It was at the University of Western Ontario that Alexander Knox first demonstrated his skills as an actor. He joined the Hesperian Club and encouraged its members to stage two performances of Hamlet in 1928. Knox, of course, played the lead.
Midway through his final year, he accepted a job with a repertory theatre company in Boston, but the Depression sent him back to London by the spring of 1930. He worked as a newspaper reporter and honed his acting skills in amateur productions. In the fall, Knox departed for England.
He accepted Tyrone Guthrie’s offer to join the Old Vic Company and was among the first actors to appear on the BBC’s fledgling television service. During this period Knox worked with such stars as Laurence Olivier, Ralph Richardson, and Charles Laughton.
When wartime blackouts curtailed theatre and film work, Knox returned to London. His luck changed in March 1940 when he appeared with Laurence Olivier and Vivian Leigh in a San Francisco production of Romeo and Juliet. Afterwards, Knox repaid the favour by arranging for the famous couple to use his aunt’s farm in St. Marys as a secret retreat.
Knox’s Hollywood career reached its peak when he landed the title role in Wilson, a lavish biopic on the First World War-era president, Woodrow Wilson. Knox received a Golden Globe for best actor and was nominated for an Oscar, losing out to Bing Crosby in Going My Way. Before the ceremony Der Bingle confided to a reporter, “I think this other fellow — What’s his name? Knox — should get the Academy Award.”
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