James Villiers in trailer for "Murder At The Gallop" (1963)
|Born||James Michael Hyde Villiers
29 September 1933
London, England, UK
|Died||18 January 1998
Arundel, Sussex, England, UK
|Cause of death||cancer|
|Spouse(s)||Patricia Donovan (1966-1984) (dissolved)
Lucy Jex (1994-1998) (his death)
James Michael Hyde Villiers (29 September 1933 – 18 January 1998) was an English character actor and a familiar face on British television. James was particularly memorable for his plummy voice and ripe articulation. He has been credited with originating the use of the word "luvvie" to describe members of the acting profession.
Villiers was born in London, the son of Eric Hyde Villiers and Joan Ankaret Talbot; he was educated at Wellington College, Berkshire and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. 'Gentleman Jim' Villiers (pronounced Villers) was from an upper-class background, the grandson of Sir Francis Hyde Villiers and great grandson of George Villiers, 4th Earl of Clarendon; his mother was descended from Earl Talbot. His aristocratic ancestry was often reflected in the types of role he played, such as King Charles II in the BBC series The First Churchills (1969), the Earl of Warwick in Saint Joan (1974), and Lord Thurlow in The Madness of George III.
Through his father, Villiers was a relative of Thomas Hyde Villiers, Charles Pelham Villiers, Henry Montagu Villiers and the former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Theresa Villiers. Through his mother, he was distantly related to Charles Chetwynd-Talbot, 22nd Earl of Shrewsbury.
Villiers made his film début in 1958 and appeared in many British films over the years, including Joseph Losey's The Damned (also known as These Are the Damned), shot in 1961 but not released until 1963; Seth Holt's The Nanny (1965), Joseph Andrews (1977), For Your Eyes Only (1981), The Scarlet Pimpernel (1982), Mountains of the Moon (1990) and The Tichborne Claimant (1998), along with numerous other projects. He often specialised in playing cold, somewhat effete villains.
He played the role of Colonel Hensman in the television adaptation of Brendon Chase and was heard on BBC Radio 4 as the voice of Roderick Spode in The Code of the Woosters and several other adaptations of the Jeeves stories of P. G. Wodehouse, which starred Michael Hordern and Richard Briers.
Villiers was married twice: in 1966 to Patricia Donovan (marriage dissolved 1984), and in 1994 to Lucy Jex; his second marriage lasted until his death. He and his first wife adopted a son, Alan Michael Hyde Villiers (born Alan Donovan).
- Carry On Sergeant (1958) as Seventh Recruit
- The Clue of the New Pin (1961) as Tab Holland
- Bomb in the High Street (1961) as Stevens
- Petticoat Pirates (1961) as English Lieutenant
- Operation Snatch (1962) as Lt. Keen
- Eva (1962) as Alan McCormick - a screenwriter
- The Damned (1963) as Captain Gregory
- Murder at the Gallop (1963) as Michael Shane
- Girl in the Headlines (1963) as David Dane
- Father Came Too! (1963) as Benzil Bulstrode
- Nothing But the Best (1964) as Hugh
- King & Country (1964) as Captain Midgely
- Daylight Robbery (1964)
- Repulsion (1965) as John
- Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines (1965) as Yamamoto (voice, uncredited)
- The Alphabet Murders (1965) as Franklin
- You Must Be Joking! (1965) as Bill Simpson
- The Nanny (1965) as Bill Funny
- The Wrong Box (1965) as Sydney Whitcombe Sykes
- Sword of Honour BBC TV (1967) as Ian Kibannock
- Half a Sixpence (1967) as Hubert
- The Touchables (1968) as Twyning
- Some Girls Do (1969) as Carl Petersen
- Otley (1969) as Hendrickson
- A Nice Girl Like Me (1969) as Freddie
- Blood from the Mummy's Tomb (1971) as Corbeck
- The Ruling Class (1972) as Dinsdale Gureny
- Asylum (1972) as George (segment: "Lucy Comes to Stay")
- Follow Me! (1972) as Dinner Guest (uncredited)
- The Amazing Mr. Blunden (1972) as Uncle Bertie
- Ghost in the Noonday Sun (1973) as Parsley-Freck
- Seven Nights in Japan (1976) as Fin
- Spectre (1977) as Sir Geoffrey Cyon
- Joseph Andrews (1977) as Mr. Boody
- Saint Jack (1979) as Frogget
- The Music Machine (1979) as Hector Woodville (uncredited)
- For Your Eyes Only (1981) as Bill Tanner
- The Scarlet Pimpernel (1982) as Baron de Batz
- Mantrap (1983) as Tony Walmsley
- Under the Volcano (1984) as Brit
- Running Out of Luck (1987)
- Scandal (1989) as Conservative M.P.
- Mountains of the Moon (1990) as Lord Oliphant
- King Ralph (1991) as Prime Minister Geoffrey Hale
- Let Him Have It (1991) as Cassels
- Uncovered (1994) as Montegrifo
- E=mc2 (1996) as Dr. James Mallison
- The Tichborne Claimant (1998) as Uncle Henry
Nicholas Whittaker, author of Platform Souls and Blue Period, worked in the Belsize Tavern in 1979 and 1980 and claims to recall Villiers' visits to the pub in the company of local actor Ronald Fraser. After closing time, the pair would often be found in the beer & curry restaurant opposite. Rupert Everett also claims to have encountered him in an Indian restaurant, some time in 1985, "leglessly drunk, booming orders and insults to the poor long-suffering waiter in a strange breathy vibrato that was pitched for the upper circle". Elsewhere, Villiers is described as a "big drinker" who entered into drinking competitions with his friend Peter O'Toole.
- "Peter Bowles says it was an actor who started calling actors "luvvie"". The Telegraph. 17 June 2010. Retrieved 25 September 2016.
- Rupert Everett (4 September 2008). Red Carpets And Other Banana Skins. Little, Brown Book Group. ISBN 978-0-7481-0978-4.
- Gabriel Hershman (April 2013). Send in the Clowns - The Yo Yo Life of Ian Hendry. Lulu.com. pp. 82–. ISBN 978-1-291-27097-6.