Liverpool has more than its fair share of famous alumni. We are leading exporters of popular entertainers and talented footballers – and everyone has heard of John Lennon, Cilla Black and Wayne Rooney.
Much of our musical and artistic reputation can be traced to the 60s, when visiting US poet Allen Ginsberg described the city as “at this moment, the centre of consciousness of the human universe”. But Liverpool’s history stretches much further back than the Merseybeat era, and its sons and daughters have proven themselves in many more fields than pop culture and sport. The following list of distinguished figures may just surprise you.
1. Jason Isaacs
Don’t let his impeccable pronunciation fool you; the chiselled features and icy stare of Lucius Malfoy (Harry Potter) and William Tavington (The Patriot) were forged in the south Liverpool district of Childwall. Isaacs was born into the city’s small but long-established Jewish community, and attended King David High School as a child.
2. Beryl Bainbridge
Not many writers are able to achieve big sales numbers and critical acclaim at the same time. Even fewer big-name novelists are from Liverpool. But the winner of the 1977 Whitbread award and five-time Booker Prize nominee was born in the city and grew up in Formby. Her novels often focus on working-class characters in dangerous situations, and in 2008 she made the Times list of ‘the 50 greatest novelists since 1945’.
3. William Gladstone
Even if you don’t have much of an interest in politics or history, there is a good chance you will recognize the name of William Gladstone. Countless schoolchildren have learnt of his life and achievements – and with good reason. Listed as one of Britain’s greatest Prime Ministers, Gladstone led the government on four separate occasions. His life spanned most of the 19th century and he was politically involved in some of the century’s most significant historic struggles.
4. Kim Cattrall
The Sex in the City star is generally thought of as a Canadian, but Kim Cattrall was actually born in Mossley Hill, Liverpool. She is one of a long line of glamorous, native scouse women to succeed on the big screen. In 2010, the prodigal daughter returned to Liverpool to perform in Liverpool Playhouse’s production of Antony & Cleopatra.
5. Peter Serafinowicz
The sinister and sultry voice of Darth Maul in Star Wars Episode 1: A Phantom Menace and Guardians of the Galaxy’s Denarian Saal has also had a host of acting roles in various British comedies.
Peter has also written several successful satirical programmes including Look Around You. He’s another whose accent might deceive you – his suave, sophisticated and slightly menacing tones are some of the most sought-after in the business; however, Peter’s irreverent sense of humour is proof of his Liverpudlian upbringing.
6. Kate Sheppard
Think ‘suffragette’ and you’ll probably think of Emmeline Pankurst or Millicent Fawcett. But it might surprise you to know that the most ground-breaking and successful suffragette in history was a scouser. Kate Sheppard was a key figure in the world’s first ever adoption of universal suffrage in 1893 – in New Zealand. Kate was born and educated in Liverpool, where she gained a reputation for her fierce intellect and strong sense of social justice – traits which shaped her later life in New Zealand.
7. Rex Harrison
The Huyton-born player was a giant of the stage and screen. Perhaps most famous for his role in My Fair Lady, Rex also gave great performances in The Ghost and Mrs Muir, Dr Dolittle, Cleopatra, and Anna and the King of Siam. He won his first Tony award for a performance as Henry VIII in Anne of a Thousand Days in 1948. And Rex’s connection to the famous Tudor monarch doesn’t stop there – throughout his life he was married six times!
8. Gia Scala
Another star who made their name in the mid-20th Century, the classy Gia was born to a Sicilian father and an Irish mother in Liverpool in 1934. Scala appeared in many films, the most famous being The Guns of Navarone. Gia’s life was troubled by the early death of her mother, her husband leaving her and problems with depression and alcoholism. She died mysteriously aged just 38 – officially ‘accidentally,’ but her sister believed she was murdered. The elegant Gia was listed by IMDB as one of ‘the most beautiful women ever in Hollywood’.
9. William Hitler
That’s right. The young William that features in one of Beryl Bainbridge’s novels was very much a real person. Infamous dictator Adolf Hitler had a little-known brother, Alois, who lived in Liverpool and married an Irish woman called Bridget Dowling. Their son, William, was born in 1911 and travelled to Germany before fleeing to America. William had tried to make use of his uncle’s rise to fame, allegedly by blackmailing him in order to gain a well-paid position in the Third Reich. Perhaps rather wisely, he thought better of the decision and fled to America, where he ended up serving in the US Navy and earning a Purple Heart Wound Badge.
10. Joy Swift
Have you ever had the fortune to enjoy a murder mystery weekend? If so, you have Joy Swift to thank! The writer and businesswoman from Blundellsands invented the extravagant recreation, whereby guests spend their weekends at venues in fancy dress – acting out cluedo-style situations and trying to deduce who the murderer is.
Now you know what famous faces hail from Liverpool, it’s time to check out the best TV and films set in the city.