Denholm Mitchell Elliott CBE (31 May 1922 – 6 October 1992) was an English actor.[1] He appeared in numerous productions on stage and screen, receiving BAFTA awards for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Trading Places (1983), A Private Function (1984) and Defence of the Realm (1986),[a] and a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Mr. Emerson in A Room with a View (1985). He is also known for his performances in Alfie (1966), A Doll's House (1973), A Bridge Too Far (1977), Maurice (1987), September (1987), and Noises Off (1992). He portrayed Marcus Brody in the Steven Spielberg and George Lucas films Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989).

Denholm Elliott
Elliott in 1985
Denholm Mitchell Elliott

(1922-05-31)31 May 1922
Died6 October 1992(1992-10-06) (aged 70)
EducationMalvern College
Alma materRoyal Academy of Dramatic Art
Years active1949–1992
(m. 1954; div. 1957)
Susan Robinson
(m. 1962)

The American film critic Roger Ebert described him as "the most dependable of all British character actors."[2] The New York Times called him "a star among supporting players" and "an accomplished scene-stealer".[3] He was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) by Queen Elizabeth II in 1988.

Early life


Elliott was born 31 May 1922, in Kensington, London,[4] the son of Nina (née Mitchell; 1893–1966) and Myles Layman Farr Elliott, MBE (1890–1933),[4] a barrister who had read law and Arabic at Cambridge before fighting with the Gloucestershire Regiment at Gallipoli and in Mesopotamia. In 1930, Myles Elliott was appointed solicitor-general to the Mandatory Government in Palestine. Three years later, following a series of controversial government prosecutions, he was assassinated outside the King David Hotel and buried in the Protestant Cemetery on Mount Zion.[5] Elliott's elder brother Neil Emerson Elliott (1920–2003) was a land agent to Lady Anne Cavendish-Bentinck.

Elliott attended Malvern College and trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London.[6] He was asked to leave the academy after one term. As Elliott later recalled, "They wrote to my mother and said, 'Much as we like the little fellow, he's wasting your money and our time. Take him away!'"[7]

In the Second World War, he joined the Royal Air Force, training as a wireless operator/air gunner and serving with No. 76 Squadron RAF under the command of Leonard Cheshire.[8] On the night of 23/24 September 1942, his Handley Page Halifax DT508[9] bomber took part in an air raid on the U-boat pens at Flensburg, Germany. The aircraft was hit by flak and subsequently ditched in the North Sea near Sylt, Germany. Elliott and four of his crewmen survived, and he spent the rest of the war in Stalag Luft VIIIb, a prisoner-of-war camp in Lamsdorf (now Łambinowice), Silesia. While imprisoned, he became involved in amateur dramatics. He formed a theatre group that was so successful it toured other POW camps playing Twelfth Night.[10][11]



After making his film debut in Dear Mr. Prohack (1949) he went on to play a wide range of parts, including an officer in The Cruel Sea and often ineffectual and occasionally seedy characters, such as the drunken journalist Bayliss in Defence of the Realm, the criminal abortionist in Alfie, and the washed-up film director in The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz. Elliott and Natasha Parry played the main roles in the 1955 television play The Apollo of Bellac.[12] He took over for an ill Michael Aldridge for one season of The Man in Room 17 (1966)

Elliott made many television appearances, which included plays by Dennis Potter such as Follow the Yellow Brick Road (1972), Brimstone and Treacle, (1976) and Blade on the Feather (1980). He starred in the BBC's adaptation of Charles Dickens's short story The Signalman (1976). He also co-starred in the made-for-TV film The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, starring Jack Palance, produced by Dan Curtis, music composed and conducted by Bob Cobert (Curtis and Cobert were also, at that time, working on the famed Gothic horror soap opera Dark Shadows (1966–1971).

