Paddy Crean, Stage Combat Master Who Worked with Theatre's Greats, Dead at 93

Obituaries   Paddy Crean, Stage Combat Master Who Worked with Theatre's Greats, Dead at 93
Patrick "Paddy" Crean, a long-time fight director whose stage combat moves were taught to the greats of the English theatre, died Dec. 22 in Stratford, Ontario, after an illness, according to the Stratford Festival, where he had worked for many seasons.

Mr. Crean was 93. The onetime competitive fencer began his career choreographing fights in 1932, when he was working in his native England as an actor in a stage production of The Legends of Don Juan. He made several suggestions on how a fight scene should be set out, and those suggestions were adopted. From that point on, he continued to work as an actor but more frequently was hired to stage fight scenes both on stage and in movies such as "The Master of Ballantree" and "The Sword of Sherwood Forest."

He worked with actors such as Paul Scofield, Laurence Olivier, Trevor Howard, Alec Guinness, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., and Errol Flynn, often acting as Flynn's stunt double in movies.

Mr. Crean first came to the Ontario Stratford Festival in 1962 to be fight arranger for Macbeth, directed by Peter Coe. While Mr. Crean initially told friends he wasn't fond of Canada, after his second season at the Festival in 1963, he fell in love with Stratford and decided to make the Ontario city his home base, according to the festival obituary information.

He worked as the Festival's fight director until 1983, when he arranged the fights for another Macbeth, directed by Des McAnuff. Among the dozens of Festival productions for which he arranged the fights and swordplay, his 1968 production of The Three Musketeers, directed by John Hirsch, received great acclaim for its stage action. Mr. Crean returned from retirement in 1988 to assist fight director Jean-Pierre Fournier for The Three Musketeers directed at the Festival Theatre by Richard Ouzounian.

"Paddy changed the way fights were done in the theatre," said John Brogan, a fight director who worked extensively with Mr. Crean in his later career. "Paddy's rule was that the fight action had to come from the context of the play, and he also personalized it to suit the actor: he had a very safe approach, and his guidelines on how to handle swords ended up being adopted as the guidelines used around the world." Those guidelines were codified through the Society of British Fight Directors, for which Mr. Crean was a Fight Master. He was also Fight Master with Fight Directors Canada as well as an Honorary Member of The Society of American Fight Directors.

Mr. Crean continued to work as an actor, sometimes taking on smaller roles within the shows for which he had done fight arranging and also performing his one-man show about Rudyard Kipling, The Sun Never Sets, at the Avon Theatre in Stratford in 1970.

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