Nigel Davenport

Arthur Nigel Davenport (23 May 1928 – 25 October 2013) was an English stage, television and film actor,[1] best known as the Duke of Norfolk and Lord Birkenhead in the Academy Award-winning films A Man for All Seasons and Chariots of Fire, respectively.

Nigel Davenport
Dracula (1973) - Nigel Davenport 2.png
Arthur Nigel Davenport

(1928-05-23)23 May 1928
Died25 October 2013(2013-10-25) (aged 85)
Years active1953–2003
Helena White
(m. 1951; div. 1960)

(m. 1972; div. 1981)
Children3, including Jack Davenport

Early life and educationEdit

Davenport was born in Great Shelford,[2] Cambridgeshire, to Katherine Lucy (née Meiklejohn) and Arthur Henry Davenport.[citation needed] His father was a bursar at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge.[1] He grew up in an academic family and was educated at St Peter's School, Seaford, Cheltenham College and Trinity College, Oxford.[1] Originally he chose to study Philosophy, Politics and Economics but switched to English on the advice of one of his tutors.[3]


Davenport first appeared on stage at the Savoy Theatre and then with the Shakespeare Memorial Company, before joining the English Stage Company, one of its earliest members, at the Royal Court Theatre in 1956.[4] 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).[4]

Davenport as Peter with Angela Lansbury as Helen in A Taste of Honey on Broadway, in 1960.

In the 1962 last episode of the first season of the TV series The Saint, titled "The Charitable Countess", with Roger Moore as Simon Templar and Patricia Donahue as Countess Rovagna, Davenport played a supporting role as the Countess's confidant, Aldo Petri.

He made an impression as Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk in A Man for All Seasons (1966),[5] co-starred with Michael Caine in the war movie Play Dirty,[3] and had a major role as Lord Bothwell in Mary, Queen of Scots.[5] In 1972, he appeared as George Adamson, opposite Susan Hampshire in Living Free,[3] the sequel to Born Free.

During the production of Stanley Kubrick's 1968 film 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. However, Kubrick thought that Davenport's English accent was too distracting, and after a few weeks he dismissed him, so Canadian actor Douglas Rain was ultimately chosen for the role.[6] Davenport took the leading role in the off-beat Phase IV (1974), which failed to find an audience. In 1979, he portrayed King George III in Prince Regent.[1]

He appeared as Ebenezer Scrooge's grudging father Silas in the George C. Scott version of A Christmas Carol (1984), and played opposite Michael Caine again in the 1988 Sherlock Holmes spoof Without A Clue, which was Davenport's second-to-last feature film.

He portrayed The Duke of Holdernesse in a 1993 BBC Radio dramatization of the Sherlock Holmes story The Adventure of the Priory School[7]

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.[citation needed]

He was president of Equity from 1986 to 1992.[1][5]

Personal lifeEdit

Davenport was married twice, first to Helena Margaret White[1] whom he met while he was studying at Oxford University. They married in 1951 and had a daughter, Laura and a son, Hugo.[1] His second wife was actress Maria Aitken[1] with whom he had a second son, Jack, also an actor, best known for appearing in Pirates of the Caribbean.[8] 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 Ref.
1959 Look Back in Anger 1st Commercial Traveller [4]
1960 Peeping Tom Det. Sgt. Miller [4]
The Entertainer Theatre Manager [3]
1962 Mix Me a Person Juke's Stepfather
1963 Ladies Who Do Mr Strang
Bitter Harvest Police Inspector
1964 The Third Secret Lew Harding
1965 A High Wind in Jamaica Mr Thornton [1]
Sands of the Kalahari Sturdevan
1966 A Man for All Seasons Duke of Norfolk [1]
Where the Spies Are Parkington
1968 Play Dirty Captain Cyril Leech [4]
1969 The Virgin Soldiers Sergeant Driscoll [4]
Sinful Davey Richardson
The Royal Hunt of the Sun Hernando de Soto
1970 No Blade of Grass John Custance
The Mind of Mr. Soames Dr Maitland
1971 Villain Bob Matthews
Mary, Queen of Scots Lord Bothwell [3]
The Last Valley Gruber
1972 Living Free George Adamson [3]
1973 The Picture of Dorian Gray Sir Harry Wotton [5]
1974 Bram Stoker's Dracula Van Helsing [5]
Phase IV Dr Ernest D. Hubbs
1975 The Regent's Wife Álvaro Mesía
1976 Death of a Snowman Lt. Ben Deel
1977 The Island of Dr. Moreau Montgomery
Stand Up, Virgin Soldiers Sgt. Driscoll [3]
1979 The London Connection / The Omega Connection Arthur Minton
Zulu Dawn Colonel Hamilton-Brown [9]
1980 Cry of the Innocent Gray Harrison Hunt
1981 Chariots of Fire Lord Birkenhead [1]
Nighthawks Peter Hartman
1984 A Christmas Carol Silas Scrooge
Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes Major Jack Downing [1]
1986 Caravaggio Giustiniani
1988 Without a Clue Lord Smithwick
1997 The Opium War [4]


