Hollywood stars

Tonypandy’s two brothers who became Hollywood stars

Welsh stars have been no strangers to the glamorous and exciting life of Hollywood since the movie world erupted over a century ago.

In recent years, we’ve seen Michael Sheen, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Anthony Hopkins, and Christian Bale appear on the big screen multiple times.

But long before that, in the early days of cinema, two brothers from the Rhondda made their mark in America and across Britain.

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Donald and Glyn Houston were born in Tonypandy in 1923 and 1925 to parents Elise Jones and Alexander Houston.

Their father Alexander was a Scottish professional football player and mum Elsie ran a milk tour. But the brothers’ start in life was far from the glitz and glamor of Hollywood.

They were brought up by their grandmother in Thomas Street after their mother died aged 29 and their father left Wales in search of work.

Older brother Donald was the first to achieve stardom as a handsome blond-haired matinee idol.

But first, after leaving school, Donald went to work in a local mine before luck knocked in 1940. Donald had auditioned at the Llwynypia Boys Club for a role with the traveling theater company The Pilgrim Players.

Take a trip down memory lane:

According to Welsh writer Phil Carradice, despite his routes through the valleys, Donald had a unique ability to “do accents” and was able to switch into the Mid-Atlantic accent of the time.

He landed his first role on the big screen in 1949 with Blue Lagoon alongside Jean Simmons before taking on leading roles in several well-known films including The Yangste Incident, The Longest Day (alongside Richard Burton) and Where Eagles Dare.



Donald’s blonde hair and charm made him an instant hit

Donald’s success paved the way for his younger brother Glyn to enter the acting world and Donald was able to secure him the role of assistant stage manager at the Guildford Repertory Theatre.

Glyn then learned his trade in touring plays, enjoying a six-month tenure on Ivor Novello’s “The Dancing Years” before beginning a career in the film industry.

He added: “Being kind of a working-class, boy-next-door type of guy, I found myself playing small roles in army and navy movies and the boyfriend of a few ‘starlets’. of JA Rank, including Joan Collins, Lana Morris.”

Glyn was Joan Collins’ first on-screen kiss, but rubbing shoulders with Hollywood’s elite didn’t make her forget the Rhondda.

“I still call the Rhondda ‘home,'” he said, speaking in 2009 when his autobiography was published. “Which often annoys my wife Shirley because I haven’t lived in Tonypandy for nearly 65 years, but that’s where my heart rests.

“It was a real pleasure and honor to come back and officially launch the book in my home valley because, after all, that’s where the story began.”

During her career, Glyn has starred in over 100 films and countless theater productions.

His memoir reveals many intimate details of encounters with stars such as Elizabeth Taylor, Tommy Farr, Ryan Davies, Harry Secombe and Sean Connery – as well as a famous incident at a movie studio bar involving the Treorchy Male Choir.



Glyn Houston’s career spans decades

Glyn and his wife Shirley Lawrence, a model and actress, spent most of their married life in the stockbroking belt of Weybridge in Surrey, where they raised two daughters and had The Beatles, Englebert Humperdinck and Tom Jones as neighbors.

Donald sadly passed away aged 67 in 1991 and Glyn died nearly 30 years later in 2019 aged 93 after working until he was 88.

On his 90th birthday in 2015, Glyn said, “I didn’t shine as bright as my colleagues, I certainly shone twice as long.”

The two brothers were good friends with fellow Rhondda actor who made it to Hollywood, Stanley Baker, and in 2010 a blue plaque was unveiled at 10 Thomas Street to commemorate Donald Houston’s achievements.

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