Nigel Davenport

Last updated

Nigel Davenport
Nigel Davenport Angela Lansbury A Taste of Honey 1960.jpg
Davenport as Peter with Angela Lansbury as Helen in A Taste of Honey on Broadway, 1960.
Arthur Nigel Davenport

(1928-05-23)23 May 1928
Died25 October 2013(2013-10-25) (aged 85)
Years active1953–2003
Helena White
(m. 1951;div. 1960)

Maria Aitken
(m. 1972;div. 1981)
Children3, including Jack Davenport

Arthur Nigel Davenport (23 May 1928 – 25 October 2013) was a British stage, television and film actor, [1] best known as the Duke of Norfolk and Lord Birkenhead in the Academy Award-winning films A Man for All Seasons and Chariots of Fire , respectively.


Early life and education

Davenport was born in Great Shelford, [2] Cambridgeshire, to Katherine Lucy (née Meiklejohn) and Arthur Henry Davenport. [3] His father was a bursar at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge. [1] He grew up in an academic family and was educated at St Peter's School, Seaford, Cheltenham College and Trinity College, Oxford. [1] Originally he chose to study Philosophy, Politics and Economics but switched to English on the advice of one of his tutors. [4]


Davenport first appeared on stage at the Savoy Theatre and then with the Shakespeare Memorial Company, before joining the English Stage Company, one of its earliest members, at the Royal Court Theatre in 1956. [5] He began appearing in British film and television productions in supporting roles, including a walk-on in Tony Richardson's film, Look Back in Anger (1959). Subsequent roles included a theatre manager opposite Laurence Olivier in the film version of The Entertainer and a policeman in Michael Powell's Peeping Tom (both 1960). [5]

In the 1962 last episode of the first season of the TV series The Saint , titled "The Charitable Countess", with Roger Moore as Simon Templar and Patricia Donahue as Countess Rovagna, Davenport played a supporting role as the Countess's confidant, Aldo Petri.

He made an impression as Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk in A Man for All Seasons (1966), [6] co-starred with Michael Caine in the war movie Play Dirty , [4] and had a major role as Lord Bothwell in Mary, Queen of Scots . [6] In 1972, he appeared as George Adamson, opposite Susan Hampshire in Living Free, [4] the sequel to Born Free .

During the production of Stanley Kubrick's 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey , Davenport read the lines of HAL 9000 off-camera during the computer's dialogues with actors Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood. However, Kubrick thought that Davenport's English accent was too distracting, and after a few weeks he dismissed him, so Canadian actor Douglas Rain was ultimately chosen for the role. [7] Davenport took the leading role in the off-beat Phase IV (1974), which failed to find an audience. In 1979 he portrayed King George III in Prince Regent . [1]

In February 1997, Davenport was the subject of This Is Your Life when he was surprised by Michael Aspel at David Nicholson's stables near Cheltenham. [8]

He was president of Equity from 1986 to 1992. [1] [6]

Personal life

Davenport was married twice, first to Helena Margaret White [1] whom he met while he was studying at Oxford University. They married in 1951 and had a daughter, Laura and a son, Hugo. [1] His second wife was actress Maria Aitken [1] with whom he had a second son, Jack, also an actor, best known for appearing in Pirates of the Caribbean . [9] According to Jerry Bruckheimer, producer of the Pirates of the Caribbean films, Jack was cast as the James Norrington character, partly because of Nigel's involvement in A High Wind in Jamaica . [ citation needed ]



1959 Look Back in Anger 1st Commercial Traveller [5]
1960 Peeping Tom Det. Sgt. Miller [5]
The Entertainer Theatre Manager [4]
1962 Mix Me a Person Juke's Stepfather
1963 Ladies Who Do Mr Strang
Bitter Harvest Police Inspector
1964 The Third Secret Lew Harding
1965 A High Wind in Jamaica Mr Thornton [1]
Sands of the Kalahari Sturdevan
1966 A Man for All Seasons Duke of Norfolk [1]
1968 Play Dirty Captain Cyril Leech [5]
2001: A Space Odyssey HAL (replaced)
1969 The Virgin Soldiers Sergeant Driscoll [5]
1970 No Blade of Grass John Custance
The Mind of Mr. Soames Dr Maitland
1971 Mary, Queen of Scots Lord Bothwell [4]
The Last Valley Gruber
1972 Living Free George Adamson [4]
1973 Bram Stoker's Dracula Van Helsing [6]
The Picture of Dorian Gray Sir Harry Wotton [6]
1974 Phase IV Dr Ernest D. Hubbs
1975 The Regent's Wife
1976Death of a SnowmanLt. Ben Deel
1977 The Island of Dr. Moreau Montgomery
Stand Up, Virgin Soldiers Sgt. Driscoll [4]
1979The London Connection / The Omega ConnectionArthur Minton
1979 Zulu Dawn Colonel Hamilton-Brown [10]
1980 Cry of the Innocent Gray Harrison Hunt
1981 Chariots of Fire Lord Birkenhead [1]
Nighthawks Peter Hartman
1984 A Christmas Carol Silas Scrooge
Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes Major Jack Downing [1]
1986 Caravaggio Giustiniani
Lord Mountbatten: The Last Viceroy Lord Ismay
1988 Without a Clue Lord Smithwick
1997 The Opium War [5]


