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Henry Daniell in The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake (1959)
|Born||Charles Henry Daniel
5 March 1894
London, England, UK
|Died||31 October 1963
Santa Monica, California, U.S.
|Years active||1913–1963 (stage)
Henry Daniell (5 March 1894 – 31 October 1963) was an English actor, best known for his villainous film roles, but who had a long and prestigious career on stage as well as in films.
Daniell was given few opportunities to play a 'good guy', one of the few being the biopic Song of Love (1947) where he played the supporting part of Franz Liszt. Another such opportunity was his role as Sir Alfred Lloyd in Voice of Terror.
He made his first appearance on the stage in the provinces in 1913, and on the London stage at the Globe Theatre on 10 March 1914, walking on in the revival of Edward Knoblock's Kismet. In 1914 he joined the 2nd Battalion of the Norfolk Regiment, but was invalided out the following year. Thereafter throughout World War I, he appeared in the theatres of London, firstly at the New Theatre in October 1915 as Police Officer Clancy in Stop Thief!, and notably in May 1916, and subsequently, at the famous Theatre Royal, Haymarket.
London and New York career
In April 1921, he appeared at the Empire Theatre in New York City, as Prince Charles of Vaucluse in Clair de Lune, and subsequently toured for the next three years, reappearing in London at the Garrick Theatre in August 1925 as Jack Race in Cobra. He again went to New York for the first six months of 1929, appearing at the Morosco Theatre in January as Lord Ivor Cream in Serena Blandish, returning in July to London where he played John Carlton in Secrets at the Comedy Theatre.
He again toured America in 1930–31, this time appearing on the Pacific Coast at Los Angeles as well as New York once more. He returned to London for another packed programme of stage performances, which he continued in Britain and the United States while also beginning his film career in 1929 with The Awful Truth, with leading lady Ina Claire.
Other Broadway credits include; The Woman on the Jury (1923), The Second Mrs. Tanqueray (1924), Heat Wave (1931), For Services Rendered (1933), Kind Lady (1935), Hedda Gabler (1942), Murder Without Crime (1943), Lovers and Friends (1943–44), The Winter's Tale (1946), Lady Windermere's Fan (1946–47), The First Mrs. Frazier (1947), That Lady (1949–50), The Cocktail Party (1950–51), My 3 Angels (1953–54), Lord Pengo (1962–63).
Daniell appeared as Professor Moriarty in the Basil Rathbone-Nigel Bruce Sherlock Holmes film The Woman in Green (1945). He appeared in other films such as Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator (1940) (he played Garbitsch, a parody of Joseph Goebbels), and The Body Snatcher (1945, with Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi) – as well as two other films in the Sherlock Holmes/Basil Rathbone series: The Voice of Terror (1942) and Sherlock Holmes in Washington (1943) with fellow Moriarty George Zucco.
He played the sleazy Baron de Varville opposite Greta Garbo in Camille (1936). Another early triumph was his portrayal of Cecil in The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939). But he is perhaps[weasel words] best remembered for his role as the treacherous Lord Wolfingham (no relation to Francis Walsingham) in The Sea Hawk (1940). Here, he fought Errol Flynn in what is often considered one of the most spectacular sword fighting duels ever filmed. When Michael Curtiz cast him in this film, Henry Daniell initially refused because he couldn't fence. Curtiz accomplished the climactic duel by imaginative[opinion] use of shadows from candlelight with a double fencing Flynn with ingenious inter-cutting of their faces.
Towards the end of World War II, he appeared in one of his most memorable film roles, as the cruel Henry Brocklehurst in Jane Eyre (1944), opposite Joan Fontaine who played Eyre. In the 1950s and 1960s, he did much television, and memorably[opinion] appeared as the malevolent Dr. Emil Zurich in Edward L. Cahn's The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake (1959), and in perhaps[weasel words] the most famous episode of Maverick, "Pappy" opposite James Garner the same year. An absolute professional, he was always on the set when needed, and impatient when delays in filming took place. Much in demand for his dry, sardonic delivery, Daniell moved easily from big-budget films, such as Mutiny on the Bounty (1962), to television without difficulty. In 1957, Daniell appeared as King Charles II of England in the NBC anthology series The Joseph Cotten Show in the episode "The Trial of Colonel Blood", with Michael Wilding in the title role. In the same year he played second chair to Charles Laughton's lead counsel in Witness for the Prosecution (1957 film).
His last role was a small uncredited appearance as the British Ambassador in the 1964 film My Fair Lady directed by his old friend George Cukor. Although it is often assumed that Daniell is merely a background player in the film and had no lines, he does speak and is, in fact, very noticeable, especially to fans who remember him from his old films.[opinion] The scene in which he appears takes place at the embassy ball. He is seen as Eliza arrives and when introduced to her shakes her hand and says "Miss Doolittle." Later, Daniell presents Eliza to the Queen of Transylvania with the one line, "Miss Doolittle, ma'am." In the commentary on the DVD, at the moment he appears on-screen in the role, it is mentioned that the day he shot the scene was "his last day on earth", as he died from a heart attack that very evening on 31 October 1963 in Santa Monica, California.
He married Ann Knox, and in the years following World War II lived in Los Angeles, California.
He and Ann were involved in a Hollywood sex scandal in the late 1930s. Visiting author P.G. Wodehouse wrote to his stepdaughter Leonora about the couple:
Apparently they go down to Los Angeles and either (a) indulge in or (b) witness orgies – probably both … there’s something pleasantly domestic about a husband and wife sitting side by side with their eyes glued to peepholes, watching the baser elements whoop it up. And what I want to know is – where are these orgies? I feel I’ve been missing something.
- Jealousy (1929)
- The Awful Truth (1929)
- The Path of Glory (1934)
- The Unguarded Hour (1936)
- Madame X (1937)
- Holiday (1938)
- The Great Dictator (1940)
- The Philadelphia Story (1941)
- The Great Impersonation (1942)
- Jane Eyre (1943)
- Captain Kidd (1945)
- The Body Snatcher (1945)
- The Secret of St. Ives (1949)
- The Egyptian (1954)
- Lust for Life (1956)
- Witness for the Prosecution (1957)
- The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake (1959)
- Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1961)
- My Fair Lady (1964)
- Who's Who in the Theatre, edited by John Parker, tenth edition, revised, London, 1947, pp. 477–478