Denholm Mitchell Elliott
31 May 1922
Kensington, Middlesex, England
|Died||6 October 1992 (aged 70)|
Santa Eulària des Riu, Ibiza, Spain
|Alma mater||Royal Academy of Dramatic Art|
(m. 1954; div. 1957)
Denholm Mitchell Elliott CBE (31 May 1922 – 6 October 1992) was an English actor. Elliott trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art before appearing in numerous productions on stage and screen. Film critic Roger Ebert described him as "the most dependable of all British character actors." The New York Times called him "a star among supporting players" and "an accomplished scene-stealer". He was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) by Queen Elizabeth II in 1988.
He received three BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for his roles in Trading Places (1983), A Private Function (1984) and Defence of the Realm (1985).[a] He received an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor nomination for A Room with a View (1985). He's also known for his performances in Alfie (1966), A Doll's House (1973), A Bridge Too Far (1977), Maurice (1987), September (1987), and Noises Off (1992). He portrayed Marcus Brody in the Steven Spielberg films Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989).
Elliott was born May 31, 1922, in Kensington, London, the son of Nina (née Mitchell; 1893–1966) and Myles Layman Farr Elliott, MBE (1890–1933), a barrister who had read law and Arabic at Cambridge before fighting with the Gloucestershire Regiment at Gallipoli and in Mesopotamia. In 1930, Myles Elliott was appointed solicitor-general to the Mandatory Government in Palestine. Three years later, following a series of controversial government prosecutions, he was assassinated outside the King David Hotel and buried in the Protestant Cemetery on Mount Zion. Elliott's elder brother Neil Emerson Elliott (1920–2003) was a land agent to Lady Anne Cavendish-Bentinck.
Elliott attended Malvern College and trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London. He was asked to leave the Academy after one term. As Elliott later recalled, "They wrote to my mother and said, 'Much as we like the little fellow, he's wasting your money and our time. Take him away!'"
In the Second World War, he joined the Royal Air Force, training as a wireless operator/air gunner and serving with No. 76 Squadron RAF under the command of Leonard Cheshire. On the night of 23/24 September 1942, his Handley Page Halifax DT508 bomber took part in an air raid on the U-boat pens at Flensburg, Germany. The aircraft was hit by flak and subsequently ditched in the North Sea near Sylt, Germany. Elliott and four of his crewmen survived, and he spent the rest of the war in Stalag Luft VIIIb, a prisoner-of-war camp in Lamsdorf (now Łambinowice), Silesia. While imprisoned, he became involved in amateur dramatics. He formed a theatre group that was so successful it toured other POW camps playing Twelfth Night.
After making his film debut in Dear Mr. Prohack (1949) he went on to play a wide range of parts, including an officer in The Cruel Sea and often ineffectual and occasionally seedy characters, such as the drunken journalist Bayliss in Defence of the Realm, the criminal abortionist in Alfie, and the washed-up film director in The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz. Elliott and Natasha Parry played the main roles in the 1955 television play The Apollo of Bellac. He took over for an ill Michael Aldridge for one season of The Man in Room 17 (1966)
Elliott made many television appearances, which included plays by Dennis Potter such as Follow the Yellow Brick Road (1972), Brimstone and Treacle, (1976) and Blade on the Feather (1980). He starred in the BBC's adaptation of Charles Dickens's short story The Signalman (1976). He also co- starred in the made-for-T.V. film The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, starring Jack Palance, produced by Dan Curtis, music composed and conducted by Robert Cobert (Curtis and Cobert were also, at that time, working on the famed Gothic horror soap opera Dark Shadows [1966 - 1971.])
In the 1980s he won three consecutive British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Awards: Best Supporting Actor for Trading Places as Dan Aykroyd's kindly butler, A Private Function, and Defence of the Realm. He received an Academy Award nomination for A Room with a View. He became familiar to a wider audience as the well-meaning but confused Dr. Marcus Brody in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. A photograph of his character appears in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and a reference is made to Brody's death. Also, a statue was dedicated to Marcus outside Marshall College, the school where Indy teaches. In 1988 Elliott was the Russian mole Povin, around whom the entire plot revolves, in the television miniseries Codename: Kyril.
