Alexander Knox
Knox in the 1940s
Born(1907-01-16)January 16, 1907
DiedApril 25, 1995(1995-04-25) (aged 88)
Occupation(s)Actor, Author
Years active1931–1986
(m. 1944)

Alexander Knox (16 January 1907 – 25 April 1995) was a Canadian actor and writer. He appeared in over 100 film, television, and theatrical productions over a career spanning from the 1920’s until the late 1980’s. He was nominated for an Oscar and won a Golden Globe for his performance as American President Woodrow Wilson in the 1944 film Wilson. However, his career in the United States was hampered by McCarthyism, and he spent the rest of his career in the United Kingdom.

Knox portrayed Control in the 1979 BBC miniseries adaptation of John le Carre’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. He acted in such films as Europe '51, The Vikings, The Longest Day, The Damned, and Modesty Blaise. He often worked with director Joseph Losey, a fellow American blacklistee living in the UK.

Aside from his acting career, Knox was also an author, writing adventure novels set in the Great Lakes area during the 19th century as well as plays and detective novels.

Life and career

Knox was born in Strathroy, Ontario, where his father was the minister of the Presbyterian Church. He graduated from the University of Western Ontario. He moved to Boston, Massachusetts, to perform on stage with the Boston Repertory Theatre. After the company folded following the stock market crash of 1929, Knox returned to London, Ontario, where, for the next two years, he worked as a reporter for The London Advertiser[1] before moving to London, England, where, during the 1930s, he appeared in several films. He also appeared in various roles at the Old Vic such as the Judge in George Bernard Shaw's Geneva. Canadian novelist Robertson Davies described his performance thus: "To this role he brought a dignity which did much to heighten the effect of the famous court-scene which makes up the third act...". [2]. In 1939, at the Malvern Festival, he acted in Shaw's In Good King Charles's Golden Days. His own play Old Master was also staged. He starred opposite Jessica Tandy in the 1940 Broadway production of Jupiter Laughs and as Friar Laurence in Romeo and Juliet with Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier. Then in 1944, he was chosen by Darryl F. Zanuck to star in Wilson (1944), the biographical film about American President Woodrow Wilson, for which he won a Golden Globe Award and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor. However, during the McCarthy Era, his liberal views and work with the Committee for the First Amendment hurt his career, but he was not blacklisted,[3] and he returned to Britain.

Knox in Paula (1952).

Knox had major roles in The Sea Wolf (1941), None Shall Escape (1944), Over 21 (1945), Sister Kenny (1946), Man In The Saddle (1951), Paula (1952), Europa '51 (1952), and The Vikings (1958), as well as supporting roles late in his career, such as in The Damned (1963), Modesty Blaise (1966), Nicholas and Alexandra (1971), Joshua Then and Now (1985; his last film role) and the miniseries Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

He depicted Governor Hudson Inverest in "The Latin Touch", the second episode of the first season of The Saint in 1962.


He wrote several adventure novels: Bride of Quietness (1933), Night of the White Bear (1971), The Enemy I Kill (1972; republished as Totem Dream in 1973), Raider's Moon, and The Kidnapped Surgeon. He also wrote plays and at least three detective novels under a pseudonym before 1945.[1]

Personal life

Knox was married to American actress Doris Nolan (1916–1998) from 1944 until his death in 1995. They starred together in the 1949 Broadway play The Closing Door, which Knox also wrote. They had a son Andrew Joseph Knox (born 1947; died by suicide in 1987[citation needed]) who became an actor and appeared in Doctor on the Go, and who was married to Imogen Hassall.[4]

Knox died in Berwick-upon-Tweed from bone cancer on April 25, 1995.[5]

Complete filmography

Selected stage roles



  1. ^ a b Clara Thomas, Canadian Novelists 1920-1945, Toronto: Longmans, Green & Company, 1946, p. 75. Thomas notes, "he refuses to divulge" his pen name.
  2. ^ Davies, Robertson, Peterborough Examiner, August 22, 1940
  3. ^ Slide, Anthony (1999). Actors on red alert : career interviews with five actors and actresses affected by the blacklist. Lanham, Md. [u.a.]: Scarecrow Press. pp. 117–127. ISBN 978-0810836495.
  4. ^ Fade to Black: A Book of Movie Obituaries, Paul Donnelley, Omnibus Press, 2000, pp. 267
  5. ^ William Grimes (29 April 1995). "Alexander Knox, 88, Actor Who Played Woodrow Wilson". The New York Times.