In the 1980s he won three consecutive British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Awards: Best Supporting Actor for Trading Places as Dan Aykroyd's kindly butler, A Private Function, and Defence of the Realm. He received an Academy Award nomination for A Room with a View. He became familiar to a wider audience as the well-meaning but confused Dr. Marcus Brody in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. A photograph of his character appears in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and a reference is made to Brody's death. Also, a statue was dedicated to Marcus outside Marshall College, the school where Indy teaches. In 1988 Elliott was the Russian mole Povin, around whom the entire plot revolves, in the television miniseries Codename: Kyril.

Having filmed Michael Winner's The Wicked Lady (1983), Elliott was quoted in a BBC Radio interview as saying that Marc Sinden and he "are the only two British actors I am aware of who have ever worked with Winner more than once, and it certainly wasn't for love. But curiously, I never, ever saw any of the same crew twice." (Elliott in You Must Be Joking! (1965) and The Wicked Lady and Sinden in The Wicked Lady and Decadence). Elliott had worked with Sinden's father, Sir Donald Sinden, in the film The Cruel Sea (1953).[13] He co-starred with Katharine Hepburn and Harold Gould in the television film Mrs. Delafield Wants to Marry (1986) and with Nicole Kidman in Bangkok Hilton (1989).

In 1988 Elliott was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his services to acting. His career included many stage performances, including with the Royal Shakespeare Company, and a well-acclaimed turn as the twin brothers in Jean Anouilh's Ring Round the Moon. His scene-stealing abilities led Gabriel Byrne, his co-star in Defence of the Realm, to say, "Never act with children, dogs, or Denholm Elliott."[14]

Despite being described by the British Film Institute's Screenonline as an actor of "versatile understanding and immaculate technique,"[1] Elliott described himself as an instinctive actor and was a critic of Stanislavski's system of acting, saying, "I mistrust and am rather bored with actors who are of the Stanislavski school who think about detail."[15]

Personal life and death


Secretly bisexual,[16] Elliott was married twice: first to actress Virginia McKenna for a few months in 1954, and later in an open marriage to American actress Susan Robinson, with whom he had two children, Mark and Jennifer, the latter of whom died by suicide in 2003.[16]

Elliott was diagnosed with HIV in 1987[16] and died of AIDS-related tuberculosis at his home in Santa Eulària des Riu on Ibiza, Spain, on 6 October 1992 at the age of 70. Tributes were paid by actors Sir Donald Sinden and Sir Peter Ustinov, playwright Dennis Potter and former wife Virginia McKenna. Sinden said, "He was one of the finest screen actors and a very special actor at that. He was one of the last stars who was a real gentleman. It is a very sad loss." Ustinov said, "He was a wonderful actor and a very good friend on the occasions that life brought us together." Potter commented, "He was a complicated, sensitive, and slightly disturbing actor. Not only was he a very accomplished actor, he was a dry, witty, and slightly menacing individual. As a man, I always found him very open, very straightforward and very much to the point." McKenna added, "It is absolutely dreadful, but the person I am thinking of at the moment more than anybody is his wife. It must be terrible for her."[17] Ismail Merchant described Elliott as "an all-giving person, full of life ... He had an affection and feeling for other actors, which is very unusual in our business."[18]

His widow set up a charity, the Denholm Elliott Project, and collaborated on his biography.[19] She worked closely with the UK Coalition of People Living with HIV and AIDS. Susan Elliott died on 12 April 2007, aged 65, in a fire in her flat in London.[16]




