of the Atlantic, taking leading roles in London, New York City and Stratford.

In 1952, he starred in the Broadway adaption of “Legend of Lovers,” alongside fellow Welsh actor Richard Burton.

Tony Nomination

In 1958, he was back in New York, taking lead role in the production of Look Homeward, Angel, alongside Anthony Perkins. Both he and Perkins were nominated for the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play.

Griffith began his film career in British films during the late 1940s, and by the 1950s he was also working in Hollywood.

He won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role in Ben-Hur (1959), and was later nominated for his performance in Tom Jones (1963).

In 1968, he appeared as the magistrate in Oliver!

His later career was often blighted by his chronic alcoholism.

He played the funeral director Caradog Lloyd-Evans in the 1978 comedy Grand Slam. While visibly unwell (years of alcohol abuse had taken their toll), Griffith’s portrayal received acclaim.

On TV, he had major roles in Quatermass II (1955), a miniseries adaptation of A. J. Cronin’s The Citadel (1960) and Clochemerle (1972).

He received honorary degree from the University of Wales, Bangor, in 1980.

Griffith died in 1980 at his London home, two weeks before his 68th birthday.