Having filmed Michael Winner's The Wicked Lady (1983), Elliott was quoted in a BBC Radio interview as saying that Marc Sinden and he "are the only two British actors I am aware of who have ever worked with Winner more than once, and it certainly wasn't for love. But curiously, I never, ever saw any of the same crew twice." (Elliott in You Must Be Joking! (1965) and The Wicked Lady and Sinden in The Wicked Lady and Decadence). Elliott had worked with Sinden's father, Sir Donald Sinden, in the film The Cruel Sea (1953). He co-starred with Katharine Hepburn and Harold Gould in the television film Mrs. Delafield Wants to Marry (1986) and with Nicole Kidman in Bangkok Hilton (1989).
In 1988 Elliott was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his services to acting. His career included many stage performances, including with the Royal Shakespeare Company, and a well-acclaimed turn as the twin brothers in Jean Anouilh's Ring Round the Moon. His scene-stealing abilities led Gabriel Byrne, his co-star in Defence of the Realm, to say, "Never act with children, dogs, or Denholm Elliott."
Despite being described by the British Film Institute's Screenonline as an actor of "versatile understanding and immaculate technique," Elliott described himself as an instinctive actor and was a critic of Stanislavski's system of acting, saying, "I mistrust and am rather bored with actors who are of the Stanislavski school who think about detail."
Secretly bisexual, Elliott was married twice: first to actress Virginia McKenna for a few months in 1954, and later in an open marriage to American actress Susan Robinson, with whom he had two children, Mark and Jennifer, the latter of whom died by suicide in 2003.
Elliott was diagnosed with HIV in 1987 and died of AIDS-related tuberculosis at his home in Santa Eulària des Riu on Ibiza, Spain, on 6 October 1992 at the age of 70. Tributes were paid by actors Sir Donald Sinden and Sir Peter Ustinov, playwright Dennis Potter and former wife Virginia McKenna. Sinden said, "He was one of the finest screen actors and a very special actor at that. He was one of the last stars who was a real gentleman. It is a very sad loss." Ustinov said, "He was a wonderful actor and a very good friend on the occasions that life brought us together." Potter commented, "He was a complicated, sensitive, and slightly disturbing actor. Not only was he a very accomplished actor, he was a dry, witty, and slightly menacing individual. As a man, I always found him very open, very straightforward and very much to the point." McKenna added, "It is absolutely dreadful, but the person I am thinking of at the moment more than anybody is his wife. It must be terrible for her." Ismail Merchant described Elliott as "an all-giving person, full of life ... He had an affection and feeling for other actors, which is very unusual in our business."
His widow set up a charity, the Denholm Elliott Project, and collaborated on his biography. She worked closely with the UK Coalition of People Living with HIV and AIDS. Susan Robinson Elliott died on 12 April 2007, aged 65, in a fire in her flat in London.