Year Title Role Notes Ref.
1949 Dear Mr. Prohack Oswald Morfrey
1952 The Sound Barrier Christopher Ridgefield Breaking the Sound Barrier in USA [14]
The Holly and the Ivy Michael Gregory
The Ringer John Lemley
1953 The Cruel Sea Morell [14]
The Heart of the Matter Wilson [14]
1954 Lease of Life Martin Blake [14]
They Who Dare Sergeant Corcoran [17]
1955 The Man Who Loved Redheads Denis [14]
The Night My Number Came Up Mackenzie
1956 Pacific Destiny Arthur Grimble [14]
1960 Scent of Mystery Oliver Larker
1963 Station Six-Sahara Macey
1964 Nothing But the Best Charlie Prince [14]
1965 The High Bright Sun Baker
King Rat Larkin [14]
1966 Alfie The Abortionist [14]
1967 Maroc 7 Inspector Barrada
1968 The Night They Raided Minsky's Vance Fowler [14]
The Sea Gull Dorn, a doctor [14]
1970 Too Late the Hero Captain Hornsby [16]
The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer Peter Niss
1971 Percy Emmanuel Whitbread
The House That Dripped Blood Charles Hillyer Segment 1: Method for Murder
Quest for Love Tom Lewis
1972 Madame Sin Malcolm De Vere
1973 The Vault of Horror Diltant Segment 5: Drawn and Quartered
A Doll's House Krogstad [14]
1974 The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz Friar [14]
1975 Russian Roulette Commander Petapiece
1976 Robin and Marian Will Scarlet
To the Devil a Daughter Henry Beddows
Partners John Grey
Voyage of the Damned Admiral Canaris
1977 A Bridge Too Far R.A.F. Met. Officer
1978 The Hound of the Baskervilles Stapleton
Watership Down Cowslip (voice)
The Boys From Brazil Sidney Beynon
Sweeney 2 Detective Chief Superintendent Jupp
1979 Zulu Dawn Colonel Pulleine
Saint Jack William Leigh
Cuba Donald Skinner
1980 Bad Timing Stefan Vognic
Rising Damp Charles Seymour
Sunday Lovers Parker Segment: An Englishman's Home
1981 Raiders of the Lost Ark Dr. Marcus Brody [14]
1982 Brimstone and Treacle Mr. Tom Bates
1983 The Wicked Lady Sir Ralph Skelton
Trading Places Coleman
1984 The Razor's Edge Elliott Templeton [20]
A Private Function Dr. Charles Swaby [17]
1985 A Room with a View Mr. Emerson [14]
Underworld Dr. Savary
1986 Defence of the Realm Vernon Bayliss [17]
The Whoopee Boys Colonel Phelps
1987 September Howard
Maurice Dr. Barry
1988 Stealing Heaven Fulbert
1989 Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade Dr. Marcus Brody [14]
1989 Killing Dad Nathy
1991 Toy Soldiers Headmaster
Scorchers Howler
1992 Noises Off Selsdon Mowbray Final film role [14]


Year Title Role Notes
1958 Alfred Hitchcock Presents Jack Lyons Season 3 Episode 34: "The Crocodile Case"
1959 Alfred Hitchcock Presents John Manbridge Season 4 Episode 21: "Relative Value"
1963 Hancock Peter Dartford 1 episode
1965 Danger Man Basil Jordan Season 3 Episode 18: The Hunting Party
1966 The Man in Room 17 Defraits 13 episodes
Mystery and Imagination Roderick Usher Episode: The Fall of the House of Usher
1968 The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde George Devlin TV film
1968 Mystery and Imagination Count Dracula Episode: Dracula
1972 The Persuaders! Roland Episode: A Death in the Family
Follow the Yellow Brick Road Jack Black TV play
1975 Thriller Dr. Frank Henson Episode: The Crazy Kill
1976 Brimstone and Treacle Mr. Tom Bates TV play: Play for Today
Clayhanger Tertius Ingpen 9 episodes
The Signalman The Signalman TV play
1977 Ripping Yarns Mr. Gregory Episode: Across The Andes by Frog
1980 Hammer House of Horror Norman Shenley Episode: Rude Awakening
1980 Blade on the Feather Jack Hill TV film
1980 Tales of the Unexpected Harold TV Series, Season 3 ep 7, 'The Stinker'
1982 Marco Polo Niccolò Polo 8 episodes
1983 The Hound of the Baskervilles Dr. Mortimer TV film
1984 Camille Count de Noilly TV film
1985 Bleak House John Jarndyce 7 episodes
1986 Mrs. Delafield Wants to Marry George Parker TV film
1987 Hotel du Lac Phillip Neville TV film
Scoop Mr. Salter TV film
A Child's Christmas in Wales Old Geraint TV film
The Happy Valley Sir Henry 'Jock' Delves Broughton TV film
1988 Codename: Kyril Povin 4 episodes
The Ray Bradbury Theater Tom Cotter Episode: The Coffin
The Bourne Identity Dr Geoffrey Washburn TV mini-series
Noble House Alastair Struan 4 episodes
1989 Bangkok Hilton Hal Stanton 3 episodes
1990 A Green Journey James O'Hannon TV film
1991 A Murder of Quality George Smiley TV film
One Against the Wind Father LeBlanc TV film
The Black Candle William Filmore TV film


