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Leo Genn

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Years active  1935–75
Battles/wars  World War II
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Name  Leo Genn
Service/branch  British Army
Role  Film actor
Rank  Lieutenant Colonel

Leo Genn Leo Genn Flickr Photo Sharing
Full Name  Leopold John Genn
Born  9 August 1905 (1905-08-09) London, England
Died  January 26, 1978, London, United Kingdom
Spouse  Marguerite van Praag (m. 1933–1978)
Parents  Woolfe Genn, Rachel Asserson
Education  St Catharine's College, Cambridge, City of London School
Movies  Quo Vadis, Moby Dick, The Wooden Horse, The Snake Pit, 55 Days at Peking
Similar People  Mervyn LeRoy, Harry Andrews, Sidney Gilliat, Harry Alan Towers, Pete Walker


Leo John Genn (9 August 1905 – 26 January 1978) was a British stage and film actor and barrister.


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Marina berti con leo genn quo vadis

Early life and family

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Genn was born at 144 Kyverdale Road, Stamford Hill, Hackney, London, the son of Woolfe (William) Genn, a jewellery salesman, and Rachel Genn (née Asserson). His parents were both Jewish.

Leo Genn European Film Star Postcards Leo Genn

Genn attended the City of London School and studied law at St Catharine's College, Cambridge, qualifying as a barrister in 1928. He ceased practising as a lawyer soon after World War II. On 14 May 1933, Genn married Marguerite van Praag, a casting director at Ealing Studios. They had no children.

Theatre career

Leo Genn Leo Genn 1905 1978 72 actor Entertainers Past and Present

Leon M. Lion saw Genn act and offered him a contract. His theatrical debut was in 1930 in A Marriage has been Disarranged at the Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne and then at the Royalty Theatre in Dean Street, London. Actor/manager Leon M. Lion had engaged him simultaneously as an actor and attorney. In 1933 he appeared in Ballerina by Rodney Ackland. Between September 1934 and March 1936, Leo Genn was a member of the Old Vic Company where he appeared in many productions of Shakespeare. In 1937 he was Horatio in Tyrone Guthrie's production of Hamlet, with Laurence Olivier as Hamlet, in Elsinore, Denmark. In 1938, Genn appeared in the theatrical hit, The Flashing Stream by Charles Langbridge Morgan and went with the show to America and Broadway. His many other stage performances included Lillian Hellman's Another Part of the Forest, 12 Angry Men, The Devil's Advocate, Maugham's The Sacred Flame. In 1959 Genn gave a reading in Chichester Cathedral.

Film career

Leo Genn Leo Genn The Movie Database TMDb

Genn's first film role was as Shylock in Immortal Gentleman (1935), a biography of Shakespeare. Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. hired Genn as a technical advisor on the film Accused (1936). He was subsequently given a small part in the film on the strength of a "splendid voice and presence". Genn received another small role in Alexander Korda's The Drum (1938) and was the young man who danced with Eliza Doolittle at the duchess's ball in Pygmalion, a film made in the same year, although he was uncredited.

War service

On approaching war, Genn joined the Officers' Emergency Reserve in 1938. He was commissioned in the Royal Artillery on 6 July 1940 and was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in 1943. In 1944, the actor was given official leave to appear as the Constable of France in Laurence Olivier's Henry V.

Genn was awarded the Croix de Guerre in 1945. He was part of the British unit that investigated war crimes at Belsen concentration camp and later was an assistant prosecutor at the trial for Belsen in Lüneburg, Germany.


He was in Green for Danger (1946) and The Snake Pit (1948). After his Academy Award-nominated success as Petronius in Quo Vadis (1951) he appeared in John Huston's Moby Dick (1956). Genn also appeared in some rather forgettable American films, such as The Girls of Pleasure Island, and Plymouth Adventure (1952), a fictionalised, but entertaining soap opera treatment of the Pilgrims' landing at Plymouth Rock. He fared far better in a British film, Personal Affair (1953), starring opposite Gene Tierney.

He played Major Michael Pemberton in Roberto Rossellini's Era Notte a Roma (Escape by Night, 1960). Leo Genn narrated the coronation programmes of both 1937 and 1953, the King George VI Memorial Programme in 1952, and the United Nations ceremonial opening (in the USA) in 1947.

Genn was a governor of the Mermaid Theatre and trustee of the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre. He was also council member of the Arts Educational Trust. He was appointed Distinguished Visiting Professor of Theatre Arts, Pennsylvania State University, 1968 and Visiting Professor of Drama, University of Utah, 1969.


Genn died in London on 26 January 1978. The immediate cause of death was a heart attack, brought on by complications of pneumonia.

Selected filmography

Genn was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Petronius in Quo Vadis.