|1949||Dear Mr. Prohack||Oswald Morfrey|
|1952||The Sound Barrier||Christopher Ridgefield||Breaking the Sound Barrier in USA|||
|The Holly and the Ivy||Michael Gregory|
|The Ringer||John Lemley|
|1953||The Cruel Sea||Morell|||
|The Heart of the Matter||Wilson|||
|1954||Lease of Life||Martin Blake|||
|They Who Dare||Sgt. Corcoran|||
|1955||The Man Who Loved Redheads||Denis|||
|The Night My Number Came Up||Mackenzie|
|1956||Pacific Destiny||Arthur Grimble|||
|1960||Scent of Mystery||Oliver Larker|
|1964||Nothing But the Best||Charlie Prince|||
|1965||The High Bright Sun||Baker|
|1967||Maroc 7||Inspector Barrada|
|1968||The Night They Raided Minsky's||Vance Fowler|||
|The Sea Gull||Dorn, a doctor|||
|1970||Too Late the Hero||Captain Hornsby|||
|The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer||Peter Niss|
|The House That Dripped Blood||Charles Hillyer||Segment 1: Method for Murder|
|Quest for Love||Tom Lewis|
|1972||Madame Sin||Malcolm De Vere|
|1973||The Vault of Horror||Diltant||Segment 5: Drawn and Quartered|
|A Doll's House||Krogstad|||
|1974||The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz||Friar|||
|1975||Russian Roulette||Commander Petapiece|
|1976||Robin and Marian||Will Scarlet|
|To the Devil a Daughter||Henry Beddows|
|Voyage of the Damned||Admiral Canaris|
|1977||A Bridge Too Far||R.A.F. Met. Officer|
|1978||The Hound of the Baskervilles||Stapleton|
|The Boys From Brazil||Sidney Beynon|
|Sweeney 2||Det. Chief Super. Jupp|
|1979||Zulu Dawn||Colonel Pulleine|
|Saint Jack||William Leigh|
|1980||Bad Timing||Stefan Vognic|
|Rising Damp||Charles Seymour|
|Sunday Lovers||Parker||Segment: An Englishman's Home|
|1981||Raiders of the Lost Ark||Dr. Marcus Brody|||
|1982||Brimstone and Treacle||Mr. Tom Bates|
|1983||The Wicked Lady||Sir Ralph Skelton|
|1984||The Razor's Edge||Elliott Templeton|||
|A Private Function||Dr. Charles Swaby|||
|1985||A Room with a View||Mr Emerson|||
|1986||Defence of the Realm||Vernon Bayliss|||
|The Whoopee Boys||Col. Phelps|
|1989||Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade||Dr. Marcus Brody|||
|1992||Noises Off||Selsdon Mowbray||Final film role|||
|1958–59||Alfred Hitchcock Presents||John Manbridge/Jack Lyons||2 episodes|
|1963||Hancock||Peter Dartford||1 episode|
|1965||Danger Man||Basil Jordan||Season 3 Episode 18: The Hunting Party|
|1966||The Man in Room 17||Defraits||13 episodes|
|Mystery and Imagination||Roderick Usher||Episode: The Fall of the House of Usher|
|1968||The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde||George Devlin||T.V. film|
|1968||Mystery and Imagination||Count Dracula||Episode: Dracula|
|1972||The Persuaders!||Roland||Episode: A Death in the Family|
|Follow the Yellow Brick Road||Jack Black||TV play|
|1975||Thriller||Dr. Frank Henson||Episode: The Crazy Kill|
|1976||Brimstone and Treacle||Mr. Tom Bates||TV play: Play for Today|
|Clayhanger||Tertius Ingpen||9 episodes|
|The Signalman||The Signalman||TV play|
|1977||Ripping Yarns||Mr Gregory||Episode: Across The Andes by Frog|
|1980||Hammer House of Horror||Norman Shenley||Episode: Rude Awakening|
|1980||Blade on the Feather||Jack Hill||TV film|
|1982||Marco Polo||Niccolò Polo||8 episodes|
|1983||The Hound of the Baskervilles||Dr. Mortimer||TV film|
|1984||Camille||Count de Noilly||TV film|
|1985||Bleak House||John Jarndyce||7 episodes|
|1986||Mrs. Delafield Wants to Marry||George Parker||TV film|
|1987||Hotel du Lac||Phillip Neville||TV film|
|Scoop||Mr. Salter||TV film|
|A Child's Christmas in Wales||Old Geraint||TV film|
|The Happy Valley||Sir Henry 'Jock' Delves Broughton||TV film|
|1988||Codename: Kyril||Povin||4 episodes|
|The Ray Bradbury Theater||Tom Cotter||Episode: The Coffin|
|The Bourne Identity||Dr Geoffrey Washburn||TV mini-series|
|Noble House||Alastair Struan||4 episodes|
|1989||Bangkok Hilton||Hal Stanton||3 episodes|
|1990||A Green Journey||James O'Hannon||TV film|
|1991||A Murder of Quality||George Smiley||TV film|
|One Against the Wind||Father LeBlanc||TV film|
|The Black Candle||William Filmore||TV film|
Awards and nominations
|1986||Academy Awards||Best Supporting Actor||A Room with a View||Nominated|
|1973||British Academy Film Awards||Best Supporting Actor||A Doll's House||Nominated|
|1981||Raiders of the Lost Ark||Nominated|
|1984||A Private Function||Won|
|1985||Defence of the Realm||Won|
|1986||A Room with a View||Nominated|
|1984||British Academy Television Awards||Best Supporting Actor||Blade on the Feather
Tales of the Unexpected
|1986||Best Actor||Screen Two||Nominated|
- ^ to this day, a still-unbeaten record.