Year Title Role(s) Notes Ref.
1946 The Guinea Pig West End debut [21]
1950 Venus Observed Edgar [22]
1950 Ring Round the Moon Frederic, Hugo Broadway debut [23]
1951 The Green Bay Tree Julian [24]
1951 A Sleep of Prisoners [25]
1953 The Confidential Clerk [26]
1957 Monique Fernand Ravinel [27][28]
1958 Traveller Without Luggage [29]
1960 The Merchant of Venice Bassanio [30]
1960 The Two Gentlemen of Verona Valentine [31]
1960 Troilus and Cressida Troilus [32]
1961 Write Me a Murder The Hon. Clive Rodingham [33]
1964 The Seagull Trigorin [34]
1964 The Crucible Reverend John Hale [35]
1967 The Imaginary Invalid Dr. Diaforus [36]
1967 A Touch of the Poet Cornelius Melody [37]
1967 Tonight at 8.30 Alec Harvey [38]
1970 Come As You Are [39]
1975 The Return of A. J. Raffles A. J. Raffles [40]
1977 The New York Idea [41]
1977 Three Sisters [42]
1989 A Life in the Theatre Robert [43]

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Nomination Result
1986 Academy Awards Best Supporting Actor A Room with a View Nominated
1973 British Academy Film Awards Best Supporting Actor A Doll's House Nominated
1979 Saint Jack Nominated
1981 Raiders of the Lost Ark Nominated
1983 Trading Places Won
1984 A Private Function Won
1985 Defence of the Realm Won
1986 A Room with a View Nominated
1984 British Academy Television Awards Best Supporting Actor Blade on the Feather
BBC2 Playhouse
Tales of the Unexpected
1986 Best Actor Screen Two Nominated

See also



  1. ^ to this day, a still-unbeaten record.


