Leo Genn (1905 - 1978)

Leo Genn
1905 - 1978
updated October 15, 2020
Leo Genn was born on August 9, 1905 in London, United Kingdom. He died on January 26, 1978 in London, United Kingdom at 72 years old.

Leo Genn
Born August 9, 1905 in London, England, UK
Died January 26, 1978 in London, England, UK (heart attack)
Birth Name Leo John Genn
Height 5' 10" (1.78 m)
Mini Bio (1)
Leo Genn was the son of a successful jewelry merchant Woolfe (William) Genn and his wife Rachel Asserson. He attended the City of London School as a youth and went on to study law at Cambridge. He received his law degree as a qualified barrister (which in English law tradition is a lawyer who is a specialist in law and who appears in court as representative of a client, whereas a solicitor is also a lawyer but further defined as an attorney who deals directly with the client, writing all case-related briefs and hiring a barrister for court appearance - there is no such division in the USA). He began practice in 1928, however law was not his only interest. Acting caught his eye, and about 1930 he made the acquaintance of actor/manager Leon M. Lion, who needed an actor and a legal advisor. Genn fitted both and was hired and later that year made his stage debut. It was certainly of practical value that he continued offering legal counsel into the 1930s to augment the small income of a budding stage performer learning his craft. In 1933 he met and married Marguerite van Praag, a casting director at Ealing Studios.
His first screen role was as Shakespeare's Shylock in the UK production The Immortal Gentleman (1935). It mortised nicely between his two year (1934-36) period of Shakespearean apprenticeship as a member of the Old Vic Company where he appeared in many productions of Shakespeare. Genn had a very pleasant neutral British accent that could fit anywhere. And his voice was wonderfully smooth and yet authoritative, likened to "black velvet", that fit like a glove to his refined manner. Douglas Fairbanks Jr.., in London for one of his many UK starring vehicles, hired Genn as a technical advisor on the law for Accused (1936) and received a bit role - not for his legal advice - but for a "splendid voice and presence". But the legal side of his character stuck to him as he was in the process of dropping the law for acting full time. He spent 1937 playing film prosecutors and defending attorneys - not something he expected. Things picked up the next year - though still wading through some crime dramas - when he nabbed a small Indian character role in The Drum (1938), the ambitious adventure yarn by producer Alexander Korda. And he was the prince dance partner to Wendy Hiller in Pygmalion (1938) - uncredited - as was a young Anthony Quayle. Obviously, small featured extra roles allowed time for more ambitious outings. He starred in the stage hit "The Flashing Stream" also in 1938. It received the nod from Broadway, and Genn made his American debut in early 1939 in the play's successful run in New York.
Though still tagged for law officialdom in several films, Genn moved on to more hearty supporting roles in 1940 with war looming. He joined the Royal Artillery and received a rank of Lieutenant Colonel in 1943. In that year he was already wanted for film's war effort agenda as movie narrator. In 1944 he was given leave for two flag-waver movies - the second a most unusual and significant cinematic event. For Genn, it was a small part, but it was part of a glorious celebration of England and English history during the crisis of World War II - the Henry V of Laurence Olivier. Genn was the Constable of France, and though the lines were few, Shakespeare infused them with a sardonic wink that Genn delivered perfectly in an understated style that became one of his hallmarks. This part brought him to notice as a film actor, but he did not entertain its fruits until later 1946, for with the end of the war Genn, who had been awarded the French Croix de Guerre in 1945, went back to law counseling. He volunteered his legal knowledge to the British army unit involved in the investigation and prosecution of Nazi war crimes perpetrated at the Belsen concentration camp near Luneburg, Germany. And in the subsequent tribunals, Genn served as assistant prosecutor.
He was back in film in 1946, but more so he was being courted by Broadway to return - which he did in that crowded year with one of his best stage roles in the Lillian Hellman classic "Another Part of the Forest". Hollywood waited in the wings to grab him for the Eugene O'Neill update Mourning Becomes Electra (1947) of the ancient Greek tragedy triangle "Orestaia". It was not Genn's American film debut, for he had appeared in the UK/US crime drama The Girl in the News (1940) - as - what else - a prosecuting counsel - a barrister. He was competing with the American debut of Michael Redgrave in the O'Neill adaptation (3 hours, pared to about 2 hours for general release). The film was a great piece of dialog display but a disaster at the box office. But the chemistry of Genn with Rosalind Russell was such that they were marketed together again the next year in another American film, The Velvet Touch (1948), more whodunit but with snappy lines. Subsequently Genn was about equally in demand for film and stage on both sides of the Atlantic.

