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William Rukard Hurd Hatfield was an American actor, best known for often playing characters of handsome, narcissistic young men, most notably Dorian Gray in the film The Picture of Dorian Gray. Hatfield was born in New York City to William Henry Hatfield, who died in 1954, an attorney who served as deputy attorney general for New York, and his wife, Adele (née McGuire). Hurd was educated at Columbia University, then moved to London, England where he studied drama and began acting in theatre.
He returned to America for his film debut in Dragon Seed, in which he and his co-stars (Katharine Hepburn, Akim Tamiroff, Aline MacMahon, Turhan Bey) portrayed Chinese peasants, some more convincingly than others. Hatfield's second film, The Picture of Dorian Gray, made him a star. As Oscar Wilde's ageless anti-hero, Hatfield received widespread acclaim for his dark good looks as much as for his acting ability. However, the actor was ambivalent about the role and his performance. "The film didn't make me popular in Hollywood," he commented later. "It was too odd, too avant-garde, too ahead of its time. The decadence, the hints of bisexuality and so on, made me a leper! Nobody knew I had a sense of humor, and people wouldn't even have lunch with me."
His follow-up films, The Diary of a Chambermaid, The Beginning or the End, and The Unsuspected), were successful, but Joan of Arc was a critical and financial failure. Hatfield's film career began to lose momentum very quickly in the 1950s, and he returned to the stage. Subsequent movies included supporting roles in The Left Handed Gun, King of Kings (as Pontius Pilate), El Cid, Harlow (as Paul Bern), and The Boston Strangler. He cut back on performing in the 1970s. His later movies included King David and Her Alibi.
He appeared frequently on television and received an Emmy Award nomination for the Hallmark Hall of Fame videotaped play The Invincible Mr. Disraeli). In 1957, he appeared in Beyond This Place, directed by Sidney Lumet. Other television credits include three guest appearances on Murder She Wrote, opposite his Picture of Dorian Gray costar Angela Lansbury, who had become a lifelong friend. He also appeared as the villain in the second episode of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. He appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Presents in "None Are So Blind".
In 1952, Hatfield appeared as Joseph in Westinghouse Studio One's The Nativity. This was a rare commercial network staging of a 14th-century mystery play, adapted from the York and Chester plays.
According to the magazine Films in Review, Hatfield was ambivalent about having played Dorian Gray, feeling that it had typecast him. "You know, I was never a great beauty in Gray...and I never understood why I got the part and have spent my career regretting it", he is reported to have said.
He died in his sleep of a heart attack at a friend's home, aged 81, after celebrating Christmas dinner.
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