Charles Hawtrey was born George Frederick Joffre Hartree in 1914, in Hounslow, Middlesex. He moved into acting at a very early age coming, as he did, from a theatrical family (although his father was, in fact, a motor mechanic). Hawtrey is often confused with the celebrated Edwardian actor Sir Charles Hawtrey, to whom he is no relation; he borrowed the actor's name two years after his death. As a child, Hawtrey spent 3 years at the prestigious Italia Conti acting school before moving into the profession proper, in a variety of junior roles. His first appearance, at age 11, was as an urchin in The Windmill Man at Boscombe in 1925.
Hawtrey's stage debut was as the White Cat and Bootblack in "Bluebell in Fairyland" at London's Scala Theatre; a string of other stage appearances followed.
His first appearance on the radio was in 1929 and was the start of an illustrious career, leading to his working alongside Will Hay in Norman and Henry Bones. This partnership with Hay was set to resume in 1937, with the comedy "Good Morning Boys" and led to appearances in three other films alongside the veteran comedian (Where's that Fire, The Ghost of St Michaels, The Goose Steps Out). Hawtrey was justifiably proud of his track record on both stage and screen - from his early films appearances in the 1930s, through to a string of theatrical engagements including Gremio in the Old Vic's performance of the Taming of the Shrew in 1939. The Daily Telegraph's drama critic, WA Darlington, commended Hawtrey's 1931 portrayal of Slightly in Peter Pan as showing "a comedy sense not unworthy of his famous name." Other, just as impressive notices, were not uncommon.
In 1957, Hawtrey appeared in the classic comedy "The Army Game", alongside fellow Carry On-ers Bernard Bresslaw and William Hartnell. The following year he was cast in a not dissimilar role in the first of the Carry On series, Carry On Sergeant.
From his first Carry On appearance, Hawtrey became one of the regular team. His scrawny figure and outrageously posh voice typified the eccentric, well meaning figure that he went on to portray in a further 21 films. As time went by, and Hawtrey became synonymous with the Carry Ons, he felt he should receive a higher billing than he was getting at the time. He felt, perhaps justifiably so, that his incredible showbusiness track record should lead to higher billing (he had been in the business longer than many of his co-stars). Rogers and Thomas disagreed with Hawtrey, a disagreement which led to his absence from Carry On Cruising, and his eventual departure from the series, following Carry On Abroad.
Throughout his life, Hawtrey remained a very private person, frequently given to outbursts of often outrageous humour. He was known to speak in a strange nonsense-language, unintelligible to all but his closest friends (Joan Sims was one of the few). He was an accomplished musician; during the Second World War, he had been a semi-professional pianist for the armed forces.
Following his departure from the Carry Ons, Hawtrey went into semi retirement, living in an old smugglers' cottage at Deal, in Kent. He appeared infrequently on our screens in a number of cameo roles (including the childrens' series Supergran). He had severe hardening of the arteries which was discovered after he broke a leg. Charles was told that he would die unless he had both legs amputated; he refused such a procedure and died on 27th October 1988, 3 days after his condition was discovered.