His film roles on into the 1950s were somewhat uneven, but Genn was always to form - the calm, understated but in control male lead or supporting character, whether war adventure or the inevitable crime drama - many a steady military officer and understanding professional - with a bit of comedy and a few shady characters thrown in.

Perhaps his best known American film role was as the sardonic Gaius Petronius Arbiter in Quo Vadis (1951). Genn's generous part as the ancient Roman satirist was filled with double meaning quips and understated sarcasm that Genn delivered with his poker face charm and subtle sidelong glances. He is so good that the audience hangs on his next sub-level dig with anticipation that partially eclipses the first rate histrionics of Peter Ustinov as a tongue-in-cheek deranged Nero. The level of Genn's performance was recognized with a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination. The next year he was more than just a straight-laced William Bradford of American colonial history fame in Plymouth Adventure (1952), a much maligned American film that was, in fact, a realistic portrayal of the trials and tribulations of the Pilgrims (they were not all religious dissenters, not the dour, black and white Puritans who were later arrivals). Having to compete with a cantankerous, perhaps too hammy Spencer Tracy as the ship's captain, Genn's understated intensity brings off a compassionate portrayal.

Genn helped grace some of the most ambitious films of the later 1950s and into the 1960s: Moby Dick (1956), The Longest Day (1962), and 55 Days at Peking (1963). He embraced TV playhouse, both American and British programs, and US/UK episodic series through the period, as well as more outings on Broadway. He made six appearances on the Great White Way - the last in a short run of "The Only Game in Town" in mid 1968. All along Genn's voice had found welcoming slots in narration. Beside films, he was the voice of the royal coronation programs of 1937 and 1953. And he always kept a foot in his first love, British theater; he was a governor of London's The Mermaid Theatre.
- IMDb Mini Biography By: William McPeak

Spouse (1)
Marguerite van Praag (14 May 1933 - 26 January 1978) ( his death)
Trade Mark (1)
Deep black velvet voice
Trivia (3)
While a Lieutenant-Colonel in the British Army, he was one of the Prosecuting Officers at the British-mounted 1945 Belsen War Crimes trial.
His surname was pronounced with a hard "G".
Was in five Oscar Best Picture nominees Pygmalion (1938), Henry V (1944), The Snake Pit (1948), Quo Vadis (1951) and The Longest Day (1962), over four different decades.
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Leo Genn Biography

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Leo Genn
Most commonly known name
Male
Gender
Leo
First name
Unknown
Middle name
Genn
Last name(s)
Leo John Genn
Nickname(s) or aliases
Unknown. Did Leo move a lot? Where was his last known location?
Last known residence
Leo Genn was born on in London, Greater London County, United Kingdom
Birth
Leo Genn died on in London, United Kingdom
Death
Leo Genn was born on in London, Greater London County, United Kingdom
Leo Genn died on in London, United Kingdom
Birth
Death
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Cause of death
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Nationality & Locations Lived

Unknown

Religion

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Education

London, England.
Cambridge.
Was a lawyer, a soldier and an actor.

