Richard Johnson (actor)

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Richard Johnson
Richard Johnson (actor).jpg
Richard Johnson, c. 2008
Born (1927-07-30)30 July 1927
Upminster, Essex, England, UK
Died 5 June 2015(2015-06-05) (aged 87)
Chelsea, London, England, UK
Years active 1950-2015
Spouse(s) Sheila Sweet (2 children)
Kim Novak (1965–1966; divorced)
Marie-Louise Norlund (1 child)
Lynne Gurney (2004-2015; his death)
Partner(s) Françoise Pascal (1 son)[1]

Richard Keith Johnson[2] (30 July 1927 – 5 June 2015)[3] was a British actor, writer and producer, who starred in several British films of the 1960s and also had TV roles and a distinguished stage career. His last known film appearance was in Radiator (2014).

Early life and acting career[edit]

Johnson was born in Upminster, Essex, the son of Frances Louisa Olive (née Tweed) and Keith Holcombe Johnson.[4] Johnson went to Felsted School, then trained at RADA and made his first professional appearances on stage in Manchester with John Gielgud's company in a production of Hamlet in 1944.[5]

He served in the Royal Navy from 1945 to 1948,[2] and made his film debut in 1959, when he appeared in a major co-star role in the MGM film Never So Few, starring Frank Sinatra and Gina Lollobrigida. Subsequently he was contracted by MGM to appear in 1 film per year over 6 years. His biggest successes as a film actor came with The Haunting (1963) also featuring Claire Bloom and Julie Harris, Khartoum (1966) with Charlton Heston and Laurence Olivier, and the spy film Danger Route (1967). Johnson was director Terence Young's preferred choice for the role of James Bond in the first film in the series, but Johnson turned the role down.[6] A few years later, Bulldog Drummond was reimagined as a 007-type hero in Deadlier Than the Male (1967) and its sequel Some Girls Do (1969).[5]

He also appeared in several Italian films, including Lucio Fulci's cult classic, Zombi 2 and Sergio Martino's L'isola degli uomini pesce (aka Island of the Fishmen). At the same time, he was a stage actor, appearing in the title role in Tony Richardson's production of Pericles, Prince of Tyre in 1958. His stage career was extensive and distinguished. His early work in the London theatre attracted the attention of the director of the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre. He appeared in many important productions at that theatre in the late 1950s and early 1960s, making notable successes as Romeo, Orlando in As You Like It, Pericles and Mark Antony in Julius Caesar.[5]

In 1958 he appeared in Peter Hall's first production at the theatre, Cymbeline, and the following year in Twelfth Night (as Sir Andrew Aguecheek). Hall took over the direction of the company in 1959 - it was renamed the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), and he invited Johnson to be part of the first group of actors to be named an Associate Artist of the RSC, a position he retained until he died. He continued to act with the RSC from time to time, including as Antony in Antony and Cleopatra, which he played on two occasions (in 1971–72, with Janet Suzman, and in 1991–92). He played the role in ITV's production in 1974.[citation needed]

He continued to appear on film and television in the first decade of the 21st century. His films during this period included Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. He also appeared in several TV films: in 2005 he appeared as Stanley Baldwin in Wallis & Edward, in 2007 as Earl Mountbatten in Whatever Love Means, and in 2009 in Lewis. He contributed to British episodic TV, including Spooks, Waking the Dead, twice in Midsomer Murders, and twice in Doc Martin (as Colonel Gilbert Spencer). From 2007, he led the cast of the BBC's radio comedy series Bleak Expectations which ran until 2012.[5]

Other work[edit]

Throughout his career Johnson continued to teach young actors and students. He toured American universities and taught summer schools at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA). He was appointed to the Council of RADA in 2000, and served as a Council Member of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) in the 1970s. Johnson wrote the original story for the 1975 thriller, Hennessy.[citation needed]

Johnson founded the British production company United British Artists (UBA) in 1981, and served as the company's CEO until 1990, when he resigned in order to resume his acting career. During his tenure at UBA he produced the films Turtle Diary (starring Glenda Jackson and Ben Kingsley, with a screenplay commissioned from Harold Pinter), and The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne. In London, he produced Pinter's Old Times, a revival of Serjeant Musgrave's Dance (Old Vic), and for theatre and television, the docudrama Biko, about the death of Steven Biko.

