James Villiers

James Michael Hyde Villiers (29 September 1933 – 18 January 1998)[1] was an English character actor and a familiar face on British television. Villiers was particularly memorable for his plummy voice and ripe articulation.

James Villiers
Actor James Villiers.jpg
in The Avengers: Small Game for Big Hunters (1966)
James Michael Hyde Villiers

(1933-09-29)29 September 1933
London, England
Died18 January 1998(1998-01-18) (aged 64)
Arundel, Sussex, England
Years active1958–1998
Patricia Donovan
(m. 1966; dissolved 1984)

Lucy Jex
(m. 1994)

He was a great-grandson of the 4th Earl of Clarendon.


Villiers was born in London, the son of Eric Hyde Villiers and Joan Ankaret Talbot; he was educated at Wellington College, Berkshire and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, graduating in 1953.[1][2] 'Gentleman Jim' Villiers (pronounced Villers) was from an upper-class background, the grandson of Sir Francis Hyde Villiers and great grandson of George Villiers, 4th Earl of Clarendon; his mother was descended from Earl Talbot. His aristocratic ancestry was often reflected in the types of role he played, such as King Charles II in the BBC series The First Churchills (1969), the Earl of Warwick in Saint Joan (1974), and on stage as Lord Thurlow in The Madness of George III.[1]

Through his father, Villiers was a relative of Thomas Hyde Villiers, Charles Pelham Villiers, Henry Montagu Villiers and the former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Theresa Villiers. Through his mother, he was distantly related to Charles Chetwynd-Talbot, 22nd Earl of Shrewsbury.


Villiers made his film début in 1958 and appeared in many British films over the years, including Joseph Losey's The Damned (also known as These Are the Damned), shot in 1961 but not released until 1963; Seth Holt's The Nanny (1965), Joseph Andrews (1977), For Your Eyes Only (1981), The Scarlet Pimpernel (1982), Mountains of the Moon (1990) and The Tichborne Claimant (1998), along with numerous other projects. He often specialised in playing cold, somewhat effete villains.[3]

He played the role of Colonel Hensman in the television adaptation of Brendon Chase and was heard on BBC Radio 4 as the voice of Roderick Spode in The Code of the Woosters and several other adaptations of the Jeeves stories of P. G. Wodehouse, which starred Michael Hordern and Richard Briers.[4] In the 1978 television adaption of The Famous Five Villiers played the part of the antagonist Johnson.

Personal lifeEdit

Nicholas Whittaker, author of Platform Souls and Blue Period, worked in the Belsize Tavern in 1979 and 1980 and claims to recall Villiers' visits to the pub in the company of local actor Ronald Fraser. After closing time, the pair would often be found in the beer & curry restaurant opposite. Rupert Everett also claims to have encountered him in an Indian restaurant, some time in 1985, "leglessly drunk, booming orders and insults to the poor long-suffering waiter in a strange breathy vibrato that was pitched for the upper circle".[5] Elsewhere, Villiers is described as a "big drinker" who entered into drinking competitions with his friend Peter O'Toole.[6]

Villiers was married twice: in 1966 to Patricia Donovan (marriage dissolved 1984), and in 1994 to Lucy Jex; his second marriage lasted until his death. He and his first wife adopted a son, Alan Michael Hyde Villiers (born Alan Donovan).

James Villiers died on 18 January 1998 at Arundel, Sussex, of cancer.[1]

Selected filmographyEdit


  1. ^ a b c d Vallance, Tom (21 January 1998). "Obituary: James Villiers". The Independent. Retrieved 9 November 2019.
  2. ^ Fabrique. "James Villiers – RADA". rada.ac.uk.
  3. ^ "James Villiers". BFI.
  4. ^ "BBC Radio 4 Extra - The Code of the Woosters, The Silver Cow-Creamer". BBC.
  5. ^ Rupert Everett (4 September 2008). Red Carpets And Other Banana Skins. Little, Brown Book Group. ISBN 978-0-7481-0978-4.
  6. ^ Gabriel Hershman (April 2013). Send in the Clowns – The Yo Yo Life of Ian Hendry. Lulu.com. pp. 82–. ISBN 978-1-291-27097-6.

he sldo narrates the radio 4e drama, Mr Finchley takes the road, wit Richard Griffiths as Mr Finchley.

External linksEdit