Professions

Leo Genn Poster
Leo Genn
Biography
Showing all 10 items
Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (1) | Trade Mark (1) | Trivia (3)
Overview (4)
Born August 9, 1905 in London, England, UK
Died January 26, 1978 in London, England, UK (heart attack)
Birth Name Leo John Genn
Height 5' 10" (1.78 m)
Mini Bio (1)
His first screen role was as Shakespeare's Shylock in the UK production The Immortal Gentleman (1935). It mortised nicely between his two year (1934-36) period of Shakespearean apprenticeship as a member of the Old Vic Company where he appeared in many productions of Shakespeare. Genn had a very pleasant neutral British accent that could fit anywhere. And his voice was wonderfully smooth and yet authoritative, likened to "black velvet", that fit like a glove to his refined manner. Douglas Fairbanks Jr.., in London for one of his many UK starring vehicles, hired Genn as a technical advisor on the law for Accused (1936) and received a bit role - not for his legal advice - but for a "splendid voice and presence". But the legal side of his character stuck to him as he was in the process of dropping the law for acting full time. He spent 1937 playing film prosecutors and defending attorneys - not something he expected. Things picked up the next year - though still wading through some crime dramas - when he nabbed a small Indian character role in The Drum (1938), the ambitious adventure yarn by producer Alexander Korda. And he was the prince dance partner to Wendy Hiller in Pygmalion (1938) - uncredited - as was a young Anthony Quayle. Obviously, small featured extra roles allowed time for more ambitious outings. He starred in the stage hit "The Flashing Stream" also in 1938. It received the nod from Broadway, and Genn made his American debut in early 1939 in the play's successful run in New York.
Though still tagged for law officialdom in several films, Genn moved on to more hearty supporting roles in 1940 with war looming. He joined the Royal Artillery and received a rank of Lieutenant Colonel in 1943. In that year he was already wanted for film's war effort agenda as movie narrator. In 1944 he was given leave for two flag-waver movies - the second a most unusual and significant cinematic event. For Genn, it was a small part, but it was part of a glorious celebration of England and English history during the crisis of World War II - the Henry V of Laurence Olivier. Genn was the Constable of France, and though the lines were few, Shakespeare infused them with a sardonic wink that Genn delivered perfectly in an understated style that became one of his hallmarks. This part brought him to notice as a film actor, but he did not entertain its fruits until later 1946, for with the end of the war Genn, who had been awarded the French Croix de Guerre in 1945, went back to law counseling. He volunteered his legal knowledge to the British army unit involved in the investigation and prosecution of Nazi war crimes perpetrated at the Belsen concentration camp near Luneburg, Germany. And in the subsequent tribunals, Genn served as assistant prosecutor.
He was back in film in 1946, but more so he was being courted by Broadway to return - which he did in that crowded year with one of his best stage roles in the Lillian Hellman classic "Another Part of the Forest". Hollywood waited in the wings to grab him for the Eugene O'Neill update Mourning Becomes Electra (1947) of the ancient Greek tragedy triangle "Orestaia". It was not Genn's American film debut, for he had appeared in the UK/US crime drama The Girl in the News (1940) - as - what else - a prosecuting counsel - a barrister. He was competing with the American debut of Michael Redgrave in the O'Neill adaptation (3 hours, pared to about 2 hours for general release). The film was a great piece of dialog display but a disaster at the box office. But the chemistry of Genn with Rosalind Russell was such that they were marketed together again the next year in another American film, The Velvet Touch (1948), more whodunit but with snappy lines. Subsequently Genn was about equally in demand for film and stage on both sides of the Atlantic.
His film roles on into the 1950s were somewhat uneven, but Genn was always to form - the calm, understated but in control male lead or supporting character, whether war adventure or the inevitable crime drama - many a steady military officer and understanding professional - with a bit of comedy and a few shady characters thrown in.
Perhaps his best known American film role was as the sardonic Gaius Petronius Arbiter in Quo Vadis (1951). Genn's generous part as the ancient Roman satirist was filled with double meaning quips and understated sarcasm that Genn delivered with his poker face charm and subtle sidelong glances. He is so good that the audience hangs on his next sub-level dig with anticipation that partially eclipses the first rate histrionics of Peter Ustinov as a tongue-in-cheek deranged Nero. The level of Genn's performance was recognized with a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination. The next year he was more than just a straight-laced William Bradford of American colonial history fame in Plymouth Adventure (1952), a much maligned American film that was, in fact, a realistic portrayal of the trials and tribulations of the Pilgrims (they were not all religious dissenters, not the dour, black and white Puritans who were later arrivals). Having to compete with a cantankerous, perhaps too hammy Spencer Tracy as the ship's captain, Genn's understated intensity brings off a compassionate portrayal.
Genn helped grace some of the most ambitious films of the later 1950s and into the 1960s: Moby Dick (1956), The Longest Day (1962), and 55 Days at Peking (1963). He embraced TV playhouse, both American and British programs, and US/UK episodic series through the period, as well as more outings on Broadway. He made six appearances on the Great White Way - the last in a short run of "The Only Game in Town" in mid 1968. All along Genn's voice had found welcoming slots in narration. Beside films, he was the voice of the royal coronation programs of 1937 and 1953. And he always kept a foot in his first love, British theater; he was a governor of London's The Mermaid Theatre.
- IMDb Mini Biography By: William McPeak

