British actor Christopher Hewett, best known as television’s English butler on the ABC comedy “Mr. Belvedere,” died Friday at his Los Angeles home a day after being released from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. He was 80 and had been in failing health for some time.
Earning Stateside fame during his five-year stint playing the jack-of-all-trades title character (1985-90), Hewett possessed gifts as an actor that were equally diverse, displayed over a career that spanned more than years on stage, TV and film.
Born in Worthington, England, to a former stage actress and a rubber plantation owner, he made his acting debut at age 7 in a Dublin production of “A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream.” However, he truly earned his stripes as an actor after he was discharged from the Royal Air Force at age 18 after a two-year World War II tour of duty. With the Oxford Repertory Co., he appeared in 104 plays in two years, performing through bombing blitzes and working as an air raid warden on the side.
An established actor and director in England after starring in such films as “The Lavender Hill Mob” and “Pool of London” (both in 1951), Hewett came to New York in 1954 intending on spending a six-week vacation. He remained there for five years, making his Broadway debut in 1956 with the original cast of “My Fair Lady” and directing Tallulah Bankhead in “The Ziegfield Follies.”
In 1968, he played director-in-drag Roger DeBree for Mel Brooks’ celebrated film comedy “The Producers.”
His first foray into television came in the 1976 series “Ivan the Terrible,” which was followed by a short stint on “Fantasy Island” in the late 1970s before being cast as Mr. Belvedere in 1985.
Hewett is survived by a sister-in-law and nieces and nephews.
A memorial service is scheduled for Friday at St. Victor’s Church in West Hollywood.