Richard Haydn

Who did he play in The Sound of Music?

MaxRichard Haydn played Max Detweiler in The Sound of Music movie, or Uncle Max, as the children called him. Robert Wise knew of Haydn’s previous work and thought that he would be a perfect choice for playing Max because of his warm personality. His love of children earned him the nickname ‘Herr Dad’ when filming The Sound of Music.

MaxIn the film he plays an amusing opportunist Jew, who is good friends with both the baroness and the Captain. His role was based on Father Franz Wasner, who, in the real life von Trapp story, became a life long family friend, as well as composer, conductor and arranger for The von Trapp Family Choir. Max is one of very few people who call the Captain by his first name, Georg. Max is looking for a new act for The Salzburg Music Festival, and is the person who encourages the Captain to let his children sing on stage.

He is best known for helping the Captain and Maria escape from the Nazis, by convincing the soldiers that they are singing in the Salzburg Festival.

Before The Sound of Music

Richard Haydn was born George Richard Haydon, in Camberwell, London, England on 10th March 1905.

At nineteen years old he started out dancing in a professional chorus in Scotland. After receiving a $100 inheritance he turned his back on his struggling show business career, and was able to travel the world and go to Jamaica, where he tried his hand at business by running a banana plantation. However a devastating hurricane had Haydn packing his bags and returning to London to resurrect his theatrical career, where he joined a British theatre group.

He was more successful this time, and soon became known for being a comic actor in radio, film and television, appearing regularly on the Burns and Allen radio show. EdwinHe had his first film assignment in 1941 as Charley Wyckham in Charley’s Aunt.

Richard Haydn wrote a comedy book in 1954 called ‘The Journal of Edwin Carp’, based on a fish impersonating character that he had developed in the late 1930's (see photo on right). This was later made into an animated film, with Hugh Laurie’s voice for the carp. Haydn also appeared as Carp on The Dick van Dyke Show in 1964.

Here are Haydn’s other film and television appearances before he played in The Sound of Music:

Charley's Aunt (1941) Charley Wyckham
Ball of Fire (1941) Professor Oddley
Thunder Birds (1942) George Lockwood
Forever and a Day (1943) Mr. Butcher
No Time for Love (1943) Roger Winant
Tonight and Every Night (1945) Specialty
And Then There Were None (1945) Thomas Rogers, the butler
Adventure (1945) Limo
The Green Years (1946) Jason Reid, the schoolmaster
Cluny Brown (1946) Jonathan W. Wilson
The Beginning or the End (1947) Dr. Chisholm
The Late George Apley (1947) Horatio Willing
Singapore (1947) Deputy Commissioner Hewitt
The Foxes of Harrow (1947) Andre LeBlanc
Forever Amber (1947) Earl of Radcliffe
Caterpillar" Sitting Pretty (1948) Clarence Appleton, the nosy neighbor
The Emperor Waltz (1948) Emperor Franz-Josef
Miss Tatlock's Millions (1948) Fergel (as Richard Rancyd). He also directed.
Alice in Wonderland (1951), as The Caterpillar's voice - see right
The Merry Widow (1952) Baron Popoff
Never Let Me Go (1953) Christopher Wellington St. John Denny
Money from Home (1953) Bertie Searles, the English jockey
RichardHer Twelve Men (1954) Dr. Avord Barrett
Jupiter's Darling (1955) Horatio
Twilight for the Gods (1958) Oliver Wiggins
Please Don't Eat the Daisies (1960) Alfred North
The Lost World (1960) Professor Summerlee
Five Weeks in a Balloon (1962) Sir Henry Vining
Mutiny on the Bounty (1962) William Brown

Haydn called his film characters as being ‘incredibly smug’, but in his funniest roles he made it sound as if he was talking through his nose. He actually avoided doing this during The Sound of Music, but still managed to bring a great comic touch to the film.

After The Sound of Music

RichardRichard Haydn appeared in a few more films after The Sound of Music. These included:

Clarence, the Cross-Eyed Lion (1965) Rupert Rowbotham

The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin (1967) Quentin Bartlett

Young Frankenstein (1974) solicitor Herr Falkstein

The Hugga Bunch (1985) his final film appearance, Bookworm

RichardDespite his success in the movie business, Richard Haydn rejected the Hollywood lifestyle. He enjoyed gardening and lived a very private life as a bachelor until he died on 25th April 1985. He died from a heart attack in Los Angeles, California, USA.

Haydn will be remembered for his unforgettable voice and presence, and for those humorous lines in The Sound of Music:

Marta: "Can we really keep the puppet show, Uncle Max?"
Max: "Of course. Why else do you think I had Professor Cohen send the bill to your father?"

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