Johnson wrote travel articles regularly for the London mass-circulation newspaper The Mail on Sunday. He kept a blog and teaching website called The Shakespeare Masterclass.[7]

Personal life[edit]

By his first marriage, to Sheila Sweet, Johnson had two children, tabletop games designer Jervis Johnson (b. 1959)[verification needed] and actress Sorel Johnson. His second wife was American actress Kim Novak, with whom he appeared in the film The Amorous Adventures of Moll Flanders (1965); they had no children. He also had another daughter, Jennifer Johnson, by his third wife, Marie-Louise Norlund,[2] and a fourth child, Nicholas Johnson, by Françoise Pascal. Johnson then married Lynne Gurney on a beach in Goa, India, in 1989, following this with a discreet civil wedding at Kings Road, Chelsea in 2004.

Johnson was the founder of It's a Green Green World, a global listing of environmentally friendly hotels.[8]


Johnson died on 5 June 2015, aged 87, at the Royal Marsden Hospital in Chelsea, London.[3]



Year Title Role Notes
1951 Captain Horatio Hornblower R.N Macrae (uncredited)
1951 Calling Bulldog Drummond Control Tower Operator (uncredited)
1953 Saadia Lt. Girard
1959 Never So Few Captain Danny De Mortimer
1963 Cairo Ali
1963 80,000 Suspects Dr Steven Monks
1963 The Haunting Dr. John Markway
1964 The Pumpkin Eater Giles
1965 Operation Crossbow Duncan Sandys
1965 The Amorous Adventures of Moll Flanders Jemmy
1966 Khartoum Col. John Stewart
1967 Deadlier Than the Male Hugh Drummond
1967 The Rover Real
1967 Danger Route Jonas Wilde
1968 Oedipus the King Creon
1968 A Twist of Sand Geoffrey Peace
1968 The Column Tiberius
1968 Emma Hamilton Horatio Nelson
1969 The Fifth Day of Peace Captain John Miller
1969 Some Girls Do Hugh Drummond
1970 Julius Caesar Caius Cassius
1974 Beyond the Door Dimitri
1975 The Cursed Medallion
1975 Hennessy Inspector Hollis
1976 Take All of Me Richard Lasky
1976 Aces High Lyle
1977 The Four Feathers Abou Fatma
1978 The Comeback Macauley
1979 Island of the Fishmen
1979 The Great Alligator River Prophet Jameson
1979 Zombi 2 Dr. Menard Released as Zombie in USA
1979 A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square Inspector Watford
1981 The Monster Club Busotsky's Father
1985 Turtle Diary Mr Johnson
1985 What Waits Below Ben Gannon
1986 Lady Jane The Earl of Arundel
2001 Lara Croft: Tomb Raider Distinguished Gentleman
2006 Scoop Mr Quincy
2008 The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas Grandpa
2014 Radiator Leonard
2015 The Man Who Knew Infinity


Year Title Role Notes
1952 Pride and Prejudice Mr Wickham 3 episodes
1953 The Heir of Skipton John Lord Clifford/Henry Clifford 3 episodes
1973-74 Moses the Lawgiver Narrator Voice
1974 Antony and Cleopatra Mark Antony TV movie
1975 Churchill's People Claudius Episode: The Lost Island
1975 Space: 1999 Lee Russell Episode: Matter of Life and Death
1977 The Four Feathers Abou Fatma TV movie
1988 A Man for All Seasons Duke of Norfolk TV movie
2005 The Robinsons Hector Robinson 6 episodes
2008 Spooks Bernard Qualtrough 4 episodes, released as MI-5 in USA


  1. ^ Brian Pendreigh "Obituary: Richard Johnson, actor", The Scotsman, 8 June 2015
  2. ^ a b c Michael Coveney Richard Johnson obituary,, 7 June 2015, accessed 8 June 2015.
  3. ^ a b
  4. ^ "Richard Johnson profile". 30 July 1927. Retrieved 28 February 2012. 
  5. ^ a b c d "Richard Johnson, actor - obituary", Daily Telegraph, 7 June 2015, accessed 9 June 2015
  6. ^ Cinema Retro magazine issue #10
  7. ^ Staff. "The Shakespeare Masterclass". The Shakespeare Masterclass. Retrieved 28 February 2012. 
  8. ^ "It's a Green Green World". Retrieved 28 February 2012. 

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