  • 1930 A Marriage Has Been Disarranged, Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne, Royalty Theatre
  • appearances in: No 17; Tiger Cats; Champion North; While Parents Sleep; Clive of India
  • 1931 O.H.M.S.
  • 1934-36 Old Vic Company:
  • 1934-35 Old Vic Season
  • Much Ado About Nothing
  • Henry IV Part 2
  • Major Barbara
  • Hippolytus by Euripides
  • The Two Shepherds by Sierra
  • Othello
  • The Taming of the Shrew, Sadler's Wells
  • Saint Joan, Old Vic/Sadler's Wells
  • Richard II
  • Antony and Cleopatra
  • Hamlet
  • Shakespeare Birthday Festival- April 23, 1935
  • Last Night of Shakespeare Season: scenes from Hamlet, Richard II, Taming of The Shrew, May 20, 1935
  • 1935-36 Old Vic Season
  • Julius Caesar
  • Macbeth
  • Richard III
  • King Lear
  • Saint Helena by R.C. Sherriff
  • Peer Gynt
  • The School for Scandal
  • 1936 St Helena, Dalys Theatre
  • 1936-37 Old Vic Season
  • Twelfth Night
  • Henry V
  • 1937 Shakespeare Birthday Festival: excerpts from Shakespeare, April 23, 1937, Old Vic
  • 1937 Hamlet as Horatio, at Elsinore
  • 1938 Shakespeare Birthday Festival: excerpts from Shakespeare, April 25, 1938, Old Vic
  • 1938 The Flashing Stream, Lyric Theatre & New York 1939
  • 1946 Another Part of the Forest, New York
  • 1948 Jonathan, Aldwych
  • 1951 The Seventh Veil, Prince's Theatre
  • 1953 Henry VIII, Old Vic
  • 1954 The Bombshell, Westminster Theatre
  • 1957 Small War on Murray Hill, New York
  • 1959 The Hidden River, Cambridge Theatre
  • 1961 The Devil's Advocate, New York
  • 1964 Fair Game for Lovers, New York
  • 1964 12 Angry Men, Queen’s Theatre
  • 1967 The Sacred Flame, Duke of York's Theatre
  • 1968 The Only Game in Town, New York
  • 1968 Caesar and Cleopatra, US
  • 1969 Doctor Faustus, US
  • Television

  • 1955 Omnibus: "Herod"
  • 1955 Screen Director's Playhouse: "Titanic Incident"
  • 1960 Mrs Miniver with Maureen O'Hara as Mrs Miniver and Leo Genn as Clem Miniver, CBS
  • 1961 The Defenders
  • 1961 The Jack Paar Show, (himself)
  • 1961 The Life of Adolf Hitler written & directed by Paul Rotha, commentary by Leo Genn & Marius Goring
  • 1962 An Act of Faith, a BBC documentary on Coventry Cathedral, narrated by Leo Genn
  • 1963 Bob Hope Presents The Chrysler Theatre: "Commander Tony Gardiner"
  • 1963 The Merv Griffin Show, (himself)
  • 1964 "The Thirty Days of Gavin Heath", an episode of The Virginian, Leo Genn as Gavin Heath
  • 1965 The Cat's Cradle by Hugo Charteris, an instalment of The Wednesday Play, BBC Television
  • 1967 Saint Joan
  • 1969 Strange Report
  • 1969 The Expert
  • 1970 Howard's End (with Glenda Jackson), an installment of Play of the Month BBC Television
  • 1971 The Persuaders
  • 1973 The Movie Quiz
  • 1974 The Zoo Gang
  • 1974 Jackanory
  • Radio

  • 1935 Penarth's Cave, a play and competition by J. Harold Carpenter, The Children's Hour BBC
  • 1936 Kitchener, BBC radio
  • 1937 The Company of Heaven, devised for Michaelmas by R. Ellis Roberts with music by Benjamin Britten
  • 1939 Morte d'Arthur by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
  • 1945 The Man of Property, Young Jolyon in Muriel Levy's adaptation of the first novel in John Galsworthy's Forsyte Saga sequence, broadcast by BBC radio in half-hourly episodes
  • 1946 The Voyage of Magellan OF MAGELLAN', a dramatic chronicle in verse by Laurie Lee
  • 1952 Deburau by Sacha Guitry, adapted by Dennis Arundell from the English version by Harley Granville-Barker
  • 1954 Dear Brutus by J. M. Barrie, BBC
  • 1954 Jungle Green dramatised & produced by Alan Burgess from the book by Arthur Campbell, BBC
  • 1961 No Summer at Sea by Philip Holland BBC
  • 1962 The Lark by Jean Anouilh, translated by Christopher Fry, BBC
  • 1963 The Enemy Below by Denys Rayner, BBC radio
  • 1965 The Skin Game, by John Galsworthy, BBC radio
  • recorded a series of W. Somerset Maugham's Ashenden stories for BBC radio.
  • Desert Island Discs, Leo Genn was the guest asked to choose 8 recordings, broadcast 26 June 1953.
  • References

    Leo Genn Wikipedia