Spouse (1)
Marguerite van Praag (14 May 1933 - 26 January 1978) ( his death)
Trade Mark (1)
Deep black velvet voice
Trivia (3)
While a Lieutenant-Colonel in the British Army, he was one of the Prosecuting Officers at the British-mounted 1945 Belsen War Crimes trial.
His surname was pronounced with a hard "G".
Was in five Oscar Best Picture nominees Pygmalion (1938), Henry V (1944), The Snake Pit (1948), Quo Vadis (1951) and The Longest Day (1962), over four different decades.

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Military Service

While a Lieutenant-Colonel in the British Army, he was one of the Prosecuting Officers at the British-mounted 1945 Belsen War Crimes trial.
His surname was pronounced with a hard "G".

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Leo Genn Obituary

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By ROBERT McG. THOMAS JR.

Leo Genn, the British lawyer turned actor who became .known as “the man with the black velvet voice” in a stage and screen career that spanned almost four decades, died yesterday at a London hospital. He was 72 years old.

Although the darkly handsome actor appeared in some two dozen movies and more than 50 plays, in such notable parts as the evil Ben Hubbard in Lillian Hellman's “Another Part of the Forest,” he was best‐known to American audiences for his film portrayals of Capt. Adorn Brant in “Mourning Becomes Electra”; the sensitive psychiatrist; Dr. Kik, in. “The Snake Pit”; Nero's counselor, Gaius Petronius, in “Quo Vadis?” and Starbuck in “Moby Dick.” .

An Oscar Nomination

Rarely cast as the leading lover and never a box‐office idol, Mr. Genn nevertheless enjoyed critical acclaim, throughout his career and was nominated as best supporting actor for his “Quo Vadis?” role in the Acadeniy Awards of 1952.

Mr. Genn followed a curious route to his acting career. The son of a prosperous London merchant, he received scholarships in both mathematics and classics from the City of London School and then went to Cambridge, where he studied law and became a star athlete as captain of the soccer and tennis teams.

It was not until he had completed his legal studies at the Temple Inn and began to practice law that he made his first venture into acting, and only then, he once recalled, as little more than a lark. A woman friend suggested that joining amateur theatrical companies might be a good way for a struggling young barrister to meet prospective clients, and he followed her advice.

That was in 1930, and the stratagem worked well enough. But Mr. Genn, who won an early success as a criminal trial lawyer, soon found he preferred the camaraderie and challehge of the theater to the histrionics of the courtroom.

His first major break as an actor came the first year, when he played the lead in “Dear Brutus” and caught the eye of Leon M. Lion, one of the last of the oldschool actor‐managers.

