Nigel Davenport

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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.
Born Arthur Nigel Davenport
(1928-05-23)23 May 1928
Great Shelford, Cambridgeshire, England
Died 25 October 2013(2013-10-25) (aged 85)
Gloucestershire, England
Years active 1953-2003
Spouse(s) Helena White (1951-1960; divorced)
Maria Aitken (1972–1981; divorced)
Children 3

Arthur Nigel Davenport (23 May 1928 – 25 October 2013) was an English stage, television and film actor.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

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. He grew up in an academic family and was educated at St Peter's School, Seaford, Cheltenham College and Trinity College, Oxford. 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, on 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]

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

Speaking of working with Jack Palance on the Dan Curtis production of Dracula (1973), Davenport said "I was pretty frightened of that gentleman because he was so bloody tall! He was six-foot-four and, as he wanted to look like Dracula, he had three-inch lifts in his shoes, so he was like six-foot-seven - and he was a big guy".[6] During the production of Stanley Kubrick's 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. Canadian actor Douglas Rain was ultimately chosen for the role of HAL's voice.[7] Davenport took the leading role in the off-beat Phase IV (1974), which failed to find an audience.

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. He retired from acting at the turn of the 21st century when he could no longer memorise lines from scripts.

Personal life[edit]

Davenport was married twice, first to Helena Margaret White whom he met while he was studying at Oxford University. They married in 1951 and had a daughter, Laura and a son, Hugo. His second wife was actress Maria Aitken with whom he had a second son, Jack, also an actor, best known for co-starring in Pirates of the Caribbean. 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]



  1. ^ Coveney, Michael. "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". Retrieved 31 October 2013. 
  3. ^ Profile of Nigel Davenport at
  4. ^ Anthony Hayward "Obituary: Nigel Davenport, character actor sought by directors in all mediums for nearly half a century", The Independent, 30 October 2013
  5. ^ a b Obituary:Nigel Davenport,, 29 October 2013
  6. ^ IMDb profile of Nigel Davenport
  7. ^ "2001: A Space Odyssey revisited". BBC News. Retrieved 30 November 2014. 

External links[edit]