Captain Hook was Ridgefielder Cyril Ritchard

Cyril Ritchard appeared as Captain Hook along side Mary Martin aas Peter Pan on Broadway and on television.

Cyril Ritchard appeared as Captain Hook along side Mary Martin aas Peter Pan on Broadway and on television.

Contributed photos

Millions knew him, not by his name but by his character. For Cyril Ritchard played Captain Hook alongside Mary Martin when the acclaimed Broadway production of “Peter Pan” was staged live for television March 7, 1955, making TV history with its huge audience and high quality production.

His face and his voice were famous and he enjoyed telling of the time he was spotted by a rough-looking gang of teenagers who surrounded him. “I thought they were going to attack me, but instead they stared and exclaimed: ‘You’re Captain Hook!’ I'm glad the reason for their attention was curiosity, not animosity.”

The witty actor from Australia starred in countless stage and screen productions around the world and over a career that started before World War I and ended in 1977 when he collapsed on stage and died of a heart attack. He’d lived the last 17 years of his life as a RIdgefielder.

Born Cyril Trimnell-Ritchard in 1898, he quit medical school at 19 and took to the stage, making his debut in the chorus of a Sydney musical. Three months later, he was the lead. He went on to appear over the next half century in innumerable comedies, Shakespearean plays, musicals, and even operas. “I have four notes, two of them good,” he said of his singing abilities.

Ritchard also made six movies, including “Half A Sixpence” in 1967.

Known for his sense of humor, he told an interviewer that he was unaffected by small audiences in theaters. “Fortunately,” he said, “my sight is bad, so I can’t even see the empty seats.”

Ritchard bought his Danbury Road home, which he called “Lone Rock,” in 1960. He frequently entertained guests from New York there. In 1965, he bused up the entire cast and crew from “The Roar of the Greasepaint — The Smell of the Crowd” for a party.

He was often seen about town with his poodle, Trim (a trimmed version of his trimmed name). He helped many local organizations including the Ridgefield Workshop for the Performing Arts, and read the Declaration of Independence at a 1976 Bicentennial ceremony at the Community Center. “I was shocked when they asked me to do this,” he told the crowd. “I’m not an American. I’m a citizen of Australia. And I love the British. So there!”

A devout Catholic who attended Mass almost daily, he was a benefactor of St. Mary's Parish. His funeral in 1977 was at St. Mary’s; longtime friend and TV celebrity, Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, celebrated the Mass. He is buried at St. Mary’s Cemetery next to his wife, actress Madge Elliott, who had died five years before he moved to Ridgefield — he loved the town so much he had had her remains moved here from New York.

Under his name, Cyril Trimnell-Ritchard, the gravestone says, “Captain Hook.”—Jack Sanders