|Born||Arthur Nigel Davenport
23 May 1928
Great Shelford, Cambridgeshire, England
|Died||25 October 2013
|Spouse(s)||Helena White (1951-1960; divorced)
Maria Aitken (1972–1981; divorced)
Early life and education
Davenport was born in Great Shelford, Cambridgeshire, to Katherine Lucy (née Meiklejohn) and Arthur Henry Davenport. 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.
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. 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).
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". 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. 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.
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.
|1959||Look Back in Anger||1st Commercial Traveller|
|1960||Peeping Tom||Det. Sgt. Miller||Uncredited|
|1960||The Entertainer||Theatre Manager||Uncredited|
|1962||Mix Me a Person||Juke's Stepfather|
|1963||Ladies Who Do||Mr Strang|
|1964||The Third Secret||Lew Harding|
|1965||A High Wind in Jamaica||Mr Thornton|
|1965||Where the Spies Are||Parkington|
|1965||Sands of the Kalahari||Sturdevan|
|1965||Life at the Top||Mottram|
|1966||A Man for All Seasons||Duke of Norfolk|
|1968||Play Dirty||Captain Cyril Leech|
|1968||The Strange Affair||Defence Counsel|
|1969||The Royal Hunt of the Sun||Hernando de Soto|
|1969||The Virgin Soldiers||Sergeant Driscoll|
|1970||No Blade of Grass||John Custance|
|1970||The Mind of Mr. Soames||Dr Maitland|
|1971||Mary, Queen of Scots||Lord Bothwell|
|1971||The Last Valley||Gruber|
|1972||Living Free||George Adamson|
|1973||Bram Stoker's Dracula||Van Helsing|
|1973||The Picture of Dorian Gray||Sir Harry Wotton|
|1974||Phase IV||Dr Ernest D. Hubbs|
|1975||The Regent's Wife|
|1975||Trick or Treat||Unfinished|
|1977||The Island of Dr. Moreau||Montgomery|
|1977||Stand Up, Virgin Soldiers||Sgt. Driscoll|
|1979||The London Connection||Arthur Minton|
|1979||Zulu Dawn||Colonel Hamilton-Brown|
|1980||Cry of the Innocent||Gray Harrison Hunt||TV movie|
|1981||Chariots of Fire||Lord Birkenhead|
|1984||A Christmas Carol||Silas Scrooge|
|1984||Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes||Major Jack Downing|
|1986||Lord Mountbatten: The Last Viceroy||Lord Ismay|
|1988||Without a Clue||Lord Smithwick|
|1993||Keeping Up Appearances ("The Commodore")||The Commodore||1 episode|
|1996||The Treasure Seekers||Lord Blackstock||TV movie|
|1997||The Opium War||Uncredited|
|1997||Shanghai 1937||Butler||TV movie|
|1957-1958||The Adventures of Robin Hood||St Peter Marston, Claude the Seneschal, Barty and others||7 episodes|
|1975||Oil Strike North||Jim Fraser||13 episodes|
|1979||Prince Regent||King George III||8 episodes, TV mini-series|
|1982||An Inspector Calls||Arthur Birling||3 episodes, TV mini-series|
|1985-1990||Howards' Way||Sir Edward Frere||29 episodes|
|2000||David Copperfield||Dan Peggotty||TV movie|
|2000||Midsomer Murders||William Smithers||1 episode|
|2000||Longitude||Sir Charles Pelham||TV movie|
|Death of a Snowman|
- Coveney, Michael. "Nigel Davenport obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 October 2013.
- "Cambridge-born actor Nigel Davenport, star of Chariots of Fire and Howards' Way, dies aged 85". www.cambridge-news.co.uk. Retrieved 31 October 2013.
- Profile of Nigel Davenport at FilmReference.com
- Anthony Hayward "Obituary: Nigel Davenport, character actor sought by directors in all mediums for nearly half a century", The Independent, 30 October 2013
- Obituary:Nigel Davenport, telegraph.co.uk, 29 October 2013
- IMDb profile of Nigel Davenport
- "2001: A Space Odyssey revisited". BBC News. Retrieved 30 November 2014.
- Nigel Davenport at the Internet Movie Database
- Nigel Davenport recalls his appearance on This Is Your Life