on 21 March 2001
William Hartnell was the actor who breathed life into the character of "Doctor Who" and set the high standard for his successors to try and follow. However, his career amounted to much more than this.
Written by his granddaughter, the actress Jessica Carney, this is a caring and reverential account of his career which reveals much which many who worked with him would never have known themselves: personal revelations about his early life obtained from a secret diary Hartnell had written, which was the fortunate discovery of his granddaughter. He was an illegitimate child born in the slums of London (a secret he was to take to his deathbed) and as a youth fell into the wrong company and lived a life of crime. The book explains how he escaped from this lifestyle and embarked upon a long and fruitful film career, which eventually led to his role as the first "Doctor Who" on television when he was in his mid-fifties. Sadly, Hartnell left Doctor Who after three years on the grounds of diminishing health, and continued to deteriorate until his death in 1975.
Written by a family member who loved him dearly and clearly cherishes her memories of him, "Who's There?" avoids salaciousness and concentrates on the achievements, qualities and, indeed, flaws of a very fine actor and a truly professional, but difficult, person.
on 24 March 2001
William Hartnell's portrayal of "Doctor Who" remains one of the most charismatic, distinctive and memorable creations of British television. This book tells the actor's story. It details his troubled early life, his prolific film career through to his casting as the first incarnation of the beloved time-traveller. You can detect Miss Carney's profound sadness when she recalls in writing Mr. Hartnell's decline into terminal illness, forcing him to relinquish his role as the children's hero.
Hartnell has been remembered by many who worked with him as a difficult personality. Jessica Carney accepts this but we also learn that, despite his faults, he was a thoroughly good man and an actor who learned his trade the hard way.
on 12 July 2006
this book only proves what i have known for many years; that william hartnell was a brilliant character actor on stage and in films throughout the 30s, 40s, 50s and the early part of the 60s before becoming immortilized as the original and, in my opinion, best doctor who.
i have seen william hartnell in some of the best films that britain has to offer; "carry on sergent," "heaven's above," very good as the corrupt boss in "hell drivers," "brighton rock" and also giving a superb performance in "this sporting life."
written by one of the few people qualified for the task, his granddaughter has given a thoroughly detailed portrayal of a man dedicated to his job, but also describes the way "doctor who" changed his life. sadly, this was one of the last assignments for hartnell as illness gradually took over and he would be replaced by patrick troughton.
in the text, i was made aware of how hartnell started his acting career under difficult circumstances; struggling for years to be employed on a reasonably regular basis whilst learning to develop his craft on the stage and trying to bring enough money home to support his wife. makes you realize how determined he was to succeed. good for him.
copies of this biography are like gold dust, especially ones that are in very good condition. a considerable amount of money might be needed in order to obtain one, but worth the hassle i promise you.
This fascinating biography of the first actor to play Doctor Who was written in the 1990s by his granddaughter. While in practice this is most likely to be read by Doctor Who fans, his time in his most famous role only occupies the last two chapters, and doesn't really reveal anything new to the fan reader. Four fifths of the book covers his life and career before Doctor Who and was very interesting. I hadn't realised he was born illegitimate in an era where this made a big social difference, with no knowledge of who his father was. The basic insecurity this engendered may explain a fair bit about the way he came across to some of his fellow actors in later years. He had an extensive career in all three media of: the stage (in plays from his late teens) films (as an extra in the silent era and in many "quota quickies" in the early 1930s); and TV from the fairly early days of the mid 1950s, and was able to make a mark in all three, while never quite achieving top star status. He became typecast as playing tough sergeants and criminals, but played these roles so well that he came to be seen as a consummate professional and "safe pair of hands" for any director to cast. His role as the first Time Lord, seen against this background, seems even more unlikely, and yet his success in the role paved the way to Doctor Who's success for decades to come.
on 28 February 2012
I have to give Jessica Carney, his granddaughter, applause, for compiling this informative book. I dare say that some parts of the book may be deemed as redundant, such as her extensive telling of his stage and film credits in the main part of the biography, which are later recapped in the appendix. But her insight to his private live as an illegitimate child, the positive mentor who greatly changed his life, and the way that William Hartnell was seen through the eyes of his granddaughter, as opposed to those who never personally knew the man, was what made this biography such a great book. Any reader should appreciate the fact that this isn't a book about William Hartnell's time on Doctor who, but his overall career. Additionally, a number of unrelated Doctor Who photographs of William Hartnell were an exceptional treat, and the only thing lacking is that there were not more of these photographs, and personal anecdotes from former cast members.
Many thanks to Jessica for giving us this insight into her grandfather's life. And, if we're lucky, perhaps in a few years, she'll revise this book with more of what I previously mentioned. But even if she does not, I still highly recommend adding this book to your personal library, if you can still get a copy of it. Sorely, not nearly enough copies were printed to meet the demand of those who cherished the life and career of William Hartnell.
on 5 April 2016
William Hartnell was best known for his roles as Dr Who and Sergeants.I remember him well in The Army Game and Carry On Sergeant.The irony being that he was invalidated out of the army due to a nervous breakdown.This is a well written and interesting book by the subjects granddaughter.Thankfully she is not overly sentimental and is honest about her grandfather's drink and marriage problems.
on 19 August 2014
Loved by the person I gave it to who is a life-long William Hartnell fan and a Dr Who fanatic. Great.
on 19 March 2014
Loved this book, also bought the audio version, William Hartnell was my favourite Dr Who and his granddaughter's biography provides a wonderful insight into the life and times of this fine actor. Some excellent personal photographs are included. A must buy for all Dr Who fans..
on 7 August 2014
What a lovely book to read, William Hartnell was a very interesting and mysterious person. Always been a fan since I was 8 when I first saw him on the TV in November 1963
on 5 January 2014
Present for husband who loved it,lovely quality of actual book and interesting topic.Arrived in plenty of time for xmas updates to when arriving very efficient.