- ^ a b "British Film Institute Biography". Retrieved 24 September 2007.
- ^ Roger Ebert (2008). Roger Ebert's Four Star Reviews 1967-2007. Andrews McMeel Publishing. p. 655. ISBN 978-0740771798.
- ^ Lambert, Bruce (7 October 1992). "Denholm Elliott, Actor, 70, Dies; A Star Among Supporting Players". The New York Times. New York. Retrieved 11 February 2017.
- ^ a b "The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. 2004. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/51023. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
- ^ "Obituary Neil Elliott". Daily Telegraph. 14 April 2003. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022. Retrieved 5 September 2016.
- ^ BBC Radio. Desert Island Discs, 14 September 1974.
- ^ "Encyclopædia Britannica". Retrieved 24 September 2007.
- ^ Record for Halifax DT508, LostAircraft.com
- ^ Falconer, Jonathon (1998). The Bomber Command Handbook 1939–1945. Stroud: Sutton Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7509-1819-0.
- ^ Rolfe, Mel (15 July 2008). Flying into Hell: The Bomber Command Offensive as Seen Through the Experiences of Twenty Crews. Casemate Publishers. ISBN 978-1-909166-32-5.
- ^ "Giraudoux Play On Television 'The Apollo Of Bellac'", The Times, 13 August 1955.
- ^ Woods, Judith (8 February 2011). "Michael Winner: 'The Life I've Lived, the Girls I've Had... Ht's Been Incredible'". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022.
- ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r "Obituary: Denholm Elliott". The Independent. 7 October 1992.
- ^ Oliver, Myrna (7 October 1992). "Denholm Elliott; Veteran Character Actor". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 22 July 2014.
- ^ a b c d e "Susan Robinson Elliott obituary". The Daily Telegraph. 24 April 2007. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022.
- ^ a b c d "Denholm Elliott dies from AIDS-related TB, aged 70". The Independent. 7 October 1992.
- ^ "Oscar nominee Elliott dies of AIDS problems". Variety. 7 October 1992.
- ^ Elliott, Susan; Turner, Barry (1994). Denholm Elliott: Quest for Love.
- ^ Brian McFarlane (16 May 2016). The Encyclopedia of British Film (4th ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 228. ISBN 9781526111975. Retrieved 12 March 2017.
- 1922 births
- 1992 deaths
- 20th-century deaths from tuberculosis
- 20th-century English male actors
- 20th-century English LGBT people
- AIDS-related deaths in Spain
- Alumni of RADA
- Best Supporting Actor BAFTA Award winners
- Best Actor BAFTA Award (television) winners
- Bisexual male actors
- English LGBT actors
- British World War II prisoners of war
- Commanders of the Order of the British Empire
- Donaldson Award winners
- English expatriates in Spain
- English male film actors
- English male Shakespearean actors
- English male stage actors
- English male television actors
- English male voice actors
- Male actors from London
- Military personnel from Middlesex
- People educated at Malvern College
- People from Kensington
- People from Ibiza
- People with HIV/AIDS
- Royal Air Force airmen
- Royal Air Force personnel of World War II
- Shot-down aviators
- Tuberculosis deaths in Spain
- World War II prisoners of war held by Germany