YearTitleRoleNotes! Ref.
1957-1958 The Adventures of Robin Hood St Peter Marston, Claude the Seneschal, Barty and others7 episodes [9]
1963 The Edgar Wallace Mystery Theatre Dino Stefano1 episode
1966-68 The Avengers Lord Barnes / Robertson [9]
1969 The Name of the Game David Windom1 episode
1972The EdwardiansSir Arthur Conan Doyle1 episode
1974South RidingRobert Carne11 episodes [5]
1975 Oil Strike North Jim Fraser13 episodes [5]
1979 Prince Regent King George III8 episodes, TV mini-series [5]
1981 Masada Sen. MucianusPart 1
A Midsummer Night's Dream Theseus
1982 Bird of Prey Charles Bridgnorth [4]
1982-83Don't Rock The BoatJack Hoxton12 episodes, TV mini-series [4]
1985-1990 Howards' Way Sir Edward Frere29 episodes [9]
1991 Trainer James Brant13 episodes [11]
1993 Keeping Up Appearances ("The Commodore")The Commodore1 episode [9]
1994 Woof! Mr. Wellesby1 episode [12]
1996 The Treasure Seekers Lord Blackstock [5]
2000 David Copperfield Dan PeggottyTV movie [9]
Midsomer Murders William Smithers1 episode [9]
Longitude Sir Charles PelhamTV Movie

Related Research Articles

<i>Chariots of Fire</i> 1981 film by Hugh Hudson

Chariots of Fire is a 1981 British historical drama film. It is based on the true story of two athletes in the 1924 Olympics: Eric Liddell, a devout Scottish Christian who runs for the glory of God, and Harold Abrahams, an English Jew who runs to overcome prejudice.

Ian McKellen English actor

Sir Ian Murray McKellen is an English actor. His career spans genres ranging from Shakespearean and modern theatre to popular fantasy and science fiction. He is the recipient of six Laurence Olivier Awards, a Tony Award, a Golden Globe Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, a BIF Award, two Saturn Awards, four Drama Desk Awards, and two Critics' Choice Awards. He has also received nominations for two Academy Awards, five Primetime Emmy Awards, and four BAFTAs. He achieved worldwide fame for his film roles, including the titular King in Richard III (1995), James Whale in Gods and Monsters (1998), Magneto in the X-Men films, and Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies.

Samuel West British actor and director

Samuel Alexander Joseph West is an English actor, theatre director and voice actor. He has directed on stage and radio, and worked as an actor across theatre, film, television and radio. He often appears as reciter with orchestras and performed at the Last Night of the Proms in 2002. He has narrated several documentary series, including five for the BBC centred on events related to the Second World War.

Nigel Havers British actor

Nigel Allan Havers is an English actor. He played Lord Andrew Lindsay in the 1981 British film Chariots of Fire, which earned him a BAFTA nomination, and Tom Latimer in the British TV comedy series Don't Wait Up. He portrayed the role of Lewis Archer in Coronation Street intermittently between 2009 and 2019.

Jack Davenport British actor

Jack Arthur Davenport is an English actor. He is best known for his roles in the television series This Life and Coupling, and as James Norrington in the Pirates of the Caribbean series. He has also appeared in other Hollywood films, such as The Talented Mr. Ripley and Kingsman: The Secret Service. He was part of the ensemble cast in the drama series FlashForward and Smash, and took the lead role in the 2013 ITV drama series Breathless.

Julian Glover British actor

Julian Wyatt Glover is an English classical actor, with many stage, television and film roles since commencing his career in the 1950s. He is a recipient of the Laurence Olivier Award and has performed many times for the Royal Shakespeare Company.

David Swift (actor) English actor

David Bernard Swift was an English actor known for his role as Henry Davenport in the topical comedy Drop the Dead Donkey.

Milo OShea Irish American actor

Milo Donal O'Shea was an Irish actor. He received two Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play nominations for his performances in Staircase (1968) and Mass Appeal (1982).

Ed Bishop American actor

George Victor Bishop, known professionally as Ed Bishop, was an American/British actor. He was known for playing Commander Ed Straker in UFO, Captain Blue in Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons and for voicing Philip Marlowe in a series of BBC Radio adaptations of the Marlowe novels by Raymond Chandler.

