H.J. Hamlin

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H.J. Hamlin (b. Bermondsey, London, **/**/1876 – d. Witbank, Transvaal, 11/04/1957) was an actor and singer. Also credited as Halford Hamlin.


Henry James Hamlin, usually credited as H.J. Hamlin, but also known as Halford Hamlin, was born in England, the son of Thomas Hamlin and Emma Daborn. At some stage he came out to South Africa and became involved with African Film Productions. When, in 1920, his eldest daughter was baptised, his profession was given as “cinema artist” and he had completed the six films in which he is known to have acted. These were Gloria (Lorimer Johnston/1916), De Voortrekkers (Harold M. Shaw/1916), A Border Scourge (Ralph Kimpton & Joseph Albrecht/1917), King Solomon’s Mines (H. Lisle Lucoque/1919), Allan Quatermain (H. Lisle Lucoque/1919) and With Edged Tools (Dick Cruikshanks & Joseph Albrecht/1919). In the two H. Rider Haggard films he played Sir Henry Curtis, with Albert Lawrence as Quatermain and Ray Brown as Captain Good.

However, he also seems to have been an accomplished singer and, according to the Rand Daily Mail, possessed a powerful tenor voice. In 1911, H.J. Hamlin, “Natal’s Premier Tenor”, was on the supporting bill at the Vaudette and later at the Bijou. He took part in numerous charity concerts, from an event organised for the King Edward Memorial Fund in 1911 to one for wounded soldiers at the Wanderers V.A.D. Hospital in 1917. He also appeared in the occasional play or revue, such as the very popular S’Nice at the Empire Theatre (1917) and in an original South African play called Kyk Hier (1918) by C.M. Rodney at the Standard Theatre. Later he was also involved in the amateur theatre, producing A Chinese Honeymoon and Engaging Alby for the Witbank Amateur Musical and Dramatic Society.

His unusual speciality was providing occasional vocal accompaniment to key scenes in silent movies. Thus, when Clara Kimball Young’s film Lola was shown at the Orpheum Theatre in 1916, he sang “I hear you calling me” from behind the screen and, said the Rand Daily Mail, “the effect was most beautiful". Again, at the screening of The Battle of Trafalgar, he sang “The Death of Nelson”, “finishing the number exactly as the picture terminates”. Other examples were Arthur Sullivan’s “The Lost Chord”, sung during the motion picture by that name, as well as “Ora Pro Nobis” during the similarly titled feature.

There seems to be uncertainly concerning his daily work. A genealogical website gives his occupation as: Police, Films, Musician and Manager. As his father had been a” police constable” in London, it is possible that initially he followed in his footsteps. However, when he joined the Rose & Thistle Lodge of the Freemasons in Witbank in 1920 he was a factory manager and in 1929 the Witbank Town Council appointed him swimming bath attendant. When he married Elizabeth Rebecca Smith in 1918, he was a widower and the couple is known to have had two daughters. He died in 1957 in what today is Emalahleni, Mpumalanga. (FO)


Rand Daily Mail (numerous issues)

S.A. Pictorial, 23 November 1918

S.A. Pictorial, 12 July 1919

Le Roux, André I. & Fourie, Lilla – Filmverlede: geskiedenis van die Suid-Afrikaanse speelfilm



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