  1. ^ a b "British Film Institute Biography". Retrieved 24 September 2007.
  2. ^ Ebert, Roger (2008). Roger Ebert's Four Star Reviews 1967–2007. Andrews McMeel Publishing. p. 655. ISBN 978-0740771798.
  3. ^ Lambert, Bruce (7 October 1992). "Denholm Elliott, Actor, 70, Dies; A Star Among Supporting Players". The New York Times. New York. Retrieved 11 February 2017.
  4. ^ a b "The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. 2004. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/51023. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  5. ^ "Obituary Neil Elliott". Daily Telegraph. 14 April 2003. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022. Retrieved 5 September 2016.
  6. ^ "RADA Student & graduate profiles: Denholm Elliott". Retrieved 11 August 2022.
  7. ^ BBC Radio. Desert Island Discs, 14 September 1974.
  8. ^ "Encyclopædia Britannica". Retrieved 24 September 2007.
  9. ^ Record for Halifax DT508,
  10. ^ Falconer, Jonathon (1998). The Bomber Command Handbook 1939–1945. Stroud: Sutton Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7509-1819-0.
  11. ^ Rolfe, Mel (15 July 2008). Flying into Hell: The Bomber Command Offensive as Seen Through the Experiences of Twenty Crews. Casemate Publishers. ISBN 978-1-909166-32-5.
  12. ^ "Giraudoux Play On Television 'The Apollo Of Bellac'", The Times, 13 August 1955.
  13. ^ Woods, Judith (8 February 2011). "Michael Winner: 'The Life I've Lived, the Girls I've Had... Ht's Been Incredible'". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022.
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r "Obituary: Denholm Elliott". The Independent. 7 October 1992.
  15. ^ Oliver, Myrna (7 October 1992). "Denholm Elliott; Veteran Character Actor". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 22 July 2014.
  16. ^ a b c d e "Susan Elliott obituary". The Daily Telegraph. 24 April 2007. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022.
  17. ^ a b c d "Denholm Elliott dies from AIDS-related TB, aged 70". The Independent. 7 October 1992.
  18. ^ "Oscar nominee Elliott dies of AIDS problems". Variety. 7 October 1992.
  19. ^ Elliott, Susan; Turner, Barry (1994). Denholm Elliott: Quest for Love.
  20. ^ McFarlane, Brian (16 May 2016). The Encyclopedia of British Film (4th ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 228. ISBN 9781526111975. Retrieved 12 March 2017.
  21. ^ "Denholm Elliott". Britannica Kids. Retrieved 17 September 2023.
  22. ^ Wearing, J. P. (16 September 2014). The London Stage 1950–1959: A Calendar of Productions, Performers, and Personnel. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 978-0-8108-9308-5.
  23. ^ "Ring Round the Moon (Broadway, Al Hirschfeld Theatre, 1950)". Playbill. Retrieved 17 September 2023.
  24. ^ "The Green Bay Tree – Broadway Play – 1951 Revival | IBDB". Retrieved 17 September 2023.
  25. ^ "Actors Leonard White, Denholm Elliott and Stanley Baker during..." Getty Images. 27 April 2015. Retrieved 17 September 2023.
  26. ^ "BFI Screenonline: Elliott, Denholm (1922–1992) Biography". Retrieved 17 September 2023.
  27. ^ "Monique (Broadway, John Golden Theatre, 1957)". Playbill. Retrieved 17 September 2023.
  28. ^ "The Theater: New Plays in Manhattan, Nov. 4, 1957". Time. 4 November 1957. ISSN 0040-781X. Retrieved 17 September 2023.
  29. ^ "Image of TRAVELLER WITHOUT LUGGAGE, Elizabeth Sellars, Denholm Elliott, The Arts Theater". Retrieved 17 September 2023.
  30. ^ "Search | RSC Performances | MER196004 – The Merchant of Venice | Shakespeare Birthplace Trust". Retrieved 17 September 2023.
  31. ^ "Search | RSC Performances | TWO196004 – The Two Gentlemen of Verona | Shakespeare Birthplace Trust". Retrieved 17 September 2023.
  32. ^ "Troilus and Cressida timeline | Royal Shakespeare Company". Retrieved 17 September 2023.
  33. ^ "Write Me a Murder – Broadway Play – Original | IBDB". Retrieved 17 September 2023.
  34. ^ "The Seagull – Broadway Play – 1964 Revival | IBDB". Retrieved 17 September 2023.
  35. ^ "The Crucible – Broadway Play – 1964 Revival | IBDB". Retrieved 17 September 2023.
  36. ^ "The Imaginary Invalid – Broadway Play – 1967 Revival | IBDB". Retrieved 17 September 2023.
  37. ^ "A Touch of the Poet – Broadway Play – 1967 Revival | IBDB". Retrieved 17 September 2023.
  38. ^ "Tonight at 8:30 – Broadway Play – 1967 Revival | IBDB". Retrieved 17 September 2023.
  39. ^ "Theater: 'Come as You Are,' Comic Report on Sex". Retrieved 17 September 2023.
  40. ^ "Search | RSC Performances | RET197512 – The Return of A J Raffles | Shakespeare Birthplace Trust". Retrieved 17 September 2023.
  41. ^ Crossette, Barbara (18 March 1977). "'New York Idea' Revived in Brooklyn". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 17 September 2023.
  42. ^ "BAM Archive". Retrieved 17 September 2023.
  43. ^ "Billington On A Life In The Theatre". The Guardian. 2 November 1989. p. 30. Retrieved 17 September 2023.