William Sylvester American film actor

William Sylvester was an American television and film actor. His most famous film credit was Dr. Heywood Floyd in Stanley Kubrick's 2001 A Space Odyssey (1968).

Richard Griffiths English actor

Richard Thomas Griffiths was an English actor of film, television, and stage. For his performance in the stage play The History Boys, Griffiths won much acclaim and received many awards including, Tony Award, Laurence Olivier Award, the Drama Desk Award, the Outer Critics Circle Award. For the 2006 film adaptation, Griffiths was nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role.

Colin Welland, born Colin Edward Williams, was a British actor and screenwriter. He won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for his script for Chariots of Fire (1981). He won a BAFTA Award for his performance as the empathetic teacher Mr Farthing in the 1969 film Kes.

Simon Williams is an English actor known for playing James Bellamy in the period drama Upstairs, Downstairs. Frequently playing upper middle class or aristocratic upper class roles, he is also known for playing Charles Cartwright in the sitcom Don't Wait Up and Charles Merrick in medical drama Holby City. Since 2014, he has played the character of Justin Elliott in the long-running BBC Radio 4 series The Archers.

Nigel Derek Harman is a British actor, best known for his role as heartthrob Dennis Rickman in the BBC soap opera EastEnders. He has worked mostly in theatre, with the stage being described as his "first love". He starred in the final series of Hotel Babylon. In early 2013 he started filming for the fourth series of Downton Abbey, playing visiting valet, Mr Green. From 2013 until the series ended in 2017, he played the role of Bradley Dawson in Sky One's Mount Pleasant. As of 2019 he stars as Lloyd in Season 4 of Cuckoo.

Adrienne Corri Scottish actress

Adrienne Corri was a Scottish actress.

Patrick Magee (actor) Northern Irish actor

Patrick George McGee, known professionally as Patrick Magee, was a Northern Irish actor and director of stage and screen. He was known for his collaborations with Samuel Beckett and Harold Pinter, as well as creating the role of the Marquis de Sade in the original stage and screen productions of Marat/Sade. He also appeared in numerous horror films and in two Stanley Kubrick films, A Clockwork Orange and Barry Lyndon.

Margaret Tyzack British actress

Margaret Maud Tyzack was an English actress. Her television roles included The Forsyte Saga (1967) and I, Claudius (1976). She won the 1970 BAFTA TV Award for Best Actress for the BBC serial The First Churchills, and the 1990 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play for Lettice and Lovage, opposite Maggie Smith. She also won two Olivier Awards. Her film appearances included 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), A Clockwork Orange (1971), Prick Up Your Ears (1987) and Match Point (2005).

Rory Kinnear English actor and playwright

Rory Michael Kinnear is an English actor and playwright who has worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal National Theatre. In 2014, he won the Olivier Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Shakespeare's villain Iago in the National Theatre production of Othello.

Eamon Gerard Murphy was a Northern Irish film, television and theatre actor.

<i>2001: A Space Odyssey</i> (film) 1968 epic science fiction film directed by Stanley Kubrick

2001: A Space Odyssey is a 1968 epic science fiction film produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick. The screenplay was written by Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke, and was inspired by Clarke's short story "The Sentinel" and other short stories by Clarke. A novelisation of the film released after the film's premiere was in part written concurrently with the screenplay. The film, which follows a voyage to Jupiter with the sentient computer HAL after the discovery of a featureless alien monolith affecting human evolution, deals with themes of existentialism, human evolution, technology, artificial intelligence, and the possibility of extraterrestrial life.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Coveney, Michael (29 October 2013). "Nigel Davenport obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 October 2013.
  2. "Cambridge-born actor Nigel Davenport, star of Chariots of Fire and Howards' Way, dies aged 85". Archived from the original on 2 November 2013. Retrieved 31 October 2013.
  3. Profile of Nigel Davenport at
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Anthony Hayward "Obituary: Nigel Davenport, character actor sought by directors in all mediums for nearly half a century", The Independent, 30 October 2013
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Obituary: Nigel Davenport,, 29 October 2013
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 "Howard's Way and Chariots of Fire actor Nigel Davenport dies age 85". Express. 30 October 2013. Retrieved 24 November 2016.
  7. Dowd, Vincent (30 November 2014). "2001: A Space Odyssey revisited". BBC News. Retrieved 30 November 2014.
  8. "Nigel Davenport". Retrieved 10 April 2020.
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "Actor Nigel Davenport dies at 85". BBC News. 30 October 2013. Retrieved 26 June 2016.
  10. "Zulu Dawn". Radio Times. Retrieved 26 June 2016.
  11. "In pictures: Nigel Davenport". BBC News. 30 October 2013. Retrieved 26 June 2016.
  12. "Goodbye Mrs. Chips".