Year Title Role Notes ! Ref.
1957-1958 The Adventures of Robin Hood St Peter Marston, Claude the Seneschal, Barty and others 7 episodes [8]
1957 Mister Charlesworth Sergeant Spence 6 episodes
1958 Big Guns Sergeant Spence 6 episodes
1962 Sir Francis Drake Miguel Cervantes 1 episode
1963 The Edgar Wallace Mystery Theatre Dino Stefano 1 episode
1964 The Saint Charles Voyson 1 episode
1966-68 The Avengers Lord Barnes / Robertson [8]
1969 The Name of the Game David Windom 1 episode
1972 The Edwardians Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 1 episode
1974 South Riding Robert Carne 11 episodes [4]
1975 Oil Strike North Jim Fraser 13 episodes [4]
1979 Prince Regent King George III 8 episodes, TV mini-series [4]
1981 Masada Sen. Mucianus Part 1
A Midsummer Night's Dream Theseus
1982 Minder Ray
1982 Bird of Prey Charles Bridgnorth [3]
1982-83 Don't Rock The Boat Jack Hoxton 12 episodes, TV mini-series [3]
1985-1990 Howards' Way Sir Edward Frere 29 episodes [8]
1986 Ladies in Charge Count Litvinoff 1 episode
Lord Mountbatten: The Last Viceroy Lord Ismay
1991 Trainer James Brant 13 episodes [10]
1993 Keeping Up Appearances ("The Commodore") The Commodore 1 episode [8]
1994 Woof! Mr. Wellesby 1 episode [11]
1996 The Treasure Seekers Lord Blackstock [4]
2000 David Copperfield Dan Peggotty TV movie [8]
Midsomer Murders William Smithers 1 episode [8]
Longitude Sir Charles Pelham TV Movie


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Coveney, Michael (29 October 2013). "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". Archived from the original on 2 November 2013. Retrieved 31 October 2013.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Anthony Hayward "Obituary: Nigel Davenport, character actor sought by directors in all mediums for nearly half a century", The Independent, 30 October 2013
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Obituary: Nigel Davenport,, 29 October 2013
  5. ^ a b c d e "Howard's Way and Chariots of Fire actor Nigel Davenport dies age 85". Express. 30 October 2013. Retrieved 24 November 2016.
  6. ^ Dowd, Vincent (30 November 2014). "2001: A Space Odyssey revisited". BBC News. Retrieved 30 November 2014.
  7. ^ "The BBC audio complete Sherlock Holmes".
  8. ^ a b c d e f g "Actor Nigel Davenport dies at 85". BBC News. 30 October 2013. Retrieved 26 June 2016.
  9. ^ "Zulu Dawn". Radio Times. Retrieved 26 June 2016.
  10. ^ "In pictures: Nigel Davenport". BBC News. 30 October 2013. Retrieved 26 June 2016.
  11. ^ "Goodbye Mrs. Chips". IMDb.

External linksEdit