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. He was particularly memorable for his plummy voice and ripe articulation.
Life and career
Born in London and educated at Wellington College, Berkshire and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, 'Gentleman Jim' Villiers (pronounced Villers) was from an upper class background, related to the Earls of Clarendon, and this was often reflected in the types of roles he played, such as King Charles II in the BBC series, The First Churchills (1969).
He made his film debut in 1958, and appeared in many British films over the years, including Joseph Losey's The Damned a.k.a. 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 children's television drama 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.
- Carry On Sergeant (1958)
- Bomb in the High Street (1961)
- Operation Snatch (1962)
- The Damned (1963)
- Murder at the Gallop (1963)
- Father Came Too! (1963)
- Nothing But the Best (1964)
- King & Country (1964)
- Repulsion (1965)
- You Must Be Joking! (1965)
- The Alphabet Murders (1965)
- The Nanny (1965)
- Sword of Honour BBC TV (1967)
- Half a Sixpence (1967)
- The Touchables (1968)
- Otley (1968)
- Some Girls Do (1969)
- A Nice Girl Like Me (1969)
- Blood from the Mummy's Tomb (1971)
- The Ruling Class (1972)
- Asylum (1972)
- The Amazing Mr. Blunden (1972)
- Ghost in the Noonday Sun (1973)
- Seven Nights in Japan (1976)
- Spectre (1977)
- Saint Jack (1979)
- For Your Eyes Only (1981)
- The Scarlet Pimpernel (1982)
- Mantrap (1983)
- Under the Volcano (1984)
- The Millionairess (1985)
- Mountains of the Moon (1990)
- King Ralph (1991)
- Let Him Have It (1991)
- Uncovered (1994)
- The Tichborne Claimant (1998)
Nicholas Whittaker, author of Platform Souls and Blue Period, worked in the Belsize Tavern in 1979 and 1980 and recalls 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.
Villiers was married twice: In 1966 to Patricia Donovan (marriage dissolved 1984), and in 1994 to Lucy Jex until his death.
Villiers was a relative of Thomas Hyde Villiers, Charles Pelham Villiers, Henry Villiers and the current Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Theresa Villiers, in addition to the Earls of Clarendon.
Mentioned in Red Carpets And Other Banana Skins by Rupert Everett, p. 88, who 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."