Mr. Genn, who still did not take acting seriously, kept an appointment with the manager, he later recalled, just to have something to tell his friends about. He accepted a contract, however, and for the next few years appeared in Mr. Lion's plays and served as his legal adviser.

Mr. Genn's legal training also played a part in his transition to the movies after he had completed his West End apprenticeship and spent two years specializing in the classics at the Old Vic.

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In 1936 he was asked to write some legal scenes for a Douglas Fairbanks Jr. picture and ended up taking the part of the lawyer.

After Mr. Genn appeared in two more movies and made his Broldway debut with “The Flashing Stream” in 1938, his career was interupted by World War II, which led him back to the law.

After seeing combat with the Royal Artillery until just before VE day, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel and joined the British unit investigating war crimes at the Belsen concentration camp, later serving as an assistant prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials.

But Mr. Genn, who once said that he had given up the law because “somewhere inside me there was an actor trying to be heard,” soon returned to acting and promptly scored a major success as the Constable of France in Laurence Olivier's acclaimed 1946 film version of “Henry V,” which Mr. Genn, true to his nonchalant attitude toward his profession, insisted on calling “Hank Cinq.”

The part was small (shot in a total of 16 days snatched from military leaves), but Mr, Genn's subtly sarcastic portrayal drew both critical and popular acclaim and earned one of his most treasured compliments, from Frank Capra, who, on being introduced to Mr. Genn, said, “Oh, you're the fellow who makes Shakespeare sound like conversation.”

The role also led to one of his biggest Broadway successes in the 1946 production of Miss Hellman's “Another Part of the Forest,” which portrayed the early career of the Hubbard family, who had been introduced in “Little Foxes.”

Reviewing the play for The New York Times, Brooks Atkinson praised Mr. Genn for conveying “the strength, unscrupulousness and maturity” of the blackmailing elder son.

A String of Successes

The part led Mr. Genn to a string of successes in Hollywood. including “Mourning Becomes Electra,” “The Velvet. Touch.” “The Miniver Story” and “The Snake Pit.”

Mr. Genn, who returned to Broadway for “The Devil's Advocate,” in 1961, continued to appear regularly on the screen, including parts in “Lady Chatterly's Lover,” “The Longest Day” and “Ten Little Indians,” and in a number of television dramas.

Mr: Genn is survived by his wife, the former Marguerite Van Praag.

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1905 - 1978 World Events

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In 1905, in the year that Leo Genn was born, the German born physicist, Albert Einstein, proposed the Special Theory of Relativity: 1) that observers can never detect uniform motion except relative to other objects and that 2) unlike the velocity of massive objects, the speed of light is a constant and is the same for all observers independent of their constant velocity toward or away from the light source. Not such simple concepts that lead to the equation everyone now knows: E = mc2.

In 1913, when he was merely 8 years old, Woodrow Wilson became the 28th President of the United States in March. Previously the Governor of New Jersey and President of Princeton University, he was the first Southerner to serve as President since Zachary Taylor, over 60 years previous. A Democrat, he led the U.S. during World War I and championed the League of Nations.

In 1939, he was 34 years old when on the 1st of September, Nazi Germany invaded Poland. On September 17th, the Soviet Union invaded Poland as well. Poland expected help from France and the United Kingdom, since they had a pact with both. But no help came. By October 6th, the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany held full control of the previously Polish lands. Eventually, the invasion of Poland lead to World War II.

In 1966, at the age of 61 years old, Leo was alive when on July 1st, Medicare became available after President Johnson signed into law the Medicare Act in 1965. President Truman had received the first Medicare card since he had been the first to propose national healthcare law. insurance.

In 1978, in the year of Leo Genn's passing, on July 25th, Louise Brown, the first "test-tube baby", was born at Oldham Hospital in London. Louise was conceived through IVF (in vitro fertilization), a controversial and experimental procedure at the time.

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