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]



Year Title Role Notes
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 Sebastian General Philips
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 Villain Bob Matthews
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
1981 Nighthawks Peter Hartman
1984 A Christmas Carol Silas Scrooge
1984 Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes Major Jack Downing
1986 Caravaggio Giustiniani
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


Year Title Role Notes
1957-1958 The Adventures of Robin Hood St Peter Marston, Claude the Seneschal, Barty and others 7 episodes
South Riding
1975 Oil Strike North Jim Fraser 13 episodes
1979 Prince Regent King George III 8 episodes, TV mini-series
1981 Masada Sen. Mucianus
1982 Minder Ray
1982 An Inspector Calls Arthur Birling 3 episodes, TV mini-series
1985-1990 Howards' Way Sir Edward Frere 29 episodes
1991 Trainer James Brant
1998 Mosley Viscount Rothermere
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


  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]